Last year, we went on a family road trip around California, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. Alex’s family flew from Germany for our wedding, and we decided to build an entire trip out of it.
Now, family gatherings on their own can be tough at times, but can you imagine being packed in a van with 11 people for 8, sometimes 10 hours at a time. It’s great getting that quality time in, but we’ve all said it or heard it, “family is complicated” and roadtripping with them is no exception.
If you are thinking about taking a family or large group road trip here are some tips to help things go a little smoother:
- Discuss where people want to go ahead of time: We discussed with our family some places they wanted to go and took that into consideration when planning our itinerary. When we started building our trip we took the places people wanted to see the most, and then added other stops that looked interesting and fit into the itinerary location wise. We made the most of our time, and saw a lot of places in a short time.
- Don’t try to surprise people with what you think is FUN: This is such a big one! Just because you are going camping in the mountains doesn’t mean you want to go hiking, or just because you are going to Las Vegas doesn’t mean you want to party. This was a hard one for us to grasp. When planning your trip you should discuss not only where people want to go, but what they want to do there. Some people want to go to a national park and sit by the fire relaxing and reading a book. Others want to go to Las Vegas to eat at a four-star restaurant at the top of a high-rise. Make sure you dicuss what each person wants to do at each stop on your trip. Plan accordingly so that every person feels like they are getting the most out of the whole experience. Allow people to decide what’s fun for them. which takes us to the next tip…
- Be open and honest about splitting up: Sometimes not everyone you are with is in the same physical condition or has the same interests, talk to your group before hand, and be honest about who can handle what. If a strenuous hike is too much for some members or doesn’t interest them then have other activities for that part of the group. Discuss before hand what everyone finds interesting, and allow the group to split up for part of the day so that everyone can make the most of their time.
- Talk about each individuals comfort level: What we mean by this is, can people handle tent camping, being cold at times, not having a gourmet meal every night. For people who haven’t camped a lot sleeping on the floor can be intimidating. Some people wouldn’t consider a couple bean and rice burritos made over the campfire a dinner. If your group isn’t comfortable with camping then you might want to make a more city based itinerary or look at different forms of lodging in nature areas.
One issue that arose during our trip was we chose to use blow up pool floaties as mattresses to cut out a major cost. It worked great for some of us, but the men especially (we think because of weight) had a problem with deflating mattresses. Luckily we had a few extra just for that purposes, but towards the end of the trip a few people slept in the van because we ran out of spare floaties.
- Weather: When we had planned a trip for summertime and the weather was sitting in the 80s and 90s everywhere we were going, we didn’t even think about needing to bring a rain jacket or a coat. We made the mistake of telling our family that it would be warm and just to bring a sweater for evenings. Well, it happened to be monsoon season half the places we went and rain was a common occurrence for a few hours in the middle of the day and night. We would suggest always taking a rain coat (most of the time they don’t take up much room anyway) or if you are really low on space take a plastic poncho. If space isn’t an issue then bring a jacket just in case. You never know!
- Make time for family: This might sounds funny considering that your on a family vacation, but when you are traveling sometimes you are so wrapped up in seeing things that you forget to spend some down time. This was definitely and issue on our trip, as some family members thought we would be relaxing talking most of the time and others were more focused on site seeing. In the end we came to the agreement that we would have a long breakfast or dinner each day together so that we were fitting in the quality time. It brought us all closer and made the trip more enjoyable as well.
- communication: This one is key, of course! Many things on our list lead to this last one. When in doubt be open and talk about things that are bothering you and things that you appreciate and love about the experience with your family.
And most of all HAVE FUN!
In the end, isn’t that why we travel? To have meaningful, beautiful experiences in places we’ve dreamed about, and having people we love by our side makes it even that much more worth while.
looking back, this trip was one of a lifetime. How many times do you get to fly your family halfway across the world and spend two weeks seeing some of the most beautiful places in America with them? The memory is full of smiles and laughs to say the least.