8 Rules to Fun Family Vacations
By Janey Womeldorf
Our multi-generational, extended family has solved the key to vacationing together – and more importantly, still liking each other. Who knew all it would take was one set of rules and an embarrassing wig.
As our family grew, the reality of our group vacations rarely matched the dream. For months beforehand, we would blissfully anticipate long, joyous days bubbling over with laughter and fun. More often than not, bickering and sulking drowned out the laughter, and rarely did the memories inspire the words of postcards.
Successful group vacations start with three things: Matching expectations with reality, open communication and tolerant, considerate behavior. When people don’t know what is going on, feel left out, or are over-exposed to each other for longer-than-normal periods of time, criticism, bickering and whining sets in – a lesson we knew all too well.
Our family now encompasses all ranges of ages and mobility levels, and we need a vacation that offers something for everybody – we found it in cruising. There were sixteen of us on our first cruise which meant the potential for personality conflict and family drama was ripe. To avoid this, we decided to implement some light-hearted guidelines to promote considerate, fun vacation behavior. We came up with eight rules which we unveiled at a pre-vacation, communication party shortly before the cruise. But how would we enforce them?
On a previous Caribbean holiday, we had picked up a Jamaican-style wig as a souvenir – just looking at it made you laugh. Pea-sized, colorful beads secured the ends of long, dangly dreadlocks which hung from all sides of a black, crocheted cap. We named our dreadlocked cap, “Wiggy.” Adults feared it; children loved it, and anybody caught breaking the rules had to wear it.
1. He who whines wears Wiggy.
Who knew that a simple no-whining rule could be so life and vacation changing? Many people are unaware how much they whine until they pay attention to it. The way it worked was that anybody overheard whining would be tattled on at the end of the day at our nightly, pre-dinner, family social. If there were multiple whiners, we would vote on the worst, and the culprit would have to wear Wiggy at dinner, or at the least, for the hour of our get-together.
What constituted a whine included: I’m bored, I’ve eaten too much, (especially relevant on a cruise), any sentence that starts with “I hate,” complaints about the weather, I feel sick (unless validated by the presence of vomit), hangover whines (adults only), and basically any whiny or negative comment or criticism.
2. Each person reserves the right to eat what they want, when they want, where they want, and how much they want, without comment or critique by fellow family travelers. Any member caught commenting on another person’s eating habits shall wear Wiggy.
Vacations are for relaxing and having fun, and eating plays a key part of that, especially on a cruise. People often comment on other people’s food intake because deep down, it makes them feel better about their own less-than-stellar eating habits. The hypocrisy is – who doesn’t indulge on vacation?
3. Not everybody has to do every thing together, all of the time.
People need their own space, and so we agreed that every family should be free to do their own thing during the day. The reality is, similar interests meant that one was rarely alone, unless by choice. However, we also agreed to all meet at the same designated place, (usually a child-friendly bar), before dinner to chat about our day and cast our “Wiggy” votes. Not only did this provide a fun start to the evening, but everybody got to share in the group’s conversation – often difficult once the process of dinner starts. There would be no specific meet time – just an hour or so before dinner with heavy emphasis on the “or so.” That way, nobody felt rushed, nobody could be accused of being late, and everybody started the evening relaxed.
4. No counting calories. You’re on vacation.
5. No getting serious. You’re on vacation.
6. Volunteering for any activity that is fun or free is highly encouraged.
7. Stop worrying about what strangers think because “you’ll never see them again anyway.”
The last rule?
8. Never forget rule number one.
Not only was the cruise one of our most joyous, whine-free, memorable vacations ever, but Wiggy became a permanent fixture. We now even refer to ourselves as the Wiggy Group, have Wiggy newsletters, even a Wiggy salute.
We have come a long way since the drama-filled trips we once called vacations. It isn’t that we are a challenging family, (okay maybe we are), but all things considered, I like to think we aren’t that different from yours. We have those who organize, and those who let them; we have those who smile, and those who whine; we have those who see the glass half-full and those for whom it is always empty; we have the lets-do-everything-together people, and the no-lets-really-not. We are united by blood, divided by quirks, yet love each other dearly. The problem is, after a few days on vacation together, the presence of each other’s company causes our quirks to rise to the surface like enemy torpedoes and it is only a matter of time before we go to battle. Who knew that a set of rules and a fun wig could make so much difference?
Our next group vacation is in December. Wiggy will be there just in case, but everybody behaves so well now that we’ve introduced a new set of rules to reward positive behavior. The person demonstrating the most selfless, kind, or considerate act of the day now gets rewarded with a Hawaiian lei adorned with a gold medal. We already know the upcoming vacation will be the stuff of postcards, but if it isn’t, at least nobody will be whining.
Unless, of course, they want to wear Wiggy at dinner.
About this writer
- Janey Womeldorf is a freelance writer who thrives on writing about the humorous, the poignant, and the continually-surprising sides of everyday life. She drinks too much coffee and scribbles away in Memphis, Tennessee.