In this article, relationship expert Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC., shares some tips to help make sure your next family vacation is worth remembering (in a good way) long after you’ve returned home.
Many families choose to vacation in family groups consisting of parents and grown kids, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, cousins, and/or in-laws. While these can be a lot of fun, there are potential problematic issues and downsides that can be anticipated and planned for.
Here are some common ones that can be headed off before they have the chance to ruin your family vacation.
Avoid the “this is the way it is done” trap.
Just because your extended family has a long tradition of sharing vacations does not mean that this year’s plans should be made using an old blueprint. Plan early, and be sure to include everyone in the preparations. Many times, past vacations affect present-day plans. This experience can be very useful in identifying and planning for any glitches or problems that put a damper on past trips and could be factoring into reluctance on the part of some family members to do this again.
Discuss space and boundaries beforehand.
Talk about how you will use this shared space before heading out for your vacation. You can assign areas for the kids to play, and/or for adults to find some quiet time for reading or using their personal devices. You may want to have a bathroom schedule so that the line doesn’t form every day at the same time with people fuming because they can’t get in. Sign up for shower times with the understanding that if someone needs to get in quickly, everyone will be flexible within reason.
Parents may have very different parenting styles, and if there will be kids from different family units, it’s helpful to discuss expectations for bedtimes, mealtimes, nap times, and how discipline and order will be handled among the adults. Give everyone the opportunity to discuss their needs and expectations to avoid misunderstandings and conflict during the vacation.
Schedule time apart for healthy breaks.
Even the closest family can get on each other’s nerves – especially when there are lots of kids involved. Consider planning a “date time” for each couple to get away for a few hours to do their own thing. Also, think about grouping the kids up according to age and sex, choosing activities are of greatest interest, and are most appropriate for each.
Be sure to consider the budgets of those family members who may not be able to afford what others can, or who may be more financially well off than everyone else. Don’t push activities or venues on anyone else as they may simply not be able to afford it but are uncomfortable spelling this out. In other words, don’t feel like you must do everything together—in fact, make sure you do not.
Have the money talk beforehand and throughout, if needed.
How will you split overall costs? How will you divvy up checks if you decide that the whole group will go out for a meal together? If some individuals have special food needs/concerns/allergies, will they bring their own food and opt out of paying into the larger pot for food expenses? Will breakfast be on your own or will the house agree on a variety of choices and have those available to everyone, with the cost shared equally? These questions should be addressed before you leave for your vacation. Bad feelings over how money is handled are common for extended families who vacation together.
Spell out how shared responsibilities will be divided and handled.
Create meal schedules assign responsibility for who will take the lead in planning, preparation, and clean up. Take turns by signing up for different days and getting input from each other on menus so that everyone’s tastes or food issues are known. Plan “free’ nights when you can split up and go out for a more intimate meal with your nuclear family.
Discuss general house clean up and maintenance. Will you clean bathrooms, sweep, vacuum, or do laundry during this vacation? How will you handle kitchen clean up for snacks and meals other than dinner? If necessary, create a chore chart for anything that benefits the group and emphasize that everyone is responsible for their own mess. If everyone is willing to do their part, it will go smoothly, and help everyone avoid tense moments and bad feelings.
The keys to creating happy and harmonious family vacations are planning well in advance, open and clear communication, and establishing clear boundaries and upfront expectations. If you do this, the opportunity for misunderstandings and hurt feelings is greatly minimized. It’s a vacation, so the last thing you want or need is drama and upset.
Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC is an internationally recognized dating and relationship expert and founder of http://consum-mate.com. Her expertise is sought frequently by local and national publications and top ranked dating and relationship websites. Toni holds a Master’s degree in Clinical Social Work, is a licensed psychotherapist in the state of Virginia, and earned a certification in life coaching.