A Yogi’s Guide on How to Deal with Stress on a Family Vacation

By Whitnee Jenkins

Vacations are so great.  Really, they can be some of the best times of our lives!  But, unfortunately, they can also bring along unwanted stress.  This article will teach you how to deal with stress on a family vacation.  You may hate flying, leaving behind work, or just plain despise vacation preparation.  Packing and all that is the worst!  And don’t get me started on adding kids into the mix.  They bring a whole new level of worries and prep.  If you’ve ever just tried taking three kids to the grocery store, you’ll know what I’m talking about. 

Let’s face it, traveling with kids can leave us wondering how to relax on vacation with family. The vacation stress is definitely worth it for a fabulous getaway, in my opinion, but why not take the edge off?  If you could tone down some of that stress, would you do it?  I think most of us would.  Well, read on, my friends!  I’ve brought you a yogi’s tips and tricks for how to deal with stress on a family vacation.  We’ve got meditating for travel, travel yoga, relaxing family activities, and more!

Set an Intention

I suggest setting your intention each morning of your trip.

Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to set a goal for your vacation.  You’ve already got enough of those. Make memories. Experience new things.  Have fun.  Intention setting is different than goal setting.  It’s more short-term than a goal.  In fact, setting an intention will help you reach all those fun-filled vacation goals.  When we travel with kids and family, there are all sorts of opportunities to test our sanity.  Having an intention of for the day can make your vacay everything you desire.

All you have to do is think of something that you might need to make your day the best it can be.  Maybe it’s patience, gratitude, to go with the flow, or to let go of expectations.  It can be simple and easy, whatever you feel is beneficial.  I suggest setting your intention each morning of your trip, and that way it’s with you all day.  You can change it each day to fit your needs.  Then, throughout your day, when things arise that make peace fleeting and bring unwanted feelings, remind yourself of your intention.  Just this simple practice will be enough to keep the peace.  But there is so much more, so read on!

Breath Work

Take a few moments to focus on your breath.

I’m sure you remember a time in your life when someone close to you advised: “Just take a deep breath.”  That’s because taking a moment to consciously slow down your breathing directly affects your nervous system.  You may have noticed that when you followed that advice, you did calm down to some degree.  Taking a few moments and bringing your attention to your breath can be the perfect remedy for how to deal with stress on a family vacation.  Here are two of my favorite, easy breath exercises.  And the best part is, you can do them standing in line at Disneyland, playing on the beach, or wherever your vacation takes you.  And no one will be the wiser!

The Long Exhale

Often times, when our stress levels start to rise, we do this funny thing with our breath where our inhales are long and deep, but our exhales are almost nonexistent.  You may recognize the term “hyperventilating.”  So, the next time you feel yourself start to do this, extend your exhale longer than your inhale.  Try counting to four on your inhale and then counting to eight on your exhale.  Do this at least five times tp see if you calm down in the process.

Breath Retention

In Sanskrit, breath retention is called Kumbhaka.  Most people know our breaths have an inhale and an exhale, but did you know that there are two more parts?  The pauses between the inhale and the exhale are the two parts that most people don’t think about, and, therefore these parts are very, very short.  But focusing on lengthening those pauses can regulate mental chatter and bring clarity.  Try Inhaling for four counts, holding your inhale four counts, and then exhaling for four counts.  Do this five to seven times.

Essential Oils

Simply smelling essential oils can help you deal with stress on a family vacation.

Essential oils have long been used for health and wellness.  They can be used internally and topically, but aromatherapy is my favorite.  Aromatherapy directly affects the limbic system which regulates memory, emotions, the nervous system, and hormones.  And all of those things directly relate to what kind of mood we are in or the level of stress we are under.  So yes, simply smelling something yummy can turn your frown upside down and help you deal with stress on a family vacation. The aromatherapy benefits have been so profound in my life, I have started wearing the oils as perfume to keep my emotions and spirit at their best. 

Your kiddos will love using them as well.  And speaking of how to relax on vacation with family, my kids love when I bring out the oils and do “massage night.”  We usually do it right before bed because it helps them relax and unwind by physical touch and the aromatherapy.  Although it may not be the best massage of your life, they will even love giving you one!  It’s one of my favorite relaxing family activities!

The oil bottles are so small that they pack very easily and can go through security, so you can even use them for long road trips and flights.  Just go easy when using them en route, your neighbors won’t appreciate an essential oil bomb going off!  I also like to pack a couple germ fighting, immune boosting oils to keep you and your family at your best!

Here is a list of my favorite travel oils:

  • Bergamot: for stress

  • Lavender: for calming

  • Peppermint: for focus and energy

  • Lemon: for uplifting

  • Grounding Blend: you guessed it, for grounding

  • Protective Blend: for keeping those germs at bay

  • Restful Blend: for calming and restful sleep


Of course, a yogi’s guide would include some actual poses.  And while any yoga pose can effectively reduce our stress levels, most of them you probably don’t want to bust out in the middle of your crowded vacation destination.  But these three poses below are great for travel yoga and you actually could do them in a crowd and not get too many second looks.

Mountain Pose Variation

In this variation of a classic, you grab opposite elbows behind your back.  This allows your shoulders and collar bones to open up and expand.  Opening your heart and chest allows your breath to move more freely and releases all that stress and tension in your shoulders and neck.  Just remember to keep your rib cage closed, like you are wearing a corset.

Standing Forward Fold

A lot of walking, a lot of picking up kids, and a lot of carrying around family necessities can break a mama’s back.  Whoever thought stepping on a crack would break it never spent time with a mom carrying her babe in a carseat!  So yes, dropping into uttanasana, even with people around, can be your saving grace.  You can find me in this pose often, crowd or no crowd.  And the inversion aspect gets some much-needed blood to our overwrought brains.

Tree Pose

Okay, okay, you might get some weird looks doing this one out in public but balancing on one foot really brings our scattered minds into focus.  There is a certain amount of calm required to stay balanced like that and this pose helps us find it.  So, if you need the calm, this pose is where it’s at.  And, who cares what people think!

Go Beyond Yoga Poses

Yoga is much more than just poses.

Most people think of yoga as fancy body postures that require some modicum of strength and flexibility and then they stop there.  But yoga is so much more than just the poses.  We have to change our definition of what yoga is to really reap ALL the benefits that it can give.  And there are a lot that don’t require any physical work whatsoever!  Two of the favorites that I use every day, whether I’m on vacay or not: prayer and self-awareness. 

Whether it’s God, some sort of deity, or the universe, in yoga we recognize something beyond ourselves and use prayer to call upon that to help us become the best versions of ourselves.  Prayer has given me the strength I  needed to make it through hard days and the courage to carry on.  Praying as a family is a great relaxing family activity because it gets everyone conscious of group energy.  So yeah, go ahead and use it for your vacation, no issue is too small to get a little extra help.  You can even use prayer for extra help with those intentions we set earlier!  Getting help with being patience on a vacation filled with crazy munchkins can be a godsend.

Self-awareness comes from the Yoga Sutra’s of Patanjali called Svadhyaya.  Basically, you intentionally practice self-awareness in all that you do in the world, accepting your weakness and limitations while staying centered in your truth.  Easier said than done, but living a self-aware life allows you to be your most authentic self and realize when you are the cause of your own distress.  There have been plenty family vacations where I have been the cause of my own insanity and living more self-aware helps me realize that.

Leave Some Downtime

Kids need time when they can get some freedom from parents ordering them about and parents need time when they aren’t trying to keep order! 

It can be extremely tempting to jam pack all your vacation days with activity after activity, trying to squeeze in every adventure you can.  Who knows when you will make it back to this destination!  Sound familiar?  A lot of us don’t know how to relax on vacation with family. One thing I have learned from all my travels, especially when my tiny entourage is in tow, is that you NEED to leave room for some downtime.  Kids need time when they can get some freedom from parents ordering them about and parents need time when they aren’t trying to keep order! 

My best advice is to take your downtime at one of your amazing stops on your trip, that way you get the best of both worlds, to check of an item on your list of places to see and that much-needed break from gallivanting around.  When we are GO, GO, GO all of the time, we miss out on so much of vacation life that requires you to take a closer look.  So, just stop, take deep breaths, and be present.  You just might find that exceptional something that you would have missed otherwise.


Meditation: the one tip to rule them all.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to physically change your brain.  I’m serious, Google it!  We are not aware of it reshaping itself, but it does!  This affects our emotions and self-control, boosts happiness, and helps decrease anxiety and stress.  This, in turn, affects our physical health.  Meditation has been proven to decrease pain and inflammation and increase immune function.  You can Google that as well.   Isn’t this fascinating!  If you are looking for how to deal with stress on family vacation, look no further.

This one tip basically covers all the other previous tips.  It’s like the culmination of all things peaceful and calm.   Set your intention with a morning meditation.  Incorporate some breathing exercises in your meditation.  Use essential oils too!  Allowing time to sit with yourself and just be is an effective way to deepen your self-awareness and prayer is a perfect companion to your meditation session.  So basically, you can hit all my tips in one shot if you start meditating on vacation!

But starting can be daunting.  You may be worried about doing it correctly and not be sure how to go about it or the idea of sitting and doing nothing can truly terrify you.  All those feelings are normal!  My biggest advice is to not let the fear of doing it right or wrong stop you from starting.  There is no one right way to go about meditating and even if you only take a few moments to breathe and focus inward, that’s meditation!  I’ve taken to meditating in the shower lately because with three young boys around, it’s the only time I’m alone.  My point is, there is no one way to meditate.

A great place to start is with guided meditations.  It’s just like it sounds, someone is talking and guiding you on your breath, your thoughts and your intentions.  I always recommend guided meditations for beginners because it’s much less daunting when someone is helping you along.  There are many online resources and apps that offer fabulous guided meditations.  One of my absolute favorites is the Headspace app.  It’s great for those who are new to meditation wanting to learn the art of mindfulness.  There are a variety of themes and durations, so you are sure to find what you need.  The downside is there is a subscription fee.  I also love the Meditation Studio app by Gaiam.  It has categories for happiness, anxiety, sleep, confidence and more.  Bonus:  it’s free!

There you have it!  I hope you can use these tips on how to deal with stress on a family vacation.  Happy low stress vacationing!

Whitnee Jenkins

Whitnee Jenkins

Freelance Writer

Whitnee is a dancer, yogi, artist, and writer. She has often been described as having “creative ADD.” She is on a mission to live life mindfully, practice self love, and be authentic. You can find more of her work at www.whitneeelaine.com.