Vacation: a chance to get away, let your hair down and relax for a few days while your kids play. Sharing that vacation with another family can be a great way to cut costs and share babysitting duties so that every set of parents gets a real break. However, that also means a greater chance of butting heads with someone if you aren’t prepared for new situations. Spending time with your friends is a lot different than living with them, even on a short-term basis in a vacation home. If you want to survive sharing a vacation home with another family — and more than that, actually have a good time — there are a few things to keep in mind:
Set Ground Rules
This is probably one of the biggest ways to make sure everybody has fun and nobody steps on anybody’s toes. For example: What kind of schedule do you like to keep? Even on vacation, you’ll probably follow a daily pattern that looks like the one from your normal life. If you like to hang out or party into the night, or just stay up late watching TV, that’s fine, but don’t ask the members of the other family to join you if they don’t want to. If they want to hit the sack, respect their wishes and keep your volume at a reasonable level. By the same token, if you’re the early riser, give the other family a heads-up and ask for an understandable curfew for parties or dinners. And when you get up before them in the morning, don’t do anything that’ll make too much noise. That means organizing quieter playtime with your kids or heading out of the vacation home until everybody’s up and running.
It’s not about imposing your will on others, but about making room for everybody’s routines. Nobody should feel pressured or left out.
Count Your Cash
In other words, figure out costs ahead of time. Some costs will naturally be yours because they’re for items just for you and your family: food and snacks, fuel, clothing, etc. Other costs, though, might make sense to share because they’re going toward things that benefit everyone, like house supplies, food for a group meal and so on. The best (really, the only) way to deal with this is to establish going in who will pay for what. If you want to tally every cent or just assume that everything will come out fine based on a division of labor, it’s your call. But there’s nothing worse than the tension that comes from being on vacation and feeling like you’re being taken advantage of by your fellow travelers. Clear, honest communication before you travel is key.
Know How You Like to Vacation
Are you an itinerary-driven person who uses vacations as a chance to really explore and get out? Or are you more inclined to lie about the house and rest? Or would you rather just play it by ear? Guess what: If you expect everybody else to meet your needs and vacation like you do, you could be in for a really tense few days.
The solution: Do a little light soul-searching before you go. Maybe you’re a go-getter and so is one of the other parents; great, you two can hit the town and see the sights. Maybe you’d rather sit by the pool or take a nap; great, don’t be afraid to stay in and tell people you just want to relax. Vacation, weirdly, can take a lot of effort to do well, and it’s possible to mess up everyone’s chance at fun if you don’t know what you really like to do.
Share the Kids
This is why you’re really sharing a vacation home: to have another set of parents to watch your kids. Don’t get greedy, though. It’s not fair to expect the other family to watch your kids while you relax or sight-see if you don’t offer to return the favor. Vacation is a chance to recuperate from the working world and get a change of scenery, and part of that means helping out the other family. Chat before the trip about equitable ways to split responsibility for the kids; maybe you and your partner could get a date night to yourselves, then reciprocate for the other parents. Maybe afternoons are trade-offs. There are plenty of ways to work it. The point is just to remember that everyone’s there to have a good time, and it’s up to you (and everybody else) to help make that happen.