How to balance a family visit with holiday hopes

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By Lyndal Phillips

You need a holiday. But you haven’t invested in a family visit in a shamefully long time. If you don’t spend your holiday visiting your family, you feel guilty. If you do spend your holiday time on a family visit, you don’t feel rested. Sound familiar?

No one wants to disappoint their family. But, sometimes staying with family feels more like an obligation than a holiday.

Family visits and restorative holidays don’t have to be mutually exclusive experiences. Read on to find out how you can combine a family visit with holiday hopes.  Imagine being able to meet the needs of everyone and enjoy the best of both worlds?

#1 Plan your family visit to coincide with an event you enjoy

Coordinate your travel plans so a visit to your family coincides with an event you might enjoy. Have a browse through the ‘What’s On’ or events section of the local council website to find out about upcoming events. There might be a Writers’ Festival, a car show, an exhibition or a sporting event that piques your interest. Book some tickets and give yourself a secondary reason to visit your family. Combining your family visit with an event of interest is one way of bringing together the need to visit your family with your hopes for a happy holiday.

#2 Research local tourist attractions

Even though you might have been returning to the same family home for decades, have you ever arrived with the mindset of a tourist? Think like a tourist and treat yourself with outings to local attractions. There might be a bush track you’ve been meaning to explore, a museum you’ve never entered or a guided walking tour you’ve always wanted to do. Research local tourist attractions and experience familiar sights through fresh eyes.

#3 Visit family during the season you most enjoy

If you tend to visit family at the same time every year, consider arriving in a different season. Mixing up the timing of your visit might provide a refreshing view of a town or region. Think about your favourite time of year in that location. Have you been in autumn when the leaves are turning?  What about summer for the wildflowers? Or winter for snow and cosy time by the fire? If your family live in the north, save visits from the southern states for the cold winter months and warm your bones while visiting family!

#4 Plan family gatherings before you arrive

Friends with family in other states often complain that on return from ‘home holiday’ visits they feel nothing but exhausted and tense. Traipsing between the homes of relatives can be tiring, especially if you have children or teenagers in tow! It can be helpful to plan family gatherings well before you arrive. If you know in advance the location and timing of catch up dinners and group outings, you can balance these with plans for quiet days of rest and recuperation.

#5 Hire your own accommodation

If it is possible to hire your own accommodation on your visit to family, it might be a practical way to give yourself the space you need to feel relaxed.  Having your own space can help to make your visit to family feel more like a holiday as the potential for down time is increased. When you have your own accommodation, you can rest with a quiet night in after a large daytime gathering.

While I’m hugely appreciative of family offering a guest bedroom when we visit, it can be exhausting if you’re someone who craves your own space. Recently we visited family interstate and booked a flight and accommodation deal, just like tourists. We enjoyed catching up with family, but also looked forward to knowing we had our own space to go back to at the end of each day. And, we could host them in their local digs. They enjoyed being able to come and enjoy a drink on the balcony at a local hotel that they would otherwise never have reason to visit.

#6 Divide your time

Sometimes dividing your time between being with family and being alone can create a balanced holiday. If you have a fortnight of holiday time you could spend the first week on a family visit, and the second week at a nearby, but separate location. This idea of dividing time could work well for a driving holiday. Calling in on family for a couple of nights on the way to and from your holiday destination is another way of combining your holiday time with a visit to family.

#7 Travel together

For a completely different approach, you could book bi-annual holidays in new destinations. Good deals on air fares and accommodation might be found if you can make your bookings well in advance. Exploring a new destination as an extended family might be a fun and memorable experience for everyone. No one has the pressure of hosting and everyone enjoys a holiday, together. Separate accommodation within the same resort, or apartment block is an easy way of ensuring everyone has their own space and privacy. You could even consider a family cruise with activities and day trips to suit all age groups and interests!

One of the more memorable ‘family visit holidays’ we’ve enjoyed was when we booked a large beach house in Nelson Bay – an almost-half-way point for all of us. The house was large enough that my brother and his family had one floor, and my family had the other. It was so relaxing, and we got to know each other in a new way in neutral territory. Everyone was so relaxed. We must do it again. – Julie

Careful planning, clear communication and considerate compromise can help create a happy balance between enjoying time with family while also benefiting from a restorative break.

How do you balance family visits with your holidays? What is your favourite family holiday activity?

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