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August 04, 2007

Family Vacation: What Makes it Work

Having just returned from two weeks with 24 members of my husband's extended family, then a week with 13 members of my family, I find the family vacation thread really hits home.  We've had some pretty good family vacations and some horrible ones, but the good ones have a few things in common:

Adequate privacy: best is a separate condo for each nuclear family unit with separate sleeping accommodations for parents and children.  If that's not possible, then at least a private room for each parental unit plus a bunk room for the kids to pile in.  Nothing worse than spending every single night of your precious two week vacation in a beautiful place...sleeping with your pajamas on, cause Junior's in the cot next to that delicious king-size bed!

A destination: hanging out at someone's house may fill your quota of family face time, but don't expect it to be a vacation.  It's too easy for host to swing by the office, to just bring the kids to gymnastics, to stop off at Home Depot because we're in the neighborhood -- leaving the vacationing family members flipping through old copies of Time, wondering where the h**l are the coffee filters, and swearing NEVER AGAIN.

Ability to be autonomous: it's worth it to get the ski-in, ski-out condos so that Uncle can hit the lifts at 7:59:59 and stay until ski patrol kicks him off in the evening, while Aunties can sleep until 10, ski from 11-1:30 and then hang out in the bar, and you can put the kids down for that afternoon nap and pull out your laptop for some quick blogging. 

Subsidized cost: Someone's gotta foot the bill, and it's too fraught with tension to have Investment Banker sibling consider a $5K vacation to be an inexpensive family getaway, while for Academia sibling that means another year with that awful orange carpet in the family room.  Hate to tell you this, Mom and Dad, but family harmony on break means a visit to Father Federal.

Someone else cooking: Mealtime is the worst.  Cousin Johnny won't eat anything green, Aunt Millie is on Atkins, the baby is constantly at risk of falling out of the sub-standard high chair that came with the condo, and everyone knows we can't have alcohol around Grandpa.  Just suck it up and go out to a restaurant.  OK, you'll still have problems with Atkins and alcohol, but at least Johnny can order grilled cheese with french fries and they have placemats for the kids to color on.

Now our sister-in-blogdom who started this thread is on a family vacation that fits a lot of these, and she's still going stir-crazy (my heart goes out to you, ______!).  So you see, there's no guarantee.  But if you can stand it, there are two really great things about spending the summer with your family:

1. Your mom gets a great picture for her Christmas Card, which brings her immense joy; and
2. When you get home, your regular life feels like a vacation!