Last week, three generations of my family converged on a single house on Cape Cod. It was the first time we rented a house together and I’m sure we all carried in some anxiety about how it would work. Could active little kids, moody teenagers, grown sisters and their husbands, and nearly-retired grandparents all live peacefully under one roof for seven days?
The answer is yes! All it takes is a little planning and a positive attitude.
Maybe your family is neat and quiet but your sister’s family is messy and loud. You are conservative with your spending while your brother-in-law likes to order expensive wines and then suggests splitting the check. Maybe your parents are into sightseeing but you and your kids would prefer being beach bums.
My family has gone on several trips with other families–some friends, some relatives–and we learn a bit more each time we do it. Here are a few tips that have helped us to enjoy the experience:
1. Prepare in advance. If you are sharing a house, figure out what is included in the rental and be sure every family brings their own linens, towels, toiletries, etc.
2. Create a house fund. Decide on an amount of money for each family to contribute towards running the house for the week. Use the combined account for toilet paper, laundry soap, paper plates, bottled water, soda, snacks or other groceries that can be used by all. Replenish the fund throughout the week if necessary.
3. Designate at least one quiet room. Find a space in the house or outside where people can escape the noise and activity of others. My dad and I spent a lot of time in the living room of our rental just reading (my husband called it hiding).
4. Plan a few group activities. Just because you are all staying under one roof, doesn’t mean you have to do everything together. Pick a few activities that appeal to everyone and spread them out over the week. The last thing you want to do is get afflicted with “analysis paralysis” and loose precious time processing the needs and desires of each person in the house.
5. Account for different schedules. Teenagers sleep in and toddlers wake up early. It’s not realistic to expect everyone to eat breakfast at 9am.
6. Separate checks, please. Unless you’ve discussed it ahead of time, it’s best to assume when you dine out as a large party that everyone will pay their own way. Be sure to inform your server in advance.
7. Everyone pitches in. Just because your sister-in-law is a gourmet cook, doesn’t mean she wants to spend her vacation standing over a hot grill. Do your part. If you don’t cook, do the dishes.
8. Expect moments of tension. Your son might not want to share his DS game and your daughter might balk at the suggestion she change the TV channel again. While we’d all like to be on our best behavior all the time, there will be slip ups. We’re all human.
9. Give the moms and dads a break. One of the reasons I enjoy traveling with other families is because it allows the parents to have some time off. The dads have an afternoon of golf. The moms go shopping. Couples take turns having an adult night out while the other family watches the kids at home.
10. Remember to have fun! There’s plenty of time for family drama when you return home.