Family Travel with Non Family Members – How to Mix Friends and Family

The world is slowly opening up again and you know that means! Dust off those passports. Whether it’s to the next province or to the next country, many of us can’t wait to travel again. However, vacations come in all shapes and sizes, and they are not all limited to only involving the family.

Sometimes you bring your kid’s friend, or let your child go with another family. Sometimes the adults want to bring their friends too!

Here’s a primer on how to travel with non family Members.

But First, Let’s Talk about COVID

Remember, the world is opening up at different rates, and the rules differ from location to location and sometimes even business to business. Before you travel with people from another family, be sure everyone involved agrees on COVID safety (if you are more comfortable in masks, if you will enter establishments that continue to mandate masks and distancing regardless of government restrictions, etc.).

Also, check to see if your destination is open for tourists, and that is it not in a zone that could spike and shut down. Be very upfront with all members of the travel party about if you are vaccinated or not, and stay tuned to the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 travel page for the latest updates. Respect the regulations of your home base and your destination, along with the wishes of your travel party.

With that in mind, let’s dive in.

Bringing Your Child’s Friend

The only child

As your child reaches the age where your interests diverge and they want more independence from their parents, consider letting a friend join the family vacation; that is, with a few caveats.

Travel with Non Family Members

Credit: Dominic Alberts from Pixabay

  • How well do you know the friend? This is best suited to friends that have spent time at your house and whose parents you already know. In the middle of vacation is not the time to find out that the friend’s values are wildly different than your family’s. Is the friend a vaper? Disrespectful? Bossy to your child? Know before you go!
  • Ground rules: set these before you leave. Both children should know about excepted curfews and behaviour and be willing to honour your wishes.
  • Be upfront about your budget with both children and with that other child’s parents. Be very clear about what you are willing and not willing to pay for and if you expect the other parent to cover their child’s meals, spending money, and lodging. If it’s your treat, be clear about that too. Tell both children that you have a budget for attractions and let them help decide what everyone should see.
  • Plan for personal space. Being in a car, plane, and hotel room for extended hours together is enough to test the closest of friends. Plan some downtime for reading, pool lounging, etc. Everyone needs time to disconnect from each other a bit when sharing a small space.
  • Don’t forget that all-important consent letter.

When you have more than one child

If you have a boy and a girl tweens/teens, or children with very different ages, a friend in their gender/gender preference or closer to their own age can make the trip more enjoyable for them. In addition to the tips above:

  • Be prepared for jealousy. Sibling rivalry may make one child wonder why the other gets to bring a friend. Have a conversation with your children before you offer to extend the family vacation to others.
  • Prep the younger sibling. If you brought someone for your teen to hang out with, the younger sibling may feel left out and discouraged when they are not allowed to tag along with big sister or brother. Set aside time when you can focus on the younger sibling exclusively. For example, let the older ones explore an attraction on their own while you take the younger one to the child’s section or to the café for ice cream.

Bringing an Adult Friend

It’s Vegas, baby! You are looking forward to hitting the outlet malls and watching the shows, but he wants to spend most of his time at high stakes poker tables and hitting the buffet. No problem. He can bring a buddy and so can you… right?

Travelling with other couples, or one spouse bringing a friend, can lead to resentment if there is not clear communication beforehand.

  • Did one of you plan this trip as a way to refresh your relationship? If so, leave the friends at home and focus on each other.
  • Talk to your friends about the budget. Are you sharing expenses? Is one couple more economically advantaged than the other? Don’t get into a situation where you are heading to a fancy dinner or expensive play while the friend or other couple stress about how to afford that. Money talk ahead of time is far less embarrassing than being forced to have that conversation on the spot. You and your spouse need to talk about money too. How much can he spend at the tables? How much can she spend at the shops (or vice versa, of course)?
  • Adult ground rules: Discuss concerns ahead of time. If you are a homebody and she is a party animal, at what point can you call her or her friend’s cell to ask when they are coming back to the hotel without her feeling smothered? If he wants to spend all his time in the sports stadium with his buddy and she wants yoga on the beach, plan some crossover so you spend time with your friend(s), but also as a couple.

It Can Be Done

Opening up the family vacation to others is a wonderful way to make lasting memories with friends. Just put some thought into it beforehand so it can be a great vacation, not one where misunderstandings damage the friendship.

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