For most families, the best vacations come with swimming pools and maid service; for us, they come with the Russells and the Hanauer/Joneses. Our three families banded together as a parenting support group back when we had all just graduated from birthing class. Then the Hanauer/Joneses left town, and the Parents' Group, as we call ourselves, was transformed into a travel club of sorts. That was five years ago, and there are now five kids in the mix. Together we've convoyed through Nova Scotia; gathered at a lakeside compound in Rome, Maine; rented a Milan, New York, farmhouse; and camped in my family's backyard in the Bronx. Of all the trips my husband and I have taken with our two kids, some have been more exotic than these P.G. jaunts, but none has been as purely restorative or fun. As our kids jump in the water, play barefoot baseball, and generally live it up, we adults talk and talk about—what else?—the kids. We also divvy up the chores, and fully honor one another's need to move in different directions or be Bofas on the sofa (for translation, see Dr. Seuss). When multifamily vacations work, the benefits are extraordinary. But it's not always easy to find your group travel groove. With that in mind, I surveyed our gang on what makes for smooth going. My advice: Heed our words, find some friends, and go play.
Are you a match?
Before hitting the road with another clan, make sure that: 1. The kids click, and the parents enjoy being around one another's children. 2. Your family rules jibe with theirs, particularly concerning TV, treats, and bedtime. 3. Your budgets and spending habits are similar. 4. A few of you are willing to take turns being the organizer. (Not the boss, the organizer!) 5. You like doing the same things—or are open to group divergence. To delve more deeply into family dynamics, I recommend The Bitch in the House and The Bastard on the Couch, two essay collections edited by the P.G.'s own Cathi Hanauer and Daniel Jones. For group travel deals, see www.groople.com.