I have to admit that if you had asked me five years ago whether I would ever consider going on vacation with my parents-in-law, my husband’s siblings, their respective spouses and their children, I would have balked at the idea. I may have thought, “I have a limited amount of vacation time and money each year, why would I want to spend that with anyone except my husband and children?”
But we have since had two successful vacations with extended family and are planning more. I enjoyed the first one so much that I organized the second one – not trivial when there’s 33 people to plan for!
Once you decide that you want to take a trip together as a larger family group, regardless of whether you decide to go to Disneyland, check out Martha’s Vineyard or travel to Europe together, here are some things which you should consider in planning your trip:
1. Determine the intent of your trip ahead of time. Collect ideas from all family members. Balance activities and adventure with sightseeing and relaxing. Build a list of things to research before the trip. Decisions around what you want to do together will drive location and accommodation choices.
2. Decide when or how to choose the destination. My siblings and I usually plan our trips over email – because we all live in different countries. Some families coordinates destination choices with extended family members using phone and email. For a family trip to be successful from the outset, the discussion on choosing where to go should be open to everyone – well, at least all the adults involved.
3. Decide on a specific destination. Perhaps visiting a theme park or spending time at a national park together. Maybe gathering at the resort town where your parents now live. We visited Portugal for Spring Break because my husband’s sister now lives there and the southern coast of Portugal is a much nicer place to visit in late March than wet and windy Ireland.
4. Look for accommodation which will suit everyone’s tastes and budget. If possible, one person should look after research into accommodation. The researcher needs to respect financial, location or facility constraints set by the group. Choosing one person to be responsible for booking will help coordination with the property owner if you find a suitable property for the group to share.
5. Sharing accommodation. For family trips with children, especially for larger groups, it’s not always feasible to share one rental property with siblings or grandparents and this may be a good thing. You may be used to your children kicking up a fuss at bedtime every day, but your sister who doesn’t have children, is not and probably doesn’t want her vacation spoiled by nightly arguments. Even if your brother’s children are the same ages as yours, staying in the same house may be disastrous: as the children pick up bad bedtime habits from each other. The solution is simple: rooms in the same hotel or condos at the same development. Even single-family sized houses near each other. Children will love the fact that cousins are ‘right next door’ and you will still have somewhere for quiet time (or time-outs) if necessary.
6. Plan for different interests, needs and energy levels. Do a little advance planning and pick out some things you will do together as a group: maybe you will meet for dinner every day or maybe take one or two day trips together. Leave space for individual time.