My Kids and my Friend's Kid on Vacation in MexicoThis is one of those things you don’t want to admit. But I’m gonna take a chance here that I’m not the only one who finds it easier and – I’ll say it– more fun, to go on a family holiday with another family.

In fact, I’m going to go even further and say that without another family — a family vacation isn’t much of a vacation at all.I love my family. I just need a little…distraction, too.

When other people are around, my kids behave better. They fight less. They’re charming. The whining is cut to a serious minimum. When it’s just the four of us, they let it all hang out. And sometimes what hangs out isn’t something I want to see.

If we’re with another family with kids, it’s like my two are on an extended playdate. Which means that I get a break from entertaining them. I get a break from them fighting each other, and I get to have a playdate too – with the other couple, and even with my husband, when we alternate babysitting duties with the other parents.

It’s family time without too much family time. Ahhhhh.

Of course, finding a family you can travel with isn’t easy. The parents have to like each other. And while younger kids will pretty much play with anyone, once your kids get a bit older (say past 8) you have to make sure the kids get along, too.
Once you’ve passed those substantial hurdles, there’s the “parenting style” compatibility issue. Are you strict, but your friends are the types to let their kids run around like crazy? Do you like to keep to a schedule – get your kids to bed at a reasonable hour – but your friends take the attitude that it’s vacation…why be so rigid? Are your kids picky eaters, and the other family adventurous ones, so you’ll be holding them back?
Some ground rules for finding the right family to travel with:

1. Do not overdo the togetherness thing. Eat some meals just with your family.  Spend an afternoon away from the other family.  Once you’ve found a family you can travel with it would be a shame to lose them because you were on overload.

2. Set parental intervention ground rules.  When we go on vacation with my life-long friend Jen and her family,  I know that I can discipline her girls and she knows she can do the same with my two.  If there’s ever an “incident,” I feel totally comfortable sending either of our kids for a time out. And I trust her — want her- to do the same.

3.  Pick a family with similarly aged kids.  Your kid will probably only think your friend’s toddler is adorable for about 24 hours.  After that, the little one will just feel more like an annoying little brother than a playmate.

4. And this last rule from my husband:  Pick a family that, if they called you one Friday night and announced they needed to stay over for a few nights while their house was painted, you’d be happy — really happy — to have.

5. Stick with one other family.  I have friends who go away every year with a group of families.  Inevitably, one of those families isn’t included the next time around.  It’s hard to enjoy meals when your have nine kids to corral. It’s tough enough to find one family you’re really good at traveling with — don’t push your luck.

6. Single parents almost always do better traveling with another single parent. Divide and conquer — and give each other breaks.

There are lots and lots of factors to finding the right family to travel with. But once you do – you’ll find that your family vacations get….vacationy-er for all of you.