Four steps to your calmest family holiday yet
I'm excited to introduce you my latest guest blogger, Laura Gilchrist. Laura is an independent mediator, facilitator and trainer, based in Manchester.
She recently attended my Business Blogging Masterclass and I was so impressed with the storytelling post she produced, I invited her to guest blog for me. I think you'll enjoy it too!
Meet Laura and find out more about her business at peacebuilders.co.uk
Within ten minutes of setting off on holiday there was always an argument. It became a familiar pattern as a child. Mum piped up with, “Did you put the suntan lotion in?” Dad paused before responding. “No, I thought you were doing that. I was packing the beach stuff”. Mum replied, “Yes exactly, it’s beach stuff, that’s why I assumed you were packing it.” Dad got defensive, “But you were packing the cases, I thought you’d put it in there."
This would go on. Usually, a list of minor items were forgotten. Eventually my father would ask in an irritated voice, “Well do you want me to go back for them then?” They agreed that somehow they would get by. Silence followed for the next hour or so. My four siblings and I learnt to keep quiet until the storm passed.
I’m sure we weren’t the only family that had this pattern.
Why are holidays often so fraught with frustration and conflict? And what can we do about it? I’ve reflected on this over the past couple of years and worked at trying to make going on holiday less fraught. Here are my thoughts about what has helped.
Allow more time to pack up
This is often a flashpoint - trying to get away by a certain deadline then the packing takes much longer than expected. Part of the reason, I think, is that we’re digging out things that we only use very occasionally. Wetsuits. The cricket set. Those bat and ball sets you use on the beach.
The end result is that everyone feels stressed before you even set out. Not a good start to any holiday. Let alone a full week or two together. I have learned from experience that jobs I expect to take an hour usually take two. Instead of bemoaning this fact, now I accept it and plan for it. I also accept that we’ll probably set off half an hour or an hour later than we hope to.
Enjoy the journey
I know this is a tall order but hear me out on this one. Nearly three years ago we got our first electric car. We love it. It’s quiet, reliable, cheap to run and no road tax to pay. There is a downside though. Yes you guessed it. Mileage. On a warm summer’s day we can get a good 90miles out of it, in the winter it is more like 60-70 miles. Then we stop for 30-40 minutes to charge up. I’m lucky because we didn't own a car before this one, so having any car was a novelty. However, we had regularly hired cars, so it was still a mental shift to make.
Since having our Nissan Leaf, we’ve learned to enjoy the journey and go with the flow more. Now, whenever we go on a trip it’s a bit of an adventure. Will the next charge point be working? How far can we make it before we run out? Will we need to get a PhD to work out how to connect and charge at that remote village? What places could we stop and explore on the way?
The same could be said of cancelled or delayed flights. What delights might we find at the airport duty free? Or what about speaking to one of the other passengers and getting to know them a bit? Get curious about other people and the places you’re in.
If in doubt, take a pack of Uno cards along and you’ve got hours of free entertainment!
Often we live our lives at one hundred miles an hour. Then we stop for a break and expect all our needs to be met and everything to be just as we want it to be. OK so most of us would never say that. If we’re honest with ourselves though, it is exactly what we secretly hope for. We want our holiday to be ‘just right’ and when it isn’t we feel disappointed. We are all tired, fractious, in need of a bit of TLC.
I have learned to ‘let go’ a bit and not expect too much from my annual holiday. That way, I’m pleasantly surprised when I find myself having a lie-in or able to do my own thing.
If you’re holidaying in the UK or have very little ones, managing expectations is even more important. Bad weather, sickness, trying to find a meal in a pub when your toddler is hungry at 4.00pm, being woken at the crack of dawn when camping. All of these things can make a holiday feel more hard work than being back at home.
I heard a fabulous piece of advice recently from a podcast. When something doesn’t go to plan, just think what a great story it will make afterwards.
Like the time that we went walking in the Lake District with our first child who was 6 months old. We set off in glorious sunshine with blue skies and not a cloud in sight. By the time we were at the top of the hill, deep, ominous, black clouds had arrived. They burst open and it rained. To be more accurate it poured down so heavily that our hair was plastered to our faces. By the time we got back down to the village, our son had fallen asleep from howling and we got pitied looks from locals. You didn’t take coats did you foolish tourists? They said. No they didn’t really, but the looks on their faces suggested that.
Work at communicating well
As the old adage goes, we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as often as we speak. (Epectetus)
As in the opening story, so often we make assumptions and then get cross when our partner or child has a different expectation to ours. I like the beach. He likes walking. She wants to go to the waterslide park. He just wants to play on the tablet all day.
Talk openly and honestly about your needs for the holiday at the start and be prepared to listen to theirs. Don’t assume anything. Opening up that space for communication means that you’re more likely to get at least a bit of what you want. And hearing your spouse or child will make them feel valued and loved.
And if none of this works out in reality, if it all goes horribly wrong, remember, at least it will make a great story to tell!