How to save on and enjoy a multi-family vacation
by Joanne Guidoccio
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Traveling with other families can be fun. Costs are shared and the children have ready-made companions. However, without careful planning and open communication, all that togetherness can quickly become toxic and undermine long-standing friendships and relationships.
Consider the following "Do's" and "Don'ts" before planning your next multi-family vacation.
- Put someone in charge. While each set of parents is responsible for their own family's itineraries and special needs, someone must serve as the central point of contact. Whenever possible, select the adult who is best able to communicate effectively, delegate tasks, and calm frayed nerves. A micromanager who is unable to roll with the punches will stress everyone out.
- Start planning early if you want to get the most favorable and cost-efficient vacation package. Large cottages and villas book up quickly, especially during school holidays and high season. If you are planning a group cruise or sightseeing tour, you will want cabins and rooms in the same wing or general area.
- Involve only the adults in the decision-making process. If you email or contact everyone, the lines of communication will become clogged up with additional suggestions and options. Once all the details are finalized, inform the children and teenagers.
- Provide everyone with up-to-date information regarding passports, necessary shots, and temperature and weather patterns.
- Be sensitive to different family budgets, keeping in mind that the main focus of the multi-family vacation is to spend time with each other. Save the five-star hotels and fine dining experiences for another holiday. If this is the first multi-family trip, keep it short. A weekend away will help you determine whether longer multi-family trips are in your future.
- Decide how to split the costs before leaving for the holiday. Some families may prefer to pay their share on a daily basis, while others may decide to keep all their receipts and spend the last day settling up the accounts. If you are sharing a large beach house, cottage or villa, remember to divvy up the cleaning and cooking duties.
- Research the holiday destination and itemize all the attractions and activities. While you may not be able to fit everything in, it is good to know up-front what is available. Pinpoint several activities for the entire group.
- Organize adult-only activities. For example, the women could plan a spa day while their husbands watch the children. Another day, the men could go fishing while their wives hold down the fort.
- Plan ahead for alternate child-proof activities. Bring coloring books, craft sets, and other non-powered activities. These will come in handy if there are power outages or limited television viewing.
- Follow-up after the trip with an email or phone call. You may also wish to share photographs and create slide shows for future viewing pleasure.
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- Overwhelm everyone with too many options. This only delays the decision-making process and could result in missed opportunities or more expensive options.
- Over-plan each day. If there is too much structure, children and adults will become tired and cranky. Schedule at least one day of unstructured time where different families can go on their own excursions, spend time by the pool, or simply rest. Regardless of how much you are enjoying each other's company, it is important to carve out private time for you and your family.
- Judge other people's children and parenting styles. Bedtimes and use of technology will vary from household to household. Be flexible and prepared to relax some of your standards. Keep in mind that tantrums are inevitable and all children have their "demon moments."
For 31 years, Joanne Guidoccio taught mathematics, computer science, business and career education courses in secondary schools throughout Ontario. Her articles, book reviews, and short stories have been published in newspapers, magazines, and online. She has bachelor's degrees in mathematics and education and a Career Development Practitioner diploma. Her first novel, "Between Land and Sea," will be released by Soul Mate Publishing in the fall of 2013. Visit her website at JoanneGuidoccio.com.
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