Should you go on a family vacation with friends? That’s a tricky question.
Of course, everyone sets off traveling with the best of intentions, but how do you make sure you all have a relaxing and fun time without it ending in a silent journey back to the airport where you never speak to each other again?
Last year I went on vacation with a really good friend and her family and had a wonderful time. Why did it work? For starters, we arranged to have separate living arrangements, so were able to give each other space. We had known each other forever and had similar parenting methods. Even so, there loads of unforeseen little issues that arose that took some negotiating.
So as we all pack our sunscreen and look forward to balmy nights sipping rosé and staring out to sea with our great friends and their kids, here are some tips to make sure it all goes swimmingly.
1. Make sure the kids get along as well as the adults.
There is no point heading off on vacation if your child is going to spend the whole time miserable or bickering because they don’t get along with your friends’ kids. Of course, children are going to have squabbles, but if you never get a moment to read your book in peace because of the endless, “She’s using my inner tube, Mommy!” tattles, then why bother going at all?
2. Plan the vacation together.
By planning the vacation together, you won’t have any sudden surprises. For example, finding out the bathrooms are shared with other residents could be incredibly embarrassing. Or discovering that the villa you’re staying at is miles from anywhere could cause problems, too.
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3. Talk money before you go.
Picture it: you are sipping tap water and your kids are sharing a soda while your friend swigs chardonnay and her kids have sundaes the size of a house. Then she says, “Why don’t we split the bill?”
Before you go, talk about how you plan to do meals. Can you both afford to eat out every night or will you share in the cooking? Who will pay for what? Maybe set up a fund for shared expenses. There is nothing worse than resentment building up when you feel you are coughing up for every extra while your frugal friend never gets her wallet.
4. Talk about bedtimes.
What if you want your kids tucked in bed and out of your hair by 8 p.m. so you can relax and have some adult conversation, while your friend thinks it’s fine to allow her kids to run around until the adults hit the hay? You may start to feel like you are never going to enjoy a peaceful escape. Further, your own brood is sure to sulk and moan that they have to go to bed. Before you know it, you give in and let your kids stay up, only to have them turn into exhausted demons the next day. Now image you’ve got two weeks of this. Nightmare!
5. Find out what they want from a vacation.
I like nothing better than swimming in the ocean and reading a book. However, I married a man who hates beaches and wants to visit museums and old towns, even in 90-degree heat. I’ve learned to compromise, and that is exactly what you are going to have to do on vacation with another family. Just because you want to lounge around the pool all day, doesn’t mean they want do, so allow for a little bit of give and take.
6. Get off your butt.
If you are sharing living accommodations, keep in mind that just because you are on vacation doesn’t mean that the floors don’t need sweeping, dishwasher doesn’t need unloading or groceries don’t need purchasing. Be sure to do your bit. If your friends aren’t quite pulling their weight, gently ask them for a hand. (Or buy paper plates.)
7. Accept their parenting style.
This perhaps is the hardest one. I’m not one for kids eating lunch naked, but my friend saw nothing wrong with this at all. And while I told my kids to amuse themselves while I read a book for an hour, my friend never sat down, always jumping up the minute her kids asked for anything. She then complained that she never got a second to herself. You are never going to agree with every single little thing your friends do, but it’s best not to get involved. We all do things in our own style.
8. Let it go.
You’re on vacation. You saved for this all year, planned it out and have been looking forward to it for months. So is it really worth getting all worked up because your friend used the last of the milk? Or her kids ate the last popsicles?
This is meant to be your time to relax, so try your best to. If relaxation means asking your friends to babysit so you and your partner can have a night out alone, or suggesting breaking off so that you can do something with just your family, do it. It’s your vacation after all! Besides, if all else fails, you don’t have take a joint family vacation with your friends again.