When I was twelve my parents went on a family vacation that included my grandparents, an aunt, uncle, and cousin, my parents, two older brothers and myself. Already a tic is beginning to form in the eye of those readers who recall a similar family “vacation” from their childhood.
While in theory a family vacation breeds the notion of being of the Von Trapp family in loud shirts and flip-flops, take it from someone who’s been there, it is among the worst ways to get away from it all. Here’s why: Bladders come in all sizes and ages. Grandparents need to stop and go frequently; the good news here is so will children under ten. Adults, meanwhile, can manage to hold it for at least 100 miles longer, but are forced to make the many, many, let me just say it again, many stops.
The ten of us were split in two cars, travelling in tandem, merging on to main streets and highways in what can only be considered drunk driving without alcohol.
Another trouble spot: dining. Grandma and grandpa will typically favor any place where mashed potatoes are served in abundance. Kids aren’t culinary snobs, but will scream for “Ronald McDonald,” while the adults in the car just want a quiet place to sip a beer and bum an aspirin.
Then there’s lodging. Typically, motels found along our nation’s highways exclude amenities such as shoe shining service or ironed sheets. This tends to make the older folks cranky. Moreover, teenagers will be scared straight by the call and response regarding the quality of sleep from the previous night:
“How’d you sleep?”
“I couldn’t sleep.”
“Did you sleep good?”
“The mattress was too soft.”
“Anyone else dream of squirrels that looked like the Osmond’s?”
“Someone’s TV was on all night.”
“That was Johnny.”
“No it wasn’t!”
As the back and forth continue, teens will wish long to be in 5th period algebra.
Pool etiquette is another area of concern when considering an extended family vacation. While grandma sits under a cabana, every inch of her skin swathed in coverage, your aunt, the loose one, exposes warbled flesh that has no business seeing the light of day.
Yet another reason not to take a FV is the inevitable infighting between couples. A family secret will spill, the subsequent dominos tumble, and the next thing you know the caravan has split up, one car heading east and the other west, and plans for Thanksgiving are cancelled.
Perhaps the biggest challenge with the FV is keeping tabs of the tab. People are funny about their money, and relatives are no exception. Think about this people; do you really want your children to have memories of arguments over who had the watercress?
Instead, do yourself a favor. Next time you head out of Dodge, send the extended family postcards. Not only will everyone will be happier, but your loved ones will tic-free.