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Lessons from Multi-Family Vacationing

Matt Villano

My wife, daughters and I spent the New Year’s holiday holed up with two other families at a mountain home in a remote part of coastal Mendocino County, California. We discovered abalone shells and bull kelp. We read every “Olivia” book in existence. We went wine-tasting (seriously; this place and its family-friendly tasting room rocks). And we learned a bunch of things about vacationing with other families. Here’s a rundown on some of those lessons:

Healthy kids eat a ton.
Every family brought a load of groceries and we still didn’t have enough bananas, blueberries and organic vanilla yogurt. The lesson: When your kid sees other kids chowing-down on new stuff, he or she is going to want some of what they’re having. With this in mind, it pays to buy extra and to be willing to share.

No TV? So what.
None of the six parents could get the main-room television to work, and we worried that our four kids would miss their daily dose of TV. The lesson: Kids in groups do a great job of entertaining themselves. My older daughter spent most of the trip coloring with her 2.5-year-old gal-pal, while my younger daughter had a blast playing trucks with the 2.5-year-old boy. Nobody clamored for the television at all.

Make plans. Just not too many of them.
While we had one full day of plans (including our trip to that lovely winery), we also had two days with no structure at all. The lesson: Especially when you’ve got other families around, unstructured time can be fun. At the suggestions of various members in our group, we ended up spending our free time stacking poker chips we found in the house, strolling along Irish Beach and exploring the forest around the house.

Secure time without kids.
As a group, the ten of us got along smashingly. Still, there were times when it became clear certain subsets needed (and deserved) a break. The lesson: Schedule time for moms and dads to hang with each other, sans kids. We husbands were happy to watch the little ones while our wives drove up to Mendocino to hit a spa. Likewise, the moms enjoyed holding down the fort while us dads drove into Point Arena in search of top-shelf bourbon (which we found) and fresh Dungeness crab (which we did not).

Every child is a demon sometimes.
My wife and I try our hardest to manage our daughters when they act up in public and/or social situations. Sometimes, however, tantrums are inevitable. The lesson: Accept that all kids have (what we like to call) their “demon moments,” and rest assured that other parents inherently understand this concept, too. This means you shouldn’t have to apologize incessantly for your child’s bad behavior. It also means that when other kids on the trip act up, you don’t judge.

What have you learned about vacationing with other families over the years? Leave a comment with your tips.