Why You Shouldn’t Travel With Your Kids This Holiday Season
With the weather outside turning frightful, a vacation to someplace warm this holiday season might sound so, so delightful — in theory, at least. Although many parents do choose to travel during the winter holidays because kids are off from school, this actually may be the worst time to take a family trip — when you take into account cost, crowds and all that family pressure to boot.
Dr. Charmain Jackman, a child psychologist from Massachusetts, explains to SheKnows, “Holidays bring stress in many forms — reliving unhealthy family dynamics, finding the perfect gifts for loved ones, going over budget, dealing with long lines and grumping masses of people…” Sound familiar?
This is all to say that, while going on vacation to decompress during this festive time of year may sound ideal and relaxing, it can also have the reverse effect. What’s the best way to avoid the holiday travel stress pile-on during this already hectic time of year? Why, staying home, of course.
Here’s why you — and your kids — may well want to consider swapping out Grandma’s house for a staycation this holiday season.
Cost + crowds = increased stress
In 2017, AAA forecasted that 107.3 million Americans would travel by plane, train or other transportation during the holiday season, a record high for that time of year. The increase in travelers during the holidays means an increase in air and roadway traffic. “Just about everyone is heading somewhere during the holidays, so all forms of travel will be packed,” says Jackman. “Travelers can expect delays or even cancellations, which can cut down time spent on a well-planned vacation.” Parents traveling with children, especially young ones, may become exasperated by the sheer effort to get to where they’re headed.
In addition to the crowds, family travel can be stressful simply because of the expense. Flights and hotel prices are increased over the peak holiday season; gifts and holiday entertaining may have already put a strain on family budgets. Spending additional funds on a vacation can add exponentially to a family’s financial burdens. And if something goes wrong (delays, bad weather, a child gets sick), the vacation can wind up being more frustrating and upsetting than fun and relaxing.
Staying home means no need to feel guilty
Parents may feel pressure take their kids on vacation because other families are going away. Seeing Instagram-worthy trips plastered on social media can exasperate these feelings. Dr. Amy Serin, pediatric and adult neuropsychologist at the Serin Center and author of the upcoming book, The Stress Switch, tells SheKnows, “Parents may feel they are ‘supposed to’ take a vacation over the holidays, but choosing not to travel may be just what the doctor ordered. Many families are starting just to say no when it comes to overscheduling themselves with travel for the holidays.”
If planning (and paying) for a holiday vacation is going to make parents feel stressed and overwhelmed, it may be better not to go away. Serin says, “Opt out of the holiday craziness and figure out what quality time and activities you really want to experience with your family. Tell yourself that’s a better plan than whatever would frazzle you during the season.”
Kids may be actually happy not to go away for the holidays. Serin tells SheKnows, “Kids today have so much pressure and stress that prior generations didn’t experience. Many kids have hours of homework a night and multiple activities every day.” Staying home and being able to sleep late in your own bed and hang out in a leisurely manner with no scheduled activities may be just what they want to do over the holidays.
If you find that family members are disappointed not to be going away, think about planning something. Serin suggests thinking about scheduling a trip at another time, like the summer, when the weather is better, travel is less expensive and people aren’t as stressed.
Staycations can be the best vacations
There are plenty of ways to have a great winter staycation. To begin, parents should consider taking some time off work. Don’t feel like it’s a waste of vacation days because you aren’t going away or worry if you can’t take a full week off. Even just a few days out of the daily grind can be enough to feel like a vacation.
There are probably things to do within a short drive of your home that you haven’t had time to do before. Sarah Slattery, the founder of The Travel Expert, tells SheKnows, “Try being a tourist in your own city. Quite often, we ignore what is on our own doorstep.” Research your area like a tourist, checking websites such as Trip Advisor or Lonely Planet to see what is recommended to do and see. Slattery says, “Try to imitate holiday time abroad. Climb a mountain, play a board game, go out for dinner and turn off the television.”
A good vacation should include a mix of activities and downtime. Have a family meeting and let everyone have input on what to include on the agenda. Jackman tells SheKnows, “Staying home does not automatically mean that you will be less stressed. Be sure to commit to a relaxation plan.” Include a promise by everyone to disconnect from their phone, computer and social media for some time each day to avoid outside distractions.
While a staycation may not be as Instagram-worthy as traveling to an exotic island, it could wind up being the best way to spend time with your family over the holidays. Says Serin, “Remember, if you go on ‘vacation’ and come back and need a vacation, it wasn’t a vacation.”
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