June 11, 2010— -- Getting your kids to sleep while on vacation can be a real challenge some nights. But what if your in-laws are standing over your shoulder, second-guessing your every move?
For more than a decade, Luisa Frey joined her husband's family for their annual reunion. All 25 of them.
The first year, they all shared a giant house, and let's just say there was a lot of fighting over dirty dishes, bedtimes and basic scheduling.
"You're dealing with everybody's own daily habits," said Frey, a family travel expert and founder of TeenTravelTalk.com/. "There's very different dynamics when it's not your family."
To ease tensions in future years, the group ended up having each part of the family rent its own condo unit in the same resort complex.
"There was the closeness that you wanted, but there was separateness that is very important if you want traveling with in-laws to be a success," Frey said.
The length of your trip can also make or break it.
"A week can be a bit much when dealing with family and family that isn't yours," she said.
Instead, consider four nights, five days, especially on the first outing together.
The spouse joining his or her in-laws should also, Frey said, make "safety plans for themselves that they may or may not need." So if it's a beach vacation, make sure there is a car available to allow a few hours of alone time. But, she warns, make sure that everybody is back together at the dinner table each night.
Amy Graff, who runs the family travel blog On the Go with Amy, agrees that families shouldn't spend every minute together.
"It works well if everyone has breakfast together and then breaks up into groups for activities or has the option of spending time alone in the afternoon. Then, everyone can come back together for dinner and talk about their days," Graff said. "If you spend every waking hour together, you're bound to drive each other nuts."
Vacation with the...In-Laws?
While you might be on vacation and want to rest, relax and have everything go perfectly, remember to keep quiet about the little stuff.
"If your father-in-law starts telling you a story that you've already heard a dozen times, listen again," Graff said. "It won't hurt you and it'll make him happy."
However, if your in-laws do cross the line, speak up. Be up front about the rules you have for your kids, and say something when the in-laws nudge you to break them on vacation.
"If you always put your kids to bed at 8 p.m. and your in-laws are making dinner reservations at 8 p.m., then say something, but do it gently," Graff said.
When chatting with your in-laws, it is probably best to steer clear of those controversial topics that might lead to a fight. If you and your in-laws have different political viewpoints, then don't bring up what's going on in Washington, D.C. Stick with safe topics and everyone will probably be a lot happier.
Then there is the ever-tricky issue of money. Graff said its best to decide up front who is paying for what.
"Often in-laws pay for all of or a portion of a vacation," she said. "You need to know what they're paying for before you go. Also, don't let them pay for everything. If they're picking up the tab on airfare, accommodations and meals -- then you need to treat the family to a few meals."
Finally, be polite. Don't complain about the hotel accommodations or about the restaurant choices, especially if you aren't footing the bill.
"If your in-laws are paying for all or any portion of the trip," Graff said, "be gracious and thank them again and again."