Three things to beware when traveling with friends or extended family…and Five things to LOVE!

Want to meet up in Paris? Sure! But be careful…

Some questions we often get asked here at Have Family, Must Travel involve either meeting up with or exclusively traveling with either extended family or other families and friends. We’ve done both, and if it’s with the right person or in that right situation, it only adds to the experiences. However, if it’s off, it can absolutely ruin a vacation. So caveat emptor…buyer beware!

Here’s some of the potential costs of traveling with others:

1.       Tunnel Vision – One of our main purposes in travel is exposing our children (and ourselves) to different cultures. Depending on how many people you’re traveling with, the danger is that you’re spending more time talking to each other than on others. This situation can result in a less intimate experience with the local community.

One time before we had kids, my wife and I were in a train outside of Paris, France. A group of a dozen or so American kids came on the train, absorbed in themselves and each other. My wife and I saw there and watched them, watched the French countryside go by, chatted quietly to each other, normal train things. The funny thing was this group of kids kept talking about us as if we were French people who didn’t understand English. It was hilarious, especially when my wife waved and said “Goodbye, have a lovely rest of your trip” as they got off the train a few stops later. I’m not sure those kids were really getting as much out of a trip as they would have if each one was traveling just with a pair of travel-savvy parents.

Traveling with a large group of people can result in not having the type of experiences that we at HFMT live for, if you’re not careful.

2.       The Price of Freedom – The more people – especially decision-makers – are involved, the more compromises have to be made. You may find yourself using your valuable time and resources at places and doing things that you would rather not do. Beware!

On a Europe trip my wife and I agreed to meet a friend of mine who was living in Paris at the time. Well, schedules became crossed, she wasn’t as punctual as we were, and we ended up basically wasting a lot of time than we would have liked while trying to make the connection. Would I have liked to spend those two hours seeing the beautiful stained glass of Saint-Chapelle on a sunny day like I had originally planned? It turned out ok (Paris, especially in front of Notre Dame, is wonderful for people watching) but there was a cost…

3.       Increased logistical planning required – All the details of planning – where to go, where to stay, what to eat, where to see – are complicated enough with one family. Adding more? It better be worth it!

It can be worth it. Under the right circumstances, meeting or traveling with others can be a wonderful addition or part of your family travel.

1.       Making memories with those families/individuals – Travel binds people together. My family would go on a road trip each summer somewhere around the country, and those memories are often brought up when we all get together again. Being able to have those experiences with extended family or close friends can make a trip perfect.

2.       More Potential Companions – Traveling with the right people with corresponding likes / dislikes may allow you to split up and see things that you would otherwise have to compromise on. You don’t care to see a bullfight in Spain, but your spouse doesn’t want to set foot in another art museum? Having other people there may allow you to split up based on what you want to see with another person. (I suppose you could split up aand go alone…but I prefer traveling and experiencing these things with somebody else.)

3.       Babysitting for a special night – Some select travel experiences are just better not with kids. (I know that’s weird to say on a blog like Have Family, Must Travel, but we all know it’s true. Perhaps under the right circumstances, the people you travel with may be willing to watch the kids at a night. They’re tired and just want to relax in a hotel room. Also – some of the higher-end hotels offer babysitting. We’ve never taken advantage of that (besides on a cruise), but it is a service some hotels provide…

One way we have taken advantage of babysitting is while traveling with Grandma and Grandpa.  We’re blessed with parents who love to travel and want us to be able to enjoy experiences we wouldn’t be able to otherwise, but also understand our desire to share these experiences with our kids. I’d consider it a somewhat unique situation given the personalities involved, so if you decide to go this route, please be cautious. We find the arrangement works best the better we communicate to make sure nobody is being taken advantage of and everyone feels good about the situation. If one side feels exploited…it leads to hurt feelings and majorly bad vibes.

4.       Trust in your companion travelers – perhaps you know someone have absolute faith that they will lead you to really cool places and have amazing experiences. Maybe you’re in a crazy busy time at work and really absolutely don’t have the time to plan. Maybe you hate planning and just want someone to do it all for you.

5.       Locals with the KnowHow – Knowing people is the absolute best. You have a good friend from college who lives in London? You used to host German exchange students? You have an in to somebody who knows the area, knows the local haunts, and hopefully is anxious to show off their city. Again, open communication is key, be aware of cultural differences and expectations, but often people in this situation would love nothing more than to either host you or at least show you around their stomping grounds.

I lived in Italy for a couple years and we love to go back and see old friends.  We try to be especially mindful of their life situation (maybe it’s not a good time to host two adults and three kids!, be good guests, bring a thank-you gift, things like that. It’s a great way to make the memories last.

So if you decide to venture out beyond your own family, keep these things in mind. In the right situation, the hassle of additional collaboration and the cost of time might be worth it.

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