I’ve always loved the idea of “travel families.” You know, families whose kids are friends with your kids and whose parents are also compatible with you and the hubs. You plan trips together because as every parent quickly figures out, kids are much easier to travel with when they have other kids with whom to hang out.
So this year, my family started traveling with other families. We’re cautious about who we travel with because let’s face it: the best way to end a good friendship is to travel together. That’s because travel brings out the stress in everyone. That, coupled with the fact that everyone has their own idea of how a vacation should go, can make traveling with other families a recipe for disaster.
Fortunately, our recent vacations with our favorite travel families have not ended the friendships. In fact, those trips have solidified friendships between the adults and the kids. But those trips didn’t go well by luck alone; we put some thought and work into setting everyone up for vacation success. Here’s how.
1. Choose who you travel with wisely. Just because you really like a certain couple or you adore their kids doesn’t mean they are the right family to travel with you. Before asking another family to tag along on a trip, think about how the kids all get along. Do their kids bring out the best in yours and vice versa? Likewise, do you like your friend and her husband enough to spend 24 hours a day with them for the duration of the trip? If there’s any hesitation, it’s probably wise to make the trip with another fam.
2. Make sure everyone is comfortable with the budget. We all have a specific idea in our heads about how much we want to spend on a vacation and how much we can spend. If all the adults aren’t in sync about budgets for hotels, rental houses, day trips, restaurants, and excursions, you’ll run into some pretty awkward moments.
3. Stay somewhere that gives each family their own space. Being in close quarters with your own family for an entire vacation can be stressful enough, but being in too-close quarters with another family could cause a vacation disaster. So if you’re staying in a house all together, make sure there’s room for each family to retreat and recharge. All that togetherness can sometimes be too much.
4. Make sure the kids are compatible. Incompatible grown-ups traveling together can at least practice their best acting skills and gut it out through the trip, but kids aren’t so good at grinning and bearing it. So make sure all the kids are compatible and that one kid isn’t set up to fail by having no other kids his or her age in the group. If the kids are happy, it’s a lot easier for mom and dad to be happy and enjoy the trip, too.
5. Ease up on the rules. If you’re a strict about bedtime parent (I am) or you like to keep your kids on a super healthy eating regime, that’s all well and good but don’t expect it to stick on vacation in the same way as it does at home. Especially when the other family you’re with might have different rules.Talk to the other parents ahead of time about when their kids go to bed, how much screen time they’re allowed, and come up with a group consensus on how it should (ideally) go on the trip.
6. Talk about how logistics will work. Communication is the key to a great vacation with other families. So make sure there’s at least basic conversations about how the trip is going to go. If you’re renting a house, are you eating in every night or hitting the local restaurants? If you’re eating in, whose doing the cooking and shopping? If you weren’t planning on spending your vacation at the local grocery store and the other families were, it’s better to know that ahead of time than be surprised when you’re cooking your fifth dinner in a row for the entire group.
7. Don’t gossip about the families you travel with after your vacation. When you travel with other families, you’re bound to notice some weird habits, witness some major kid meltdowns, and experience some of the other couple’s dynamics you might not have noticed at home. Guess what — those other families are seeing yours as well! So treat your vacation like Vegas and don’t gossip to mutual friends all those little weird things you noticed about your friend. Vacation family gossip is a surefire way to kill a friendship.
8. Let things go. If your friend whom you otherwise adore loses it on you on day 15 of the biking trip through the desert or one of the kids is rude to you as you cross the Grand Canyon, don’t hold it against them. Travel can be stressful and travel with kids can be really stressful. Assume your friend is just having a bad vacation moment and let it go. Then, hopefully she’ll do the same when you have a less than graceful moment.