Friday, May 27, 2011

How to Pull Off a Multi-family Vacation

We are just returning from a somewhat impromptu vacation with family friends.  We both needed to get away and it just so happens that the home we found to rent on a lake in Wisconsin (I like my lakes) was incredibly cheap (timing -- it's all about timing -- the busy, expensive season, when the price triples, starts tomorrow!).

We feel very fortunate that, as homeschoolers, we were able to just pack up and go.

This is a first for us.  While we have frequently visited friends in their homes (and visa versa) and have had family sleep-overs with this particular family, we have never before taken a family vacation with another family.  It could have potentially been a disaster -- which would have stung because we do so like this family.  It wasn't.  It was a nice test for future trips of the same ilk with these same friends and/or other friends.

Should you ever consider doing the same thing, here is my list of do's and don'ts, culled from my lengthy five days of vacation:

  • DO use the website, or other websites like it, to find an inexpensive vacation rental.  
  • DO consider traveling during the off-season to save money.
  • DO make the destination an easy one to get to for both families.  Both of us had drives of less that two hours so the kids were neither drained nor over-excited by the trip.
  • DON'T try and accommodate everyone's needs in each family.   Pick the most important things and worry about those.  Our friends needed a large bed for themselves and their co-sleeping toddler, for example.  We made sure we had that.  We didn't worry about the fact that all five of the older children shared one room (neither did they).
  • DO consider bringing or purchasing food to cook as many meals as possible.  We especially needed this as our destination is rather bereft of decent restaurants and we have particular dietary concerns.  You might research your supermarket options ahead of time.  We did not do this and ended up with over-stuffed, somewhat uncomfortable cars when we could have shopped locally.
  • DO split up the cooking and cleaning (If you are not sure how well you work together, you might consider formalizing this.  We've been cooking and cleaning together for over six years so we had it down pretty well).
  • DON'T plan too many scheduled activities.  The ONLY scheduled activities we planned were a men's afternoon out (which they didn't utilize as all their Legos were in the house anyway and that's what the menfolk wanted to do) and a women's afternoon out (which we totally utilized -- are you kidding me?).  The kids just want to play together anyway.  They don't care about sight-seeing.  In our case, we were in a house on a lake so they could hang-out outdoors when the weather was nice (we got a lot of rain).
  • DO pay attention to and respect the weather report.  My family was chilly as I ignored the warnings of cold weather SINCE IT IS THE END OF MAY!  Our friends were not so stubborn and were, therefore, much more comfortable.
  • DON'T leave any items out that might scratch, discolor, or otherwise mangle any part of the vacation home (like, hypothetically, the nice coffee table) should a toddler or small child get ahold of it.
  • DO plan on lots and lots of downtime so everyone can just relax and enjoy each other.  That really is the object of a vacation with family friends.
  • DO bring games and reading materials and art supplies.
  • DO get enough sleep on the trip so that everyone is relatively un-cranky.
  • DON'T worry if everyone is relatively cranky from a lack of sleep.
  • DO separate bathrooms by family if possible.  This prevents each person from having to transfer toiletries etc. from bathroom to bathroom, and it offers some family privacy.
  • DON'T plan on having lots of time with just your immediate family.  The idea is to combine family fun.
  • DO download a white noise app on your smart phone so that people who are awake don't have to worry about bothering people who are asleep.
  • DO verify what you will have available to you regarding kitchen equipment and supplement as needed.
  • DO budget extra money for grocery runs.
  • Do understand that you will be co-parenting to an extent.  If you have drastically different parenting styles, a trip such as this might not work.
  • DO understand that you will be surrounded by people for the duration of the trip.  If you need lots and lots of quiet time while on vacation, this might not work for you.  That is not to say that you will not get any quiet time.  I took time to write a bit everyday.  My friend did some writing for work.  Our husbands spent some time alone making Lego creations. 
  • DO make sure someone knows how to un-plug a toilet. 
  • DO pack your sense of humor.  

To see some nicer photos, taken with a camera that does double as my calendar and phone, go to the blog of our vacay pals here.

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