If you haven’t had a ‘proper’ holiday since 2019, you may be joining the rush for sunnier climes and a well-deserved break this Summer. There’s been little respite from the gloomy outlook of the last couple of years and a decent holiday is just the antidote. Or is it? Holiday stress is caused by the expense and high expectations.
What causes holiday stress?
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There’s the usual backlog at the passport office so woe betide you if you’ve left your renewal too late. The ferries are stuck in the docks and the M20 is a lorry park. Before you go near an airport, you’d better be jabbed or tested to meet ever-changing covid regulations which differ from country to country.
Where to Go?
Traditionally, in simpler times, holiday brochures would be pored over up to a year before travelling and the excitement and anticipation would start as soon as a booking is made. Now, online choices are overwhelming and reviews make decisions even more difficult and more likely to cause holiday stress.
How do you please a family of four who all have different interests? Who gets to choose if she loves laying in the sun and he loves fell walking? And ‘abroad’ doesn’t seem as exotic or far away as it used to be. Just more expensive to get to.
If you only have beer money for champagne destinations, do you go for it and spend the rest of the year paying off the credit card or stick to a budget and have less fun? Even cheap family holidays can run into thousands. Is it worth risking the expense if the job is uncertain or the business struggling?
The short answer is often ‘yes’. A holiday is a chance to reset, unwind and get away from the pressures of daily life. You would think that holidays are good for our mental health but that isn’t always the case. Here is some guidance on how to avoid the catastrophes that can scupper the best laid plans and lead to meltdowns and holiday stress.
Avoid Scammers and that cause of holiday stress
Along with the house and the car, holidays are among the biggest purchases we make.
When possible, make sure your booking is protected by authorities who uphold standards and safeguard against fraud. In these uncertain economic times, travel companies are going bust and scammers are taking payment for villas that don’t exist. Word-of-mouth recommendations are worth more than online reviews which could be fake.
If there’s conflict in the family or your relationship isn’t great, a holiday won’t make the problems go away and could make them much worse. Being stuck in a resort with an evil step-sister or a partner you fell out of love with four holidays ago isn’t worth the grief or disappointment. They bring their personalities with them and so do you. Only go on holiday with people you like, who want to be with you as much as you want to be with them.
Regular travellers have a checklist of things to do to make a holiday run smoothly and avoid holiday stress. This checklist can be mind-bogglingly overwhelming. Never mind the toothbrush, there are a million things to forget. Documents, tickets, currency, medication, and clothes for every kind of weather disaster, to name but a few. A holiday can be wrecked if you proudly run through your completed checklist when you get to the hotel only to find that two-year-old Sophie’s favourite Bunnykins is still on the kitchen table.
What Kind are You?
There are different styles of holidaymaker. ‘Military mum’ is an uber-efficient packer who is completely frazzled and hates her ungrateful brood for being so unhelpful. She might be a bit less cross by day three of the holiday. On the way to the airport, ‘laid back dad’ and ‘workaholic dad’ still aren’t sure where they’re going because it’s as much as they could do to turn up. ‘Anxious Eds and Annies’ have to go back and check the house is locked 15 times before leaving home. Just as well they head off with three hours to spare. And they need a large gin and three diazepams to get them on the plane.
Once at their chosen destination, these ‘types’ stay in character. There’s the itinerary organiser who pre-books restaurants having checked menus online and has five different ‘fun’ activities organised for everyone. Every day. At the other extreme, there’s the paralytic parent type who doesn’t sober up for the duration and never leaves the poolside bar. Kids become sullen and stroppy if there are too many sights to see or go feral and get really bad sunburn if left to their own devices. It’s not surprising that some people need a holiday to get over their holiday.
Pack the Pills
Take your own chemist with you and get gold-plated travel insurance or some terrible disease or accident will spoil your fun. Pack pills for a dodgy tummy, cream for insect bites and sunburn and contraceptives if you don’t want to come back with an extra passenger. Hiring those cute scooters in Greece and Italy and tearing down gravel roads, bare-armed and carefree like the locals is the road to local hospital hell. Don’t do it.
If you really can’t live without tea bags and Marmite, stay at home. If you don’t like the local cuisine, chances are you won’t like the locals either (too ‘foreign’). At their best, holidays are happy, memory-making adventures. After a few weeks back home, the holiday stress, inconveniences and arguments are forgotten and the holiday takes on a rose-tinted hue, sunlit social media selfies a testimony to a perfect holiday. It’s no wonder we keep going back for more of the dream.