For families, an end-of-year holiday is an opportunity to reconnect. But what does that really mean?
Life is so busy we barely glance at one another amid the maelstrom of school, work, and weekend sport.
Then, too much time together all at once can become – well – annoying. Who knew little Levi had a habit of picking at his toes?
So, here are my top tips to avoid a Christmas calamity:
1 Aim to arrive at the airport, train station or bus depot well in advance. At this time of year, they resemble Dante's little-known 10th circle of hell. (Also within this circle are television executives and telemarketers.)
2 Turn off technology for an entire week – or one day a week – while you're away. One friend, who disconnected the internet for seven days during the last school holidays, says her four children played board games instead. It stopped them becoming bug-eyed.
3 Set an example by treating staff with respect. I know, tempers can fray during peak season. But working conditions for flight attendants have been badly eroded in recent years. And crew members on cruise ships are rostered on 12-hour days, for a lot less than we earn in Australia.
4 Plan with the precision of the Russian army in its battle for Stalingrad. Research the best time of day to visit each zoo, theme park or beach. Put the question out on social media, or check TripAdvisor, to skip the queues and consequent tears.
5 Car trips aren't the only journey on which you should carry small containers of food. Even on traditional carriers, airline meals are sporadic and often packed with sugar. Bring healthy treats to circumvent the scourge of hyperactivity.
6 Be kind to those around you. Perhaps the person struggling with the touch screen, or standing still on the moving walkway, or disciplining their child has had a crap year. Always remember: Christmas is a tough time for those who are grieving.
7 Don't say "yes" to all of the kids' requests. Sometimes they just ask for stuff for a lark – to see what they can get away with. The more you give them, the more they'll expect. Saying "no" more than "yes" puts the power back where it belongs: in your hands.
8 Incorporate soft adventure and physical activity into every day you're away. Lazing around is all very well and good, but kids are like dogs. They need regular runs around the block to remain centred.
9 Try not to get annoyed by the little things. Yes, those bloody tourists have put their towels on the pool lounges AGAIN. You had to ask TWICE for a glass of chardonnay. And the kids' WHINING is like fingernails scraping across a blackboard. But take a deep breath and endeavour to enjoy your time together.
10 This might be the most important advice this festive season: No talk about Trump. Too many families have been rent asunder by the result of the US election. Don't let yours become one of them.