Family trips are ’emotionally challenging’

Dawdling relatives make it a strain to go on family vacations, especially for one reader who likes to explore. Carolyn Hax explores the options.



June 3, 2024 - 2:08 PM

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Adapted from online discussions.

Dear Carolyn: How do I gently tell my spouse and daughter I do not enjoy family trips with them when hotels and other expensive activities may be involved? I want to get up and learn about the city or town or park. They get up, dawdle, argue and take forever to accomplish anything, then ultimately end up sacked out.

Because of these behaviors, I only take them with me two times a year to visit my father and sister, where they can crash in my summer house and have “their vacations” as they like. This saves me time and frustration. Am I wrong? How do I gently or tactfully tell them, “No, I will not take you on my road trips because I find traveling with you emotionally challenging”? — Anonymous

Anonymous: You can just tell them you like to do stuff on vacations and they like to be slugs on vacation, so you’re not travel-compatible. There’s no right or wrong, both are valid vacation styles, so talk to them like the fellow humans they are.

If they won’t respond that way, in gracious agreement on the obvious, then that’s the real problem — not travel incompatibilities.

You can also travel with them and just do your thing on your schedule, which they can then choose to join you for or sleep through. That doesn’t solve the wasted-money problem, but it can wipe out in one stroke the problem of waiting around for them to oversleep and bicker your entire morning away.

Dear Carolyn: My childhood had some really rough situations in it, and I grew up with a really negative inner dialogue, along the lines of thinking people probably don’t like me or don’t want to be my friend. So, with the exception of a very small group of people — my husband and my children — I tend to hold people at arm’s length.

It gets lonely, but this last year, from volunteering for my son’s swim team, I became super friendly with a bunch of parents and somehow developed some friendships that feel meaningful and sincere. I really like these people, and I think they actually like me, too.

So where do I go from here? The season is over, and I would like to perhaps maintain some contact until next season, but it feels scary to reach out and suggest coffee or dinner or something. How do adults make friends? I am such a klutz at this. — Klutz

Klutz: You already know how. You’re just wishing there were a way to do it that doesn’t leave you as vulnerable.

But vulnerability is how intimacy happens. So, stay in touch by text with these new people, and suggest coffee or dinner or something. Also don’t let a “no” or two scare you off; these families may be on to their next activity and not have a lot of time. As long as people are responding to friendly outreach — even just a, “Hey, I thought of you today when I heard/saw/went to _____” — you’re safe to believe they actually want to stay in touch.

If they’re not responding or always-always busy, then refile them as seasonal friends, pending more information next swim season. I.e., don’t fill in blanks with your own narrative that they must not want to be your friend.

Good luck. If it helps, this is hard for most people — it isn’t just you or the (very unfortunate) negative feedback you got as a kid.

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