Traveling With Extended Family

Lisa Fritscher August 18, 2014 No Comments


Modern families are so busy and overscheduled that it can be hard to find time to spend with the people who live in your house. Building and maintaining quality connections with grandparents, siblings, uncles and cousins can seem almost impossible. Vacationing together is a great way to create bonds, getting to know each other under relaxed conditions and away from time constraints. Yet an extended family vacation can also be a potential minefield of differing schedules, budgets and habits.

Dad and I recently spent a week in a two-bedroom condo with an ever-changing cast of characters that included both friends and relatives of all ages. The lessons we learned can help you ensure that your next extended family vacation is filled with loving memories rather than stress and arguments.

Communication Is Key

Traveling with this many extended family members was challenging but highly rewarding.

The purpose of the trip was my 12-year-old cousin’s participation in her first pageant. A three-day affair that required numerous costume changes and performances in different rooms of an elegant hotel, the pageant was all-consuming for her, her parents and her best friend. Dad wanted to see all the competitions, though not the rehearsals. My best friend and I wanted to attend a different event on the Saturday night of pageant weekend. I went to the rest of the pageant competitions, while my best friend made it to a few.

With everyone scheduled to come and go at different times between the condo and the pageant hotel, tempers were running high in the days before the trip. We all had copies of the pageant schedule, but my cousin’s family was unsure which of the rest of us would be where when. So I wrote an email detailing my schedule, Dad’s schedule, and my best friend’s schedule, and sent it to my cousin and each of her parents.

With written documents in hand, everyone knew where and when to expect everyone else to be. We all had cell phones, so we kept each other informed of delays and made plans on the fly as to exactly when and where to meet. As issues arose, such as where to hold my cousin’s celebration dinner, we were careful to sit down and discuss all of the factors rather than making assumptions.

Flexibility Is Crucial
My best friend works for Bluegreen Vacations, so she reserved a two-bedroom condo at the employee rate. This meant that our condo assignment was made at check-in. As it turns out, we were assigned to a disabled-accessible condo. The very low sink and microwave were easy to get used to, but the second bedroom had a double bed and a sleeper loveseat rather than two queens.

The first night, we had seven people in the condo. My cousin’s parents had the master bedroom, my dad was on the couch, and my cousin, her best friend, my best friend and I had the second bedroom. Since my cousin had pageant competitions the next day, and my best friend and I would come in late from our event that night, we gave the girls the bed and took the sleeper loveseat. We did our best to make it more comfortable, but the worn springs provided a miserable night’s sleep.

The next day, we began a series of bed rotations based on who would be at the condo on a particular night that resulted in me sleeping at various points in both beds with every female in the group. Constantly changing sleeping arrangements was not necessarily my idea of fun, but we all worked together to be flexible and open to things as they unfolded, resulting in a pleasant vacation overall.

Respect Is Important
My cousin’s parents are very early risers, but also tend to nap in the afternoons and go to bed early. Dad and I, along with my best friend, are night owls. The girls prefer staying up late when they don’t have to get up early, but school has them trained to be early risers when needed. Consequently, there was rarely an hour of the day that someone wasn’t asleep.

We were all careful to respect each other’s schedules and sleep habits. Dad, my cousin and I came in early one evening to find that her mother was in bed but not asleep. We sought permission from her before starting a board game that has a tendency to get loud. In exchange, she was very careful not to wake the household when she arose at 6 a.m.

Too Much Togetherness
There is such a thing as too much togetherness. Our group was particularly careful not to plan every moment together. We all arose when we wanted, ate breakfast on our own schedules and largely did our own things. When someone wanted to do something, such as the digital scavenger hunt at the resort, they inquired whether anyone wanted to join them, and everyone was free to say no.

Everyone needs downtime and space, even on vacation. Each of us had our moments of hiding out in one of the bedrooms, having some much needed alone time. We were also sensitive to when we needed to do more. When my cousin’s mother was exhausted and overwhelmed the day after the pageant, we all cleared out of the condo for a few hours to give her the room to decompress. Everyone made an effort to afford each other some privacy.

A trip with extended family can be an excellent way to build and strengthen bonds. But it only works if everyone is allowed to enjoy the vacation in their own way. Schedule a few group activities, but avoid the urge to over-plan. Invite people to join you in the things you do each day, but don’t be offended if they decline. Take advantage of the little moments when you and someone else happen to really synch up, rather than trying to force it. This will help ensure that you will go home with as many priceless memories as I did.

avatarAbout the Author:

Lisa is a full-time travel writer. She lives in an RV with her disabled father and writes about their experiences. Although she has no children of her own, Lisa loves being an Aunt to her own relatives and the children of all her friends. You can follow her adventures on her blog, Travel Confessions.

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