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5 Ways to Actually Relax on Your Family Vacation

Don't let your family travels during the holidays wear you out.

5 Ways to Actually Relax on Your Family Vacation

Vacationing before kids meant lazy mornings, tropical cocktails by the pool, and dancing all night. Now your vacation goals revolve around naps, sunscreen squabbles, and wondering if room service can deliver dinner before the next meltdown. If your former self saw your boundless brood barreling down the patio, she'd probably switch chaise lounges. Not that you want to trade places, but let’s be honest, family vacations can be stressful.

Research shows that “most of the happiness gleaned from a vacation is dependent upon the stress level of the vacation.” This means that the more relaxed and satisfied you are on your trip, the longer you’ll enjoy that post-vacation high.

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Anyone who has travelled with kids knows that a stress-free vacation is often easier said than done. By slowing down and consciously enjoying your getaway, you will maximize the potential for a fun and meaningful family vacation. Plus, you’ll increase the opportunities to create cherished memories with your loved ones. The goal is to savor your pleasurable experiences and increase your resilience in dealing with frustration, to create a wonderful trip for you and your little tykes.

Try these five emotional hacks to help you relax and recharge, and make the most of a family vacation.

1. Take care of yourself first. As the flight attendant explains during her safety demonstration, you need to put on your own oxygen mask first before helping the people around you. While on vacation, you need to apply this advice and take care of your needs first. Whether you recharge by getting lost in a stack of tabloids or unwinding at the spa with an oxygen mask facial, make sure to dedicate at least one hour per day to self-care activities. Ignore your mom guilt and give yourself permission to be a little selfish. It will give you time to build up your reserves to be more patient, accommodating, and prepared to deal with stressful family situations.

2. Be clear about your needs. No matter how magical the vacation appears, when it comes to your needs (and nerves), no one should be expected to read your mind. When your feathers get ruffled, count to 10, then ask yourself what is the real root of your aggravation. Maybe it’s not about the Lego minefield left on the floor, and more about you feeling triggered that your kids ignored your umpteenth request to clean up the room. Either way, it is not fair to expect that your family fulfills demands that they never knew existed, so be clear about your needs and expectations. The longer you wait to address them, the more room you leave for resentment to creep in and ruin your trip.

3. Set limits. A new locale does not mean hometown rules breeze out the window. Sure, bedtimes might get extended, but Island Time does not mean staying up all night. Kids thrive in structure, so set yourself up for success by setting appropriate limits. Establishing vacation rules at the beginning of the trip allows for clear and realistic expectations among the group. On Day 1, lay down the law, ask if everyone understands, collaborate on any additions, and establish enforceable consequences (i.e. don’t threaten to take away the beach if you don’t want to stay in the room during the punishment!).

4. Research a babysitter. An unofficial vacation commandment is thou must plan at least one Parents Night Out. A happy relationship is the bedrock of a happy family, so when you book your hotel, ask for referrals for a local babysitting service or see if your hotel offers any babysitting services. You and your partner deserve a night out, and the precious few hours away will kindle your romantic flames and send a dose of the love hormone (Oxytocin) coursing through your body. Those warm and fuzzy feelings will help heighten your vacation experience. Make the most of your night off by checking to see if the hotel is hosting any special events, like a fire eating demonstration or a tequila tasting.

5. Give in to that cocktail. If you can’t secure a sitter, you can still enjoy grownup time on family trips. A beachy cocktail is one of the perks of going on vacation, but how do you enjoy an end-of-the-day libation when your kids are asleep in their beds? Start by visiting the hotel bar before bedtime, and ask for your favorite adult beverage without ice. Then, store it in your minifridge until it’s chilled, and when your little ones have conked out, refresh it with some ice cubes. It is important that you carve out adult time where you can. You can use this time to reflect on your day, take an inventory of all the moments you felt grateful, and think about what you most appreciated about your family. Cataloguing these moments will allow you to have a more fulfilling trip and increase your happiness when you think about them after you return.

Lindsay Liben, LCSW, has a private therapy practice near Union Square, focusing on women’s issues including depression, anxiety, and life transitions. She believes that by helping her patients get in touch with their most authentic selves, they can make choices that set them up for personal and professional success. Learn more about Lindsay and her work on her website.

Image by Kyra Hesch-Bershaw.

14 Toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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Whether you're planning a quick trip to the lake or flying the fam to a resort, the results are the same: A happier, more connected family.

Whether you're looking for hotels or a rental home for a safe family getaway, or just punching in your credit card number to reserve a spot in a campground a couple of states over, the cost of vacation plans can make a mom wince. And while price is definitely something to consider when planning a family vacation, science suggests we should consider these trips—and their benefits—priceless.

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Halfway through a high-risk pregnancy complicated by placenta issues, Teigen announced late Wednesday that she has suffered a pregnancy loss.

Our deepest condolences go out to Chrissy and her husband, John Legend (who has been by her side in the hospital for several days now).

In a social media post, Teigen explained she named this baby Jack.

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