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Health & Parenting

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10 Secrets for Surviving a Family Vacation

The best-selling author of The Happiness Project reveals 10 must-know secrets for surviving your next family vacation.

4. Recognize your children's limits... and your own.

My daughters are cheerful and cooperative — until we keep them at the table too long, mess with their schedules too much, let them skip applying bug repellent, make them walk too far, or let them get too hot or too cold. In the midst of fun, it can be hard to say, "Enough!" but it's a key to keeping things pleasant. In particular, although kids and grandparents beg, "Just this once!" or claim, "They don’t seem tired" or "Everyone can sleep late in the morning," I do everything humanly possible to make sure my kids get the usual amount of sleep, and that I do, too. And I make sure not to let anyone get too hungry. Never again will I travel anywhere without a few bags of almonds, raisins, or dry cereal; I learned that the hard way.

5. Take time to exercise.

Some people view vacation as an escape from daily burdens — such as exercising. Don't think that way! Exercise is energizing and cheering, and it promotes sleep and relaxation. Vacation is an opportunity to make exercise fun, not a chore, by taking a new class or adding a new (sunny) backdrop to your usual routine. Recently when I had jet lag, exercise helped me adjust both coming and going. Also, you might be able to kick-start a new routine by beginning that exercise on vacation, when you’re not as busy.

6. Tackle one irksome task on vacation.

Some interesting studies suggest that interrupting a pleasant experience with something less pleasant can intensify a person's overall pleasure. As a consequence, I try to assign myself one annoying chore to tackle while on vacation; on our last vacation, I worked on updating my address list — a boring, time-consuming chore that I'd been putting off for months. Being away from my usual work routine made me feel relaxed, and completing one irksome task gave me the delicious feeling of having earned time to goof off. And I got to cross that chore off my list, which was enormously satisfying. (If you dislike exercise, see number 5; exercise could be your "irksome task.")

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