I fully admit I don’t have a clue on how to travel well with extended family. Some days go well and some days not so well. Today I took some time to compile a few articles giving tips on planning and enjoying time with those you love. I pulled out a selection of great tips from the articles. Got tips from your past experiences? Please ad them in the comments below. Anything marked with a NB is my own humble wisdom. Rest assured I still have a lot to learn!
Are you A Dig in or drive by traveler?
We all have a certain pace we adopt when on vacation. Some people really like to dig into a local culture and spend full days at the museum or exploring tide pools. Others prefer to take a “drive by approach” and snap a picture before moving on to the next site. Talk to your co-vacationers to make sure you have similar expectations and plan accordingly. This may involve some amount of compromise, which is okay, as long as it is evenly distributed. By Ciaran Blumenfeld
Would you like a glass of wine with dinner? Or a cocktail with breakfast?
How much do you drink on vacation? How much do the adults in the other family drink on vacation? If there are more than two drinks per night difference between you and them, it’s time to seriously re-think the whole vacation plan. Sober people and drunk people just don’t have that much fun together. Drinkers don’t like to feel judged for responsibly having a few and non drinkers don’t want to have to split the expensive booze bill and worry about whether their friends will be hung over tomorrow. This could be more than a vacation drag, it could be a friendship killer. By Ciaran Blumenfeld
N.B. Especially important for families in recovery from drugs and alcohol. A person who rarely drinks at home may do so frequently on vacation. Non- compatible ideas on alcohol can be troubling for children who experienced active alcoholism in the home prior to recovery. Clarifying what each family views as acceptable before hand can save a lot of heartache on the road.
You don’t need (or want) a month’s vacation. Unless your family members are pros who travel together all the time, a week or two is probably plenty when it comes to a multi-generational trip. In fact, two weeks is the absolute max for us; that’s right about the time when everyone says, “This has been amazing! Let’s go home.” If you stay much longer, family dynamics may start to unravel. Chances are, you won’t be able to swing more than that anyway.
Written by Carrie Calzaretta
Avoid too Many Cooks in the Kitchen
If you have someone who likes to be in charge of food (and there usually is someone who wants to be in charge), let him or her be in charge. Smile and say “Thank you very much” for his or her efforts and time. The most intense conflicts in our vacations have involved food. This year the controversial culinary item was…grits! That’s right. It was a scene straight out of My Cousin Vinny. Basically, the problem with grits was my kids don’t eat them. Although I had mentioned that my girls would eat the shrimp and salad and that would be fine, my sister-in-law did not remember this and was annoyed. I should have said my girls will not eat grits. They will not eat them on the beach. They will not eat them with a peach. They do not like gray grits and shrimp. They do not like them Savannah and Charlotte Ann. by Ann Van De Water
NB As a side note: this is especially true with families with alternative diets. Gluten free, dairy free, limited sugar, or medication with food requirements. It is helpful to make a list or at least know ahead of time the diet requirements and timing issues. This can also affect eating out choices. Rather than deal with hungry people with hurt feelings (aka crazy people) discuss options up front and plan accordingly.
Traveling With Children if You Don’t Have Any
My husband and I definitely got a lot of training for our future with kids, if we are blessed with any. Children are especially a lot of work when you are traveling! As soon as I boarded that plane to the Caribbean, I made a conscious decision to embrace the fact that this wasn’t just any vacation. It was a fully loaded “family” vacation. by Tamar Meredijan
NB Different ages of children have different requirements. Toddlers need naps, elementary age need supervision,snacks, activities, while tweens and teens often need input into the actives and alternative choices.
Decide on Finances Early
Money can truly be the root of all evil. No two families will share identical incomes and, therefore, it can be pretty stressful for those on a tighter budget. For this reason, it’s absolutely necessary for the financial obligations to be decided well in advance so that there are fewer surprises. Come up with a plan that is reasonable for everyone and stick to it. by Jeanne Croteau
NB Even if a family member is gifting the vacation, reasonable boundaries and budgets need to be expressed. If incidentals and extra excursions are expected to be paid for by each family, this needs to be communicated in advance.
Dealing with Difficult Family Members on Vacation is like Christmas in July
Finally, even a well planned vacation will not “fix” a difficult family member. A summer vacation with the “difficult’ family member often includes similar stresses to holiday celebrations. The strategies Dr. Christine Carter uses for the holiday stress with “difficult” people will come in handy for family vacations too.
Give up on trying to fix him or her
This means accepting the difficult person for who he or she is, including the discomfort (or even pain) that they are creating.Practicing this sort of acceptance is about dropping the fantasy of how we think things ought to be. You might have a fantasy of a sweet, close relationship with your daughter-in-law, for example, and so you feel angry and disappointed every time she does something that doesn’t live up to this fantasy.
But be aware that she likely feels your disappointment, and feels judged. She knows you are trying to change or “fix” her, and that doesn’t feel good—it hurts her, in fact, and hurting someone, however unintentionally, does not make her easier to deal with.
An alternate approach is one of empathy. Rather than judging what the person does or says, just try to listen and understand where he or she is coming from. This doesn’t mean that you need to agree with the person, just that you’re showing him or her a basic level of respect as a human being. Research suggests that engaging with a person this way—acknowledging his or her point of view without judging it—can make him or her feel more understood… and, as a result, less defensive or difficult. By Dr. Christine Carter
Each of these articles is a wealth of information on there own. Setting expectations for yourself and your loved ones is a great way to set the tone for a family vacation. Especially with Thanksgiving right around the corner.