Essay: How to Survive a Family Vacation

Essay: How to Survive a Family Vacation

My dad likes to call our five-person family “a wolf pack” any time we travel together. This is mostly due to our history of fitting all of us into one hotel room. 

Traveling as a family of five has always had its difficulties — needing to add an extra seat to even-numbered tables, for starters. But my family is well-accustomed to the five-person travel style.

Recently, my family spent Christmas and New Year’s in Rome in a two-bedroom, one bathroom apartment. Here are my tips, rules and other general advice on how we survived.

I’ve learned how to share a bed.

As the middle child, I’m always tasked with sharing a bed with one of my siblings while on vacation. This has never made sense to me because I am quite possibly the worst person to share a bed with.

In the mornings, my siblings used to wake up to our pillow divider crushed beneath the weight of my flailing limbs. They complained to my parents about elbows in their sides or stolen blankets during the night. 

I, in turn, would complain about being shaken awake and forced back to my side of the bed by insistent shoves or kicks. I never mentioned my siblings’ whispered threats because I definitely said worse things back to them.

During our time in Rome, I shared a bed with my sister — accomplished with only minimal bloodshed. I was complimented on my newfound ability to stay on my own side of the bed.

So, I’ve found that learning to share a bed makes the night much more enjoyable for both parties — and certainly less violent.

Splitting food is a given.

My family likes to try bites of everyone’s food. Meal decisions are discussed soon after our menus are opened, and negotiations are struck — “I’ll give you some of my food if I get to try yours.”

The problem is my family shares a similar taste in food, meaning we all tend to order the same things. This then prompts one person, usually my dad, to order a different dish they end up not liking. 

The result is a fork prodding at your plate every once in a while and an envious compliment about how you “chose the best dish.” So it’s not all bad. I especially like to smugly rub it in my family’s faces when I am crowned with the best meal.

We can always find the museum benches.

While the Vatican Museums are jaw-droppingly gorgeous and endlessly interesting, spending nine hours inside them can be overwhelming, even for the most experienced of museum-goers. 

Not for my dad, though. Museum fatigue is an unknown affliction to him. While Dad continued to gaze at Carlo Crivelli’s “Madonna with Child and Saints,” the rest of us desperately searched for benches to rest our weary feet.

“It’s beautiful — shockingly modern,” he told us. “I’d like to purchase a print of it.”

It was just another medieval painting to us.

But the art was clearly significant to him, so we used our expert museum knowledge to find somewhere to sit and wait. Dad eventually meandered over to us, satisfied with his time spent in front of Crivelli, and we were well-rested enough to continue walking.

We know how to have fun.

In a similar manner to number three, my dad likes to explore areas travel writer Rick Steves lists for “overachievers.” This includes the Etruscan exhibits in the Vatican Museums. 

These rooms were practically empty of visitors — drastically different to the hoards of people we had to push through elsewhere in the museums. Glass cabinets lined the walls, filled with pottery, rocks and more pottery.

“The ceiling is more interesting than the exhibit,” I told my dad, jokingly. He paid me no mind.

I decided to gasp loudly at every pottery sherd. 

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” I sarcastically whispered to my mom. 

I posed next to the displays of miscellaneous Etruscan artifacts and forced my dad to take dramatic photos of me. I giggled over the Etruscan vases detailing men peeing into chamber pots or nursing a hangover. 

Catherine Meyer posses in museum Courtesy of Catherine Meyer

Overall, traveling as a family of five means compromising. I consider myself extremely lucky to have a family well-versed in such a practice. Every trip is magnificent and practically perfect in every way. 

We’re already planning our next Christmas and New Year’s trip. I’m even looking forward to sharing a bed again.

Feature image courtesy of Catherine Meyer

Leave a Reply