Amy’s Secret to Family Vacation Success
6 Constitutional Amendments You Need to Enjoy a Multi-Generational Family Vacation
When we planned our first multi-generational family vacation, none of us could have known that the political landscape of America in October 2016 would be as divisive and ugly as it ultimately became.
But this isn't a post about politics. It's about a multi-generational family trip with an age range of 76 years. It encompassed four generations, and included an airplane, a large family SUV, a cabin, and no actual itinerary.
In the days leading up to our vacation, we had only one family rule—no politics.
This was our first family vacation in twenty years. Waiting on the other side of the country was my great-aunt Donna, who at seventy-nine is the family’s reigning matriarch. We would be living under the same roof for the first time in seventeen years, and no one knew quite what to expect. We had no itinerary other than exploring the Rocky Mountains, Estes Park, and Fort Collins, Colorado.
We stayed sane, had fun, and became even closer primarily because we created our own Constitution designed to keep each other sane.
The Family Vacation Constitution
We the Members of the Williams Family, in Order to form a more perfect family vacation, establish patience, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common enjoyment, promote the general mental and emotional welfare, and secure the blessings of familial harmony to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Family Vacation Constitution for the Williams Family Vacation 2016.
If you’re thinking of adopting our Family Vacation Constitutional Amendments, here’s how implementation worked for us:
It was my mother that breached the Facebook safety etiquette every millennial knows by heart when she posted that she was in Denver and her kids would be joining her the next day. To be fair, it wasn’t in an actual status update, but her comment on a friend’s post popped up on our Facebook feeds the night before our flight. A quick phone call to Colorado and an explanation that people she didn’t even know could now see that none of us were going to be at home for a week was a mistake, and we had created and enforced the first rule of vacation.
There are parents that refuse to lie to their children and insist on absolute honesty. Not our family. When she doesn’t want her macaroni at lunch, you tell her it has magic in it. When she “lost” the pinecone that someone redistributed to nature, you blame it on the squirrel and move on.
Roll With It
We had planned for an unplanned vacation and had to adjust expectations with the change of the weather or a closed favorite restaurant. When the three-year-old wet the bed in the middle of the night, faced with an option of relocating or rolling with it, we literally rolled with it, rolling to the other side of the bed where it was dry. The sheets would have to wait until the morning.
Law of the Mama Bear
Upon first arriving at our cabin, we were put on notice that a mother bear and her two cubs had been roaming the cabin grounds searching for tourists’ food. Later that night, my own human mother became convinced that my adult brother had snuck out of the cabin to sit in the hot tub and was likely to become a mother bear’s dinner. Like any mother protecting her cub, she found it rational to not only go find him asleep in a chair in the living room, to smell him to see if he smelled like chlorine. He didn’t.
No one is more lenient with a three-year-old than a grandfather and an aunt. When my niece asked for strawberry milk the morning of a long, windy road trip to Fort Collins, we indulged her. An hour later when she was covered in vomit and needed a change of clothes, it was decided it had been our fault. For the rest of the vacation, we did our best to allow her parents to parent her.
Mind The Matriarch
My great-aunt is a very mindful seventy-nine-year-old yoga enthusiast. One of the greatest joys of the vacation was hearing her family stories and wisdom that predates us all. Her ability to stay mindful while driving through the foothills with a rowdy, vacationing extended family puts my meditation practice to shame. Watching her mindfulness moments made me appreciate how often and how differently we all sought out mindfulness in our way during the course of a week. We hiked, meditated, read, and photographed. We see the world differently, sometimes even the same beautiful landscape, but we all took moments of mindful solace that made it easier to connect while under the same roof.
Does It Work?
At the end of the vacation, I had been peed on, caught a cold, and had a persistent red wine headache, but had obeyed our new family Constitution and was better for it. We hadn’t exactly been foraging in the Wild West, but we were pioneering our own unchartered landscape.
Our Constitution became a hodge-podge agreement of absolute necessity. It may have been the crucial factor in enjoying a Hallmark-like family vacation rather than reenacting “The Shining” over drinks at the famous Stanley Hotel.
When we started our vacation, none of us knew quite how to travel and live with a seventy-six year age difference. Creating our own unique Constitution of travel laws allowed us to not just to survive our time together, but to enjoy our time together.
What laws will be in your Family Vacation Constitution?
Like what you read? Read some of Amy's work: An Open Letter To Moms From a Childless Friend, 5 Things to Expect When Training For Your First Half Marathon, and Gin, Short Skirts, and Dangerous Women.