OUR BIG FAMILY VACATION!

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In less than two weeks, my family, my entire family, three sons, three daughters-in-law, and two grandboys (ages 2 and 5) are headed to the happiest place on earth: Disneyland. And oh, by the way, one of the girls is pregnant.

This will involve a 3-hour plane ride, two rental cars, one rented vacation house—and lots of grace on everyone’s part.

We’ve traveled together before, but the family was much smaller. When I discussed our upcoming plans with a colleague, she looked a bit horrified, and asked, “Why on earth would you do this? Why would you want to do this?”

It’s simple, really. Including my husband, these are my favorite nine people on the planet. But while we are busy creating memories, we want to make certain we are not setting the stage for conflict at the same time. As individuals, we do not lack opinions. Even the little boys who have been looking forward to this for months, have ideas about how we should spend our time. One of our goals is to live together in alignment with our faith in Christ. Even on vacation.

They do call it the Magic Kingdom, the place where dreams can come true. But sometimes fairy Godmothers need a bit of help making that happen. So since we’ve done it before, here are some tips—things we’ve learned on previous trips, about making this work for everyone.

Gather Input. It’s almost natural for the parents to assume they will set the itinerary for the group, and all will come happily along. Remember they are adults and this is their vacation, too. Talk about when, where, and what the group’s interests are. What would we all like to do? What is the meal plan for the days we eat in? Talk about it. Getting everyone to take part in the planning process helps insure there are no unhappy campers later.

Discuss Finances. Since my hubby and I made this trip part of their Christmas present, we are paying for the rental cars and the vacation house. Beyond that, we’ve all agreed each couple is responsible for their own park and attraction admissions and meals out. We will share the cost of items like gas, and stocking the refrigerator. We are willing to “go cheap” and forego fancy restaurants so we can all participate. This allows everyone to budget appropriately in advance, and no one gets caught by surprise.

Establish Expectations. Will your heart be broken if the group doesn’t spend every moment of every day together? Really? Is that much togetherness a good idea? Or is it smart to include some options for each of the couples to spend some alone time? We think so. How will we divide up the responsibility for driving? Is it okay for someone to decide, “I’m going to chill today. You go on without me. I’m going to hang here.” Yes, it’s okay. We’d rather you openly voice your preference than go along and be tired or grumpy all day, asking, “Are we done having fun yet?”

Set Some Ground Rules. Papa and Gigi are not babysitters on demand, but are always happy to plan some time when we get the boys to ourselves. This helps make the couple time possible, too. Everyone helps with making the meals we eat in and cleaning up afterward. A schedule divides the responsibility and it’s clear whose turn it is. There’s no maid service in the house, and this mama is not volunteering. Pick up your towels off the floor and put your dishes in the dishwasher, please. I have a tendency to get overly parental with these issues, and I don’t want to go there. Talking about it openly in advance makes a difference.

Everyone is busy and working, right up until the moment we head out, so email has become our method for communicating this important info, ensuring the vacation gets off to a great start.

So, our plan’s in place. A plan is a good thing, as long as the group is willing to be flexible. We may discover something wonderful we didn’t know was available until we get out there. Don’t adhere so rigidly to the plan that it wrings the joy out of the vacation.

Do I anticipate that all will run like clockwork without a single cross look or moment of annoyance? No, that’s not likely. But, if we are all still on speaking terms at the end of the week, well, that’s proof positive: we are one big well-adjusted happy family!

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