How to Survive Traveling with Family

So you've decided to take a trip with your extended family. A noble, yet dangerous, task. While your significant other might be accustomed to your obnoxious travel habits, chances are the rest of your family is not. The internet and travel magazines are littered with tales of the family vacation that went arry - in fact, maybe you've already experienced one. So how does one survive traveling with extended family?

Well, I've just returned from a journey with my dad and brother - our first both as adults and without mom and wives. I'm happy to report that our four day father-sons golf adventure to Whistling Straits went off without a hitch, but not without making a few observations on how to survive travel with family. Here's some of what I learned...

Traveling with Family

Have a Leader

There's an old phrase "Too Many CEOs - Not Enough Data-Entry Specialists." Alright, so that's the 21st century, unoffensive version of the phrase, but the meaning is still the same and ignoring it can spell the downfall of your family trip. If everyone wants to be trip organizer then you might as well get ready for conflict. The fact is, when everyone wants to have a hand in planning the itinerary, pretty much everyone loses. There's just no way to make everyone happy all the time, but there is a pretty simple solution.

When the big details of the trip, like destination and date, are finalized, the group should nominate a trip leader. That person shoulders the burden of planning the rest of the trip - hotel, sites, restaurants, all of it. Everyone else, just sit back and go with the flow. The idea here is pretty simple: one planner = less conflict. Chances are you're going to be pretty happy with the itinerary they come up with, because remember: it's their trip too. Uncle Johnny isn't going to go to Washington D.C. and skip the Lincoln Memorial. And if he managed to overlook something you really wanted to see; no problem. The next tip has you covered...

Do Your Own Thing

Want to know the quickest way to despise your family? Spend an entire vacation up their you-know-whats 24/7. Yes, it's a group vacation but that doesn't mean you have to spend every waking moment together. If you do, by the end of day 2 1/2 you'll be on the verge of fisticuffs. Plan some time apart. See the things no one else in the group wants to. Or just enjoy a few moments of solitude - you probably need it.

On our trip to Whistling Straits, we had a few hours in the afternoon between golf and dinner where each of us did our own thing. My brother went to the spa, I went to the Greenhouse for an iced coffee, and dad took a nap. Then we all reconvened for free wine and cheese - happy to see each other once again.

If You're The Leader - Don't Act Like The Leader

Sheldon Cooper said it best: "With great power comes great responsibility." Have you ever seen the tour guides at Disney that walk around holding up a little flag and everyone in the group follows? Yeah, no one likes that guy. And based on the scowl across their faces, my guess is they don't like themselves either.

Check the guy on the left - Not having a good time.

The thing is, during the course of the trip there are bound to be some changes to your beloved itinerary. No one cares that it's on a spreadsheet and laminated - the majority have spoken. As the defacto leader of almost every family trip I've taken, it's best that you heed my advice: take a chill pill and go with the flow. Of course, I rarely listen to my own advice, so take that one with a grain of salt.

Bite Your Tongue

At some point during the trip, a member of your family is going to say or do something that really annoys you. If it were just a friend or acquaintance chances are we wouldn't say anything in order to avoid a confrontation. But when it comes to family, that fear of quarreling usually doesn't exist because as siblings you've likely done your fair share. Resist the temptation...

If Aunt Rosemary makes a derogatory remark about the destination or its citizens, just pretend like you didn't hear it. Calling her out will only spoil your dinner. Or if your brother goes "Red Ross" on one of the greatest golf courses in the country, avoid telling him to get his head out of his bum. He'll probably get over it by the next hole anyway.

This is what my brother looked like...
Here. Worth noting, his name is Ross.

Laugh At One Another

During your trip, try and remember one thing: you're family. Don't take yourself or anyone else too seriously. There's a good chance that the things you'll remember most are the funny and wacky things that happen along the way. If you're the cause, don't get your feelings hurt when everyone laughs at you. It will be their turn soon enough.

Unless you're my dad, who always seems to be on the brunt end of the family jokes. The poor guy gets ribbed constantly and rarely has the opportunity to return the jabs. Then again, no one else was paged over the airport PA system for leaving their boarding pass at security.

Enjoy Your Stay