If you’re planning a family holiday with your parents or older relatives as an adult, it can be difficult to know what to expect. Will it be wonderful now you’re all mature and you can have conversations and laughs and bond like never before? Or maybe you’re having flashbacks of long car rides in frosty silence after an argument about where to stop for lunch. Navigating parent-child relationships as an adult is hard enough, but throw the stress of travel into the mix and the whole thing can easily devolve into chaos. But it doesn’t have to be that way. As long as you go into a family vacation with some clear expectations, you may find it to be everything you wanted and more. Here are my top five tips for travelling with family as an adult.
Schedule alone time
You may have gone on this trip to spend more time together, but that doesn’t mean you don't need your space. Book separate rooms, get separate tents, even schedule a few separate activities. If you’re on a vacation it’s likely you had to book time off, and while it’s admirable that you’re choosing to spend this time with family, you still need time to relax in your own space. It will also take the pressure off of the family unit as a whole if you have your own corners to withdraw to and potentially cool down.
Make sure you have boundaries and that they are respected
This one is so important! If your parents (or other relatives) are the types to frequently cross your boundaries and make no attempt to follow or respect them, I’m afraid that going away with them is probably not the best idea. Setting boundaries doesn’t mean being heartless, brutal or just laying down the law; it means knowing your limits and communicating them to others clearly in order to ensure you feel comfortable and safe. Things like personal space, topics you’d like to avoid and how you meet your own needs are completely valid areas around which to set boundaries. As long as you set them clearly and kindly, and stick to them (and of course respect other people’s), boundary setting is a family trip must!
To our last point, there is definitely a difference between setting boundaries and being demanding, stubborn and rigid with your personal wants. If you expect respect, you should need to give that back. This doesn’t mean sacrificing your boundaries, but being flexible and adaptable when you can be with everything else. That means considering other people’s emotions, needs and wants, and finding a compromise when dealing with disagreements. It means picking your battles and letting things slide from time to time. You’re not always going to agree, and sometimes other people’s boundaries will interfere with your preferences. You’re an adult now, and this is part of being an adult. Unfortunately, the days of tantrums working are long gone.
Try not to regress
It’s easy to fall back into the rhythm of family life on these trips, the problem with that is that the rhythm is often based on you being a child. Family dynamics are always tricky, and regressing into someone who is completely dependent on others for their every want and need is going to make you feel gross and make your parents feel worse. Of course, your caregivers may love the chance to dote on you, but being demanding, unreasonable and whiny is not great for the vacation atmosphere. I mean this with love, but you have to grow up a little.
Finally, communicate! You’re not a kid anymore, you can use your words. Say when something bothers you, speak when you want to voice your own opinion and talk about what’s on your mind. And just as importantly, listen. Listen to your family members’ thoughts, feelings and needs. Having everything out in the open will stop resentments and arguments from building up over time, and it will also just add quality to your time with your family. You might even get to know each other more!