TIPS for Traveling with IN-LAWS

My boyfriend and I are going to Europe next spring with his parents, and his sister and her boyfriend. I get along with my in-laws and I am very good friends with his sister. My boyfriend and I consider our selves the travel experts in the family, so we are in charge of planning the whole trip. I am needing some tips of things to address before we get there, and also tips on what the schedule should be like. Should I plan ahead days that we are spending apart? days on which they might have dinner alone? etc The trip is 3 weeks long. His sister and her boyfriend will only be with us for 1 week out of the whole time. *we are booking separate hotel rooms for each couple
We have already agreed on cities - the itinerary is set. I don't want to offend anyone, but I know we get very indecisive when choosing where to eat, where to go, etc. I also know that I will want to have some alone time with my partner. Suggestions?

Posted by gone
2081 posts

Jael, If you all live in the same city or close, why not plan a pre trip meeting(s) and sit down and hash it out. have an agenda already and contact them ahead of time to have their concerns on the agenda so you dont waste any time. I would try to hash out as much of the "low hanging fruit" as possible and that way you can spend more time doing what you want to when over there. With so many people allergic to everything under the sun now adays especially those of us in the USA, that could cause issues in the food department. that is something that would be known ahead of time so it shouldnt be an issue when you get over there. Also, dont try to plan all your meals ahead of time since i think ive had more luck just stopping and just trying this or that place to eat. Sometimes its not that great, but you wont know until you try. with regards to spending "time apart" i think its a great idea, however that would depend on the individual and couple. One comment. There no reason why you all cant split up when over there in a city or cities and go to the sight seeing by them selves. You can plan to meet up for lunch or dinner or not. that way each can enjoy the sights at their own pace. If a couple/group decides to NOT see something, then so be it, but its a possible way of doing it. good luck in your planning. happy trails.

Posted by Rosalyn
1416 posts

Traveling with others can be a land mine, with the danger growing exponentially as the number of them increases. Sometimes the issues only surface when you are already on your trip. You know the parties involved, and we don't. However, based on my own experience of traveling with friends and relatives, I see some potential points of conflict. What has caused the most irritation for us has been restaurant choices, both with the aforementioned friends and one relative. On one trip with the friends, the man seemed to think that he was in charge every day. The relative in question is a know-it-all, who scorns guidebook recommendations. He finds fault with many places in ways that often can't be predicted, so it's hard to know what to avoid. (The fault-finding is always loud enough for us to hear and repeated many times.) If I were with him for 3 weeks, it would spoil the trip for me. If you can be candid with these folks, I would recommend that you all sit down and have a discussion. Perhaps you could start off by saying you've read warnings about these issues and want to plan how to avoid them. Try to come up with some plan for choosing. Maybe, some will say they don't even care about restaurant choices. One warning: we have found that guidebook recommended restaurants can be too far away from where we are at the moment, closed, temporarily closed for renovation, etc. Don't get too fixated on one, and do check to make sure your choice is actually available.
I'd also try to get everyone to select some must-do sights. You could then plan to see, on your own, some that don't interest the others. Again, I think that planning ahead will help to avert bad feelings while traveling.

Posted by Toni
Charlotte, NC, USA
3036 posts

I'd consider planning a FEW sights to see together. Talk about those ahead of time. Maybe plan to do an orientation hop on/hop off bus tour together or do one (or more) of the 'big/must do' sights together in each location (such as the Tower of London or Vigeland Sculpture park...). TENTATIVELY plan which day(s) you will do these (always PLAN on being flexible based on weather, etc.). Discuss how you will decide when/where to eat. I'd think you'd want to eat lunch or dinner together at least every other day or so, if not more often. We seldom (if ever) plan where we will eat before we go, or even much in advance. But we don't eat at places where reservations are needed. Often we just pick a place while we are out. If we are re-visiting a city, we do often know places we want to dine at and talk about it during the day. Everyone should agree ahead of time that it's ok to agree to disagree about things and that going your own way sometimes is not 'mean' or rude, etc. If you have a FEW pre-planned common activities, and then decide to do more things together, ok. If you decide to just go your own way at other times, ok. The women might want to plan something for just them, the same for the guys. Don't feel that couples have to do everything as a couple! I would plan a way to keep in touch. Maybe get cell phones just for the trip, or something. I'm sure someone on these boards will suggest a good tech solution for that issue.
You are doing the right thing thinking about this ahead of time. Talking about it ahead of time will also help.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
2028 posts

There was a thread on here back in August that was something like your question. They were going together on a tour but among the many responses were some good tips of things to cover together before the trip and suggestions for during the trip. You might get some help from those responses. Here's the link: If the link doesn't work, go to the search box and input 'how not to lose your travel partner'.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
2740 posts

There are very few people I could be around for 3 weeksespecially "family." Have you considered taking an organized tour? Like a Rick Steves' Tour. It'd take the pressure off you as the travel planner/guide. Where are you planning on going? I would suggest you not try to see everything in every country. Keep your itinerary to 3-4 places. Take things slower, rather than a fast paced trip that'll be a blur. Each couple should try to be somewhat independent and not plan on being with the other couple every hour of every day.
Have the parents research where they'd like to go, and what they'd like to see. Nothing worse than people taking in tourist sites they don't care to see.

Posted by Janet
Lakewood, WA
92 posts

Sounds like it could be really fun or a really big disaster. It will depend on everyone. Be sure to be honest before you go about what you want to do in the trip but be flexable once you are travelling. I would also say have a group meeting just to go over expectations, travel styles, food/restaurants types and general group pecking order situations, and emergency or unexpected situatuins. Then another one where you re-hash your itinerary, daily expenses, food buget and tranportation preferences. Even though you and your boyfriend are the trip planners be sure to have everyones input on the sights to see together. Maybe have one person be "the tour director" of the day so everyone has to take charge and no one person gets stuck deciding everything. If you have any pet peeves or irritating habits from the people you are travelling with be sure to address it before your trip.
Try to have a good time no metter what.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
11649 posts

selves the travel experts in the family No matter how well you may get along with the family of your friend, if you put yourself out as the expert or leader you will, if anything goes even slightly askew, probably find yourself the target. Nothing unites a group like a target. It is worth making sure that everybody's needs and desires are catered for. Remember that a group moves as slowly as its slowest member, and that when one person is late to breakfast or dinner, or needs a toilet break or is hungry, everybody is affected.

Posted by Ken
Lafayette, Colorado
82 posts

Since you already have the cities set, I would recommend having each couple buy the RS guide book (and others like Lonely Planet)that covers those cities/regions/countries that you will visit. Ask everyone to read about your destinations and then make an individual list of "things I want to see/do". As an earlier post suggested, get the entire group together and review everyone's list. You will soon see that there are certain things everyone wants to see (the Louvre) and some thing maybe only 2-3 people want to see (Versailles). This will help you set up a proposed agenda, and you can build in whole group activities and individual or small group activities. We have traveled with a group of 5-7 family members like your group and have found that doing a museum in the morning together, then leaving the afternoon open for people to pick from 2-3 activities works well. You can then meet back at the hotel at an appointed time for dinner or another activity.
If you have a rough agenda set, then divide up some of the responsibilities. Someone can volunteer to make reservations for transportation needs(train, boat, car rental), rooms, museums--anything that needs to be done ahead of time and can be done online. When these items are shared, everyone has buy-in to the trip and no one is over burdened with too much responsibility.

Posted by stan
Kansas City
730 posts

my suggestion is that all of you sit down for a long detailed discussion. You need to know what everyone's experience level with travel in Europe, travel in general, their expectations, and their likes and dislikes. Your goal would be to find out who is going to have a problem with things like what they will see for breakfast or strange coffee, people who don't speak English, strange restrooms, funny money, excess luggage, and all those things that make some people unpleasant travel companions. It would also be important that you set the tone as to how willing you are to take all the responsibility for daily planning, choosing restaurants, hotel problems, etc. Maybe go through a typical daily schedule with them. If they don't want to read the guidebook, maybe you can get a couple of RS videos, and you can watch together and discuss. My experience has been that there will be something annoying about everyone, but if you don't set the tone ahead of time, it will be much harder to deal with there.

Posted by Judy
Adelaide, SA, Australia
838 posts

A group planning session is a must. I would go so far as to have each couple list their 'must sees'. Also what expectations are for each couple re meal arrangements. Sound them out how they feel about 'doing their own thing' in various places. As for eating, we just check out what is in the vicinity when it's time for lunch or dinner. Most eateries have a menu with what's on offer and prices displayed.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
5664 posts

Jael, I agree it's a good idea to build in some independent travel time for each of the couples. Perhaps spend the first day in each city together, getting oriented, then start some alternating group/couple time. Meals are a great time to meet up and talk about what each couple did that day or that afternoon (dinners are best for this, since at lunch the group might be split in several different areas). There are probably some days you'll want to be together the whole day, other times not so much. Alternating group mornings and group afternoons might help satisfy both the early risers and the late sleepers, at least some of the time. Group meeting beforehand may help, but everyone has to be honest about what they want and what they can handle in terms of activity level, budget, interests, etc. Do you want a group splurge meal sometimes? Does someone need a shopping-only afternoon that not everyone is interested in doing?

Posted by Sharon R.
Lincoln, Nebraska, USA
57 posts

Jael, I have an idea that my family used a few times when on vacation with at least one meal a day eaten out. The choice of restaurant was rotated between family members. And I believe there was a rule that no one else could complain about that choice. Seems to me that would be a very good rule for anything that choices can sometimes be made at the time and maybe not planned ahead. Having time alone or just with the significant other is a very good idea. That way if you want to see something no one else does you can do it without making someone else unhappy. Although sometimes when it hasn't been possible for be to not see something everyone else wants to see I have enjoyed it. I just hadn't thought I would beforehand. It makes sense to have a few simple rules that everyone can follow. Maybe call them guidelines instead of rules. I hope you have a good trip.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
11649 posts

Jael What did you think of these answers? Or we all talking in an empty room?

Posted by BG
Albany, CA, USA
1545 posts

One thing I recommend, particularly if you have not been to Europe before, is to understand the exchange rate between Euros and US dollars, and for everyone to realize what things are actually going to cost over there. I have heard from others how shocked they were at how expensive things were. So this is not something you want yourself or your companions to be shocked by. This can put a real damper on what you do.

Posted by Ptocruz
35 posts

Hi everyone thank you for your replies. I have a few ideas now of what we will talking about when we meet. Everyone except one person has been to Europe so we are all aware of how everything works there. We are in charge of picking sights but I am still going to ask them to give me their must visit list before I create a general daily schedule.His parents won't do much without us so we will be their tour guides. They don't really care where we go they just want us to be their guides. His sister and bf do have some specific things they wanna do so I will leave time for those. I like the idea of assigning each person a day to pick a meal. I also like the idea of having days for dinner as a family and days for dinner each couple. We are thinking of doing major sights in the am then providing a few hours for a siesta then a more lax sight. Then meet up for dinner or just go to dinner from there.
When we meet I will have two sample days to show them and see what they think. Also set guidelines. In regards to money everyone is responsible for their own expenses. I'll have a budget w breakdown of approximate expenses before we leave and I will be sharing that via email as I plan. We are not sharing rooms and that's already been discussed. My biggest concern is restaurant choosing ... We are a very indecisive family ha ha !!

Posted by Bob
Gettysburg, PA
1443 posts

Jael, if I am reading correctly & you are going to travel with your boy friend AND your husband's parents, things might get a little complicated!

Posted by Allen
Lafayette, LA
207 posts

How does one's boyfriend's parents become in-laws? Did you get hitched on the trip?