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Actually, I Love Traveling With My In-Laws

Here’s how we make it work.

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I’m going to brag for a moment. I have incredible in-laws. In fact, they are so great that my husband and I love to take our two kids on vacation with them regularly. We’ve done some big adventures like Disney and Las Vegas. A lot of times we do small road trips where we might stay at a vacation house or a hotel. And you know what? They’re great traveling companions and really good company. Here’s how we make it work.

My husband grew up in a family that took a lot of trips. I think part of the ease of traveling with them is that they have experienced the challenges of traveling with little ones in tow. They both have adventurous personalities and have an overall go-with-the-flow kinda vibe.

My in-law’s constant willingness to babysit is a huge asset on trips, too. To be clear: This works because we are always respectful that this is their vacation too and try to find times that feel convenient for them and don’t require them to do a lot. For example, we’ll take the kids to play at a park, and then plan an evening date when the kids are tired and Grandma and Grandpa can hang with the kids once they are ready for bed. We love taking date nights while traveling, and we wouldn’t be able to do it without their help.

Now, I realize that not everyone shares my passion for traveling with their extended family. I conducted a very unscientific poll and discovered that I was the only person in my friend group who loves taking trips with their in-laws.

My friends explained their challenges were related to strong-willed relatives and differences in living styles. One friend explained to me it’s hard traveling with extended family because you’re “always on.”

For me, that barrier was broken down many years ago when my husband and I traveled to a family wedding. After a few glasses of wine, my mother-in-law and I tore up the dance floor with an impressive performance of Soulja Boy’s “Crank That.” We still laugh about it more than a decade later. After that, we knew we could be laid back and have fun together. And that freed us to build a closer, more casual relationship with each other.

Science is on my side, here. Catherine Price, author of “The Power of Fun” explains that you need to achieve playfulness, connection and flow at the same time if you want to have fun with your family. Playfulness is simply having a lighthearted attitude. You don’t need to play tag or pull out the dollhouse, you just need to be doing a pleasurable activity. Connection means having your family involved in the process. Flow is getting so caught up in the activity that you lose track of time — your brain is concentrated, making other thoughts drift to the background.

In my experience, the play-connection-flow combo works. A few years ago at a family gathering, I noticed my kids watching too much TV while the adults talked. For the next family event, I planned a cookie decorating contest and Pictionary so the kids could get involved. The adults ended up having a blast, too.

Everyone deserves a fun vacation, especially since Americans take very little time off. It's understandable that people have strong feelings about what to do and where to go, which can cause conflicts.

Sometimes it’s challenging to have many people stay together in a small space. Staggering everyone’s arrivals and departures a little helps, too.

It also helps to plan activities for the whole group while still leaving time for people to branch off. We used this tactic when my parents hosted my family, my husband’s parents, his brother, and his cousins together at the same house for one or two days. It went smoothly with almost no drama. The only hostile act was committed during a lobster boil when a rogue lobster clawed my dad before getting dropped into the pot.

I realize that what works for me might not work for everyone. Every family is unique.

The important thing is to find joy in the good moments because curveballs pop up every day, especially when traveling. I try to stay focused on the positive moments, and when I get hit with a wildcard, I love having my family there to lean on.

Allison enjoys spending time with her husband, her 8-year-old daughter and her 4-year-old son. She loves skiing, snowboarding, golfing and (most of all) socializing in the lodge or clubhouse afterwards. She’s always on a quest to find the best new movie, book, restaurant, lifestyle trend or family adventure.

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