To state the obvious, after the last 2 years, everyone is ready for a vacation. EVERYONE. So with the anticipation of a trip on top of potentially combining multiple family groups, the stakes are high. Even if you are traveling with just your nuclear family, existing outside of your bubble can be a challenge!
Summer is so close we can almost taste it… (despite the incredible amount of rain we’ve had on the east coast so far this May). This season brings about fond memories of sunshine, the beach, and family time together on vacations. But as we all know, family vacations aren’t always rainbows and butterflies. Today, we’re sharing some of our own family travel challenges and then some strategies to navigate when things don’t always go as planned,
From 4 people to 12 people…
Every year since as long as I can remember my family has done a summer, week-long beach vacation. Through the years we’ve added friends on the trip, boyfriends, girlfriends, and then later fiancees and spouses. And then over the last 8 years, between my brother and I, we have added a total of 6 new little people to what was once our little family of 4. As with adding anyone to a group, there are growing pains. My niece was the first baby added to the bunch, and she was the best plus one ever. But with kids comes a new set of changes, challenges, and expectations. Combining families is hard– there are different sets of rules, discipline choices, parenting styles, bed times, eating habits– all which can be really stressful for everyone when no one knows who does or eats what!
Two years ago, we decided to keep our family beach trip for May 2020, but my mom and I decided on a new strategy. Each day of the week had a theme that each child got to pick– their favorite movie or TV character or unicorns or whatever– you get the idea. There were table decorations and crafts for each day that we set out the night before so that when they got up at the crack of dawn, they had something to do before the rest of us got up. We also mapped out breakfast, lunch, and dinner plans for each day so there wasn’t the constant back and forth of “what do you want to eat”? While this took a lot of pre-planning for my mom and me, it was well worth it. The expectations were set for each day, the daily schedule was posted and the meals were taped to the fridge. Of course there were changes and pushback (duh, they’re toddlers), but I think especially for children, who are so routine based, there is magic in having a plan. They don’t call it a family trip versus a vacation for nothing, you just get to parent and navigate dynamics in a new place!
Setting expectations for any activity is probably one of our top recommendations across the board. Knowing ahead of time what everyone is interested in doing and what their mindset is going into the vacation is key to mapping out the best plan for the travel group. Is your dad going through a really stressful time at work? He may want to just relax, sleep, and do nothing the whole time! Is your sister a new mom who wants nothing more than to get out of the 4 walls of a house and have a cocktail and appetizer with you while watching the ocean and enjoy some adult conversation? She may need more activities on this trip!
Here’s TLATA’s Quick Guide to Planning a great family vacation:
- Have a conversation ahead of time with your travel group about expectations- what does everyone want/need to get out of this trip?
- Talk about budget! Budget for housing, food (eating out or cooking in), & activities
- Plan out your meals & if appropriate assign meals/food items for people to bring (it takes the guesswork out for people & they feel that they are being helpful in a beneficial way; Bill may not be a cook but if you ask him to bring the drinks, he feels needed!)
- Create a plan (a flexible plan especially if you are traveling with kids)
- Make activities optional, you don’t all have to be together all the time! This will benefit everyone 🙂