7 Steps you can take towards Planning your Family Vacation over the Holidays
If you think about it, it’s a genius move: The whole family is there, the setting is bound to be warm and cozy, and the spirit of the holidays will have everyone in a good mood. What better time could there possibly be to plan a big family vacation than when you get together with the whole brood over the holidays?
With so many other topics that could send the conversation into a downwards spiral (politics, religion and why no one invited your niece’s dog to your cousin’s wedding), focusing on the fun of a travel getaway could be exactly the conversation your holiday family gathering needs.
A recent initiative by the Family Travel Association (full disclosure: I’m on the Board) is encouraging families to use their time together over the holidays to plan their adventures for next year. We’ll be using the hashtag #TravelSauce on social media to highlight tips, ideas and photos of families doing exactly that.
How to Start the #TravelSauce conversation
These seven conversation starters will keep you on task while making sure you walk away with the kind of information you need to make the family trip you’re dreaming of, a reality.
- Pick the right time to have the conversation: Just before the meal is served probably isn’t it. Make it an “over-dessert while you’re sipping an after-dinner drink” conversation. Sweets (and perhaps a beverage) make everything easier.
- Encourage pre-meeting preparation: Have a clear sense of what your family is hoping for before you sit down at the table and encourage others to do the same. Are your family members cruisers, for example, or maybe looking for a more adventurous eco-tour? Are you all ready for long-haul international travel, or are you more comfortable keeping it domestic? Have some initial direction to help focus your conversation. With the larger family you could ask people to send you their family dream list ahead of time or ask them to come to the table with a list of descriptors they’ve brainstormed about what the vacation looks like. Is beach a common theme or is it winter tubing? Are people expecting to be together all the time or are they only meeting up for meals? The key is to stick to big ideas for this first meeting. If there are non-negotiables ( “We need an accessible beach” or “We have to have our own hotel room” or “the cat is coming” or “we are only participating if we can stay on the beach”) encourage people to be prepared to state them up front.
- Bring your calendar to the meeting: If you’re going to have to go back and figure out whether the third week of July works for everyone, things are going to get derailed. Send a note out to family ahead of the event and encourage them to come to the table with dates in mind. Those dates may mean the trip doesn’t happen for a year and that’s okay. The key is to leave today’s meeting with some real options.
- Canvass the group to make sure you have a sense of who’s really on board: It’s the easiest thing in the world to say you’d like to vacation with your extended family, but do you really? It might be that a big group trip simply doesn’t work for everyone. Encourage relatives to be open and honest about what they want without pointing fingers or calling names. Starting with an understanding of who would be prepared to participate is key. Ask for a commitment to the idea.
- . Be clear about Budgets: If your family is open and can easily talk about money, it may be a conversation that is had at the table but it’s more likely that each family unit will have different needs and thoughts on this so keep the discussion general. Talk about ways that any vacation might accommodate a variety of price ranges (a shared house vs individual hotel rooms), opportunities (a common theme park but accommodations at different spots) and choices. And be clear about who is paying. What sort of things are expected to be split and how (Per person? Per family?)? What is optional?
- Have a Plan of Action for going forward: This chat is only meant to get the general ideas on the table. A great family vacation will require lots of discussion and planning. Have each family unit nominate their representative and point person for further discussion. One person per family should be the limit. And don’t leave the table without a date for your next discussion.
- Keep an open mind. When your 10 year old daughter (or your 79-year old uncle) suddenly says, ‘I want to go SCUBA diving!’ or ‘I want to be a cowgirl at a dude ranch!’, don’t just shoot them down. Consider the idea and let others chime in too. You never know where the conversation might, literally, lead you.