5 Lessons I’ve Learned from Traveling with Family
Every year, my family and I go on vacation during the first week of August. Depending on the number of trips my mother makes to Pottery Barn in a given year (read: how much money we have left to spend by the end of summer), our trips can range anywhere from posh dream vacations (the Bahamas) to more low-key excursions (our backyard). While they’re usually worth the hassle of dragging 3 children to the airport at 4 o’clock in the morning, vacations can also be surprisingly problematic, especially if you’re a twenty-something who really, really values personal space.
1) Don’t bother under-packing.
I usually pride myself on my complete lack of upper body strength because female body builders give me nightmares but on vacation, my noodle arms can make airport trips and hotel exploration significantly more challenging. This year, when I under-packed for our trip to California to make my luggage lighter and thus less difficult to drag through the airport, I began to question my intelligence for not having thought of this idea earlier. That is, until I walked into my room to find my mother strategically reorganizing my bag and filling it with her own things like some twisted, travel-themed Tetris game. As it turns out, family members will use your extra bag room to avoid paying an extra gazillion dollars in overweight luggage fees so either way, you will be forced to carry a ten-ton suitcase (probably with a broken wheel or handle because, why not, right) down hallways, up stairs, and across sketchy, hotel parking lots. Stop trying to avoid the inevitable.
2) Age difference is everything.
Everyone has their limits when it comes to dealing with siblings, but it is not until you’re 20-years-old and confined to a room with them do you begin to recognize those boundaries. Two years ago, when my step-brother was 8, my step-sister 10, and my brother 13, sharing a room was not a problem. My brother’s teenage angst had not yet kicked in and the other two children were not trying to kill each other. Stuffing a pre-teen girl, a teenage football player, and a boy whose main goal in life is to bother his sister, does not have the same effect. The age difference between family members can determine if a vacation ends with happy Grand Canyon pictures or a week without iPhone privileges and a lot of yelling. Once that equilibrium is ruined, you might as well invest in a set of permanent earplugs and some Xanax.
3) Sharing a bed will forever and always be a problem.
Even with a pillow divider the size of the Great Wall, sharing a bed with a brother/sister/cousin/hobo will initiate at least one fight, potentially while sleeping. Hotel beds are always one Michelle-Obama-arm too small (a new unit of measurement that you are all responsible for popularizing, starting now). If it’s some sort of sales tactic to get people to buy more rooms with more beds, then it’s brilliant and also cruel. All I know is that only in the darkness of a hotel room is it okay to kick your brother/sister/cousin/hobo across the room for rolling too far into your personal bubble.
4) A proper boys/girls ratio can be a powerful thing.
The thought of belonging to an all-boys family gives me severe anxiety because I start envisioning group outings to paintball facilities and car shows and that’s not something I want to be involved in. (I should note that I’m basing this vision on how my own male family members behave so it’s entirely possible that this is not what an all-boy family is like. I’ve never had an all-boys family, so how should I know?) When the number of boys to girls on a family vacation is not balanced, the majority usually gets to choose the activities. I didn’t take a week off of work (translation: a week off of watching Orange Is the New Black on repeat) so I could be dragged to a motorcycle show. Ain’t nobody got time for that, so it’s always important to maintain a balanced boy-to-girl ratio. Adopt a child if you have to.
5) Every time could be the last time. Enjoy it.
Sometime in the last year, I turned 20. I don’t know when it happened but if I’d known ahead of time, I would have vetoed the occasion. As the years go by, and that number grows larger, I begin to wonder how long I can enjoy the all-expenses paid trips with the people that I love the most. All good things come to an end, after all, and the closer I get to my college graduation, the more and more unqualified I feel to enjoy these excursions. How old is too old to go on a family vacation? I may have already passed that point. I may have a few more years to go. I don’t know, and I don’t think I want to. Until I figure it out, I will endure a few more nights of pillow dividers and heavy suitcases just in case they are my last.