The title of this post is a bit misleading because it implies that every friend is a good candidate for sharing a vacation home. I’d argue this is not the case — just because you are great friends at home doesn’t mean you are a good match to share a rental.
When I organized villa rentals for families as part of our Italy trip planning service, there were several occasions when families didn’t get along on the road and it tarnished the vacation for everyone. Going on holiday with a family and staying in adjacent hotel rooms is very different than sharing a home. The latter scenario means you are in close proximity to one another and travel preferences play a huge role in how things go.
1. What are your respective travel personalities? i.e. Are you active and like to be sightseeing 24×7 or are your happier lounging by the pool?
2. How regimented are you at home with meal and bedtime schedules and do you keep to those schedules on vacation?
3. Are you a clean freak or do you like a bit of chaos?
4. What is your travel budget? Do you like luxury accommodations and gourmet restaurants or do you prefer simple things on the road-this may be very different from how you live at home!
5. How old are you kids and will they have things in common with the kids of the other family?
Just because the answers to these questions may be vastly different, it doesn’t mean that you should opt out of a trip with friends. However, the less you have in common around these travel preferences, the more work you need to do at the front end with expectation setting and on the ground to ensure that things go smoothly.
1. If one family is very active when on vacation and another likes to lounge, the key is to set expectations ahead of time that you would love to stay together, but will most likely be on your own during the day.
2. People that keep to strict meal and bedtime schedules at home may not do so on vacation. It is important to have a candid conversation around your mutual approach around this. Bedtime is a tough one. It is very challenging to try and put your kids early if they are around other kids that stay up late. This might be a deal breaker.
3. People that are very neat at home are not suddenly messy on vacation and vice versa. If you know you’re going to be in a bad place if you are in chaos for a week and/or will feel the need to clean up after everyone, this is a red flag.
4. Travel budgets vary widely and even people that live grandly at home may prefer simple accommodations and meals when on vacation or again, vice versa! Assuming you can agree to accommodations that work for both of you, I think this is an issue you can work around with expectation setting and finding middle ground venues.
5. The reality is that kids that are friends at home will most likely get along on vacation. Age differences can play a role in what you can and will choose to do each day. A rough sketch and discussion of general activity plans will help ensure that every family spends time doing what works for them.
Room configuration. You absolutely need to understand how participating families will fit into the bedrooms of a rental home before committing to a property. If kids are older and don’t need to sleep right next to their parents, this makes things easier.
Master bedrooms. Sometimes the person that researches and books the rental will have “first choice” of bedrooms. That said, a week is a long time and if the bill is being split equally, then parents will want equivalent bedrooms. We’ve overcome this issue in the past by trading rooms mid-week.
Bathroom-to-bedroom ratios and set-up. Renovated luxury properties usually have a one-to-one ratio of bedrooms to bathrooms. Understand the set-up ahead of time and ensure it will work for all.
Housekeeping. Housekeeping policies vary widely. Some rentals only have final cleaning included. A house full of kids at the beach, for example, can be a messy affair. Of course, families can pitch in to clean the house on their own, but know this is the plan and/or arrange additional housekeeping ahead of time.
Meals. Understand if budgets or preferences drive wanting to cook at home vs. eating out for each family. If one family cooks in while the other eats out, this is not a big deal. If the plan is for all to cook in for a number of nights, a general outline of what you want to cook is helpful.
During our recent trip to France we decided that we’d eat breakfast and some lunches at home, but didn’t want to eat the same old “stuff” we always cook for dinner (especially since we were in France of all places). We agreed to his plan ahead of time and it worked perfectly!
Note that multi-generational family trips have additional, complicated issues that I’m not addressing here. Sharing a rental home can be a wonderful way to truly settle into a destination and live like a local. Plus, it can be much more relaxing for the parents when the kids have the constant company of other kids.
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