Family vacations all begin with such great intentions, don’t they? We sit down with the crew, brainstorm where we want to go next and spend days or even weeks coming up with an awesome itinerary. As the time to depart creeps near, we create big family calendars marking down the days, highlight the timeline in our planner and create chalkboard countdowns on the refrigerator door.

Then, we all pile into the van, get about two miles down the road and everyone is bickering, hungry and in an ill mood. Oh, and someone inevitably has to use the bathroom even though you only checked 1.5 million times before leaving the house.

When a trip begins that way, it’s hard to crawl out of that hole and salvage the rest of it, but it can be done. The key? Refocus your priorities and expect to be pleasantly surprised by even the tiniest of moments. Here are a few ways to turn that rough start into a family vacation you’ll remember—for all the right reasons.

Take a healthy dose of reality.

It’s easy to hop on Pinterest or Instagram and see thousands of supermoms living their best lives. There they are in the tropics, hair gorgeously tousled by the sea salt, oversized sunnies and straw hat on, holding the hands of their significant other and smiling babes.

Want to know what happened the second after that flash went off? Someone was probably having a meltdown and it may very well have been that stylish mama herself. No one is perfect and no trip is without its setbacks. So hop offline, take a look at that gorgeous family of yours and know that you don’t have to create social media-worthy memories at every single turn.

Know what you want to do.

This is one area in which I am embarrassingly deficient. I’ll plan a vacation to somewhere that sounds fun and we’ll all journey there together. Then, when we finally arrive, I just look blankly at my husband and expect him to magically turn into a local tour guide and show us the hotspots around town. Instead, we just end up floundering for a few days, constantly wondering if we’re eating at the right places, visiting the most important stuff, or hanging out in the right area of town.

When you know what you want to do, you can more easily set up a plan for each day and that immediately relieves a ton of stress and anxiety. Read traveler reviews, watch tourism videos and search for local media articles about the area you’re visiting. Then, you’ll know which spots to hit and which to skip and you’ll never have to spend aimless hours driving around searching for them.

Take an “off day.”

While it’s important to plan so you know what to expect, you might find that you simply need to press the “reset” button on your family vacation. No one is getting along, some of the plans you were most looking forward to have fallen through, someone is fighting the sickies and the accommodations leave a little to be desired. If this is the case, I’ve found that, if your schedule will allow it, taking an “off day” to recharge and recenter can be infinitely and immediately rewarding.

Don’t get everyone up at the crack of dawn to watch the sunrise over that mountain. Don’t buy those expensive tickets to the museum just yet. Don’t book a sunset cruise or bust out the plastic pails, boogie boards and frisbees for a big day at the beach. Instead, spend the day as a family doing the bare minimum. Go out for ice cream just because. Walk along the water for a few minutes and let the waves tickle your toes. Pack a simple picnic and take it outside. Go see a movie.

Do the little things that your family enjoys and relieve yourself of the burden of planning the perfect day. Remember, traveling can be just as stressful on your kids as it is on you, and they’ll appreciate the slower pace and lessened expectations.

I’m no expert on traveling with kids, but I do have two little ones and my husband and I have managed to go on quite a few adventures with them. Do these tricks work every time? Absolutely not.

One time, we drove four hours to Myrtle Beach on a Thursday night. In the course of six hours, both kids got ear infections and my husband got food poisoning. There was no salvaging that one, so I packed up my little family and drove us all the way back home on Friday morning.

However, when tiny setbacks get in your way of an otherwise enjoyable trip, remember that all hope is not lost. Getting back on track just requires a little change in perspective and a willingness to brave the journey together.

Featured Photo Courtesy: Simon Rae via Unsplash