Nothing shakes up your adult life quite like a multigenerational family vacation at a rental property, with everyone living in close proximity, just like in the old days. That’s why choosing the right vacation rental for your large family is so important – and so difficult.
Whether you’re looking at a vacation rental for a family reunion or just a rental for a long-overdue family vacation, these tips will help the process go more smoothly.
1. Have a process for settling on a destination
Finding a destination and budget for everyone is hard. Coming up with activities that can accommodate everyone is hard. And you know everyone is going to want to weigh in.
It’s important to keep cool, calm and collected during what seems like an interminable process of working out the details. These tips can help:
- Make sure one person is in charge. Find someone in your family who can reconcile all the various warring elements and put them in control. Have everyone agree that the ultimate decision-making power rests with them.
- Have the person in charge talk to a travel professional. They’ll have some great ideas on destinations and rental options that work for your budget, age, and family dynamics.
- Put destination, itinerary and activity options into a Google Doc and invite everyone to collaborate. This is probably the easiest and least political way of gathering everyone’s feedback.
- Establish deadlines and stick to them. Don’t let the process go on forever.
2. Don’t forget about the kids
Let’s be frank: On vacation, if the kids aren’t happy, no one’s happy.
If there are kids of various ages involved, you may need to divvy up the brood and send the older kids to the waterpark while the younger ones tackle the petting zoo.
Otherwise, if the kids are capable of accommodating older or younger siblings or cousins, spend one day doing smaller-kid stuff and another day doing bigger-kid stuff.
In general, though, the beach makes everyone happy. Keep that in mind. And by all means, let the kids be part of the decision-making process. You might be amazed by what makes them happiest.
3. A kitchen that can accommodate everyone
Sometimes people see a kitchen on the rental listing and their eyes light up. What they forget to consider is the size of the kitchen.
Think about family gatherings. How many times does everyone just hang in the kitchen and talk?
Don’t settle for just a kitchen. Make sure the kitchen can accommodate the whole family … because it may have to. Otherwise, try to get consensus on meals. Ask about food allergies. Plan some menus. To accommodate different tastes and schedules, eat some meals separately. Consider feeding the kids earlier, but bring everyone back together for ice-cream sundaes in the evening.
Also, it’s always a good idea to let anyone who thinks they’re a cook plan a meal and/or do some of the cooking – even if it’s just a scrambled-egg breakfast. Finally, make sure cleanup duties are spread among everyone.
4. A space that fits with your family dynamics
A family vacation rental might mean that you’re sharing bathrooms, TVs, communal areas, and kitchens.
Make sure the person in charge is aware of who’s getting along with whom, who spends an hour in the bathroom, who lives for Netflix, and who is (or isn’t) sleeping together, and picks a rental that fits everyone.
It’s really hard to make things right after you arrive and find the configuration of your vacation rental doesn’t align with the configuration of your family.
Also read: 5 Tips for Planning a Smooth Family Trip
5. Set some ground rules
A family trip is not the time to express your feelings about family members’ alternative lifestyles or questionable choices. It’s probably best to have some agreement on what topics are off limits before you leave.
In addition, your family needs to have some general agreements on curfews, lights-out times, get-up times, spending money, and places that are off limits. It’s completely possible that one or more family members may want to trip the light fantastic every night. However, it’s vacation, not frat-house Spring Break. It’s okay to let the party-hardy types in your group know they need to exercise a little restraint – but it’s also totally fine to let them have a night on the town.