With spring breaks and - soon! - summer vacations upon us, this “How to Be a Guest” post is for those of you headed to beach, mountain, lake, or other vacation homes with at least one other party – whether that party includes other couples and children or is just a gaggle of fun-loving friends. Key to getting the most out of these shared vacations: managing expectations, balancing group participation with rocking it on your own, and a healthy dose of going with the flow. A few other things that will add to your enjoyment – and that of everyone with you:
1. Sign up for two “food blocks”
Part of the attraction of vacationing at a home instead of a hotel is the kitchen, freeing everyone from the endless parade of expensive and crowded restaurants in tourist areas. While your group may decide to do some dining out, it’s polite to offer to oversee at least a couple of eating moments to mitigate the amount of shopping and planning that has to happen once everyone has arrived. For instance you may do dinner one night, and also bring an assortment of fruit that can be used throughout the time together.
Special dietary requirements notwithstanding, most food contributed in these environments should be considered common. If your host (or the rest of the group) develops new plans for the items you brought, go along.
2. Help make the space work for everyone
When a group – or group of groups – travels together, space gets tight: full families are put in a single room, bathrooms are shared, and common areas frequently have inadequate seating. Go a bit beyond the expected etiquette of keeping your space tidy, containing your toiletries, and corralling your belongings in your room when not in use. For instance, go ahead and stand if you’re lingering over coffee when others still need a spot to eat, take turns sitting crisscross applesauce on the floor if comfy sofas and armchairs are at a premium, and be aware of sharing things like coveted parking spaces.
3. Participate in the planning of each day – but don’t dominate it.
The appeal of a week away is different for everyone, whether within a single family, or across a large group. You may have hopes of hitting the slopes or lazing on the beach, or maybe you need to fit in marathon training every day. Chances are good that you’ll achieve at least some of your vacation goals, even if nobody else in the group shares them – especially if everyone has their own transportation. In the flurry of communication that precedes the getaway, it’s fine let your cohorts know what you hope to do, share any enticing suggestions you’ve received for things to do or places to eat in the area, and help to make any necessary reservations. Setting some loose expectations helps everyone to have a better time and reduces the amount of behind-the-back chatter and tension. But maintaining flexibility is also key and may allow you to discover a whole new – enjoyable! – way to vacation.
4. Wake up early
Extended group gatherings often lend themselves to late nights – campfires, a few extra glasses of wine, old stories told to new friends, etc. Still, having one person sleep way in can throw off the entire group’s schedule. Being a bit late for breakfast is one thing, interfering with planned departure times or is another. Whether you’re up into the wee hours or not, do your best to make sure you don’t hold up the group flow, and give yourself extra time if you typically take a bit longer getting out the door.
If your co-vacationers know and are fine with your plans to hit snooze, just be ready to forgive the noise that will inevitably start to pick up after everyone else in the group has had their second cup of coffee.
5. Remember everyone in your thank yous!
Sometimes you’ll vacation at a home owned by a friend who’s not joining you, or you’re invited by someone to their parents’ home. Whether you have a physical host for the break or have just been directed to the hidden key, make absolute sure to send formal thank yous to any hosts “in absentia”. And if you’ve all just rented a home together, make sure anyone who played a major part in coordinating logistics knows his/her efforts are appreciated.