Getaway Day: 10 Ways To Cope With Family-Vacation Craziness

Everyone wants their vacation to be a time of ultimate peace and serenity. Unfortunately, your family may have other plans. (photo credit: Artem Pochepetsky via Unsplash.)

By Cat Zuniga

When someone in your family suggests a family vacation, it’s natural to have mixed emotions. A change of scenery is exciting, but the thought of bonding with siblings that you don’t see often, or overbearing parents, all mixed with finances, might not be all that appealing. For every activity that you look forward to, there are just as many that you approach gingerly, like a rattlesnake.

Here are 10 of the most common (and annoying) things about family vacations, along with a few tips to help cope. You never know; you might be the family member who saves the trip for everyone!

Living In Close Quarters.

By now, you’ve probably moved away from the nest and are enjoying a life apart from your family. You’ve developed new living habits and adjusted to different surroundings. But nothing shakes up your new life quite like a family getaway, with everyone living in close proximity.

Within minutes of arrival, your sister, whom you are sharing a room with, starts rummaging through your suitcase, asking to borrow that new dress you haven’t even worn yet, while your brother is blasting music so loud you feel your head might explode. At a time like this, you need a go-with-the-flow attitude. It’s a matter of survival.

However, it’s also important to set limits. Before issues arise, let your family know what bothers you – but be open to their needs as well. It’s normal to want your own space, but pick your battles. Breathe, and remember: it’s temporary.

You Feel Like A Kid Again (and Not in A Good Way).

We’ve all experienced those moments when our parents seem to forget that we’re adults capable of making our own decisions. Regardless of intentions, it can be frustrating to feel like a child again. And then there are those unwarranted conversations about your life choices.

No one wants to be micromanaged, so the best thing to do is to understand that they love you and brush off the little things so you can focus on the larger issues, like calmly enjoying your time together. Try to put off any conversations about your life choices until after the trip. Great vacations let you sit back, relax, and reflect, and refresh. Make this vacation one of those.

Agreeing/Disagreeing About Meals.

Things can escalate quickly here, especially when everyone thinks they’re a cook and refuses to leave the kitchen. Multiple hangry people trying to agree on something (let alone food) is never a good idea.

To accommodate different tastes and schedules, eat some meals separately. Let your parents eat earlier, but have them join you for a drink or casual bite later in the evening if they want. Be flexible!

If you’re staying somewhere with a kitchen, divide the meals and switch off cooking and cleaning chores. This can also lead to great family bonding.

Family Members Who Are NOT Afraid To Offend.

Closeness brings bluntness, and you can’t get closer than family. After spending so much time so close together, there are bound to be a few harsh words, short tempers, and hot buttons being pushed intentionally and unintentionally. Adapting a let-it-go philosophy is key while on vacation with an aging parent or other family members. The last thing anyone wants is for a disagreement to escalate and taint the overall experience. Consider if the issue is worth revisiting and resolving at a later time; otherwise, just move on.

Adjusting To Zero Privacy.

A family trip is probably not going to be an escape to serenity. It will probably be a lot of bonding time and a fair amount of personal-space invasion. You might be sharing bathrooms, kitchen space, TV channels, and much more. You may as well accept this in advance and mentally prepare yourself to be without privacy for the duration of the trip. To escape, consider waking up before everyone and going on a walk, visit a local coffee shop, or hit the gym. Who knows? You may have a lot of frustration to work off!

Judging The Significant Other (And Vice Versa).

When significant others travel with you for the first time, tension is already high. But with family, things can get extra close and personal. Any family history or secrets that you would prefer not to share may come out in the open. Be prepared for family members to ask awkward questions about your relationships, and maybe even implement some rules like separate bedrooms and no alone time.

Play it safe all around by telling your family to keep their cool and not pry or scare the newbie, and by telling your significant other about family dynamics. The fewer surprises there are, the less opportunity for awkward situations.

Everyone Has Their Own Agenda.

Finding a destination and budget for everyone is the first hurdle. Once that’s decided, suggest activities. Make sure you allow ample time for the back-and-forth that’s bound to occur … and here’s where I insert my plug for a travel professional. Your travel pro will help eliminate options that simply won’t work based on your budget, age, and family dynamics. This is especially important for a family vacation.

Understanding Each Other’s Lifestyle.

A family trip is not the time to express your feelings about family members’ alternative lifestyles or questionable choices. As soon as judgments are made, defenses go up, and willingness to bond goes out the window. If you really want a carefree and enjoyable family vacation, try not to use this time to open old wounds.

You Might Not Be Able To Party.

It’s vacation, but it’s not senior-year spring break. You know your family better than anyone, so look at yourself through their eyes and set some basic guidelines for yourself.

Beyond all this, many things can go wrong on your trip, or even prior to your trip. Protect your hard-earned money by purchasing travel insurance. You can’t predict the future, so why let the unexpected catch you off-guard?

Cat Zuniga is an award-winning travel specialist. She specializes in tropical vacations for families, groups, destination weddings, and honeymooners. Visit her today at