How to Survive a Family Vacation When You’re the Designated Tour Guide

In every family vacation there are three types of individuals:

1. The Planners

2. The Followers

3. The Kids

For the longest time, I was lucky enough to be in the kid group throughout most of our family vacations. I had no worries other than making sure not to annoy the adults (or my older brother) too much. Now, as an experienced traveler and adult myself, I have been forced into the most stressful of the three categories: The Planner.

Just some ducklings and myself trying to get to the airport to pick up our rental car.

Being a planner isn’t always a bad thing, but as someone who experiences anxiety and an intense need to attain perfection, sometimes being the planner behind a family vacation can lead one to a stress overload–or premeditated murder.

During our last trip to Europe, where we spent about 5 days in Ireland and then another 3-4 days in Rome, Italy, my stress threshold capsized almost every day. Why was I so stressed? I wanted to make sure everyone was having a good time while at the same time making sure I was doing things that I wanted to do.

The problem with that way of thinking with a group of 10 individuals is that no matter how hard you try there will always be one or two people who aren’t as into the activity you have planned as the rest. For instance, we stayed mainly in Dublin while we were in Ireland. Now, when I’m in Dublin, since I’ve been there quite a few times now, I don’t really gravitate towards Temple Bar or Grafton Street. I like to take a day trip to Bray or hang out in the parks and read one of the many books I over packed my suitcase with.

My family, on the other hand, had not been to Dublin ever or at least not in the past 13 years. They also aren’t big hikers or wilderness explorers. They don’t salivate at the Wicklow Mountains or dream of the standing stones at Tara. When we were planning the trip the only guidance I was given towards what they wanted to do was visit the Guinness Factory. That’s it. Everything else was up to me.

My cousins and I at the Brazen Head.

Now, honestly, Dublin is not an extremely exciting city. Sure, you can have a great time because of the atmosphere and the various tourist attractions, but other than that it is a normal city. There isn’t much spectacular about it, not unless you have a great understanding of the past or just an interest in Ireland in general.

That being said, I did manage to create a fairly active itinerary, sprinkled with museums, tourist attractions, and walking tours. I based most of my site seeing around places I loved (like Merrion Square, St.Stephen’s Green, side streets that my Grandmother used to play in, etc.). And I think it did work out in the end, just during the trip I felt like a tiny ball of electricity, running on an overheating battery that was prone to melt downs.

Now, how does one avoid making life stressful for the Planners in your group?

  1. Tell them what you want to do (Planners cannot read your mind. Everyone has different interests so throw a few bones your planner’s way. It makes their life 30000x easier.)
  2. Tell them your physical or mental limitations (THIS is extremely important. I know it can be embarrassing to admit you can’t walk as much as others or need to stop every hour to get something to drink, but please do so. Your discomfort will spread to the rest of the group so please just be open and honest.)
  3. Do some research on where you’re traveling to (Doesn’t have to be a lot, but you can’t always rely on your designated tour guide–nor should you. Traveling is all about learning and experiencing new things, and part of that is having a bit of knowledge about the culture/country you’re visiting)
  4. Go with the Flow (Not everything may be exciting to you, but look around the group and see who that activity was exciting for and feed off their energy. You’re traveling with others, so not everything will be about you.)
  5. Take Time for Yourself (Every day my family would take a nap from about 4-6pm. I would take that time to go do things around the city that I wanted to do, ALONE. Everyone needs alone time, and sometimes the Planner needs it more than anyone else.)
  6. Have Patience (This is my biggest rule about traveling. Things will go wrong, there will be lines, trains will be late. The best way to have a good time is to not get impatient. I know it’s hard, but what you have to understand is that not everything is under your control. The world is a wild and unpredictable place, traveling is no exception.)

Family vacations can be amazing as long as you all take the time to be respectful of each other and remember that everything isn’t about you and how much fun you’re having. You’re there to experience a new place together, so do that. Don’t focus on how exciting something may be, but rather how exciting it is to be able to spend time doing something with people you love.

Have any family vacation horror stories? How do you survive a long trip with family? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks to everyone that’s followed me while I took a month off from blogging. It’s been nice to just relax and not plan out blog posts all the time, but get ready because I have tons planned for the next month or so.

Thanks for Reading!


3 Comments on “How to Survive a Family Vacation When You’re the Designated Tour Guide

  1. this is great! as a fellow planner, i can sympathize 🙂 i easily stress myself out when traveling with my mom because I want everything to go perfectly (even though I know that is impossible!)


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