Traveling with extended family can be as stressful as it is fun. My husband, daughter and I recently met up on Amelia Island, Florida, with my parents, four siblings, an aunt and her two teenage kids. The dynamics of organizing 12 people’s wants and needs can be challenging to say the least. But below I’ve identified four key ways to maximize and enjoy your time with loved ones. Following these simple guidelines can make your next holiday the best family vacation you’ve had in years.
Sitting on the beach next to my dad and watching my three brothers play with my daughter, I was completely content. The familiarity of my dad flipping the pages of his newspaper, the sound of the surf and the squeals of delight from an entertained 4-year-old truly warmed my heart. I made an effort to savor that moment.
I also savored the delicious food and drink. Champagne has been a favorite choice lately, and it fit perfectly with my beach vacation. We were also lucky enough to eat at Salt, the premiere restaurant of the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. You know I savored the heck out of my shrimp appetizer and Wagyu beef strip steak.
Other than setting a 10 a.m. daily meet-up time for everyone, I did my best to go with the flow. I’m sure that sounds rigid, but my experience has taught me that if you don’t carve out a specific time to get together, then you end up seeing your family only in the hotel hallway and at dinner.
Back to relaxing! Having kids can make you follow a schedule. Naps, bath and bedtime seem to run the roost. A family vacation is a perfect time to relax those routines, if your child is comfortable winging it. For instance, if it was close to 2 p.m. (and Lily wasn’t sunburned) we’d hang at the beach until 3-ish, pushing her nap time an hour or more. I also let her nap for as long as she wanted, and then there was no leaving dinner early to “get her to bed.” That gave us even more time with the family we don’t get to see often enough.
Inevitably there will be the occasional conflict when traveling with 12 people. Accept it! Instead of worrying about it or freaking out when it happens, just know it will pass. The quicker everyone can get over it, the faster you can all get back to enjoying the trip.
Remember, this is family – you didn’t get to pick them but they are yours for life. It’s better to accept each other’s faults than hold onto the animosity that would typically end friendships. Besides, it’s only for a few days and there is a bar nearby.
It had been over five years since I was last with my parents and all of my siblings at the same time. That seems crazy, but life gets in the way. All the more reason to capture the moment. Take a ton of photos. Be annoying about it. This is the digital age – you can erase the crappy ones. Keep snapping and I guarantee you’ll capture a gem that will probably become an iconic family image.
If you have the opportunity to hire a professional photographer on vacation, then take it. My sister Erin coordinated a low-stress, one-hour photo shoot that yielded some beautiful family photos. It had been 11 years since the last formal family photo we had taken, and that was at my wedding! The hour session might have been a little crazy organizing all of us, but the end result was more than worth the effort.