We have taken vacation with many friends.  Some were absolute horror shows and some were marvelous.  Our friends, Brad and Mary, have been a vacation team that we can’t imagine not having.  They bring fun, laughter, jokes, and recommend adventures we hadn’t even considered.  Only once have we experienced a meltdown, and, of course, that was the Stelbrinks’ breakdown; Brad and Mary did fine!

Taking a vacation with friends can be a relaxing and wonderful getaway.  Or, it can be absolute hell.  Vacations are short and are hard to come by.  To have them turn sour is such a disappointment because you can’t get that time back.

I was so stressed before one vacation, that I threw everything in the car away…including the airline tickets.  We had to go dumpster-diving to get away!  Below are vacationing with friends’ rules:

1 – Set expectations up front with every member.  What does everyone want to do and not want to do?  Trying to match up expectations is much easier when you know what they are and are not.

2 – Share your itinerary.  Work with a travel advisor or allow one person to plan for the group using as much in Rule 1 as possible.  This itinerary shows what’s available, dates, times, etc.  No one is required to attend – it’s all optional.

3 – Take breaks from one another.  Meals together are usually fun.  However, being stuck together from morning to night, and again the next day, and the day after that, etc. can create some real sour moments.

4 – Money matters.  Determine who is paying for what to avoid any confusion or hard feelings.  Example:  When we rented an area that slept 8, we paid for the room because we were going to be there anyway.  Friends and family paid for their own flights.  Then at the end of the week, we split the expenses by number of people.  It was such a relief for everyone to know it wasn’t expensive.  Now, we stay longer, and friends and family know what they can expect to pay for their stay.  It was a rule we communicated years ago.  When it comes time for friends and family to leave, we stay longer and use our points for longer time for us, rather than paying friends’ room and board.  Not one person has been surprised or felt put upon by these arrangements.  It was established early.

5 – The Parent Trap!   If there are children involved (and I don’t mean adults who act like children) parents need to discuss the inclusion of children, nap time, bedtime, what’s flexible and what is not before traveling.  It’s a challenge when your child knows the rules and follows and sees other children not following.  It’s awkward and unfair.

If you have vacationed or you are preparing to vacation with friends, what rules do you recommend?

General Vacation Rules

As a child our family vacation was the same nearly every year.  We loaded up the car with my parents in the front seat. My dad always drove.  When I was very young, there were three of us in the back seat.  My older sister would take the whole backseat which left my brother in the back window and me on the floor.  It was a good nine-hour drive to Tennessee to where both my parents’ families resided.  Each day, we were told to get back in the car and we would drive all over the state to see aunts and uncles and cousins we barely knew.  After the week was over, we would load everything and all of us back in the car and drive the nine-hours back to Illinois.  There are a lot of people that would enjoy this time with family.  My brother and I didn’t unless we could stay put for a few days at the home of a “cousin of choice” while mom and dad drove over valley and creek to visit their relatives.   The family reunions of each parent were one week apart and we attended both reunions.  Even as a child, it didn’t seem restful; it felt like a job.

As an adult, I appreciate the times that I go visit family although it’s not every year.  I call this event “visiting relatives” not “vacation”.  As an adult, I can stay at a hotel or with a relative of choice.  I visit those I want to see and/or who are no longer mobile.  If someone else wants to see me, well, they can come to me.  I don’t want to return to my day-job more tired than when I left!  I want to spend quality time with some individuals and some groups.

On my Dad’s side of the family, the reunion lasted just long enough to eat.  There were 13 children in his family.  Here’s why it only lasted about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Everybody talked waiting for the food.  No one listened to anyone else and then it was time to eat.  After eating, nobody talked, and everyone left to go home.

On my Mom’s side of the family, the reunion lasted longer.  Mom was 1 of 9 girls.  Yes, big southern families.  The “Sisters” as they are known, sat and talked before the meal with lots of talk after.  They laughed and cried a little bit.  And the day could go into evening.  The kids ran around outside laughing and then crying when they got hurt.  It was a bit more fun.

What does this have to do with “Break Away Before YOU BREAK Away?  The point is:  it is good to break your routine.  Take time away from your normal workday and take a break.  Pick a busy day on a lake or a slow day on the beach.  Choose a staycation if you can commit to no work around the house!

Take time for you.  In fact, there is a website that relates 10 Simple Rules for Family Vacations.  Here they are:

  1. Be flexible: These are the things we talk about when we return.   Examples:  The time the canoe ran over my husband’s foot resulting in a visit to a Mexican hospital because it was bruised, black, and about the size of Shrek’s foot.  Wearing the bathing suit incorrectly. Sharing a catamaran with your son who was under 21 and who drank straight vodka. Taking a sailboat day trip where three people fell on the boat (with minor injuries) and one person suffered motion sickness.
  2. Shorts, whenever possible, instead of long pants. We all moan if we have left the cold, visited the warm ocean, and had to return to the cold.  I dread the coat, gloves, hat, and boots.  My husband woefully dreads the long pants and misses his flip flops.
  3. Read only things that will entertain or challenge you personally; not give you ideas for work. There was a time I didn’t know this as a rule.  I would gladly take work-related reading with me along with reading for fun.  Guess which ones I read?  I would start out with work-related reading then I would quickly switch to the fun murder mysteries, biographies, and autobiographies which I enjoyed much more.
  4. Laugh…a lot. Last year, six of us went to a “Rhythms of the Night” tour; dinner on an island and a musical play afterward.  I had been before and raved about the talent and the food.  We don’t really know what caused us all to become violently ill, but we found that those who regurgitate on the same schedule can never break that bond.  The doctor even came to our rooms twice!  It took us a while to laugh about it – about three weeks.  Now it’s hysterically funny.  What a memory!
  5. Eat ice cream at a place that let’s your spouse (or kids) order something he/she really, really likes. Know the place everyone likes whether it’s ice cream, a bar, wine on the beach, or a restaurant.  Like “our place”.    It’s the place we always want to visit at least once while we are vacationing.
  6. Say “yes” as much as possible to your kids, especially when they make reasonable requests. When our son was sixteen, we met a family with four teenage daughters.  All blonde.  All beautiful.  One of the nights he went out with them, he called us at 2 a.m.  Their parents had offered a place for him to stay since it was late. We agreed and went back to sleep without a worry.  We knew we could trust him and he was safe.
  7. Spend some quality time in meditation each day…even if it’s just a pause to say thank you. Take time out physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Whatever that may be.  One of the ways we do this, is by releasing baby turtles into the ocean.  Their chances of survival are still low, yet we feel we are helping in some small way.  Once we met a family of dolphins when we rented jet skis.  It was an awesome time to watch the babies (the size of our jet skis) swim up on our feet and the adult dolphins chatted and seemed tame.
  8. Try at least one new restaurant and at least one new type of food. A friend provided me a similar rule with a twist.  Try something new every time on vacation; go to a new restaurant, meet new people, try new tours; whatever you haven’t done.  Sit by the beach for a day if you always sit at the pool.
  9. Take over the daily “get the kids going” stuff when someone else does it every other day of the year. Bob says traveling with me is like traveling with a child.  So, I guess that counts.
  10. No technology…and if you have a cell phone, set it on “airplane mode” so you are unavailable. The world doesn’t run on your energy and “off” features on electronics exist for a reason.   Although I have my cell phone with me, I rarely use it and have for emergencies.  In over 11 years, I have only used it once for an emergency client call and I was glad to be available.  However, I still break away before I BREAK from burnout.



Additional vacation rules:

Stelbrinks usually have people coming for visits, which we absolutely love.  We have two rules:

  1. Do what you want to do (if it is legal, and risk is acceptable).
  2. No whining.