“Stop that right now or I will pull this car over!”

Sound familiar? Unless you grew up in a 1950’s sitcom, this (and its many variations) was probably a recurring mantra when you were growing up. I know that it was in my family, and, trust me, my mother was not afraid to pull that car over. I specifically remember one Easter trip to my grandmother’s house where we sat on the side of the road for a solid 20 minutes while my mom waited for my sister and me to apologize to each other for some inappropriate language and a dead leg.

While I would like to say that as we have grown, we have gotten wiser, that isn’t always true. Something about spending more than 48 hours with my family brings out my adolescent self and all of her  obnoxious qualities. So, when we decided to take our first real family vacation in almost 6 years and our first international trip together, I knew I was going to have to find a way to survive a full week with 3 people who love me the most.

1. Let Everyone Be Involved In the Planning

The fastest way to piss someone off in my family is to make assumptions about what they want to do. Case in point: we booked this trip to Belize without consulting my sister on the dates. She is currently student teaching and was stressed about missing 4 days during her first month. Mistake #1. Whoops. Love you Kait. To help get us back on track before we even left, we all sat down and booked our accommodation together. This allowed us to figure out what was important to us (proximity to the beach, away from super touristy areas) and lay the groundwork for all of our activities for the week. We also took turns letting people pick where to eat dinner. Happy tummies, happy life. Or something like that.

2. Have a Code Word

Now and then it’s hard to control your emotions. I get it. I lose my cool more often than I would like to admit it, and there’s nothing I hate more than losing my cool and not being able to get away for a moment of peace and quiet to regroup. Most of the time I can feel it coming. I’m hungry, I’m tired, I’m frustrated, I need to pee, or some combination of all of the above. Having a code word or phrase to drop when you can sense you’re reaching a breaking point can help stop the problem before it becomes a meltdown. A simple “I’m going to get a glass of water” if you want to be discreet or some ridiculous phrase that has meaning to your family like “happy canoe” or “golden pineapple” will let your family know that you need a moment to recharge or that they need to find a food source  immediately. If you can avoid the disaster, do it. Thank me later.

3. Plan Separate Activities/Alone Time

It’s ok for you to do your own thing. You’re all adults with your own interests. On this trip, I decided to get certified in scuba diving. No one else wanted to do it with me and that was totally fine. They came snorkeling with me on the first day, and the second day I dove without them. This gave my sister time to catch some rays and my parents time to spend some quality alone time without the kids and cell phones. Everyone was happy and able to recharge in their own way.

4. Charge Your Electronics

Two reasons for this. 1. You can look up directions, reviews, take pictures, and have access to whatever other modern conveniences that you might need, possibly negating a future debacle. 2. You can ignore your well-meaning family when they start to get on your nerves and post all the ridiculous things they’re doing to drive you crazy on Twitter (not that I’ve ever done this #shitkaralynsays). I recommend traveling with a power bank like this one so that you don’t have to stress about your battery dying in the middle of an adventure.

5. Know Your Limits if Alcohol is Involved

Now that my little sister is 21 and legal, we love to indulge in the occasional adult beverage. It’s a riot to finally tell my parents all the shenanigans that we got into in high school and college, but it can be easy to cross that line into saying things a little too bluntly. While their love for you means that you will eventually make up, don’t waste your precious vacation days bickering about things you said after too many drinks. Save those thoughts for therapy or Thanksgiving dinner. It will also save you the hangover in the morning so that you can get up and catch that sunrise!

6. Laugh

Listen. Sometimes things go wrong, like when there are literally 3 streets and you can’t find the road to the hotel. No exaggeration, we spent over 45 minutes just driving in circles on a golf cart laughing to the point of crying. Instead of getting mad at each other, arguing about directions, and throwing a hissy fit, sometimes you just have to laugh. These are the moments that become some of your favorite memories if you let them.

7. Love and Respect Each Other

Most of all, remember that these people are your family and, for better or worse, you’re stuck with them. So love each other, respect each other’s opinions, and cherish the time you get to spend together. This will most likely be my family’s last vacation with just the 4 of us. My sister about to graduate college, and weirdly, the thought of settling down is no longer a distant thought in our minds. As the youths say these days, #tooblessedtobestressed.

What works for keeping the peace in your family? Let me know in the comments!



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