A few months ago, we approached my husband’s family about doing an extended family vacation as a way to have some family bonding time and create fun memories. Out of the six kids in his family, four live in the same state as us and within a 30 minute drive of us and each other. His parents are also local, so we see them fairly regularly. However, two of his other siblings and their families live in two different states, so we don’t see them very often, maybe once or twice a year and it is a rare thing to have everyone together at the same time and place. Everyone was excited about it, but then the holidays came and life got busy and it got put on the back burner.
One day, my husband and I looked at each other and the calendar and realized we had better get a move on planning, otherwise, it wasn’t going to happen. So over the last couple of weeks, my husband and I have been researching vacation homes. We took it upon ourselves to find some places we thought would work for everyone and stay within a reasonable budget. It was tedious and time-consuming and we started to get a little bugged with each other over the whole thing. Finally, finally, after lots of emails and phone calls back and forth between siblings and parents, we made a decision on a place to stay. Phew! Can you say stressful?
As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20 and I thought of some things that we should have, or shouldn’t have, done to make planning it out easier. And I’m sharing those things with you in case you ever find yourself in a position to plan an extended family vacation.
DO decide on a lodging budget before you start looking
My husband and I made the mistake of assuming what everyone’s budget was based on what we had decided ours was going to be. As we searched for homes to accommodate our large family, we had a hard time finding something we thought everyone would be happy with. The longer it took us to decide on a place, the less options we had to choose from. In many families, there is a range of incomes and a range where each family feels comfortable. So while we were thinking one number in our heads and searching according to that, other people had a different number in mind.
DO prioritize amenities
The amenities, or features, that are important to you and your family will probably change depending on the location and time of year you are going on vacation. Since we are going in the summer to a hot place, we knew everyone would want access to a pool. In addition, kids outnumber adults and we knew that they would need activities to entertain them when we weren’t out and about. For my husband and I, we weren’t as concerned about having a bedroom for each couple. But for other members of the family, it was higher on the priority list. Obviously, you can’t please everyone. So it’s important to prioritize and be ready to compromise if needed.
DO ask for help
When all was said and done, the place we ended up choosing to stay wasn’t even one of the places my husband and I had found. My sister-in-law found it. Turns out she’s planned a lot of family vacations for her extended family and has a little more experience with it than my husband and I. Looking back, we should have asked for a little bit of help instead of trying to take it all on ourselves.
DO start looking early
As I mentioned previously, make sure you do the opposite of what we did and start looking early. Whether you are looking for lodging or tickets to an event, it’s definitely worth it to schedule the time to look around and do your research. Prices change all the time depending on demand and the closer it gets to a demand, the less options you’ll have and you just might end up putting yourself, and your family, in a hard place.
DON’T forget the purpose of the vacation
My husband and I had to keep reminding ourselves what the purpose of the vacation is: to spend time together as a family and create memories. It’s so easy to get caught up in the details of planning because there is so much to do. But when you take time to think about the real reasons you are getting together, other things don’t matter as much.
DON’T look at too many options or you might get overwhelmed
On the flip side of starting to look early, remember not to look at too many options, otherwise you run the risk of getting overwhelmed. One of the parts of planning that was so stressful for my husband and I was that the homes we were looking at renting all had so many different features. One had a private pool, another had a community pool. One had a game room, another had only video games. I think this goes back to remembering that prioritizing is important and that you can’t please everyone.
DON’T be afraid to disagree a little
Most of our communication with family throughout this process was by email. As such, it was hard at times to tell exactly what someone meant when they asked a question or brought up a concern. We are all reasonable people and not prone to fighting, but when it was coming up on two weeks of researching and still no decision, people started getting antsy. While we didn’t have a fight or argument, it was clear to see that we disagreed in certain areas. I included this “don’t” because I think that when we communicate our opinions with the intent to understand, it’s a lot easier not to take offense and to compromise. For example, one of the places we looked at had a pool, but it didn’t appear to have a fence. My kids are young and it made me nervous to think that they could access the pool without anyone noticing. When I brought it up, we were able to agree that the safety of all the kids was important and that a place without a gate around the pool wasn’t a good idea. We came to an agreement and moved on to find a solution.
DON’T expect everything to be perfect
When all is said and done, your family vacation is bound to have some hiccups. If you know ahead of time to expect that, things will actually run more smoothly because you’ve prepared yourself.
Now that we have a place to stay, we are so excited for our vacation this summer. And while these tips apply to our larger family, I think they are also applicable to planning a vacation for your immediate family.
What are your “do’s” and “don’t” for planning an extended family vacation?