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Family vacation 2.0: How travelling with your parents gets better with age

The Jungle is a column that uses connections through social media to explore the fault lines in adult relationships.

Who cooks what; who sleeps where; what everyone says (or, worse, doesn't say) is only the beginning of the well-worn conflict that marks the holiday season. It can be skirted, somewhat, when a family skips tradition and takes off somewhere together. A literal and figurative flight from normalcy can provide bonding time and breathing room, far from the usual family habitat and its history, where long-established roles are slipped into too easily. But family is family, and going on vacation with the whole crew is a particular kind of stress, at Chrismukkah or not.

"Travel used to be stressful with them, strictly guided by the brochure," tweeted @DTEP, about his early memories of family vacations. Kids, with no say in the location, itinerary or accommodations, usually have not-exactly-fond recollections of these trips. (Visiting New York, I always insisted on walking a block ahead of my parents. They thought it was bratty; I wanted to know what the city felt like.)

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With a few years and the inevitable shifts in parent-kid relationships as the kids become adults, trips together can be a whole different – and potentially way better – idea. @DTEP tweeted about travelling more recently with his folks, who are "No longer worried about controlling what we are exposed to, or moulding a person … Enjoying that. … Seems like each year they get a little cooler."

@VAinTO, who went to an all-inclusive in the Dominican with her family, found too that parents mellowed with age. She tweeted of her once-strict parents, "We spent most nights lobby-bar hopping trying to find the most ridiculous drinks."

There are still challenges. @VAinTO shared a room with her brothers, "which was a bit weird. Locked them out every afternoon for 'me time.' " Before our first trip together in the 10 years since I'd left home, my mother and older sisters somehow knew we'd be having a formal dinner every night. I had packed one dress. As an adult, I only ever travelled alone, adventure-style, or with friends and boyfriends and backpacks, to places where you carry your own towels. (I also didn't know that "family vacation" meant eating every meal together, working out together, and moving from beach to pool to beach together.)

There are also revelations: My mom wakes up every day to see the sunrise; my middle sister with the big finance job reads Twilight. @VAinTO wrote, "Youngest brother used to be the straight-edge odd man out in my family. We got him hammered w/o our parents the 2nd afternoon." @DTEP says, "Now it's much more loose, like travelling with friends."

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