Thursday, March 28, 2013

Travelling with another family


Travelling with another family

 Sharing your family vacation with another family can be a great and memorable choice that can enrich your own travel experience. Travelling with another family can reduce expenses, break up bickering siblings for periods of time, and provide additional company and interaction for both children and adults.   We have had amazing times with other families, but we have also experienced disasters that have required us to become very careful about whom we ask to join us.  It is likely that if you do choose to invite someone, you will invite someone you get along with, who shares your interests, manages their children and life in a similar way, and whose company you enjoy.  But here are some other things to consider before jumping into a commitment with another family!

1)    TV and screen use—not only for the kids!:  This can be a biggee.  We are quite firm about the fact we do not watch television randomly or have “screen time” when we are on vacation.  Vacations are times to engage with each other.  If we do watch something, it is planned and we watch it together.  Television and screen are not used on vacation to pass time or for background noise.  There was a family we camped with twice at Lake Tahoe and it went great.  The third time, since I had a new baby and a two year old, we decided to rent a house to share.  Bad choice—the husband brought his X-Box and proceeded to play during all waking hours, totally disengaging from the rest of the bunch and occupying the lone television.  It’s important to reach an understanding about television and screen before it becomes an issue.  My dad, who we travel with all the time, is a big news watcher, and what’s worse, he doesn’t hear very well so the news that he watches he watches at deafening volumes.  When we are on vacation together sharing a house, he watches in his bedroom and keeps the living room TV off.  This arrangement works to everyone’s benefit. 
If television or movies are to be watched at all, it is important to decide what is appropriate for all age levels.  What is going to be okay for the teenagers is not going to be okay for the 5 year old.  In this case consider splitting the groups up.
But really, on your vacation, just turn the danged thing off!!

2)   Consider the ages and physical abilities of both adults and children:  It is really hard to ski with people significantly below your level.  It’s hard to travel to the beach if one in the party is afraid of water or dislikes sun.  It’s a real drag to hike with someone who can’t keep up.  Think about it before you invite that couple with the new baby or the child with nightmares that’s going to keep you up all night.

3)   What are the sleeping and rising habits of the other family and can they get anywhere on time?:  Major bummer if all the lines at Disneyland are long because someone couldn’t get their bottom out of bed to take advantage of the early hours.

4)   Planning/organization:  There are those out there that do not want any kind of set schedule when they are on vacation.  They don’t want to be accountable to any timepiece.  They get up slowly in the morning and when they get around to it, they decide how they are going to spend the day.  I’m sure this won’t be a complete surprise to you considering I write a blog about getting the most out of your family vacation, but to me, this is a complete vacation wasted!  Everyone knows that I start each day with a plan in mind.  The plan is not set in stone but it is a plan.  Activities are scheduled in advance and dinner reservations are made, this way we do not waste time doing things like running from restaurant to restaurant to see who can take us in less than an hour.  Also we do not miss out on all the activities that all the organized people filled with their bookings!

5)   Can you count on help from the members of the other family to help??  Believe it or not, this has actually happened to us!  We went to Tahoe with a couple and the wife watched me prepare all the meals and wash all the dishes.  This same couple came to Tahoe with no sunscreen and two bath towels to lay on at the beach, so you sort of get the picture.  Nothing is worse than someone who sits and reads a magazine while you do all the leg work, or someone that needs to be asked to help get lunch together.  My mother happens to be the opposite extreme, she can’t seem to NOT be helping.  She jumps right in without asking and stands awkwardly fidgeting when she has nothing to do.  We are a well oiled team in the kitchen and herein lies one more reason that travel with my parents is a pleasure.

6)   Consider the vacation budget of the other family—Does the other family want to eat out three meals every day?  Does the other family want to rent a boat or a cabana for the whole day?  Does the other family drop money on souvenirs for their children at every turn?  In general, it is wise to not travel with a family whose ideals for travel are grossly above or below yours.  Another thing to consider is how you will split the expenses.  Are you going to take turns paying for things or are you going to painstakingly split all the expenses? Figuring these things out ahead of time can save some uncomfortable moments later.

7)   Do you or the other party have dietary limitations that could make cooking common meals difficult?  This may seem to not be a big deal but when I am on vacation I want to eat what I want—I would find it quite a hindrance to have a vegetarian join me on vacation telling me what I cannot cook.  There are plenty of reasons people don’t eat certain foods—health, religious practice, political statement—but I must admit that my experience with people with dietary limitations has been quite favorable.  In general, people nowadays tend to be respectful of each others’ choices to “eat or not eat,” or at least they should be.  My nutty sister doesn’t eat gluten.  She eats the same boring breakfast of blueberries and oatmeal with a side order of supplements EVERY day.  But it’s all good.  We eat our scones and bacon and eggs and she eats her stuff and everyone’s happy!

If you don’t bat 1.000 with all of the above, fear not!  You can still manage to have a wonderful time with another family who doesn’t share precisely the same vision for your vacation.  These are a few thoughts for making things easier.

1)    Stay in different dwellings.  Eat breakfast separately.  Have your own supply of grocery basics.  Keep your TV on or off as you please.  When we travel to Hawaii with my parents, we very successfully stay in two different units, in fact, my parents set it up this way!  It gives us both a little space and privacy.  When staying together might start to spoil a vacation as you grate on each other’s nerves, personal space and time can diffuse these situations and make a vacation much more enjoyable.

2)   And this is the most important—BE OKAY WITH NOT DOING EVERYTHING TOGETHER.  Be okay and respectful of someone’s choice to skip an activity to take a nap, or to not go to a certain restaurant, or to take a side trip to a certain store.  Recently, we went skiing with the Wheeler family.  Their family hit the greens for a while where Max promptly did damage to his knee negotiating a (small) jump. We skied the whole day in separate areas from the remaining Wheelers, but by the second day we got our daredevil out and they got their courage up and away we went altogether.  The time we spent together was great, and the time we spent apart was great too.

One of our favorite pastimes when we travel with my parents is spending the day doing our own thing and then getting together over dinner and chatting all about our days adventures.  My mom and dad get to visit the botanical gardens and we get to hike and paddleboard and everyone is happy! Of course we do plenty together too.

Travelling with another family when the other family is family:

Somes love their family. Somes can’t stand their family.  We have travelled with all kind of family and each time it has been a rewarding and memorable experience.  The seven weeks I spent in Europe with my sister I still can say were the best seven weeks of my life.  Since having a family of my own we have travelled with my parents, Craig’s parents and all of our siblings.

Grandparents can add a favorable dynamic to any family vacation.  When I was growing up we travelled with my grandparents to Hawaii, the East coast, the Holy Land, Greece, and Yellowstone National Park.  Everything they did was hilarious and to this day we will still relay stories of the crazy things my Baba and Dyeda did (or said) while they were on vacation with us.

My parents determined that this tradition was going to continue to the next generation and when I was pregnant with my now thirteen year old, my parents bought a timeshare on the island of Kauai.  As my family grew, so did the timeshares until now all of us can go every two years for two weeks, staying in separate units.  Since 2000, we have been to Hawaii seven times, creating memories of a lifetime with my kids and parents, just as I was able to do with my grandparents.  We also travel yearly with them to Lake Tahoe, and have joined them in Yosemite.

Grandparents seem to have more of a vested interest in everyone’s happiness, and can lend an invaluable hand with younger children.  When my kids were littler, it took forever to get everyone bathed, dressed and out the door.  A great timesaver was dressing the girls and then sending them down the hall to have their hair braided by Grandma.  The children also knew that Grandpa could always be persuaded to take a detour to Lappert’s ice cream or the Shave Ice store, or at least to take a short walk to see the sea turtles or the parrots.

A Gallery of successful vacations with other families:

With Grandma and Grandpa Temple Jersey Shore 2007
In Lake Tahoe with Grandma and Grandpa Kalousek
Summer 2009
On Kauai with Grandpa and Grandpa and Angie's family
Summer 2012


The long awaited trip to Disneyland with the Mercik Family
Spring Break 2010

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