By Yashy Selavadurai Murphy
Travelling with your nuclear family is hard enough but imagine travelling with your in-laws , your parents or even your grandmother. And staying sane. It can be done and it can be quite enjoyable. Having travelled for two weeks throughout Ireland with my in-laws, taken grandmother and aunts on a California road trip and explored Mexico with my dad and my husband’s parents, there’s a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.
Call me insane but I actually enjoy travelling with extended family and I must be doing something right because aunts, in-laws and siblings are always ready to be part of a vacation that I’m planning.
Here are my top tips for planning a successful vacation with extended family:
- Determine a destination that appeals to all: Be it a city a few hours away, a country on another continent or a neighbouring town, pick a spot that everyone wants to explore. The destination is the main attraction after all.
- Determine any constraints: Be it medical conditions or old age you will want to know the parameters at play. We climbed the Blarney Stone with my in-laws but definitely would not have done that if my grandmother was with us. Know your group’s limits and don’t push it. A short road trip is all my aunts could endure so a six hour trek for a killer plate of sushi was definitely out of the question.
- Figure out the finances: Are there budgets to keep in mind? It can be difficult if one set is used to luxury travel and the other prefers low budget accommodations. Figure out the middle ground and be clear of costs from the very beginning.
- Determine mode of transportation: Are you flying there? Is it smart to take a road trip once at your destination? Are you relying on public transit or trains? There are many factors to determine but keep in mind that travelling in a large group can be difficult and that you may want to make arrangements well ahead of time to ensure that everyone is together.
- Determine accommodations: Some families love staying in hotels where everyone has their own space at the end of the night. My family likes a mix of hotel and apartment stays, depending on the cities we visit and the duration. I’ve found that using sites such as VRBO and Vacations-Abroad can get you more space for your buck. Everyone living under one roof may also mean that you can sneak out for a date with your partner while the kids sleep and the in-laws relax at home after a busy day.
- Determine your itinerary: Figure out what everyone wants to do. Assuming you have now taken on the task to organize the trip, it is your duty to draft up ten (or twenty if you’re going on a longer trip) attractions or things to do and have everyone vote on what they’d like. I choose the popular spots to visit and draft up an agenda for each day. Share this with the group and have a group email or phone call to discuss the plan and address any concerns. Be as detailed as possible – I include times to visit attractions and costs for accommodations and entry fees on the itinerary so that everyone’s aware of all the details.
- Be flexible: You’ve organized an agenda and everyone has agreed to it, but know that things may not pan out. Someone might fall ill or need some down time. Figure out how things can be swapped or omitted to stay on schedule.
- Give yourself a lot of time: Packing a car with a toddler and newborn is hard enough but packing a car with aunts, a grandmother and your cousins will take ten times as long. Getting out of the house will take another hour. Give yourself plenty of time between each attraction and plan for plenty of potty and chai breaks.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff: Ignoring small grievances is definitely called for. Travelling brings out the best in my family but it may not be the same for all. If there are little things that annoy you about your brother in law or your aunt, try to step away during those times or close your eyes. Take it in stride but don’t hold a grudge.
- Have no expectations besides having fun: 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 the other party knows about this well before the trip.
With young kids along for the journey, I find it extremely beneficial to travel with family. It’s great having extra hands but more over it helps foster a great relationship. Travel is a way for many of us to explore things for the very first time and whether you’re two, 32 or 72 there’s wonder and excitement in marvelling at the Taj Mahal or Cliffs of Moher together. Creating these memories takes effort but it’s worth every minute of planning. The thousand pictures in the end are proof of the fabulous times we had and the joys we experienced. Cherished memories that help us plan the next extended family adventure!
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