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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.

7. Allow yourself to overpack (when possible).

People may disagree with me about the happiness-boosting qualities of overpacking, and this strategy doesn't work if we’re hiking or doing lots of moving around. It's a luxury just to toss a bunch of stuff in the suitcase — but when I can, I do. While at home, we go for months without opening the medicine cabinet, but on vacation we seem to need every conceivable over-the-counter medication. I used to have long debates with myself about what we'd actually use — now I throw everything into a plastic bag, just in case. A simple problem, like not having a bandage handy, can turn into a major hassle when you’re away from home.

8. Make peace with technology.

The fact is, I have much more fun when my e-mail and Internet service are working; otherwise, I brood about it and spend a lot of time trying to get connected. So I made getting service a priority. Other people want to disconnect completely; that’s fine, too. Just recognize whether connection or disconnection will make the vacation experience as pleasant as possible for you — and plan accordingly.

9. Be grateful.

Because of the psychological phenomenon of the "negativity bias," we're all more sensitive to negative events and thoughts than to positive ones. It's so easy to get annoyed by the broken air conditioner, by the traffic, by the fact that I packed us all for 80° weather when it turns out we'll be in 50° weather. By mindfully focusing on feelings of gratitude and enjoyment, you keep yourself in a happier frame of mind. Also, if anyone on a family vacation is getting on your nerves (yes, it has been known to happen!), by focusing on reasons to feel grateful to that person, you help squelch emotions like annoyance and resentment.

10. Go ahead and unwind.

Perhaps the most important tip for a family vacation is — remember to take a vacation! Especially given the technology these days, it's tempting to have a change of scenery and call it a vacation. But a vacation really means taking a break from work and routine. Have fun, enjoy the moment, and let yourself relax. On a less elevated note, I would add that if you're traveling with children, it never hurts to pack a few pieces of novelty candy for a long car ride. That, and a Harry Potter audiobook, will take you a long way.

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