My family and I aren’t the “vacationing once a year” type for various reasons; but mostly because of everyone’s ridiculous work schedule. Seriously, my mom never stops working from any of her three jobs – getting free time with her is like winning the lotto (I learned the stone-cold hustle from her).
So when we all decided to make the financial, and emotional commitment to go to New Orleans for our first family vacation in sixteen years, yes, 16 years, things got
I was beyond appreciative to be surrounded by my brother, sister, mom, step dad, and even best friend for five solid days in my favorite US city. It’s like I had never spent quality time with them as an adult, removed from the comfort of the couch and TV back home in Connecticut. Shout out to that small town USA lifestyle.
But what’s undeniable is that the warm fuzzy vibes leading up to a family vacation can quickly turn an event that should be serene, into stress-nation. Why you ask? Because people who you love know how to piss you off more than anyone else in this world.
After five solid days of family shenanigans, I noted a few tips that could help anyone survive a family vacation.
Try Public Transportation
As a city girl, I’m a supporter of public transportation; it’s usually cheaper than driving or taking Ubers, it saves you stress from parking, and you can fully maximize on your vacation time, *can we say drinks to loosen the whole family up?*
I was extremely surprised when my family agreed to take the bus while exploring Nola. They all agreed that it was a better way to get a local experience, and it ended up being cheaper than renting a car for the week. Plus, taking buses gives you that bonding time that you wouldn’t have in a car, everyone’s hands free and can look up where to go next, and you get dropped off far from your destination, allowing you to explore different neighborhoods you would’ve driven right past.
If You Have to Uber or Lyft
Some late nights, or cities with crappy public transportation, call for car pick-ups. During our Nola trip, we requested a few Uber and Lyft plus rides, as we were a party of six. Here are the main things to know when requesting a car: always check both apps, as sometimes one is a lot cheaper than the other, also, depending on how your family is managing finances, you can always request to split the cost of the ride with someone in your family.
On the Subject of Money
Every family situation is different, but regardless, just like any other group travel there should be a conversation on how and who will be taking care of finances. We found it helpful for the kids to take care of transportation costs, restaurants to be split amongst everyone, and the parents paid for lodging. We all downloaded Venmo to pay each other back for things owed, and for the most part it worked out smoothly.
Avoid Huge Tour Groups
If you’re a group of six or more, you’re enough people to create your own tour group. It’ll probably be cheaper for you to hire a driver to take you to nearby tourist attractions, and pay for entrance fees out of pocket, rather than spending a ridiculous amount of money for a diluted tour.
That’s how we took a day trip to Oak Alley Plantation; we met a Lyft driver whom we hit it off with. His day rate to drive us to the plantation ended up being much way cheaper than a Greyhound bus tour; without the stress of going on Greyhound’s schedule. A bonus was that the driver, Alex, turned out being an awesome contact to have in Nola, who ended up taking us all over the place and gave us his contact for any time we go back!
Play Family Games
For the most part, family or group travel gets stressful because of all the decisions that need to be made. Like, where can we eat that’s not extremely expensive, and local? How are we going to get there? When should we leave to explore the city? These mundane, but important decisions will wear you out quicker than you can say vacay. What I found was helpful was creating a silly game that we could all bond over. Introducing “The Travel Points Game” (still working on a snazzy title).
The game is basically a points system for each member of the family and their travel abilities. You do something smart and savvy, you get a point. You commit a terrible travel foul, like refusing to adventure down small streets, or wearing terrible walking shoes, you lose a point. The entire family got into it at the end of the trip, we were laughing at everyone’s travel fouls and triumphs. Mom got points for the ponchos pictured above!
Reflect Together After Each Day
My mom came up with the idea of sharing our highs and lows after each day. It gave us an opportunity to hear what everyone loved, didn’t like, and what we all wanted to see more of. This activity is even good for your personal reflection; sometimes we get so caught up in planning that we forget to digest what’s actually happening, and appreciate the moments that make us happiest.
Don’t Be Afraid to Split Up
Groups and families stay together, but they don’t need to be glued together. Talk about who wants to do what, and avoid grouchy faces by making plans to split up during certain days. For us, that meant nights on Frenchmen street without the parents, or splitting up at markets to see what we each individually wanted to see. Divide and conquer.
Start the Day with Game Plans
As the “traveler” in the family, I would hold impromptu meetings at the start of each day based on what was discussed the night before about what we’d be doing. I’d ask if everyone agreed, or what they wanted to do, and figured out how to get it done. I was basically assigned the travel guide, which was stressful, but easy on the entire process; it allowed us to get as much done as possible without too many chefs in the kitchen. When I felt overwhelmed with planning, I would tell them to figure it out and they always pulled through.
Pictures and videos are beautiful things, especially when the family vacation is over, looking back will seem way less stressful. Figure out a way to transfer footage and photos to one location; maybe a Dropbox account, or Google Drive, to store them for the future. Family vacations for me don’t come around often, so I’ll be savoring the memories of this one for years to come.