26 Years of Family Vacations, and I Haven’t Killed Anyone Yet

My family still travels together at least once a year. We’re a small family really, just my parents (married for 32 years!), my older brother, and I. But personality clashes are inevitable, and were even more so when my brother and I were both teenagers. But we neither killed each other nor stopped traveling as a family! After lots of compromises, some failed attempts, and manic moments, here is what I’ve found has saved us all on those family trips.


My brother and I surprised my parents with a trip to Niagara Falls for their 30th wedding anniversary

Planning in Key

Whomever first say proper preparation prevents piss-poor performance, A) loved alliteration a bit too much, and B) was right. The best vacations I’ve found are the ones where there is something for everyone, and takes into account the needs of all the people traveling. For instance, my brother is not a morning person at all. He’s really quite grumpy early in the morning, and let’s be honest, I’m not a happy ray of sunshine that early either. So a trip where we all have to consistently get up early to do activities, really doesn’t go over well. A couple of days in the trip, sure that’s fine. Everyday, no way. By looking into what everyone enjoys and needs–ie. free time, organized activities, consistent internet access–you’re more likely to have a successful trip, rather than one where maybe only some of you (usually the one’s who picked the trip) are happy.


At the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, my brother’s pick for what to do  that day.

Everyone get’s to pick one place to go

This has been one of the best strategies we’ve ever adopted. It successfully eliminates two issues–one is that moment where everyone sits around going “so what are we going to do today,” and it means that everyone is guaranteed to do something they like. Yes, there is the possibility of having one of the group pick something that you or others don’t like, but you’re still on vacation so try to make the best of it. Not a museum person? Create a scavenger hunt to keep you entertained! And remember, it’s only one day and maybe tomorrow it’s going to be your choice of activities!

Family Lake Louise

Sixteen years ago at Lake Louise, Alberta. As you can see, my brother is having none of it that day.

Hangry people are not fun on vacation

My father is the kind of person who wants to try and fit all of a cities sites into one day. He will happily skip lunch and push dinner as late as possible to be able to get one more activity in a 24 hour period. This did not go over well for me as a kid since I am the queen of hangry. It took traveling with a German friend of my father’s for us to learn that there was a far more human way to travel, and it involved snack breaks. We didn’t need to have a full sit down meal, but every couple of hours sitting down in a cafe for a drink and maybe something small really helps balance everyone’s needs. If you need something to eat, you can. If you don’t, you still get a chance to sit down and actually take in your surroundings. Since it is only a short break, it doesn’t take that much time away from all the things that you’re trying to do in a day, and it doesn’t cost a lot of money to get everyone a lemonade on a hot day.

surf school

My brother and I decided to do our own thing one morning and signed up for surf lessons in Tofino

Headphones save lives

Despite your best efforts, and no matter how much you love your family, chances are you will get to the point where you just need a break from them. Usually though, I find this point always happens to coincide with moments where you can’t get away–like a four hour car trip listening to your father and brother discuss business strategies. This is where a good set of noise canceling headphones will be a god sent. Put on some music, crank the volume, and zen out for a while. It will save your sanity and prevent conflicts.

collage of weird

Strange photos are always the best…they also make really good blackmail

Keep your sense of humor

Really, I think this is the most important thing, and really the reason that we still travel as a family. Yes, sometimes we don’t get along, that is inevitable no matter who you’re travelling with. But despite that, we still keep a sense of humor about all the the things we do and are able to laugh together. Maybe it is each person having their picture taken with their favorite dinosaur at the museum, or climbing trees while off on a hike, whatever it is we do it with humor. Those are the stories we tell–and use to tease each other relentlessly for years to come.