Lessons Learned: 5 Tips To Surviving Your Family Trip


The company you travel with has major influence on how you experience your international, or even domestic, adventures. Travel companions can either amplify your experience making it an unforgettable memory and further fuel your wanderlust, or they can dampen your whole vacation making you dread the remainder of the time you have left in any given new place. Sometimes we have a choice in deciding who we travel with—friends, cousins, significant others, siblings, college roommates, you get the picture—but if we’re fortunate enough to take vacation with family, then our options in who we share our abroad adventures go from zero to zero.


While some of us are blessed with a high functioning family, one where conflict and confrontation is dealt with diplomatically, and one in which tempers are mild and tantrums minimal, most of us don’t. In the spirit of making the most of vacation with the people we have no choice in inviting, here are five tips from lessons learned during a 15-day vacation in France and Italy with my two full-grown adult sisters and my two technologically impaired (read: dependent) parents.


Don’t unplug

Occasionally unplugging from the webs and social media is necessary for our mental well-being and general health, and vacations, especially tropical ones, seem to be romanticized as the perfect time to shut out the world brought to us by our phones.


Family trips, however, may not be the best time to disconnect entirely. Streaming a movie, listening to your favorite PodCast, or generally surfing the web while abroad doesn’t mean disinterest in spending time with family or experiencing a new or country. It may mean practicing “you” time and decompressing from a long day of site seeing, walking, and intentionally getting lost. With the availability of video FaceTime and WhatsApp, it may also mean being able to share your travel experience with loved ones who stayed behind.


Place value on the hassle of hauling card and board games

I personally incline toward packing lightly, seriously considering each item that goes into my luggage asking myself how necessary it is and how it will either increase or decrease my mobility when getting from place to place. For a two-week family trip, bringing along a deck of cards or Bananagrams would have not only facilitated family bonding, but also would have created a sense of home away from home. One night, in our wifi-less Amalfi Coast Airbnb, not having anything to do and too tired to check out the nightlife, we decided to play Charades on my sister’s phone.


Not sure about how everyone out there interacts with their family, but I had never played such a game with my parents. Let me tell you, it was so much fun! My parents were very animated in their descriptions and my sisters and I upped the competitiveness which resulted in an incredibly fun, loud atmosphere. In retrospect, staying in and sharing quality life with my parents definitely won against any club or bar that my sisters and I could have gone to that evening.


Split up

Be okay with splitting up in smaller groups or going off on your own if there are sites you really want to see but no one in your family cares for, or vice versa. When travelling, it’s instinctive to want to see and do everything. However, it’s also important to rest and take things moderately to be able to fully enjoy the things you do get to see and do. Dragging uninterested parties along will only tire them out, and when people get tired, they start projecting, and because your family, they are more comfortable and more likely to do so then if you were travelling with friends.


Implement a communication strategy

My eldest sister, who had the fortitude to plan our first international family trip (thanks, girl), found herself repeating herself multiple times when explaining the details of the next leg of our trip. Other times she found herself correcting those who conveyed what she had just said to those who weren’t paying attention.


Such repetition can obviously create irritation, and so to prevent sour moods, I started huddling everyone around my sister when she detailed our next move to eliminate the need for repetition. In addition to daily, brief huddles, another strategy that I would implement for future family trips is setting up a Google Doc with as many itinerary details as deemed relevant by the primary planner for everyone to refer to at their leisure. In combination, these strategies can mitigate questions that have already been asked and get everyone on the right page. This is especially important for larger parties.

Intentionally practice positivity

My youngest sister had the best mantra throughout the trip: stay positive. Yes, that’s an obvious one, but one that may get forgetten and one that is truly necessary for travel, and really, one that’s useful in any type of situation. When you’re in a new country or city, any blunder or hiccup in planning can lead to anxiety and stress, tempers may get hot and moods may go south. Making an effort to not take anything personally, valuing the silver lining, taking deep breaths, and appreciating the privilege of experiencing a new country, especially experiencing it with loved ones, really helped in refocusing any annoyance or anger I may have felt during any trying situation.


This was our first family trip in a few years, and I had some reservations on how our dynamics would play out from past experiences. But once my sister told me she was consciously focused on having a great time through practicing positive thinking, I made sure to implement it as well as was able to prevent myself from projecting what I was feeling onto my parents and sisters.

Denisse Sanchez.jpg

Denisse is a proud valley girl from Los Angeles, but currently doing the young professional scene in D.C.
What she's most personal about: personal finance, fitness and wellness, and travel.
Her Clever Girl Super Power: Budgeting and excitedly encouraging others to budget too.
Keep up with her on the 'gram at @empressaria_818