It would be easy for me to assume that everyone has a perfect family experience. However, experience and reality suggests that might not be the case for everyone. Sometimes spending time with your family is more work than play.
This Christmas, my family and all our extend cousins are going on a family reunion cruise to Haiti. And although I have good relationships with all my cousins and great relationships with my siblings, there are still some unknowns when it comes to family trips. When I was younger, I loved family vacations. As kids, every summer our family made 2 major trips: a long distance trip to another state or Canada and a short day trip to The Land of Make Believe, a small New Jersey waterpark west of our hometown. My siblings and I looked forward to those family trips all summer.
That eagerness lasted until my junior year in high school (which is a pretty long stretch if you think about it). Up until then, I couldn’t understand why some of my friends dreaded family vacation. When teen angst, differing opinions and grown folk issues were added to the mix, family vacations became less than effortless. As a result, my siblings and I developed some tricks and habit to deal with those crazy moments.
So if you’re struggling to love your family on vacation, here are 6 tips on how to survive family vacation.
- Breathe. You know as well as I do that the people who get under your skin the most tend to be the people you’re closest with. I know from experience that sometimes the only way to deal with rising tensions is to breathe.
- Set realistic expectations. Adjust your plans and schedule according to your family and the people you’re with. When my siblings and I travelled across Europe, we were all aware of my mom’s physical limitations. So during the day, we all would travel together (usually via tour bus). Then at night, my siblings and I got to explore the cities we were in the way we wanted to. It would be unrealistic of us to expect our mom to want to do some of the things we did. So instead we did them ourselves.
- Get off your phone, ipad, or laptop. I know this one is hard because many times your only escape from a tense family situation seems to be your phone or device. Resist the temptation! Family vacations are intended to bring you all closer. Regardless of where you are at, spend time being present with your family. And if you need alone time go to a room where you can close the door or go for a long walk.
- Be sure to have your own time. This is a game changer. If your family or your in-laws are just a little too extra and you need to make a quick exit, do it! Pent up emotions will only explode over time. Take time to be on your own to explore or do some of the things you’d like to do. If you have a bigger family (like mine) who may not let you be alone for more than two seconds, find a spot where no one will disturb you and hang out there for a bit.
- Come prepared with something your family can do together. Whether that be board games, taboo, a movie night, or watching family feud, come prepared with an activity that will put everyone in a good mood.
- If all else fails, just relax. Sometimes no matter what you do, there will be someone who is not please with family vacation. If that’s the case, relax and have fun anyway. You’ve already scheduled the vacation days with work that you wont get back; do everything you can to rest and relax. You can deal with the tougher conversations when you step back into normal life.
I know one thing, no matter what, I’m determined to make this family vacation worthwhile and i hope you do the same. Here’s to happy family vacations that you don’t need a vacation from!