STRESS-FREE TRIPS IN 2008

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By Eileen Ogintz
Tribune Media Services

It’s two days before we leave for a trip out West and my husband can’t find his hiking boots. And he’s not worried in the least.

But I’m in my pre-trip freak-out mode, searching the closets, the attic, the duffels we used on our last three trips. (I’m hoping I’ll also find my missing passport, but no such luck.) My husband thinks I’ve totally lost it when I suggest he rush out from his midtown Manhattan office to find another pair of boots.

Why is it, I think, as I’m going through dusty bags in the freezing attic, that moms not only tend to be the vacation planners, but the worriers too? Maybe there are worrywart dads out there, but I don’t know many of them. (If you’re the worrier in the family, e-mail me at Eileen(at)takingthekids.com.) Dads are building sandcastles on the beach while us moms are chasing the kids to re-apply sunscreen or checking our watches all afternoon to make sure we’re not late picking up the kids at ski school, while the guys focus on which trail to try next. We’re the ones fretting on the plane about what we’ll eat for breakfast that first morning in the vacation condo and whether a washer and dryer will be conveniently located. (That’s no small thing when you’re traveling with a couple of messy kids.) Let’s not forget who makes sure everyone has packed enough socks and underwear, while convincing preschoolers they don’t need their entire collection of characters-of-the-moment or teenage girls every pair of shoes in the closet. Sound familiar?

THE REALITY: No matter how well I plan – and remember, I’m an expert at this – I always forget something. Once, it was my youngest daughter’s parka on a ski trip. (We bought another at an outlet mall on the way to the mountain.) Another time, when we drove to Cape Code for a week, we forgot my older daughter’s duffel. (Thank goodness a friend was driving up the next day.) Then there was the California hike when I forgot the first-aid kit (a fellow hiker offered his).

That brings me to my first 2008 travel resolution (Are you listening, moms?): I’m going to “chill,” as my kids would say. I’m no longer going to fret every detail. I’m not going to get unduly upset when plans go awry and itineraries change, as they invariably will. I’m going to embrace such changes as part of the adventure. I’m going to try anyway. RESOLUTION 2: I’m going to ask for help from the rest of my family. I don’t mean just hoisting luggage or doing dishes in the condo – they’re pretty good about that – but helping to plan the trip. We all know kids are often the most Web-savvy in the family, anyway. Besides, if they help plan, they’ll be more vested in what we do when we get there and won’t complain as much. That’s the idea anyway. You’ll be amazed at where they’ll lead you.

RESOLUTION 3: Let go of the guilt! Wherever we go, I’m going to plan some just-for-me time. Maybe a massage, a couple hours browsing at shops not on my teenage daughter’s list or an hour by myself on the beach. I’m going to pay extra for maid service and opt for takeout if no one wants to cook. Don’t feel guilty either if you want to get away by yourselves for a weekend or longer. Remember, it’s good for the kids to see that your life doesn’t revolve entirely around them!

RESOLUTION 4: I’m going to book nonstop flights whenever possible, even if they cost a little more and especially when I’m sending a child or teen unaccompanied. And, no matter how much the teens complain, I’m going to make sure they know what to do if their travel plans get derailed while they’re traveling solo. (They should immediately identify themselves to airline personnel and ask for help. Then they should use their cell phones to call home so that you can talk to the agent on the ground there, not thousands of miles away.)

RESOLUTION 5: Wherever we go, I’m going to find something for us to do that we’ve never done before – snowshoeing in Yellowstone National Park (www.nps.gov), scuba diving in the Bahamas (www.bahamas.com), swimming with dolphins in Orlando (www.discoverycove.com) or surfing in California (www.gocalif.ca.gov). I will encourage, but not force anyone to do anything. It’s a vacation, after all.

RESOLUTION 6: I won’t force everyone to be in lockstep the entire trip (hear that grandparents?). A little space from each other is a good thing – especially on vacation where you may be staying in tight quarters. Let the teens sleep in and take the little ones to the pool or out for breakfast. Let the older cousins baby-sit so the adults can get a night out without the kids.

RESOLUTION 7: To get everyone excited about the trip, I will look for books and movies that are set in the locales we’re going to visit. When taking kids to foreign destinations or unfamiliar places, I’m going to make sure they’re prepared for what we’re going to see and do. (No one said it was going to be so hot in Rome! How much longer do we have to spend in this museum?)

RESOLUTION 8: I will get the relatives motivated – finally – for that often postponed family gathering. None of us want our next reunion to be at a funeral. Check out reunion planning tips at www.takingthekids.com

RESOLUTION 9: I’m going to try trading houses. Not only is it cheaper than hotels, but it’s also an opportunity to experience a new place from a local’s perspective. Check out www.intervac.com , www.diggsville.com or www.thevacationexchange.com

RESOLUTION 10: I’m going to invite one child for a special just-us weekend. Maybe your son can join you for the weekend after a business trip, or, after touring colleges, you can tack on a day strictly for fun. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive either. When was the last time you had a leisurely meal with just one of your children?

By the way, my husband found his boots. They were in the garage.

Here’s to happy – and less stressful – travels in 2008.

© 2007 EILEEN OGINTZ, DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

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