Insights about family vacations

serendipityPlans commenced many months ago for a June, 2014 family vacation. When I mentioned a possible Florida trip or asked more experienced travelers for suggestions about renting a beach house, they would ask who was going. My response of “eight adults and seven children eight and under” was met with a smile, an incredulous look, or a polite gasp. The numbers are challenging, but not impossible. As the proud grandma to these seven “angels,” as I call them, my perspective is blurred by love and warm fuzzy feelings I experience when seeing them.
We forged ahead with details, confident of a wonderful time. While this was an inaugural event, we’ve vacationed together when our numbers were smaller, and we’re with each other for holidays and frequent visits. The adults “parent” each other’s children so there is familiarity and respect among us. Advanced planning was mandatory, and we were determined to make this work. We did exceptionally well!
While seven days does not make one an expert, I feel humbly qualified to share unsolicited insights about family vacations. First, make certain the house or condo provides everyone with enough space for personal comfort. We’re not talking mansions here, and each individual varies in their need. Compromise can be a solution, but cramming too many people, regardless of age, into a small area will likely shatter the tranquility of even the most resilient.
Discuss expectations early in the planning. Snow was piled high out the front door of our respective houses last winter as we were emailing about meals to serve, arrangements to make, and a host of other incidentals. We had few rules, other than obvious manners and kindness to all, because we wanted each person to enjoy to the fullest our time together.
Depending on vacationers’ ages, some really fun activities might need to be postponed or disregarded. We went out to dinner twice, and neither time was relaxing. It’s tough finding tables together for so many people in a restaurant crowded with tourists. While the meal certainly wasn’t a disaster, we all decided eating at “home” was the better option. As couples we took turns planning, shopping for, and cooking a lunch or dinner, and doing clean up afterwards. That worked exceptionally well and also provided tasty leftovers. Ordering in is another good option.
Having a washer and dryer in the house was a real plus. It’s also important to narrow down what amenities are essential for the group. For us it was a swimming pool in the backyard, close proximity to the beach, and four bathrooms. No house, vacation or people should be expected to reach that unattainable goal of perfection, but careful planning and a happy heart can compensate for the inevitable bumps along the way.
When our vacation came to a close, the four oldest children were asked about their favorite parts. It was unanimous that buying treats from the ice cream truck ranked high, right along with the pool and beach. Success is evident when the consensus of opinion is, “Let’s do it again!” We will, as being together is a priority. Life is short, and we want to create sweet memories while enjoying the company of loved ones. Vacation plans for 2015 will soon be underway.

Sandra Dempsey Post

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