by Anna Seip
What’s better than summertime? Answer: Summer vacation! For many families, that week off includes renting a house at the beach. With your in-laws.Does that sound like the opposite of fun and relaxation to you? Don’t worry. With a little bit of planning, you can survive the week with your sanity intact. Here’s how:
Take your own car. Getting there is not half the fun if your mother- and father-in-law drive you crazy along the way. A road trip can test the best relationships. Even if carpooling makes sense and gas prices are high, don’t share a vehicle with your in-laws. If you do, you’ll be dependent on them for transportation the whole week. Besides, in your own car, your kids can drink from their sippy cups and eat snacks without worrying about messing up someone else’s interior.
Lock the bedroom door. When the family is divvying up the bedrooms of the beach house, make sure you get a room with a working lock on the door. Just because your children know to knock before entering someone’s bedroom, don’t expect your nieces and nephews to have the same manners. Of course, you and your husband won’t be getting romantic while your mother-in-law naps in the next room, but you’ll want the utmost privacy to change into your bathing suit. A simple lock will help you avoid any embarrassing situations that everyone will laugh about for years to come.
Ignore your sister-in-law. If you haven’t gotten along before the vacation, you’re not going to magically become best buds during the vacation. Be cordial but keep your distance. Sick of sitting on the beach listening to her talk about how brilliant her kids are? Take a swim and put an ocean between the two of you. That’s what all that water is there for—to muffle the annoying sounds on land.
Let your father-in-law control the grill. Does he leave the burgers bloody in the middle? Is his chicken soot-covered and rubbery? The grill symbolizes manhood for him, so let the guy sweat over the coals if he wants. This might be the perfect opportunity for you to take the husband and kids out for a seafood dinner.
Remember, you get only so many vacations in a lifetime. Even if you don’t like the company, you’re at the beach. For a whole week. With your husband and kids. How bad can it be? In today’s economy, many people won’t be taking a vacation at all. Focus on the positive.
Offer to cook breakfast for everyone. This cheap and easy meal is always a crowd-pleaser. Start fixing it when you wake up, and your family will get to hit the beach early. With or without everyone else.
Avoid touchy topics. You already know to ignore the bait if someone brings up religion or politics. But, what about the more personal subjects? If Uncle Ray asks what you paid for your house or car, deflect it with a good-natured, “Too much, I’m sure.” If he can’t take a hint and continues to prod, then smile and say, “Wow, that question is so inappropriate, I don’t even know how to answer.” He’ll get the picture.
Spend some time alone. The man you married can watch the kids for a few hours. You’re spending an entire week with his family. He owes you. While everyone’s at the beach, find an air-conditioned bookstore or a coffee shop. Settle in with a good read and take several deep breaths.
See your in-laws through your children’s eyes. Maybe your father-in-law won’t stop talking long enough to let anyone else get a word in. Or, your mother-in-law insists on cooking a giant, hot meatloaf when you’re allergic to beef. Sure, these people are annoying, but your children love them. If it helps, don’t think of them as your husband’s parents. Think of them as Grampa and Gramma.
Plan next year’s vacation. With your side of the family. Or, who says you have to take a trip with any extended family members? Make a new tradition and take a vacation with just your husband and children. Pick a date and book a spot. This time next year, you’ll be enjoying your trip—instead of just surviving it.
Anna Seip is an editor who’s looking forward to this year’s family vacation, sort of.