Vacations with Friends – Running with Scissors?

I just read a great article in today’s Wall Street Journal. I love the Journal. It’s so right wing, and it annoys the bejeepers out of my husband that I gleefully pore over it every morning while he’s faithfully reading the Boston Globe (about as left wing as you can get). It keeps our marriage interesting after 21 years, ya know?

Be that as it may, Friday is my favorite day to read the Journal cover to cover. In addition to all the great business reporting and the uber-conservative opinions in the Op-Ed pages, it has the Weekend Journal section. And today’s Weekend Journal cover story was about the perils of taking vacations with friends. I just got back from a vacation to St. Croix with my family and my best friend and her family. You can read about it in the post called “Fabric Shopping on Vacation” at The Sewing Divas Blog. We had a wonderful time. Barb and her family travel so well with us. We’ve been traveling together since the 80s, when we all first learned to SCUBA dive, and long before we ever had kids, so we have it mostly down to a science. I’d like to share with you some tips that make our lives easier, in the hopes that it will help you out.

Get Separate Rooms/Suites/Houses
This is the one cardinal rule that I never violate. I love my friends, but I need my space and they need theirs. Once I violated that rule. Actually, I didn’t violate it so much as the place we were staying violated it for us. This was with a different couple. To protect my friendship with them, I’ll just call them “Family X”. The place we were staying was a little Caribbean spot that was, um, lackadaisical about having rooms ready when they said they would. Family X’s room wasn’t ready for the first two days. The place we were staying in had two bedrooms, so we crammed 8 of us into what became a very claustrophobic space. By the end of the second day, I wished I had never invited Family X to vacation with us, and I was ready to commit suicide by Bahama Mamas.

Travel on Different Airplanes, if possible
Or at least make sure you’re not sitting right next to each other. This is not always a hard and fast rule on the way to vacation, but it is rock solid on the way home. At that point, I want space from my own family; I definitely need it from someone else’s.

Get Separate Cars
Another must. The fastest way to ruin a vacation is to get into transportation conflicts. Back to the trip we took with Family X. They didn’t reserve a car. We did. We reserved a compact. Mrs. X was shocked that I was not planning to get a car large enough for 8 and shuttle her wherever she wanted to go. My husband and I stood firm, and after one day of having to rely on the bus services and taxi cabs with toddlers in tow, Family X decided that enough was enough and they got a car. The vacation went uphill from there. The moral of the story is that you want to be able to go where you want, when you want. Different people have different goals in mind for their vacations. Having one car per family unit makes it possible to achieve those goals and keep harmony.

Have a “Common Wallet”
At the beginning of a vacation, have each family put a predetermined sum into a community wallet. For example’s sake, let’s just say $250/family – you can put in more or less, depending on the circumstances. This money will be used to cover any expenses that occur while both families are together. This prevents any “they only paid A, while they ate B” bickering and bad feelings. I’ve found that this works marvelously.

Plan One Co-Family Activity
You may end up doing more, but plan one, and let the rest fall as they may. On our vacation to St. Croix, we all spent the better part of Sunday afternoon and evening at the west end of the island. It was heaven. We parked right near the West Side Grille, which is right on the beach. We spent the afternoon on the beach in front of the restaurant (which is an open air casual place). We all snorkeled, we had snacks together, we swam with a really nice, very drunk off-duty policeman and his horse, and we had dinner and drinks together. It was everything a day at the beach should be, and we have wonderful memories and pictures that we will share for years to come.

Plan One Day of Separate Activity
Like the co-family day above, you may end up doing more days apart, but plan for at least one. In the case of our vacation in St. Croix, Barb and her family wanted to go snorkeling at Buck Island National Park. We had done that on an previous trip, so they went to Buck Island and we went up into the rain forest and fed beer to the pigs. It’s a big tourist draw, don’t laugh. Okay, you can laugh. Everyone had a great day, and everyone felt they got to do what they wanted.

Try to Get Zen
You’re on vacation. Things are going to happen. Things may go wrong. You might get annoyed at one another, especially after a long, hot, crowded plane flight. Try to keep it light, and try to breathe deep. Multi family vacations can be a bad experience, or they can be a blast. It depends on your outlook. Try to enjoy yourself, and as the Wall Street Journal advises, set your expectations low. You’ll probably exceed them, and everyone will have a great time.

Now that the heat in the Boston area has broken somewhat, I’ll be getting back to the sewing room and will blog about that more. In the meantime, have a great weekend!

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Gorgeous Fabrics

I own an online fabric store, www.GorgeousFabrics.com. The name says it all!

One thought on “Vacations with Friends – Running with Scissors?”

  1. Ann ~ what great vacation rules! And you are right, whenever a vacation has been ruined, its because I have violated one of those rules or not went into it knowing that I would have to play by the other person’s rules if they “owned” the transportation!

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