Nothing tests camaraderie among families like living together in one rental, especially with someone else’s kids.
Before deciding to cut costs by booking with another group, bare your soul about budgets, expectations, and petty annoyances. So that you won’t return as enemies, be brutally honest ahead of time.
Reveal your budget and needs.
Be truthful about money and desires, which are crucial vacation components. Do you want a beachfront rental with a big pool but your friends like to save dollars by staying a few blocks from the ocean?
See if either family can compromise without busting their budgets or being resentful. If not, consider booking different units at the same destination.
Discuss the bedroom arrangements and costs.
Even if a coin flip decides who gets the master suite with the private bath and who has to cram into the twin bedded room with the garage view and hall bath, beware. By midweek, the couple in the smaller room could be annoyed without feeling comfortable enough to discuss the problem.
Booking a unit with two master suites is the best solution. If that’s not possible, switch rooms mid-week or agree that the couple with the luxe accommodation pays more.
Talk about how to split food costs.
Halving the grocery bill seems like a no-brainer, especially since both families’ seven-year-olds like mac 'n' cheese and hot dogs for dinner.
What happens if your friend’s always-hungry 15-year-old tags along, the one who prefers steak and salmon? Although it seems petty to point out that the teen eats like a linebacker, forcing the other family to absorb an extra hundred dollars or so of his meal costs might rankle.
Discuss dining out
Agreed: Both families want to eat breakfasts in, pack sandwiches for picnic lunches, and dine out four of seven nights. Not agreed: You prefer cheap eats—pizza, pasta, and burgers—but the other family envisions Caribbean lobster and brandied duck at a trendy restaurant.
Talk about whether it’s okay to dine separately and if so, how often? See if you can comfortably compromise on a place for some dinners if eating communally is important to the other family.
Decide how much to do together and apart.
Not even the best of friends do everything together. Team up for joint interests such as exploring the aquarium and the hands-on science museum, but include time to be with your own family. Discuss this before the trip so that your friends won’t feel deserted when you and your troop head off for a snorkel trip.
Come to a consensus about chores and bedtimes.
Establish house rules for chores and bedtimes. If your kids always set the table and load the dishwasher but your friends’ children are accustomed to being waited on, find a compromise before the vacation so that you and your children won’t have a meltdown.
Similarly, set a bedtime for the kids that’s comfortable for all.
Discuss laundry and cleaning tasks.
At a rental house, someone needs to wash the dishes, do the laundry, make the beds, and sweep the floors. You can eliminate the issue by booking a staffed villa or a condo that comes with maid service. If you plan to tidy up yourselves, fess up to your discomfort with wet towels in the living room and dirty dishes in the kitchen sink.
Agree on discipline.
Nobody’s perfect, not even your own children and certainly not someone else’s. Come to an understanding about what misbehavior requires disciplining, then get on the same system whether it’s time outs from play, losing screen time, or something else.
Be wise: Resist reprimanding your friends’ child even if he keeps throwing a basketball against the bedroom wall. Parents are sensitive. Live with the problem (it’s only a week), or redirect the budding NBA star by asking him to join you in a game of hoops outside.
Establish a souvenir budget.
Children crave souvenirs. Blended trips go more smoothly if all parents agree on an amount of money to give the kids. That way, your child won’t wail that he could only afford a puzzle but his best friend purchased a mini-drone.