My family of five loves to travel, so we escape Chicago as often as humanly possible. We began our journey vacationing with our extended family after having our third son and officially being outnumbered by our children. Now, five years later, extended family vacations are a regular part of our lives, and we often travel with grandparents from both sides. So, how do we all get along? If you’re the cruise director for your family, listen up! With these tips, paradise is closer than you think.
Get on the same page
Be proactive about sharing travel details in advance by writing the trip details in one mass-email to everyone, so that there won’t be any misunderstandings about the plans. I email the extended family two months before the trip, then again when we’re one month out, and finally the week before blast-off. I make sure I am super clear about what the core itinerary is, while at the same time asking the grandparents if there is anything they’d like to add. It’s so much easier to accommodate everyone with early, consistent communication!
Set financial expectations
Money talk makes most people squirm, so before your big happy clan hits the road together, be sure to agree on who is paying for what. Traveling is expensive, and even the best-laid plans can result in some unanticipated expenses, so the clearer you are about financial obligations, the less stress your group will have when the bill comes.
Keep it loose
Remember why you’re all on vacation together: to sloooow down and be together. If you’re traveling with children, they don’t want to be cooped up on a tour bus traveling for hours to see ancient ruins. Keep the vacation activities centered around meals and local activities. If anyone wants to venture a little further to do some sightseeing, they can do that on their own.
Have your child’s back
Keep the focus — first and foremost — on your child’s needs. He will be overstimulated by this fun, new environment, and it’s your job to make sure he doesn’t go off the deep end. Do your best to maintain your routine feeding and sleeping schedule when you’re away. And, yes, this means standing up to Grandma when she suggests a late dinner at 8pm.
Have grown-up time-outs
Make sure to set aside daily breaks for the grandparents because they’re not used to the extreme pace of daily child rearing. You don’t want to wear them out after only three days — plus, not everyone wants to be together all of the time. Family vacation is not a sprint; slow and steady wins this race.
As I sit next to my dad on the beach watching the sunset and talking about our many trips together, we agree that family vacations are not all rainbows and unicorns. However, we have figured out the best formula for our family so that we want to keep traveling together again and again.