10 Ways To Prevent The Worst Family Vacation Ever
I love solo travel but every now and then, an opportunity to travel together with extended family comes about and images of the perfect family vacation start dancing in my head.
Everyone wants family vacations to result in great fun, grandparent/grandchild bonding and lifelong memories. Sometimes though, the problems can be many. To help travelers avoid some of the difficulties I’ve seen on various trips over more than a decade of travel, this article outlines the top 10 family vacation mistakes to avoid so you can have a fun, relaxing, and great time with your family.
Avoiding these missteps should help everyone have a rewarding experience on your next family vacation trip! Your parents, children, sisters, nieces and nephews, and any other family members traveling together, will all thank you.
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Mistake Number 10: Not everyone is involved in the planning.
According to a recent travel survey by AAA, nearly 100 million Americans said they planned to take a family vacation in 2019. Additionally, a similar survey from 2018 showed that 44 percent of Millennials, 39 percent of Generation X, and 32 percent of Baby Boomers said they planned to participate in a family trip. The results also showed that nearly everyone surveyed indicated they favored the idea of a family bonding trip.
When you get the whole family involved in planning, you end up with an itinerary and activities that reflect things your family actually want to do, not just what one planner thinks they should do. Gather vacation input from the oldest down to the youngest travel members and your trip is sure to be more enjoyable for all.
Mistake Number 9: Age-appropriate choices aren’t a priority.
It’s not that there aren’t family friendly activities in a city filled with casinos and a hopping nightlife, because that’s certainly not true of all of them. Generally though, adults visiting these cities tend to want to enjoy the less kid-friendly charms of the location.
When choosing a family vacation, think long and hard about the destination. Involve all travelers in a brainstorming session and weigh options and consider physical demands against the ages of those in your travel group. This goes both ways — make sure to realistically consider physical limitations of family members before booking that Airbnb filled with long staircases or heading off to a mountainous area known for strenuous hiking.
Mistake Number 8: Connections are lost.
Imagine this: You’re in Greece, it’s 98 degrees, and your nephew was supposed to meet you in front of the Acropolis 45 minutes ago. He didn’t get an international plan on his phone, so there’s no way to contact him. Can you feel some irritation sneaking in? This is a good example of when it’s okay to be pushy in the planning stages and make sure everyone in the group has a way to stay in touch.
Most US cell phone carriers give you the option to buy international day passes for about $10 per day. Purchasing a pass such as this will allow you to use your normal messaging/data allowances in a whole host of countries. With this plan you’re charged only on days you use data so you can easily monitor your phone costs while traveling.
Alternatively, if everyone will be in fairly close proximity during the vacation, you could consider walkie talkies. You might look a little weird but having a way to easily stay in contact with each other will be worth any strange looks you might get.
Mistake Number 7: Not everyone takes time to relax.
If one person takes on the role of lead trip planner, they naturally have put a lot of thought and energy into trying to create the best vacation ever. It’s quite easy for that person to forget to live in the moment, and instead ends up monitoring everyone else’s happiness and fun level while constantly thinking ahead to the logistics of the next activity.
Remember that all of you are on vacation so be sure to take off your planning hat upon arrival at your destination to help allow room to enjoy the adventures you’ve spent countless hours preparing for.
Mistake Number 6: Too much time is spent as a group.
We all love our families but everyone needs some space. To make for a happier vacation overall, you may not want to spend every hour of every day with them. Everyone needs a little space, so make sure there’s down time built into every day giving each person time to refresh and relax on their own.
Remember that not all activities have to be completed by everyone in your travel group. If a few people want to hit the local breweries, and the rest are ready to climb a mountain, respecting differing styles of vacation is best. Coming back together at the end of the day and sharing stories can be part of the fun.
Mistake Number 5: Food choices are questionable.
There’s nothing fun about upset tummies, or worse, full blown food poisoning especially when away from the comforts of your own bathroom. If multiple people in your party are stricken at the same time, and you’re in a hotel room with one tiny bathroom, disaster is sure to follow.
Many travelers love trying unfamiliar foods when vacationing, but there’s nothing fun about a single bathroom battle with your favorite sister or aunt if that food doesn’t agree with you. Be mindful of risky foods to avoid when traveling, such as anything surrounded by flying insects, and any food that’s been sitting out or hasn’t been kept either icy cold or piping hot. You might even need to avoid local tap water in some locations.
Mistake Number 4: Chores are not divided by all.
Finding yourself loaded down with the same tasks or sometimes even more than those done at home can be a classic recipe for troubling resentment. Shake up the usual household chore roles you have at home and give every able-bodied family member a chance to pitch in. After all, everyone’s on vacation, right?
Sharing typical chores like laundry and meal prep will go a long way toward giving everyone an equal chance to help while still allowing plenty of time to relax too.
Mistake Number 3: Everyone’s basic needs are not met.
Vacations are not the time for missing naps if your child (or grandparent) still needs them. Nor is it the time to power through usual mealtimes because you don’t want to take the time for a break. But that works both ways too – older family members may not eat as many times a day as younger travelers so don’t try to make them eat or feel guilty about not being hungry.
While it’s best to take everyone’s needs into account to minimize meal and sleep stress, kids and adults need to get enough sleep and eat nutritious food. A truly great vacation means keeping everyone fed, hydrated and as well rested as possible.
Mistake Number 2: The wrong vehicle or lodging is rented.
If your family is traveling as a large group, don’t automatically think you need to rent one super-sized vehicle. Eight passenger mini vans can be useful, but two smaller cars often allow for different schedules and interests and provide more flexibility.
Similarly, if you’re considering a large vacation rental but family members have different sleep schedules, it might be a good idea to opt for renting two adjacent smaller units.
Mistake Number 1: The rental home is not big enough.
More living space usually means more expense, but since you’ve already invested hard-earned money in a vacation, it’s worth investing a bit more to make it more comfortable for everyone. Avoid cramming everyone into one or two bedrooms if you can, but the real key to a great stay is having a large common space that’s separate from the bedroom areas.
Real beds for everyone are a must-have when traveling, and dedicated bedrooms are also a huge plus. Having Grandma or Grandpa sleep on a blowup air mattress in the living room is not ideal for anyone. Add in any age-related health concerns, or the potential for little travelers to get into medications not stored away properly, and this scenario is a disaster waiting to happen.
To make sure everyone gets a bed, a large vacation rental is probably the best bet for extended families traveling together. Not only do they offer more space, but often come with helpful amenities like dishwashers, washers, dryers, and yard space, as well as multiple bedrooms and bathrooms.
Over many years of traveling, I’ve learned a lot about trying to meet the needs of everyone for a more comfortable vacation. Am I always successful? Sadly, no. But keeping these ten simple tips in mind should help prevent travel disasters for anyone thinking about taking an extended family adventure.
Do you have any other extended family vacation tips that should be on this list? If so, let us know in a comment below.
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I can totally understand #6. My husband’s culture is such that they can all be in the tiniest of spaces together, for days, and all is good. Gosh, I need my space. I think he gets it, but others may see it as being unsocial. I just need space, and quiet time. If I can have that, I am up for anything. Family togetherness is amazing, but all of these suggestions are definitely on point, so everyone has the trip of a lifetime.
These are great tips! We did a multigenerational trip just once but there were only 9 of us (that side of the family is small). I really want to try one with my larger family but I always chicken out! Thanks for these suggestions!
Agree with you! I think it’s always important to realize many people are on vacation and everyone’s interest needs to be considered when planning. This planning tip has saved many vacations for my extended family!
It’s just easier to travel solo! :oP
I can certainly related to that!
Good summary. In our case when traveling with family we have learn that we all have different interest and at some point it makes sense to split so we all do things we like as you mentioned.
I’ve learned a lot over the years and I completely agree with you.
These are great tips Bibi! Thank you for sharing!
You’re welcome Tricia!
Family travels can be so tricky! This is a great set of things to bear in mind when planning 🙂
Oooh…#6 is a great one! We did a large family vacation to Disney World a few years ago and there were times where I just wanted it to be our immediate family and not everyone else. So important!
Yes! Not always spending time as a group is important.
Some really good tips here. We did a large family vacation once and while it wasn’t a disaster, it wasn’t my favorite way to travel for many of the reasons you mention here.
Love family trips, but sometimes love when they end too… These are excellent tips for making sure everyone has a great time!
We once did a large extended family trip and we will not do one with them again! We ended up being the unofficial tour guides, in a place we didn’t know, and felt like we had no down time. We were the only ones with little children (3 kids under 5, including a 7 month old) and it was exhausting. Really, we should have put our foot down, but it was “a free trip” for us…but it definitely “cost” us a lot.
It’s important to have a good time, so I completely understand Susan.
Great list! I’m #6, right here! I love family trips but all family, 24 hours a day, for however long, is a lot! I think everyone needs some time to themselves during a vacation!
Not always doing things in a large group seems to be the stickler for most. Space is a good thing!
Great tips and tricks!
I think you nailed it. Those are things that cause issues. It is good to be aware of them.
Thanks Missy! I’m glad to help.
I totally agree with this blog. Thanks for the reminder!
Thanks Laura, I’m happy to help!
I couldn’t agree more with every single point in this article. On our last vacation we rented two cars instead of one large van, and it worked out much…much better! Great post! 🙂
Two cars are a must for large family trips!!
Great thoughts! We rented a airbnb for a reunion but there wasn’t enough room and because we are the youngest we get the crappy places to stay!
That stinks Lisa!! I was the oldest on a trip once and I had the air mattress in the living room. Not a fan of that! 🙂
Great tips! As the family cruise planner, I recognize that number 10 is important.
I love your cruise articles Ola!!
These are great tips. We’ve definitely learned to get rest and be sure everyone has some down time. A little rest makes so much difference!
Great post that gets you thinking big picture and group considerations. The phone international pass for $10 a day is a must for us. Has worked out well.
We always get the international day pass when we travel outside the US. A must for sure!
Such great tips. I especially like the one about don’t skip naps for kids or grandparents. My dad will power through then crash. However, he can’t do it day after day. So having downtime for him is so important. It’s funny how we still think of our parents as doing everything but as they get older they need to rest more. Now I’m the parent and want to go, go with my kids like he did with me and my brothers. I guess it’s all part of life.
As an “older” person myself now, I need rest on occasion so this one is a definitely must-do for me.
I travel with a group of people some strangers and we always have one person do the itinerary for the group… each person decides if they want to participate or not… if works for us!!
That’s perfect Maggie!
These tips are so spot on! Such great practical advice to avoid any unnecessary drama and focus all the energy on having fun!
Great tips. Always good to be flexible, because anything can happen. I’ve had my fair share of horrific moments during travel.