How To Survive Large Family Vacations
The Perfect Beach House
How I Vacationed As A Kid
When I think of summer, I think of vacation. Even as the youngest of 9 kids, we always took a week long summer vacations. We loaded up 2, 9 passenger stations wagons full of food for the week, clothes, beach toys, bikes and fixings for smores. We rented a cabin at a state park and spent every hour of the day busy swimming, fishing, hiking and exploring. I enjoyed swimming in the lake. I love riding my bike, taking in the smell of the camp fires. I loved finding toads or steering clear of a raccoon at night. I loved going on hikes or fishing with my Dad. I remember hikes in 100% humidity and having to keep your mouth closed to avoid eating bugs. Those particular hikes were not my favorite. But overall, our annual cabining is one of my favorite childhood memories. My parents also made sure we understood that we were so lucky to have an annual vacation.
Our First Family Vacation
Celebrating 50th Wedding Anniversary
About 8 years ago, when my parents were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, we discussed another annual family vacation. We had taken a sabbatical as schedules were crazy. But we agreed this was a wonderful way to celebrate this accomplishment. This time we were broadening our horizons. In lieu of a state park cabin, we were talking vacation home rentals. At this point I was in my early 30s. We didn’t have kids yet, but everyone else did. We needed to find a house to suit multiple families and tons of kids. We were talking about 30 people total. We decided on an 8 bedroom house a few streets from the beach in Sandbridge, VA, just south of Virginia Beach.
Our first year was a success and we have been making this an annual trip ever since. We have learned quite a few things since our first year and that first house. For the last 4 years, we have had the same house.
Our journey to this perfect house was definitely a learning experience. It is one thing to see a house on a website and think it will work. It is another to live in there with people ranging from age 70 to infants/toddlers. Many of the grandkids are teenagers. How do you accommodate such a diverse group and pick the right house.
Size Matters and So Do Bathrooms
When you query house rentals, you can specify number of bedrooms. Since we needed a 10 bedroom house, we are very limited in our choices. Additionally, number of bathrooms is key. One year, we had bedrooms sharing bathrooms. This is doable, but honestly got to be a pain. Our house now has a bathroom per bedroom and one extra off the main living space. We have ‘settled’ for a 10 bedroom house with 10.5 bathrooms.
We Need Fridges!
We learned the hard way that for a group this size, you must have at least 2 refrigerators. Our first house had one. This was absurd for our group. Pretty sure there were some conversations regarding this absurdity as well. We have never had a house since with less than 2. Our current house has 3 and multiple small, dorm sized fridges. We no longer complain about fridge space!
The Dirty Laundry
Again, we have learned that one is just not enough. Luckily our current house has 2 High Efficiency front loading washers and driers. They are nicer than the ones we have at our real house! As a result, it reduces what we need to pack since we know finding our turn to do laundry will not be a problem.
Time to Swim
Pools of Glory
We started with a pool the first year. This was great for evening swimming or for those who are not in love with the sand or salt water. One year we only had an indoor pool. That was ok, but we really missed the outdoor option. Pretty sure some conversations surrounding that pool, too! Now, our house has both and outdoor and indoor pool. We are spoiled!
We Have A Lot of Mouths and Bottoms!
We had a house one year with an average size kitchen and minimal sitting. This became crazy during dinner time. Our current house has a double oven, 2 stoves, 2 sinks, a large bar area and multiple tables for sitting. Our whole family could sit and eat at the same time.
The Perfect Beach House
Now you know why we go to the same house every year. This place rocks! We are so fortunate to have stumbled upon it and we know this is the perfect home for us for a week.
However, a perfect house does not mean a successful vacation. When you are dealing with this many people, you are also dealing with that many personalities and preferences. While we share parents, we are not clones!
At the end of each week, we double check if everyone is game for next year. Each year, all families agree.
OnceYou Go Oceanfront, You Don't Go Back
Our first house was 2 streets from the beach. We had to load up for our day at the beach. We had to go home to go to the bathroom. If you had to put a child down for a nap, the family split up. My Mother did not enjoy trudging to the beach all day. As a result, we have decided that ocean front is a must. This gives us the flexibility to go back and forth from the beach easily. My Mom could sit on the balcony and watch the fun without the excessive heat. The little ones could take naps and we could return to the beach. My Mom became our ears for our baby monitors. This increased the cost of the houses we were choosing from, but we have agreed as a group, this is a must.
Admiring the Ocean
Do You Vacation Together?
This might sound crazy, but I think this is the secret to our success. We have agreed to go on vacation for the same week, at the same location and in the same house. Other than that, the group organization is over.
Vacation Before the Vacation
My immediate family goes on a vacation before our vacation. We usually spend the night somewhere on Thursday and Friday, prior to our Saturday arrival at the house. A couple of times we have gone to Washington, D.C. Some go to Williamsburg or Norfolk. Some arrive at the beach house at 9 am in the morning, spending that first day at the beach even before the house opens for our arrival. Others arrive at 3pm just in time for the doors to be unlocked
Everyone Is On Vacation
Some of us like the beach. Some prefer to read a book by the pool. No one is excluded from anything, but no one is forced to do anything either. Every year, one of my sisters and I visit a local marine aquarium. Our kids are young and enjoy the hands on museum. Siblings with older kids would opt out of this outing for sure! Every year, we pick up a few random family members. Again, all are included. We remember that everyone is on vacation. Some even take a day trip, driving into North Carolina. Have a good time. We will see you when you get back!
How To Grocery Shop On Vacation
This was something we had to discuss early on as a group. Do we do group groceries or buy per family? We have found that buying food for your own family is the best way to go. Ability to store our groceries is no longer an issue. We might borrow condiments and spices. But in general, your food is your own. I also like that my kids aren’t accidentally eating other people’s food or snacks either. And, no one complains for having to pay a percentage of a grocery bill for food they would never buy themselves.
How To Eat Dinner On Vacation
Each family takes one day to adopt my parents and include them in their family meal. But, everyone eats all their meals with their immediate families. Some might chose to combine, but more often than not, each group fends for itself. Also, with kids of all ages, dinner times differ, too. We eat early since our kids are young. My siblings with older kids can hold out until later if necessary. Some thrive on the local seafood and enjoy that a few times during the week. Sometimes a few families chose to order pizza. A family or 2 will eat out a couple days of the week. This lack of unity results in no argument over what time do we eat dinner or that my kids won’t eat that. Eating is something you do between all of the fun.
Digging a Hole
When you don’t force people together, they migrate towards each other. While everyone is different, we do have something in common. We are family. A group of us take an hour walk each morning. Many games of volleyball and corn hole form daily. Groups of kids will go out to boogie board or just float in the water talking. We bring our Wii and some down time is spent playing Super Mario Bros. Card games start up at night in conjunction with movie nights in the media room. You can come and go as you please.
Other Hubs on Family Vacations
- Stay Connected with Summer Family Reunions
Staying connected is so important for families, especially these days when the members are far flung around the country. Whether you like quiet, relaxing vacations or lively entertainment, just be sure and get together.
Genetics Doesn’t Make a Family
Being a family takes work. You can’t force people together who don’t want to be. Well, you can, but that usually results in disaster and drama. And, it never results in people volunteering to schedule again for the next year!
I am not saying that my family is better than yours. What I am saying is that my family knows each other. We recognize our differences and know that our lack of group organization allows us to actually function better as a group.
However, we are not completely unorganized. There is one thing we do as a group. We are all at the beach house and unpacked on Saturday by 5pm. That is when we gather to go to mass. As a kid, I couldn’t wait to get going. I was annoyed that we had to stop for mass. As an adult, I appreciate the hour to gather with my family and give thanks. My kids love sitting with their Godparents, who mostly are their cousins. As adults, we aren’t all in the same parts of town or even the same city. We don’t attend the same parishes. What a simple opportunity to say thanks to God. I give thanks that another year has passed and we still find each other together as a group. I give thanks for the safe trip to the beach house. I pray for health and safety for all. I pray for another week of good times.
I thank God for these lifetime memories.© 2012 Karen Lackey