Just the other day I came across the photos from our big family voyage back in 2019. We took our first-ever extended family vacation. My husband and I, his parents, brother, girlfriend, little girl, and our two girls, ages 6 and 7, headed to California for a magical trip to Disneyland.
The vacation involved coordinating nine individual schedules, selecting accommodations for our entire family, and planning activities that provided entertainment for ages 5 to 65.
Sound impossible? Overwhelming? Maybe, but certainly not impossible.
The fun we experienced and the memories made on this trip were worth the few headaches during the planning process of the trip.
Here are 12 Tips for Traveling with Extended Family to help you make sure your trip is a success!
Be clear on finances and talk money early. Finances are a tricky thing to manage and if you are traveling with your parents or in-laws it will be best to discuss who pays for what up front. It could get uncomfortable if well-meaning family members want to pay for everything, and make it awkward if it is the other way around.
When planning a trip with extended family, consider everyone’s budget, are there budgets to keep in mind? It can be difficult if one family is used to luxury travel and the other prefers low budget travel. Figure out the middle ground and be clear of costs from the beginning.
Many times, trips with extended family are gifts, with one party footing the bill for the whole group. However, there are always additional and unexpected expenses. You will need to discuss who will cover meals and drinks, activities and excursions, tips and transportation at the destination, and any other additional expenses. Bottom line: Never make assumptions about who will pay for what!
2. Involve Everyone
Get all family members involved in the planning process. Let everyone take responsibility for the planning and then there will be no fights if the plan fails. Each person should contribute one thing they really want to do or see, and make sure they get to do it. Not only is this important to ensures that everyone has fun, but it also prevents one person from taking the responsibility for the whole family’s good time. Everyone will LOVE feeling like they are part of making the trip a success.
Determine the mode of transportation. Are you flying or driving to your destination? There are several factors such as cost, airport accessibility, traffic, and time involved that should be considered when making the decision. Traveling with a large group can be difficult so you will want to make arrangements well ahead of time to assure everyone can travel together.
Determine Accommodations to suit your families style and needs. Some families loves staying in hotels where everyone has their own space at the end of the night, while others enjoy a vacation rental that are ideal for fostering togetherness. There’s no right or wrong choice, the key is to discuss your options with everyone in your group. Talk about preferences before making the arrangements and respect requests for privacy.
Plan something for everyone. When traveling with extended family you will have a wide variety of ages. Make sure to plan activities that you know everyone in your family will enjoy doing together. Also make sure you have plenty of different activities from which to choose, as well as ones with varying degrees of difficulty. And don’t expect everyone to participate in every activity.
6. Time Apart
Plan your days in way that provides some alone time with your own family. It’s important to have a little bit of time away from the large group. Don’t mistakenly think this is a relaxing vacation. It will be loads of fun, but it probably won’t be relaxing. Even the most tight knit families will get on each other’s nerves eventually; things that never bothered you at home could bother you on vacation, so be sure to schedule some time apart. Use the time to spend with your own family; it’s a great opportunity to spend time with one another, developing your relationships apart from the stresses of everyday life.
Take responsibility for your children. Don’t expect your parents or in-laws to babysit every night. It just isn’t fair. One or two nights will most likely be volunteered by them, but if you have an event you really want to sneak out to, ensure they know and agreed to it well before the trip. Don’t assume family members will attend to the daily care for your children; remember it is their vacation too and they want to spend time with everyone on the trip.
8. Remember the small things
You’ve worked hard and planned your itinerary to the minute, everyone has agreed to it, but know that somethings may fall apart. So it makes total sense to start making the “pack the following things” list weeks before you depart. Online orders of petty things like travel essentials or kids outdoor toys may be a very good idea.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Ignoring those little annoyances is definitely called for. Traveling can bring out the best and worst in a family. If there are little things that bug you about your sister-in-law or aunt, try to walk away during those times or simply tune her out. As Elsa would say, “Let it Go” and don’t hold a grudge. Mishaps will happen. Traveling can be hard on kids too. Give them the benefit of the doubt when they get tired and cranky. Remember attitude is everything, how they see you react to a situation will determine their behavior as well.
Take the time to connect with each person one on one. Being with the whole family all day long can get overwhelming for everyone. Take some time away from the crowd and spend time with family members one on one. Day to day life is busy when we are at home so it’s important to seek out the time to spend with your family members while you’re away from the hustle and bustle.
Stick together. When frayed nerves hit the fan, being on vacation with your parents or in-laws is not the time or place, to start taking out your frustrations on your spouse. Wait until you are alone to sort out any other embarrassment or frustrations. This can be tricky, but it is important. Although it may be difficult to not take sides during arguments remember not to alienate your spouse in times of conflict.
12. Take Pictures
Capture Every Moment. Take photos and lots of them! Hand the camera over to the kids, it’s fun to see the vacation from their perspective too! Take videos and lots of them! Document this trip with photos and words. Have each member of the family keep a journal during the trip so that when you return you can add it to the family scrapbook.
Make sure that you are present in the photos. Rotate the camera between family members so everyone gets in the shot, ask someone to take a picture of you entire group, or use a self timer to get the whole group together.
Most importantly remember to have FUN! Don’t get so wrapped up in all the details of planning and what comes next that you forget to take in the joys of the present. Enjoy this special time together with your family.