Happiness, Children, and End of Holiday Vacation Travel

Happy brother and sister using digital tablet in back seat of car
Happy brother and sister using digital tablet in back seat of car

Anyone with children knows that the trip home from a holiday vacation can be excruciating.  Just like adults, the anxiety about getting back to school/camp/daycare or just normal life often seeps into that last travel day.  Everyone is tired and cranky and full of sugar after days of being spoiled with sweet treats.  What are some things you can do with your school aged children (or teens or yourselves for that matter) to help transition back to the real world?  Finding inspiration from the literature on positivity, I have come up with a list of ideas to help everyone feel better about holiday vacation coming to an end.

  1. Reminisce about the fun times.  There is actually research that reminiscing makes people happier.  In this day and age, it is so easy.  Hand your child your phone and let him/her flip through the pictures and tell stories about what was happening.  Ask all your family members what their best (funniest, silliest, etc.) memory was and take turns answering.  Have blank books and crayons/pencils for the ride home to make a “scrapbook” of the trip.  Have your child leave room amidst the drawings and words to put pics.  Then when you get home decide which pictures they would like to add to each page of their book.
  2. Find humor in everyday life.  Recently I heard Jimmy Fallon interviewed about his new children’s book.  At the end of the interview he was reflecting about his job as a late night TV show host and he said “If you didn’t think about your problems for one hour, I did my job.”  Laughter lifts everyone’s mood.  Keeping a sense of humor and being silly even when your flight is delayed will go a long way in helping your children stay calm.  Look up jokes on a website and take turns telling them.  Find a funny movie for the kids to watch in the backseat on the long drive- you will be able to hear the jokes also!  Carry a container of bubbles in your purse and pull them out to chase when things are getting dicey.  (This was actually a technique I used when my daughter was an infant/toddler. Nothing occupies a cranky kid in a long line as well as bubbles.)  Make up “vacation names” for yourselves based on a funny memory and try to remember only to call each other those names the entire trip home.  Really, the possibilities are limitless.
  3. Eat and sleep.  As tempting as it is to try to drive those last few hours before bed, or to wait until after this leg of the journey to get food, don’t.  Hungry and sleepy kids are disasters.  No need to say more, we have all experienced it.
  4. Practice random acts of kindness:  It may seem cliché, but when I am in a bad mood, doing something for someone else always improves it.  This is true for adults and kids.  Have your son draw a card saying “Have a great day” for that next run through a drive through.  Then pay for the car behind you, and ask the attendant to pass along the card.  Look for a parent with a toddler in the airport and have your daughter ask to help entertain the younger child for a minute.  Again, limitless possibilities!
  5. Tell your child how much you love them.  Even better if you can do it in a Darth Vader voice.

Have any good ideas?  Please share them.  (Actually, do it quickly because everyone is about to get in the car or on the plane!)


About Author

Lisa Allred

Work Life Program Manager

Lisa Allred comes to SAS with a long history of working with families throughout the lifespan. After receiving her undergraduate degree at Wake Forest Universtity and her Masters in Social Work from UNC-CH, her career began as a child therapist focusing on parenting, anxiety and trauma. She then moved into college counseling where she emphasized student wellness and balance.

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