Surviving Vacation with Extended Family


Let’s face it: family can be, well, overwhelming. Especially when you are together for seven, ten, fourteen days after not seeing some relatives for months or years at a time. Here are some tips to make the most of a family reunion style vacation, especially with little kids in tow.

1. Create separation.

This one is hard in most families, especially mine (anyone remember the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding? That’s pretty much us). Someone is always stopping by our condo, making a meal, or going somewhere fun, and nobody wants to be the one left out. But once in awhile, taking some time away as a smaller family unit can be calming in a large group setting. Turning down one big family outing or taking a nap during some big group beach time can reset everyone’s attitudes.

2. Identify your own triggers ahead of time.

On our last family trip, my three-year-old was in the middle of an obsessive-compulsive phase. Drop of water on his shirt? Panic. Sand on his toe? Panic. Not a great state to be in on a beach vacation. What I didn’t see coming were the comments from relatives about it, and my over-sensitivity to their comments. I’m sure being 27 weeks pregnant didn’t help, but it would have been annoying either way. So when your dear *read: crazy* Aunt Jo starts flapping her lips about “getting him checked” and “toddler anxiety” an ocean-side meltdown might happen, and I don’t mean from the toddler. If I could do it over again, I’d tune into my own insecurities and fears about my own children ahead of time and come up with an efficient line to squash the commentary.

3. Tune into your parenting philosophies and prepare simple responses to questions about them.

Wait, you let him have three Oreos? Yep, sure did. And I might do it again tomorrow. What do you say to the relatives who question your parenting? In my family, we, parents of young children or not, have started using the phrase, “Thanks for the suggestion,” as a general hint to stop giving unsolicited advice. It doesn’t always work, but the idea that their commentary is just that – a suggestion – usually puts things into perspective for everyone.

Another area where my husband and I found it necessary to coin a go-to phrase was in regards to others parenting the kids unnecessarily (meaning, when we the actual parents were right there). We started using the line, “I’ve got this, thanks,” to indicate to the relative that we were indeed in the middle of parenting the child ourselves. Refreshing our parenting philosophies as a conversation may have to be one that happens on the way to all family vacations in between games of spot that license plate and that “find a word that starts with every letter game” that always fades out by letter Q or X.

4. Seek out positivity.

In the end, all families will have negative and positive forces and people which sometimes can change by the day, and this vacation I tried to consciously choose to gravitate towards those who built up my family and me, and to avoid those whose comments replayed in my head at night. Positive supporters validated parenting and the effort it takes every minute every day, especially on your first beach vacation with two (and a half) kids. Deep down I believe all of our family members love and support us, it’s just a matter of expressing it in ways that aren’t straight offensive.



  1. FABULOUS writing and good points well taken. This is definitely an article that will help many.

    However, you forgot the part that it’s ok for Grandma to give them four Oreos! It won’t hurt a thing.


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