December 18, 2017

Tips for Extended Family Vacations

Tips for Extended Family Vacations by Ann Van De Water

My husband and I and our 9 year old daughters recently returned home to California from the Carolinas where we visited both sides of our family.  We spent one week with my husband’s family in Hilton Head S.C., including a few days with my family there, then headed to my parents’ and sister’s homes in Charlotte, N.C.  the next week.  With both families, we numbered 16 adults and 9 kids.  One friend said she could never spend a week with her extended family, as not everyone gets along. We did not have to call Dr. Phil for an intervention.  Having ENJOYED, not just survived, at least 6 vacations with extended family, I offer the following:

1.  Know ahead of time that you will probably need some forms of escape.  Get away for a trip to the outlet mall for some retail therapy.   Go hit some balls at the driving range.  Have a drink at the local bar. Take a ride on the bike path.  Go get an ice cream cone.   All of these outings can provide some respite from your loving family with all their various personalities.

2.  Avoid too many cooks in the kitchen.   If you have someone who likes to be in charge of food (and there usually is someone who wants to be in charge), let him or her be in charge.   Smile and say “Thank you very much” for his or her efforts and time.  The most intense conflicts in our vacations have involved food. This year the controversial culinary item was…grits!  That’s right.  It was a scene straight out of My Cousin Vinny.  Basically, the problem with grits was …my kids don’t eat them.  Although I had mentioned that my girls would eat the shrimp and salad and that would be fine, my sister-in-law did not remember this and was annoyed.  I should have said my girls will not eat grits.  They will not eat them on the beach.   They will not eat them with a peach.  They do not like gray grits and shrimp. They do not like them Savannah and Charlotte Ann.

3.  Enjoy watching your kids bond with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  Remember you are making memories.

4.  Watch some home movies and let your kids see you at your cutest 4 year old self, racing down the stairs with your sister in your matching pink, quilted housecoats.  Watch your parents as they grow younger and realize that they too were young and so thin! and had a heck of a time setting up all those Christmas toys.

5.  Get a family photo.  It doesn’t matter if some of the kids are in their swimsuits or if your hair looks like Medusa’s in the humidity.  Some day your kids will see how young you were too!

6.  Snuggle your baby nieces or nephews if your own kids are older.  Feed them their bottles.  Hand them back when they start to get stinky.

7.  If your kids are on the young side, talk to your teenage nieces and nephews.  Find out why everything is epic now.  Find out what music is cool.  Get them to set your watch or help you with your iPod.

8.  Give thanks to your parents that they actually want to gather all brood together.

9.   Enjoy seeing several other people who share your big chin, recessive tongue curling ability, or exact shade of hair or eye color.

10.  Unpack.  Unwind.  Enjoy your small family now and the relative peace and quiet.


Ann is a former English teacher who is now a stay-at-home Mom of 9 year old twin girls.



  1. Another great article, Ann!

  2. I really enjoyed this probably because I LOVE extended family gatherings.
    Especially loved the Dr. Seuss take on grits!!

  3. Great article! I’m curious, what places have you visited on your at least 6 vacations with extended family? My sister and I are planning a family vacation for adults ranging in ages 30-70 and children all under the age of 7 and we’re looking into places for 2013. If you have suggestions, I’d love to know!

    • Ann Van De Water says:

      We have visited Hilton Head Island, Barbados, and Lake Tahoe (during the winter for skiing, but summer would be fun too) for extended family vacations. Our immediate family has been to Yosemite, and I think this would make a great larger family trip too. Next on my list is Sunriver, OR which has gotten RAVE reviews from several friends.
      Happy trip planning! Do you have any places you recommend?

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