For some of us, the holidays are a time of beauty, wonder, and time with our loving families. For others, it can be one of the most stressful times of the year. And traveling during the holidays is among the most stressful parts of the holidays. With strained finances, long lines and cancelled flights at the airports, dysfunctional families, and being off schedule, the holidays are enough to drive anyone a little nutty. And if you add children to that equation, the pressure on parents is multiplied. To keep the stress of the holiday from dampening your holiday spirit try to focus on the following.

  1. Organize. Being as organized as possible will be such a sanity savor. Make a list of what you, your children, and your partner need for survival for three days. Then multiply this list for three days and pack accordingly. You can always do laundry or run to your nearest megastore.
  2. Kid’s Bag. Whether it is a diaper bag for your baby or a backpack for your teen, have your kid’s bag stocked and organized with everything you need to get them through a few hours of travel. Have every electronic charged and include a zip lock bag with all of the chargers as well as a back up battery source for those emergencies when your stuck in an airport or motel. You should also pack a few healthy snacks as well as one super treat to use as a reinforcer for good behavior during those very stressful moments.
  3. Communication. Do not be afraid to communicate your needs to the family that you are visiting. It is up to you to set the boundaries that are going to help you and your family to function at their best. If your kids are really structured, don’t allow your family to keep your children up past their bed time every night. Tell your family members each morning what your day is going to look like and what you need from them. If your family members are planners, you can even lay out an itinerary for each day of your vacation before you leave. Informing your family of your day will help them to know what to expect and how to be the best support to you.
  4. Top Traditions. During the holidays, you can feel like your meeting everyone’s needs but your own. Look at your family values and identify the top five traditions that you want to see executed. Take a moment before your trip and sit down with your partner to identify these top five important moments you want to happen and then make these traditions a priority.
  5. Self Care. In order to be patient and tolerant with your children, you need to take care of yourself. Identify what you do on a daily basis that helps you to feel grounded and pull those things into your days while your away. Communicate with your partner and develop a plan of reciprocity so you both can have moments where you give time to yourself and your energy.
  6. Assess. At the end of it all, examine whether you and your kids had a good holiday. If everyone had fun and everyone was relatively happy, fantastic! Pat yourself on the back and call it a day. But, if the kids or you were miserable and having breakdowns everyday, then assess what did and didn’t work. DON’T beat yourself up; just take a moment to assess what happened and problem solve with your partner how to handle next year differently. Above all, hug your partner and resolve to keep trying the following year. It is not about being perfect, it is about bringing the values of your family to the holiday and spending time with those you love.