Traveling With Family? Make It Memorable, Not Miserable!

By Deanna Brann, Ph.D.
NABBW’s In-Law Survival Associate

deanna brann - plainSummer’s here and it’s time for vacation! Most of us look forward to getting away all year long, anticipating a break from work, worries, and everyday life. But things can get tricky when we include more than just our immediate family. Whether you’re traveling with in-laws, siblings and their families, or even friends, you want the trip to be one that everyone enjoys. Just because you all know each other well doesn’t mean there won’t be any friction. Visiting with people is not the same as spending an extended period of time with them.

With that in mind, here are some tips for making your vacation memorable—for all the right reasons!

  1. Don’t take things personally. Remember when traveling with extended family, you are creating an artificial type of “family togetherness.” This is bound to cause a little stress for everyone. Just take a step back and consider that other people’s words and actions speak more about them and how they deal with stress and less about you.
  2. Be a team player. Even though one person may be doing most of the trip planning, everyone should chip in at least a little. Volunteer your help, show interest in what the other people want to do, and don’t forget to compliment whoever is doing the lion’s share of the planning. A little gratitude goes a long way toward keeping things positive!
  3. Find the humor. Decide to find humor in what a “difficult” family member may say or do. This helps you create a bit of emotional distance so you won’t take the other person’s actions so seriously. Humor will also help the rest of the family feel more at ease in what could be a stressful situation!
  4. Find some down time for yourself. Being around people constantly—even people you love—can take its toll. Take a few minutes occasionally to go for a walk, drive into town for a cup of coffee, go off somewhere and read, or do something else by yourself so you can re-energize. It will do wonders for you and everyone else.
  5. Establish ground rules in advance. Playing it by ear sounds like a good idea, but it really doesn’t work so well in practice. So sit down together before you leave and talk about who wants down time and who wants activities, how often you want to do things as a group, who will be babysitting and how often, and (if applicable) who will be cooking and who will be cleaning up. This is a time for everyone to outline his or her needs and expectations as clearly as possible so you can establish as a group what the vacation will look like (remembering, of course, to leave room for a little serendipity and flexibility).

Now that you’re emotionally prepared for your “family togetherness” trip, you won’t have to add any anxieties to your packing list! And less stress means more fun. Have a blast!

Dr. Deanna Brann is a leading expert on mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationships who helps women get unstuck in their relationships so they can peacefully coexist. As a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law herself she knows this relationship inside and out. She combines her personal experience with her clinical skills and expertise to take you from feeling hopeless to feeling hopeful with easy to follow insights, tools and strategies.

Dr. Brann is a media expert, a national speaker on women and relationships, and a consultant for women struggling with relationships – personally or professionally – who want to make things better. She is also the author of the award-winning book, Reluctantly Related: Secrets to Getting Along With Your Mother-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law and a second book, Mothers-in-Law & Daughters-in-Law Say the Darndest Things!