How To Have An Adult Vacation With Your Family — Without Losing Your Mind

Traveling with your family can feel very different from vacationing with your friends: There’s the generational gap, of course, and less room for error and spontaneity.

Now that we’ve become responsible adults, our parents are now relying on us — and to an extent, our savviness with technology — on everything from figuring out the exchange rate to finding the best hotel deal online. Sometimes, we need to go on another vacation just to unwind from all the chaperoning.

Since family get togethers are inherently stressful — and ones that take place in a different destination can be even more so — we’ve put together a few useful tips that can help prevent squabbles and tears down the line. Just remember to have a good time, be respectful to your folks, and don’t miss out on any the group photo ops.

Work Out Directions Ahead Of Time

It’s highly likely that you’ll be taking up the mantle of the tour guide when you’re traveling with your parents to a new destination, especially if you’re going to a foreign country. As much as they might hate to admit, the older generation is typically less tech-savvy than we are: Not having to consult Google Maps and transit apps every few minutes will be a massive burden off their shoulders. And, trust us: You don’t want to be lost on your way to the hotel — with your parents in tow — after hours of flying.

Ahead of the trip, make sure that you do some navigation research to get a vague sense of how to hit up a few well-known points of interest. Another major know-how to check off? The easiest way to get to and from the airport. If you and the fam are heading overseas, a SIM card with data will be a huge lifesaver.

Illustrated by Janet Sung.

Don’t Overdo It

Let’s face it: Our idea of a time well-spent looks a bit different from parents. While you might want to get hit up as many attractions as possible, it can be too much for the stamina of your elders. It’s important to slow down and let everyone have the opportunity to interact with their surroundings the way they’d like to, whether it’s lounging by the pool or take a midday nap. As a rule of thumb, heading back to the hotel for a two-hour break around midday or sunset is an ideal way for the older members of your crew to get a power snooze.

Illustrated by Janet Sung.

Plan Some Familiar Meals

Generally speaking, your parents have a far less adventurous taste palate — and a weaker stomach — than you. It’s obviously important to get a feel of the local culinary culture, but having raw food or unusual delicacies every meal is probably not their idea of fun. At some point, they will long for food from home, so make sure that the group gets to have at least one meal that feels comforting and familiar — even if it means heading to a good ol’ chain restaurant.

Illustrated by Janet Sung.

Arrange Separate Activities

Going on vacation together doesn’t necessarily mean stick with each other 24/7. Privacy is the key to successful long-term relationships — and yes, that applies to parents and their grown children too. Ensuring that you’ll get some alone time is essential for maintaining your patience and enthusiasm throughout the rest of the trip.

Late nights and early mornings are ideal to strike out on your own, due to different lifestyle habits: For instance, if your parents head to bed early, it’s the perfect window for you to get some nightlife. Don’t be afraid to say that you need some time to do your own thing, whether it’s hitting up the gym or catching up on work emails. Chances are, the rest of your family is probably thinking the same thing.

Illustrated by Janet Sung.

Be Clear About Who’s Paying For What

Different families have different ways to deal with expenses incurred during a vacation. But, as adults, it’s your responsibility to figure out who will be paying up. Knowing that you’re actually expected to split the bill for certain things will prevent unpleasant surprises — and arguments — down the line.

Even if the trip is a treat from a certain family member, you should still make your gratitude known: Offer to cover dinner for everyone or take up a bulk of the driving duties are great ways to put your money where your mouth is.

Illustrated by Janet Sung.

Don’t Snap

This seems like a no-brainer, but patience is an important virtue when it comes to cross-generational vacations. You may not always see eye-to-eye with your family, but at the end of the day, you’re all here to make nice memories.

When you feel like snapping at your folks for using you as a human search engine or being too slow at getting ready in the morning, try to let your comebacks simmer for a few minutes before actually saying it out loud. If there’s still lingering frustration, reclaim your time by stepping out to call and vent a friend. Becoming the bigger person is always the better choice to make, and your family will be impressed at how your handled things.

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