Has it been a while since you gave up trying to plan a family vacation because of how painful it can get? But my learnings from all the trips I have travelled to so far tell me that travelling with family can be quite magical. The memories you make with your sibling on a train ride to the Lake District or with Mom on a walking tour or with Dad while he flew off on his parachute for a jump – those are the memories that keep you strong when the going gets tough. Read on as I reveal my secrets for a memorable family holiday.
I get it, organising such a magical trip can get difficult. When you and your family members don’t really care for where you are going or what you are doing during the vacation, it really doesn’t matter how it is planned, as long as everyone gets some together time. But when you are actually there, on the vacation, there are bound to be some things that will not appeal to the parents – like chilling with music on the beach at night, and some things will not appeal to the kids – like long drawn brunches or sitting in the car for long hours on a drive.
Also, on a regular day while at home, everyone is out of home by morning, either off to work or class or school and the only time the family really spends together is during dinner at night. But on a holiday, you are with each other 24X7. Those slightly cute traits sure can get on your nerves on a 8-9 day family holiday. So here are a few things I have learnt while planning and organising a holiday with my family.
As a kid, holidays were mostly about sightseeing with family. But now that the kids (me and my sister) are grown up, all four of us – Mom, Dad me and Yuktie (my sister) have very different personalities and hence interests. While Mom, a vegetarian, is a poet and is open to some amount of sightseeing, she will be most happy shopping for souvenirs, or just sitting in the outdoors and relaxing in the fresh air.
Dad on the other hand, will not stay still for a minute. He HAS to explore everything there is to do in the place we are going to. He loves adventure sports. He is a doctor and spends all his time travelling for medical camps with ngos while in our home city. So while on a holiday he loves to combine exploring the place, more seeing the outdoors on a cycle ride, paragliding, sky diving… you get the drift. He also enjoys sampling local food but is a vegetarian, so that is a rare combination to find especially when travelling internationally.
Both my parents are just about experiencing the beauty of travelling, especially to international destinations. Both of them are just about getting to understand what is it that they like or not about a mountain or beach destination or things to do there.
Yuktie, a vegetarian too wants to do everything, is a fitness fanatic, can’t decide between dieting or gorging on Punjabi food, loves to relax and read a book, go for an art and craft workshop and enjoys adrenaline pumping adventure sports. And then there’s me – Diipti.
I like to go where my feet take me, I pick one or two things I definitely want to do at a destination and leave the rest to chance. Most of the time it works out beautifully while travelling solo. I like to soak in the vibe of the place combined with sampling local cuisine (the reason why I turn non vegetarian while travelling). I enjoy being in the outdoors, and love something as simple as a nature trail to a heart pumping trek/ rafting expedition too.
What kind of Food Does everyone Like?
This is often ignored and can cause a terrible set back to the family holiday. Personally, when I travel solo I enjoy sampling EVERYTHING local, be it vegetarian or non vegetarian, flavoured, spiced or raw. But while travelling with family, it is VITAL to keep in mind what everyone likes to eat. In my family’s case, everyone except me is a strict vegetarian. So we made sure we ear marked vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Nusa Dua, Seminyak, Ubud, Kilimantan and everywhere we planned to explore.
You know, I have met so many friends and travellers who tell me they happily survived on bread and potatoes or cheese throughout their trip. I don’t understand how they could have been happy throughout the trip on that diet. After all, we are the food we eat! Especially with family, where Indian parents need their dose of rice, chapattis and veggies, it is important to keep in mind the right places to eat. Bali was again a great option as there were a couple of Indian restaurants as well as a couple of Vegan ones.
Everyone Must Identify Three Activities Each
A few months before every family holiday, I make it a point to tell everyone to read about the destination we are heading to and select at least three activities they would like to do there. This helps plan the itinerary such that everyone gets to do what they like and invariably at least one of the three activities overlap with at least two people. This is vital as doing this exercise determines everyone’s satisfaction of having done something they like on a trip.
An experiment I tried on a Family Holiday to London
To give you an example, a couple of years back on a family holiday to London, I kept telling Mom to read up and select some things she may want to do. She procrastinated and eventually just went along with Dad’s long list of things to do in London. It was an experiment I tried to orient Mom and Dad into travelling on their own internationally. The four of us spent the first 3 days together after which the next four days spent doing what each of us wanted to do. I went on to Lake District, Yuktie came along and Mom accompanied Dad with his tours around London, Oxford, Manchester, etc. The result – he enjoyed exploring but she was tired at the end of most days and did not enjoy the experience at all.
And then What finally worked
So this time for our holiday to Bali, after the tickets where booked, everyone invested a day or two each to figure out what it is they would like to do there. The good thing about Bali is that there is a lot to do, unlike most beach destinations, Bali also has a lot of temples, volcanic mountains in the nearby vicinity, making it a really good option for families. So after everyone got back with a good idea of where Bali was on the map and what they would like to do there, we called a family meeting.
Mom first. She wanted to do:
1. Nature trail around the rice paddies
2. drive to Mt.Kintamani and Lake Batur, have a hot Indonesian chai (local speciality)
3. Shopping for handicrafts and souvineers
1. Trek to Lake Batur
2. All the water sports at the beach
3. Try local vegetarian food – Gado Gado (vegetable stew), Lac lac (green idli), Engine (Sweet black rice)
There is so much more he wanted to do (these three barely scratch the surface of his list!) But for ease of planning these were the top three.
1. Textile workshop at Threads of Life
2. Cycling/ ATV tour around rice paddies
3. Chill at the beach with a book
4. Shopping at Seminyak
1. Learn Surfing
So at the family meeting, we put everyone’s list together along with a few must see must dos while in Bali and automatically our 4 day holiday scheduled itself out.
Day 1: Arrive at noon, late lunch, rest and relax at the hotel. Evening head out for sunset at Tanha Lot temple.
Day 2: Drive to Ubud, while Yuktie attended her textile workshop in the morning, the three of us spent the time exploring Monkey park and walking around Ubud Market. Around noon, we drove to see the rice terraces and enjoyed a lovely lunch there. Post lunch we went on further north to Kintamani and Lake Batur, had a fabulous of the crater and lake while sipping a cuppa coffee and drive back in the evening to relax by the beach for the rest of the evening.
Day 3: Dad went on for his whirlwind water sports day trip, where he tried everything under the sun – parasailing, jet skiing, sea walk exploring the corals, under water scooter ride, etc. etc! While I wanted to learn surfing, I was nursing a knee injury from a recent accident, so the three of us relaxed and took a massage by the beach. Post lunch, the three of us drove down to Seminyak for some shopping while we left dad at another beach for a few hours of snorkeling and scuba. All four of us got back to enjoy the sunset by the pool side later in the evening.
Day 4: We had a flight back at noon, so we spent the morning relaxing at the beach, swimming, jet skiing, and generally being beach bums.
Conclusion and Inference
I will share a detailed post about this family holiday in Bali. It was terribly a terribly short one (only 4 days in Bali! You got to be kidding me. But the tickets were booked as a deal my my Dad and the genius that he is, he thought he could cover his long list in just four days and that was that!) But the idea of sharing this brief was to give you a sample of what happens when everyone gets to do some things they love and some things as a family. Everyone is that much more involved and at the same time, everyone gets their own space. Keeping a few parameters in mind, in the case of my family – vegetarian (preferably Indian food) Mom is looking forward to Spain next year and guess what, she is already on her intermediate level course at institute of hispania learning Spanish.
Now that’s a huge improvement I’d say!