Somewhere a few years back, you thought it would be a good idea to join with other members of your family on a multi-generational vacation.
“It’ll be fun,” they said.
“You’ll enjoy it,” said your partner.
Flash forward to the present: You’ve been vacationing with your (or your partner’s) extended family for several years now. And honestly, you feel a knot in the pit of your stomach when you think about going off on another multi-generational vacation. These are people you love, but you’re not sure you can stand to be with them for a full week or two.
Fear not! Your vacation CAN be fun if you follow these five steps:
- Set clear boundaries. Many families I’ve worked with have found it helpful to decide ahead of time which family is bringing what. (Many families find that shopping for the basics at home before the vacation can be a terrific time-saver.) Other families enjoy having each family “host” a dinner (read: cook the food AND wash the dishes). Other families divide the shopping, cooking and cleaning chores in other ways. Any way can be the "right" way for your tribe, as long as everyone is in agreement.
- Make time for yourself. As enjoyable as it can be, vacationing with extended family members can also be stressful. Vacations are a time for you to recharge your batteries from the hectic year you’ve had. Be sure to set aside some time for yourself and do something you enjoy. Even the most extroverted person needs down time. Whether it’s hitting the links or the nearby shopping mall, you deserve time for you.
- Make time for your immediate family. Find time to enjoy an outing or two with your immediate family away from extended family members. For parents of little kids, putt-putt golf, a day at the beach or an afternoon at a museum/aquarium can be just the thing. Got teens? They like action and excitement. Find something nearby to give them a thrill. Think along the lines of amusement parks, surf lessons or para-gliding. Just you and your partner? A quiet dinner watching a sunset is perfect.
- Feel free to walk away. Are political discussions getting too heated? Someone drinking too much? Young nieces and nephews throwing temper tantrums? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with leaving the emotional storms for calmer waters. Take a walk outside. Sequester yourself in your bedroom with a good book. Take your kids (or just yourself) and go fly a kite. There’s no rule that says you have to stay in the same room with people who increase your stress levels.
- Give yourself permission to just say no. On multi-generational vacations, other family members often plan day trips or other excursions. Perhaps the men organize a golf outing. Or maybe the ladies make plans to hit the local shopping establishments. If the activity sounds fun to you, by all means join in. On the other hand, if golf or shopping is not your thing, you have every right to take a pass. Don’t pressure yourself to be involved with every activity that anyone wants to do.
It’s your vacation. Enjoy yourself!