Vacation season is upon us! It won’t be long until school is out and everyone is ready to head for their vacation spots of choice. Everybody has a different idea of what vacations should look like. Some like to take their small family unit, others prefer a big extended family vacation. If you want to go the route of the big extended family vacation, know it can get tricky. However, with some careful planning and communication, it can go smoothly and be a lot of fun. I’ve compiled my best tips and tricks on how to survive a BIG family vacation.
First, PLAN. And plan more. And then revise the plan again. Items to address at the beginning are:
- When is everyone available to go?
- Where does everyone want to go? What is the destination? (Or do you want to find a good deal on a place to stay and let that dictate the location?)
- Do you prefer a hotel block of rooms or one large rental condo or house?
- What amenities do you need the property to have? Beachfront? Swimming Pool? Proximity to restaurants and shopping?
- Most importantly, what is the budget for everyone involved?
Someone will need to take charge of the planning process. And most of the planning can totally be done via phone calls and emails. I’m kind of (read: definitely) the control freak of our family, so I usually end up planning the details of the vacation and I like it that way. I’ve got the little kids in our family, so it’s always nice to be able to scout out the locations that work best for my little family unit. So basically, I’m a strategic (selfish) but organized little control freak. I own it.
After we have decided the destination, I get to work on lodging. My main goal is usually to find a place for rent that is affordable, has a great location, and provides the room we require for everyone to have space. Do not shove 10 people into 2 hotel rooms and think it’s going to go well.
If you’d like to still be speaking to your extended family by the end of this vacation week, please make SURE everyone has their own space, especially if you are going to have small children in the mix. Kids need room to spread out and room to make noise. And adults need room for there to be quiet.
And while we are on the subject of smaller children and vacations…
Small Children Expectations
If you are one of the family members with little kids, recognize right now that everyone is NOT a 24/7 kid person. I’m sure your kids are precious, but precious ends on vacation day 2. We need to make it through vacation day 7 intact. Everybody needs space and quiet time sometimes. And that’s totally fine!
AND furthermore, the plans for the entire group are not dictated by the kids. As the parent, you do what you need to do to keep your kids happy and on their best routine.
Do What Your Kids Need
If everyone wants to stay out on the beach and have a late dinner, that’s wonderful. But if you know your kids will turn into exhausted demons that late at night at a restaurant, then go to dinner earlier with your kids or stay in, and let everyone else go out later for a meal. It is completely fine to break from the group and do what your kids need rather than what everyone else is going to do.
Chances are, as this is a big extended family vacation, there will be multiple vehicles (make sure there are at least 2!) so everyone can come and go as they wish.
I don’t mean this to sound harsh about small children on vacation. In my family unit, it’s my little family that has the small kids at this point in life, so it’s mainly reminders for ME. I’ve been on PLENTY of family vacations that didn’t go so well when other people had tiny children. I observed and learned how to NOT be successful. That’s why I’m sharing my ideas and insights with you guys now. Save yourselves!
How do you all want to handle meals? For instance, does everyone want to go out for all meals or do you want to stay in and cook? If you are staying in a place that’s pretty large, most of the time you’ll have a full working kitchen. Do you want to stay in and cook meals some nights? Do you want to trade off and everyone fix dinners? Are you more of an out to dinner type of family?
We usually hit the grocery store once we get to the beach and get breakfast and lunch food. We’ll do those two meals at the condo usually and then go out to eat for dinner.
The Plan for The Week
Either before you go, or your first afternoon or evening at your destination, have a small family meeting about the week. Be clear and open about how you envision the days going. Who wants to sleep late and who doesn’t mind being up early? Who needs 4 cups of coffee before they are ready to face humans?
Is there anything special anyone wants to do while on this trip? Are there reservations that need to be made? Tickets to be purchased?
What’s the general plan for during the days? Is it cool for everyone to do their own thing and later meet up for dinner? Are we all going to the beach together? Are we aiming to spend the day everyone doing the exact same thing? (Please don’t do that…)
In addition, are there day long activities anyone wants to do? Golfing, aquariums, shopping? Any and all of these options are fine. Everyone will have a much better time if you know ahead of time what everyone’s expectations are.
Here’s what a day in the life of our family beach trip might look like:
Everyone wakes up, has their coffee and nibbles on some light breakfast in the condo. Some might go out for breakfast. But, as for me and my fellas, we just let them wake up and do their morning thing in the condo. Milk and cheerios and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on the iPad for them. Coffee and bagels for Mom and Dad.
Beach We Go… Eventually
Meanwhile, some of the group will go on down to the beach early. They usually take part
For those of you with small kids, you’ll understand getting your kids ready for a day at the beach is more complicated and drawn out than planning an invasion of a small country. Just slathering them up with sunscreen, getting them into swim diapers and then the swim trunks and shirts and shoes is like running a marathon.
Once we are finally ready to roll, we head down to the beach to join the family. And we’ll play on the beach as long as it works for our kids. Sometimes that’s an hour or two, and some days it’s lasted about 15 minutes. You have to be prepared to roll with the punches and be flexible.
The place we usually stay has a lazy river that goes around the pool deck. It’s my personal belief that if I had my
We usually go back to the condo for lunch and then from there, the group disperses for the afternoon. Some amount of the group will go back to the beach, some nap and the kids play. After that, we’ll take the kids back down for more pool or beach time if they feel like it. I like to let them play for a good while after lunch and then go for a later afternoon swim to avoid the heat of the day.
Early Bird Dinner
We usually try to go out for a relatively early dinner around 5ish for whoever wants to go out. When you are at a large beach and have a large group of people, going to dinner early ensures no waiting for a table. With small kids in tow, that’s vital!
After dinner, there are tons of places to explore, go shopping, play mini golf, ride rides or simply go back to the condo for a quiet evening. A sunset beach walk can get any energy run out of the kids as well!
Rest and Relax
Above all, do try to rest, relax and recharge. This is a vacation after all.
One of my happy places in the world is sitting next to the ocean with a good book. My family is very kind to offer to keep the kids a ton during the vacation and let me go out and read, rest and relax.
I can call the beach trip a complete and total success if my kids have fun and I steal an afternoon or two to go read a book by the ocean.
To sum up, as long as you plan ahead and set very clear expectations, an extended family vacation can be a lot of fun. You can sure make a ton of memories and have a lot of laughs. It might seem like there is a lot of planning on the front end, but all that hard work will definitely pay off and make for a great and stress-free vacation for everyone. And that’s what we want!