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How to prevent conflict on vacation | Travel Smart

Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy, Dr. Diane Gehart, shares advice on how to prevent conflict on vacation and enjoy time with the family.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — While family vacations are a great time to reconnect, they can also bring on a lot of stress. 

“I think the main thing to remember is, it takes two people to fight," Gehart said.

Dr. Diane Gehart, professor of marriage and family therapy at California State University North Ridge, recognizes that trips can be stressful for families and if not planned correctly, tensions are bound to rise and arguments are likely to break out. 

“It takes a lot of planning to make things go smoothly, especially with children," Gehart said. "So, from even picking where you want to go, you might be thinking you want to drive because of COVID-19. We’re gonna throw the kids in the car for eight hours, and if your kids are not used to being in the car for eight hours and they are not good car travelers, you have just set yourself up for eight hours plus of total misery and meltdown."  

Carefully planning how you are getting to your trip can help avoid conflicts and the stressors travel days can bring. Once you get to your vacation destination, Dr. Gehart recommends having scheduled time apart during your trip to prevent problems from coming up during your time together.

“If you haven’t seen family in over a year or a year-and-a-half, there can be a lot of pressure and expectations, but most of the time when you're visiting family, it is ideal to have time apart," she said. "To allow there to be some separate time, even if the purpose of the visit is to see each other somewhat paradoxically, getting some time apart, even a couple of hours in your room or separate activity can be very helpful." 

To prevent conflict with family members, Dr. Gehart shared some advice so your vacation can go as smoothly as possible. 

“Really coming up with a destination, an itinerary, and means of travel that is really going to work for everyone," she said. She said scaling things back and really considering what everyone is capable of also helps. 

And if an argument does break out, there are ways you can resolve it and move on with your vacation.

“Make sure that they feel heard, appreciated, and understood first," Gehart. "You can summarize what they believe and think without agreeing to it...ask if it’s okay to share what you’re experiencing in a respectful way and that’s usually your best option for having them hear you and finding a solution." 

It’s important to remember that family vacations are meant for bonding and relaxing. Sometimes a compromise is the best way to overcome issues and move on quickly so you can enjoy the moments with your family. 

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