Embracing a new travel plan
I’ve made no secret over the years about the fact that our biggest girl, L, struggles with anxiety issues from time to time.
Some weeks, this has no bearing whatsoever on our lives as a family of five. Other weeks, it means our individual and collective lives are characterized by aggressive behavior, wild mood swings, lousy attitude, and more.
As you can imagine, enduring these tough times on the road can be a real struggle for everyone involved. This is why we recently sat down with our (regular) family behavioral therapist to come up with a strategy for navigating any potential behavioral hiccups during our upcoming family trip to Disneyland this weekend.
The therapist worked with us to devise what she calls a “Travel Plan” for the trip. Basically, this document—and it is a physical, typed-out document—serves as a playbook that establishes ground rules and sets expectations for everyone.
The plan lists everything from specific meal times and bed times to time-out consequences for temper tantrums or what to do if someone falls ill (answer: GO BACK TO HOTEL WITH A PARENT).
Our document even has space to list out a specific itinerary for the two full days we’ll be in the park.
As our therapist explained it, Powerwoman and I are supposed to work together to fill out this itinerary on the nights before our park days, then spend five or 10 minutes on the mornings of our park days reviewing the plan with the girls. The goal: To eliminate surprises and potentially challenging transitions for our Big Girl.
If you’re reading this and you think, “That sounds completely NOT spontaneous,” you’re right. And that’s exactly the point.
You see when you travel with kids who experience anxiety, you want to eliminate as much of the unknown as you possibly can. Naturally, when you’re traveling, it’s impossible to manage EVERYTHING. But we *can* manage what we can manage. So we try.
Will it work? Will the plan make a difference? Only time will tell. It’s a good sign that everybody—including L—is excited to use it. This might just be the first trip of the rest of our lives. Wish us luck.
My oldest also suffered from anxiety that causes behaviorly problems. At 3 we actually got kicked out of the Amber Fort in Japiur because he had such an unmanageable temper tantrum. Now we do exactly this. Not as formal and written down, but we go over the day, talk about expectations, talk about concequences. And it helps tremendously! We just got back from LegoLand. My anxious, crowd hating son did a great job, everyone was happy, and no temper tantrums. (You’d expect that from a 7 year old, but for us it’s a success). Good luck in DisneyLand!
We, too, had a successful trip, Robin. The travel agreements work! Please keep reading.