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As you consider your travel plans this summer, it may make sense to plan a trip with another family. Not only can sets of parents hang out, socialize and actually have adult fun, your children can benefit, too. Kids tend to behave better when non-family members are around and they’ll keep each other entertained, so they’ll be less likely to say, “I’m bored,” thanks to built-in playmates. But, this arrangement can be tricky if you’re not fully prepared. Here are some tips to help navigate vacationing with another family.
Discuss lodging expectations ahead of time
One of the first things to do before you start booking the trip is make sure that both families agree on the luxury level and price of the hotels you’ll be staying in, at your destination and en route, if taking a road trip. Deciding on a star rating and price cap beforehand can help you avoid uncomfortable discussions on the road, and keep the mood light. At Travelocity.com, you can filter by both star-rating, price, amenities and other preferences, which should make it pretty easy for both families to find something everyone can agree on.
Get hotel rooms near each other
Although it may not be necessary to have adjoining rooms, rooms across the hall or directly next to one another is a good idea. If the kids all share pizza, for example, think how fun a pajama party can be while watching a movie and eating slices. Being close to each other eliminates whining and the potential for running through the hotel looking for their friends. If the rooms are adjoining, evenings could be a bit more relaxed: One room could be a parent space while the kids have their own fun, within eye and ear range.
Plan travel logistics ahead of time
If families want to travel within their own car, that will work fine. More likely, however, kids may want to be in the car with kids close to their ages. Decide ahead of time which combination of kids will ride in which car, so every stop doesn’t end in an argument over who sits where. Another idea can be to switch it up at rest stops to avoid fights.
Schedule alone family time
Your family may want to do something different at some point, and that’s okay. “Some may want to nap, some may want to go to a cafe, some may way to go to a museum, etc.,” says Alex Miller, founder & CEO of UpgradedPoints.com. “Purposely schedule free time so folks have a chance to either decompress or do activities they want to do,”
Do a date night for each couple
If both couples agree, why not plan a date night and let your friends watch your kids? Having a babysitter can free up a fun and relaxing time to connect with your partner without the distraction of your children.
Girls and guys plans can be fun, too
In addition to couple time, consider an afternoon for the moms to shop or the guys to watch a game on TV. Everyone, no matter how much they love their spouse and kids, could use a break. While the adult pals are out enjoying some adult time, the moms or dads on duty can entertain the kids.
Have a dining game plan
When making plans for the trip, it’s important to discuss expectations about getting takeout, dining out or cooking back in your room if there’s a kitchen or kitchenette. Maybe you are a parent who is not a fan of fast food; other parents like to try fancier sit-down meals. These issues really should be addressed in advance. If anyone in either family has special dietary needs like gluten-free or dairy free, consider separating food and food costs, as the cost of special-diet food can run much, much higher.
Plan for sleep
Children especially need sleep. Avoid planning a long day trip or a full day of activities if the kids are up late the night before. It’s okay to sleep in and take it easy one morning. “A key tip in avoiding getting on someone’s nerves is adequate rest,” says Miller. “When you’re traveling, it’s very easy to keep going from one activity to another without stopping. You should schedule plenty of sleep at night, some days to sleep in, and an afternoon ‘siesta’ to nap or relax; that way you’re recharged.”
The bottom line
Traveling with another family can be fun, economical and has built-in perks like having extra eyes watch your children and keeping the kids entertained. But having a plan in place is key. “When disagreements happen, often it involves the schedule of the day,” says Miller. “If folks know when the next activity is, what museums they’ll be visiting, and where they are eating, there is less room for arguments.” It is also important to leave some room for flexibility during your itinerary. Perhaps you stumble across a water park, or mini-golf course. Leave one or two half days open for last-minute options. Another very important issue is discussing finances and a budget. Costs associated with lodging, meals, activities and more need to be addressed before you go. Happy travels!
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