Gen Next

Our group just claimed another first as the oldest child in the group graduated from high school! Those that read this blog for advice, be warned–this post is long on nostalgia and limited to a single piece of advice. Here we go!

You have likely surmised that we have built many traditions in our years of traveling together. One of our earliest, and completely unintended, traditions involved who would announce a pregnancy on the trip. On our very first trip, the lone couple with a child made a detour to drop their newborn with grandparents. As we sat around the campfire, someone asked, “how far apart in age do you want your kids?” The response of “about 19 months” had the rest of us doing quick math and realizing the impact of it! With another reveal the following year, the tradition grew! 

We now have 12 children between the four families. Not all pregnancies were announced on the trip, but with the exception of that first child, I think all our kids participated in their first trip in utero. And now we start a new season of traditions! With the oldest child having just graduated and the youngest finishing up kindergarten, we all have graduation commitments in most of the next dozen years. In fact, we have already done the math; besides the set of twins, only two other kids will share a graduation year

As we celebrated Libby*, the graduate, with a reception in her honor, my eyes returned over and over to the slideshow of memories looping on a monitor. There were enough pictures from our trips for it to be obvious that she had literally grown up as part of this extended family! Seeing the pictures from various trips pop up on her graduation slideshow convinces me, not only that I cannot imagine the group without her, but that that our graduate would agree the trips have added moments to the highlight reel of her life to date.

As the oldest, she established herself as the responsible reliable big sister of the group. The younger kids adore her, especially the little girls. From helping wrangle the other kids to teaching impromptu cheer lessons, Libby has been an example in countless ways! In fact, we probably don’t give her enough credit for how well the entire group of kids get along! 

The slideshow, too, gave the effect of watching her grow in real time. I know everyone says it, but it honestly seems to have gone impossibly fast! So, on to the clichéd, but critical advice, don’t wait for the right time to start vacationing with others; make right now the right time! If you put off planning a trip until the kids are older or you have more expendable income or work is less busy or whatever, the domino effect of time will do its thing and you will be looking back saying “I wish I would have…”!

Libby will be off to college in the fall. One of the twins summed up her perception of college as “it’s where you go to meet the people you will vacation with”! So, best of luck to her and all the graduates of 2018! May your next adventure lead you to your forever friends! Oh, and I can’t close without mentioning that Libby plans to attend our alma mater–next gen indeed!

*We use pseudonyms for all the kids throughout the blog to protect their privacy.

His, Hers, and Ours

One of our longest standing annual trip traditions, and one of my favorites, is “Guys Day” and “Girls Day”! One day each trip, the four dads plan a day out together; another day, it is the moms’ turn! I’m not sure of the exact origination, but we can likely credit the years where we had five kids under five.

Our trips are very family focused, but these days allow the adults to pick something that interests them! Some examples of activities we have done on these days are: shopping, wine tasting, brewery tours, scenic boat tour, white water rafting, and a NASCAR racetrack tour! These days are not always about a big activity though. One year the guys snuck (okay not really) back to the vacation rental, shot pool, and just hung out! Regardless of the activity, the day away is great for friends connecting and stepping out of parenting roles for a few hours.

While the gals are out, the guys take the kids for an activity and vice versa for the guys days! I think half the fun when the kids were little was rearranging various car seats appropriately to get everyone in; I know my kids got a huge thrill from the treat of riding in someone else’s car. It is always the simplest things, right?! The kids are always excited to tell the returning parents what they missed out on! They may try to up the ante for the next outing by bragging up what they did with the dads!

The past few years, we have added one more twist to this tradition. We have planned an adult dinner out one evening. The kids enjoy being in charge while the adults enjoy food in a restaurant that doesn’t serve happy meals. Win, win!

As you plan your group travel, think of smaller variations your group could break into for a short period of time. If you are taking an extended family trip, consider having grandparents watch the kids for a few hours so the parents can do an activity. Traveling with friends but wanting some couple time? See if you can take turns watching all the children so each couple gets some time away. Group travel presents unique chances to balance a time together and focused time away!

Ten Things We Wish Vacation Rental Owners Knew!

Going Dutch has a few things we wish all our vacation rental owners knew!  

1 – Please provide enough dishes to match the dining seating!  If we are renting a big house, we brought a lot of people, and they all like to eat.    

2 – We love to hear from people who know the area…leave us lists of local things to do and places of interest.

3 – PLEASE provide a garbage can or dumpster that is adequate for the size of the rental – overflowing garbage is gross!  

4 – If you have wildlife in the area of your rental, make the trash cans wildlife resistant.  Picking up trash strewn all over the yard of the rental after a raccoon chewed through the plastic lid is not what we had in mind for our vacation!  

5 – A well-stocked kitchen is a MUST…a blender, crockpot, corkscrew, and coffee maker are all necessities.  

6 – Set it up like YOU would like to vacation there!  Little things go a long way to making it nice.  

7 – Please provide toilet paper!  Add a few bucks to the rental price if you have to…but kids need to go after a long car ride.

8 – Don’t forget the hand soap near all faucets…all of your renters will need this!

9 – We’re on vacation… make it easy for us!  If you’re a great rental owner, we’ll happily provide you with a great review when we leave.  

10 – Thank you for sharing your great home with us!  We love having great places available for our vacations together!  

What do you wish vacation rental owners knew?  Add yours in the comments!  Are you a vacation rental owner?  Tell us what you wish renters knew in the comments as well!  

Rise and Shine

Meal planning is a big challenge for group trips.  Do you take everyone to a restaurant, wait for seating for a large party and then for everyone’s food to arrive, only to choke when the bill arrives?  Or instead, end up eating at fast food joints to speed up the process and save money, until you realize that French fries are the only vegetable your kids have eaten for a week?  Cooking at your vacation house can often solve these problems, but food prep and cleanup isn’t often on people’s list of must-dos on a holiday.

From the start, our group has cooked at the house for most, if not all of our meals.  In the beginning, cooking seemed like a decent trade off for not having to keep 4 or 5 babies and toddlers busy at every meal for 5 or 6 days.  Plus, with 4 families, kitchen duties have always been split between the adults, and now, between the older kids.  For years, our teens have been baking cookies and quick breads to bring along before the trip.  Last year, our tweens baked strawberry shortcake for dessert one night!  And the kids all help with clean-up since we long ago established the rule that you load your own dishes in the dishwasher after each meal.


Of course, breakfast is by far the easiest meal to adapt for a group trip.  Even if you are planning to eat out for lunch and dinner, you can save time and money by eating the first meal of the day at your vacation home.  It’s also easy to adjust for dietary preferences and restrictions.  Plus, people can eat while others are getting ready to head out for the day.

Breakfast planning for our group usually includes a mix of items people can grab and eat quickly, as well as hardier fare for mornings when we have more flexibility in the schedule.  Grocery list staples are cereals, milk, fruit, juice and toast.  These can be the whole offering on mornings when we have to make an early departure, or can be eaten by picky eaters who don’t want to eat whatever hot dish is being served that morning.

Egg casseroles and overnight french toast are favorites with our group.  These are generally easy to scale depending on group size and easy to adjust based on the ingredients you have on hand.  You bought an extra dozen eggs?  Just add them in.  Someone drank the last of the milk but we have extra half-and-half.  That works!  Leftover onions from tonight’s burgers?  Chop those babies up and mix them into one pan of egg casserole.  Additionally, while things like scrambled eggs don’t make great leftovers, breakfast casseroles generally reheat well, making breakfast prep lighter on future mornings.

We make breakfast casseroles in the evening and throw them in the fridge in disposable foil pans.  We buy these pans in bulk because it makes clean up so much easier.  No scraping baked-on egg off a glass pan!  Because who wants to do that much work on vacation??  Plus they usually come with lids, although stacking more than one pan in a crowded fridge can become a problem as the pans are sometimes pretty flimsy.  Stacking cookie sheets between them can help.  

Breakfast prep has become a personal favorite time for me since we often drag the kids into helping.  Many of them seem to enjoy this time as they all look forward to eating their handiwork in the morning.  Lots of fun conversations are started while everyone is chopping ham and cracking eggs.  The next morning, the first person out of bed turns on the oven and pops the casseroles in to bake.  One added benefit is the scents wafting through the house help rouse sleepy-heads.  

Pancakes are another item that often appears on our menu since Costco has big bags of pancake mix.  You will need a larger griddle to make this work though.  You can check with your vacation home owner to see if the house has one already.  If we are driving to our destination, one or two families will bring along our personal griddles as well.  They come in handy and it helps to have more than one griddle cooking when you have to feed lots of people.  We’ve even used one griddle in the kitchen for pancakes and a second one outside on the deck to make bacon or sausage and still keep the smell out of the house.

Breakfast sliders are a newer addition to our menu, but these are easy and fun to make.  The kids can help with this since most of the work is piling toppings onto rolls.  We usually make ours with ham, cheese and scrambled eggs, but you could mix it up with different meats or veggies.

With a little planning and some teamwork, you can start your day off right with a good breakfast!

Here are some recipes we use:


Overnight Egg Casserole

8 slices bread (we often use more), toasted (or not) and cubed

4 cups diced ham

2 cups grated cheese

8 eggs (or more), beaten

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

Put cubed bread in a 9×13 pan.  Top with meat and cheese.  Combine eggs, milk, salt and pepper and pour over top.  Put in fridge overnight.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.  Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.  Optional: Feel free to play with the recipe.  Chop up veggies or exchange sausage or bacon for the ham.  Try different cheeses or use sourdough or a hearty multigrain bread.  Serves 15.


Creme Brulee French Toast

I got this recipe off a morning news show probably 15 years ago.  It’s been a well loved staple for several groups ever since.

½ cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

2 Tablespoons corn syrup

1 large loaf sourdough bread

5 eggs

1 ½ cups half and half

1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt butter with brown sugar and corn syrup, stirring until smooth.  Pour this mixture into a 9×13 pan.   Cut the bread into 1 to 2 inch slices and place in a single layer over the sugar/butter mixture (okay, here is where we improvise:  we usually use thicker slices and squeeze them in to get as much bread in the pan as possible.  Sometimes if we have extra bread, we use two layers).  Whisk together the eggs, half and half and vanilla until combined well and pour over the bread, trying to soak the top of each piece.  You may want to mix up more eggs and half and half, or just add a little milk to keep it from drying out.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake French toast, uncovered, until puffed and edges are golden, 35 to 40 minutes.  To serve, cut into squares and lift with a spatula onto a plate, flipping over so the caramel goodness is on the top.  Serves 6 to 8.


Breakfast Sliders

24 Hawaiian sweet rolls

1 lb sliced ham

2 cups shredded cheese

1 dozen eggs

½ cup milk

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

2 Tablespoons butter


Carefully cut the rolls in half, cutting the entire package at once.  Reserve the tops and place the bottoms in a 9×13 pan.  Top the bottom rolls with ham.  Beat the eggs and add the milk, salt and pepper.  Scramble the eggs until cooked through.  Layer the scrambled eggs over the ham and top with cheese, then the tops of the rolls.  Melt the syrup and butter together in the microwave, then brush over tops of rolls.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and sliders are warmed through.  Serves 8 to 10.


Are You in the Zone?

 If you’re like me, you already have an idea in your head what the perfect vacation looks like.  For me, the picture in my head usually involves some reading time, a bit of water or beach time, a museum or tourist trap or two, and some shopping. Check the boxes and vacation is a success, right?  Well.  Maybe.

One of the best (and also sometimes challenging) things about traveling with friends is that everyone’s mental picture is a little different.  When it comes time to planning how to spend those precious vacation minutes, there are lots of ideas for how to do it.

Our group spent our most recent get-together in the Wisconsin Dells.  If you’ve been there, you know there are LOTS of choices for how to spend your time.  I woke up on Day 1 thinking ok, water park, outlet mall, maybe a boat ride….fun is about to get started!!  However, during a breakfast pow-wow on our activity choices, a distinctly NOT in my mental picture option rose to the top of the list…a ropes course!  Bigfoot Ropes Course, to be exact.

My enthusiasm definitely took a bit of a hit there, I’ll admit.  A ropes course did NOT fit into my personal vacay success checklist.  Especially since my trips to the gym have been less frequent than I’d like lately.  But…key to successful traveling with a group is compromise, right?  These are my people, and I care about what they want to do, too.  Plus, we have dragged non-swimmer Ann on a boat ride too many times to count, and fair’s fair.  I put on my “good sport” hat and off we went….WAY out of my comfort zone.

I endured the orientation and donned the gear, which included a harness that is not flattering to anybody.  And I learned how to use the silly safety clips that apparently would save me from falling to my death.  Or abject humiliation, I wasn’t sure which.  Off we went onto the course.  I was sure the staff and the other patrons were laughing at me (they weren’t) and that I would never get the hang of it (I did).  And then…before I knew it…fun!  I fought through my discomfort (possibly less gracefully than I could have) and we had a ball.

More significant than my own experience, though, was this….my 15-year-old daughter, who is terrified of heights, and her partner in crime, Liz, climbed the entire 4 stories.  All the way to the top and into the helicopter.  It was amazing. They spent the whole afternoon climbing each obstacle on their way to the top, considering and discarding the idea of giving in and climbing back down repeatedly over the course of the day.  Each time, building their confidence in their ability to overcome their fears and rely on themselves to reach a goal.

Psychology experts tell us that there are a lot of benefits from stepping out of your personal comfort zone.  It can help you succeed in business, stay sharp as you age, and make you more likely to take on challenges.  We learn to deal with fear, anxiety, and change.  Maybe failure.  We learn what we’re capable of…something neither I nor my kiddos were going to figure out while plowing through novels on the beach.  And maybe just have some fun while we’re at it.  So next time you vacation with your group, maybe you’ll get out of your zone as well.

What have you done (or are you planning to do) on your vacation that was out of your comfort zone?  Please tell us about it in the comments below!

WTF?….Not what you are thinking!

We are closing in on the point where half of the children in our group will be teenagers, and with that some questions take on more importance. One of those questions is : WTF? You know, short for “Where’s the Food?” Food is always important and maybe more so when considering group travel! There are many things to consider regarding food for your group travel. Our top tip is: preparation goes a long way! Aside from picking a destination and accommodations, we probably spend the most time discussing food prior to each trip.

Pick an approach first. It may be tempting to say that you don’t want to mess with cooking and you will just eat out on your vacation or just wing it once you are there. These may be great options for your group, but even this requires some level of planning.

Questions to think about if considering eating out or figuring out food on the fly
  • What will the cost be and how does it fit into my overall travel budget?
  • Does my destination area have sufficient restaurant/fast food options that fit the tastes and/or dietary restrictions of my group?
  • Will the size of my group or the time of year I am traveling restrict my ability to find seating in restaurants?
  • How close is the nearest supermarket? Are there other options (farmer’s markets, co-ops, etc.) to enjoy local flavor?
  • How much time should I plan for eating out and/or food shopping each day?

While we typically eat out a time or two on our trips, we have found that preparing our own food works best for our group.

Considerations for planning and preparing your own food
  • What appliances can I count on in at my accommodations? Meal prep in a hotel room is much different than in a vacation rental!
  • What are the dietary restrictions and/or limitations in my group?
  • How much time do I need to count on for preparing food each day?
  • Will everyone plan a meal(s) or will this be done as a group?
  • Will everyone bring groceries or will this be done as a group?
  • How will extra food be used or disposed of at the end of the trip?

Over the years, we have found that planning a menu before the trip and doing a large grocery shop upon arrival works best for us. We understand that this “big shop” is going to come with a price tag that may invoke gasps, but actually works out to be very economical per person per day.

We will devote an upcoming post (or posts!) to menu planning and preparation. As you contemplate what is right for your group, please remember that food will be an important part of your trip! Your planning will go a very long way in making sure the dining experience is part of your positive memories!

OBX? Of Course!

Sometimes the hardest decision about a group trip is selecting the perfect location.  While planning a recent extended family trip, locations were suggested ranging from Disney World, Seattle, Maine, Maui and Branson, Missouri.  There are pros and cons to each location but what a challenge to compare such different destinations!

While group interests, budgets and distances always play into the suitableness of a location, some places offer better options for a group. The Outer Banks (OBX) of North Carolina is one such location.  

The OBX is a series of narrow barrier islands stretching along the eastern coast of North Carolina.  By narrow, I mean that you can often look one way to see the Atlantic Ocean, and turn your head for a view of the Sound.

Here are some of the pros and cons to the Outer Banks:


    • Beautiful beaches and lots of them!  These barrier islands are basically one long beach.
    • Tons of rental houses ranging in size from small to ubber large (there was a 16 bedroom behemoth a few streets over from our house).  In fact, rental houses pack both the Atlantic and Sound sides of the island and none are far from the beach.  Many have private beach access and/or private pools.  No matter the size of your group, you will find options here for even large gatherings.
    • Lots of vacation homes here are owned by rental companies with large inventories.  If you have a really big group, or are looking for two houses close together, you can check with one of these companies to see if they have options available to fit your needs.  
    • You won’t have far to go for groceries if your group decides to utilize your house’s kitchen.  There are almost as many Food Lions as there are Starbucks in Seattle!  Okay, not really.  But you won’t have to drive far and there will almost certainly be one on your way home at the end of the day.
    • Since you will have already spent enough on your beachside house, you can find cheap entertainment at one of the four nearby National Park sites (Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, Wright Brothers National Memorial, Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Cape Lookout National Seashore).  If there are kids in your group, check out the Junior Ranger program at each site.  Ask at the visitor center for a Junior Ranger booklet.  These contain questions and information about each site.  Your child answers the questions and then returns to the ranger to receive a badge and be sworn in as a junior ranger.  Our whole family enjoys working through the books together since they serve as a sort of guide to the site.  Even my 13 year old nephew earned a couple badges!  I’d also recommend Jockey’s Ridge State Park to get and idea of what the large sand dunes on the islands looked like before they were stabilized to make room for all those vacation homes.  This is also an awesome place to fly kites!
    • Lots of cheap beach gear stores.  This is particularly handy if you fly to North Carolina.  Since you’ll be spending lots of time lounging in the sun, you might want to invest in a couple chairs and a big beach umbrella.  We bought a new 10’ x 10’ canopy for $40.  We used it every day and then sold it to the family at the neighboring house for $20.  
    • You can really get away from it all if you rent a house north of Corolla past where the paved road ends.  You’ll need a four wheel drive vehicle to make it to these houses (so be sure to double check the location of your house if it has a Corolla address).  You will also need to keep an eye out for wild horses that roam this area.  
    • There are a lot more vacation homes than hotels in the OBX.  There aren’t huge cities or large resort areas so the area has the feeling of a laid-back beach community.
    • Expect beautiful sunrises and dolphin sightings on the Atlantic side!


    • Houses can be expensive and the price goes up the closer you get to the beach.  Want a pool too?  You can expect to pay more.  However, before you cross the OBX off your list, think about how much time you will be spending at the beach.  We found that the convenience of beach access was worth the cost.  The kids could run back to the house to use the bathroom or bring back a forgotten beach toy without needing an adult to go with them.  We never had to drag gear far and we just walked back to the house for lunch.  We also spent next to nothing on other activities, mostly because we didn’t need many other activities.  
    • Beach access for houses not on the beach can be a bit tricky.  Since so many of the houses are beach-front, those set back from the beach may require a bit of a walk to get to a public access.  It’s usually not far, but you may want to consider that when selecting a house, particularly if you have group members with mobility issues.
    • The OBX is not really close to large cities, which makes it harder to get to if you fly.  We flew into Norfolk, Virginia and then drove an hour and a half to get to our house.  There are shuttle services available, but since there aren’t a lot of urban communities on the islands, you will likely want a car while you are there.
    • If you don’t like the sun, sand and surf, then this is not the place for you.  There are some tourist attractions but most things are geared toward the ocean.
    • You need to book early for the best selection of houses and especially those with more moderate prices.  We booked our house about 3 months out, but we had trouble with houses getting booked before we had time to confirm with everyone in our group.  We also paid more since only more expensive house were left.
    • There aren’t a lot of roads (since there isn’t a lot of room for them) so traffic can sometimes be bad on the main roads.

Overall, I would recommend the Outer Banks if your group is looking for a laid back, beach trip.  However, I’d look elsewhere if most group members prefer the indoors.  If you are like our family and beach time is always time well spent, then add the OBX to your bucket list!

Got another suggestion for a great group destination?  Send us a comment!

Where Should We Go, Now?

OK, so you have a group and you know how you’re going to split expenses.  You know how to find a vacation rental or other type of lodging.  So where should you go??  

The options, as I am sure you have already discovered, are endless!  In 18 trips we’ve only repeated a destination a few times.  The right location choice for each group is really a decision unique to that particular group.  The makeup of your group and the goal of your trip, as well as the age of your travelers and your budget all play a part in your decision.  It’s more of an art than a science.  We choose based on interests and availability of activities for the age and size of our group.  We also have to factor in the availability of housing for a group of 20.  If you have a smaller group, that definitely gives you more flexibility for housing in most locations, but you might not get the group discounts that we can score in most places.  

Our group has a lot of conversations about location options, and we do quite a bit of research.  Honestly, it’s a bit of entertainment to most of us, I think.  I would say we average 10 conversations (at least) before we decide and book.  Which, as it turns out, might not be such a bad thing.  According to a NYT article, a study, published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, showed that the largest boost in happiness that we get from vacation, actually comes from the act of planning the trip, rather than the actual travel.

How do you start your list of options?  Ask the group.  Have everyone throw out ideas.  If you need more ideas, reach out to co-workers or check your social media feed.  Trip Advisor or the Chamber of Commerce for a location you are considering can also be great resources for information, ideas and reviews.  

Determine any guidelines for destinations ahead of time.  Our group originally tried to choose destinations that were close to at least one family in order to rotate a bit of a break on travel expenses or required vacation time.   We were spread across four states at the time, which essentially limited us to one of those four or their neighbors.  You may decide that certain destinations are out of your budget.  Rather than looking at these guidelines as limitations, try to view them as assistance in narrowing down your options.

Once you have a list, you can vote, or choose one group member to select and plan.  If you do assign a group member, though….no complaining!  It will be your turn one day, so just relax and enjoy a location that you may not have experienced if you were choosing.  We’ve had many great trips at locations that I would not have chosen on my own.  Arrive with an open mind and a variety of clothing options.  🙂  

Here at Going Dutch, we’ll try to help you choose your destination with some posts reviewing locations that we have traveled.  We’ve also created a new page that we’ll fill with our favorite online resources to help with your planning.  What are your favorite locations to travel?  Share them with us in the comments below!  

Finding Your Vacation Rental

You’ve picked your group. You’ve found the perfect destination. Now you just need to find an amazing vacation house to complete your get-away with the gang!

These days finding a vacation rental is pretty much as simple as finding a hotel room. But how do you know that house you Googled is a good deal, or even the real deal?

This summer we will head out on our 18th trip and we’ve had a vacation house for all but the first two years. These days, there are tons of websites listing houses all over the world, but finding our first house wasn’t so easy. There weren’t a lot of options for finding a vacation house to rent.

It seems that every travel site is starting to offer a vacation rental search option. Trip Advisor, Travelocity, and Expedia all have tabs to click for vacation rentals. Recently I searched for the same destination and dates on all three sites and Trip Advisor seemed to work the best for me (goingdutchtravel is not sponsored by any of the sites listed in this post so I’m just giving my opinion—you may have better luck with a different site). Sometimes lots of hotel rooms pop up. Since I generally know if I want a hotel room or a vacation rental, it was annoying to scroll past lots of hotels when I know that’s not what I’m looking for.

Airbnb is another option that I haven’t personally used, but I’ve spent some time searching. It includes some pretty interesting vacation rentals and experiences you can try (like a bike and tasting tour through Paris). You can even rent a bedroom in someone’s home instead of renting the whole house—usually less expensive but also less private.

Over the years, our group has consistently used vacation rental by owner ( and more recently, Both sites are remarkably similar. In fact, I’m not sure why there are still two sites since vrbo is apparently part of homeway. If you find a house on one site, you can find the same listing on the other by entering the rental number. I personally like homeaway’s mobile app for searching and saving rentals.

Whatever site you use, the best advice we can give you is to use the filters. If you have definite dates, be sure and enter them. Why fall in love with a mountain cabin that is booked for the next 6 months if your vacation is in 3?

Most importantly, filter by number of bedrooms or by the number of people. Depending on your location, your search can return a long list of houses from one-bedroom studios to ten-bedroom mansions. Limiting your choices to those that you might actually be interested in renting will make the process shorter and much less frustrating.

Finally, read those reviews! While you can always expect to have some great ones and some terrible ones, look for rentals that have lots of feedback. It doesn’t guarantee a good rental, but the more people who have posted, the less likely that you are only seeing reviews from the owner’s best buddies who got to stay for free if they gave a good report on-line.

There are also other options for locating rental properties without using the sites listed above. Sometimes visitor’s bureaus will list vacation rentals on their sites. Destinations with large numbers of vacation rentals will often have realty companies that own lots of houses. You can contact them directly to ask about properties they have available. This is a great option if you know you want to rent two or three houses close together for large, multi-family groups. You can also ask family and friends for recommendations.

If you have a site you like for finding that best spot, send us a comment!

Best of luck sorting through all those condos, bungalows and cabins! With a little practice and a lot of savvy searching, you too can soon be relaxing with your favorite friends and family.

The Art of Vehicle Maintenance (or…Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff)

I think the others will likely agree, that I have always been the most high-maintenance of the group.  I tend to want everything to go perfectly, and everything to be just exactly the way I think it “should” be.  The only great vacation is the one where everything goes according to plan, right?  Well…not exactly.  In every vacation some rain must fall, and it’s in those things that some of our best memories have been created.  

Any time you have four families driving hundreds of miles to a vacation destination, a mechanical vehicle failure is a possibility.  Do it often enough, and it’s a certainty.  We encountered this certainty on our most recent trip.  And “replacing a U-joint” was definitely not on our vacation to-do list.  But things happen, and cars that are not in working order need to be restored to that in order to proceed with the aforementioned vacation.  

A broken car is certainly a curveball.  But is it a vacation-wrecker?  Sure, it could be.  The hassle of all those phone calls and time spent waiting….ugh!  It’s enough to raise stress levels just thinking about it.  But the answer to whether it will wreck your vacation or not lies in how your group handles it.  

Our group is fortunate to have some mechanically-inclined folks in it.  And our rental house had a garage that we were able to use.  And so…voila! Instant auto repair shop.  We also have some teenagers and future drivers in our group, so instant auto shop became instant auto classroom.  

A good chunk of an afternoon was spent on what might be considered a bad thing, and we could certainly have allowed it to ruin our vacation, or part of it.   But instead it became a fun activity for the dads in the group and varying numbers of kids (the little ones weren’t in it for the long haul :).  Two teenage girls crawled under the car and helped out with the repair.  A valuable life lesson for two girls who will themselves be car owners someday, and something they still talk about.  It raised their confidence in their ability to fix things, and gave them a chance to further develop their relationship with some great dads in their lives who didn’t happen to be their own.  The moms got some downtime with a glass of wine and some great conversation.  In all, a pretty great afternoon.  

Every vacation will have a curveball or two.  Perhaps your own car will break down, or that of someone else in your group.  Or it may be something else…a mouse in your rental house or an arrival prior to the opening of most tourist attractions at your destination.  Whatever it is, I encourage you to be careful of how you think about it.  If you allow it to wreck your trip, I assure you it will.  But if you employ some humor and creativity, it might just become one of your best memories.  

What vacation curveballs have you dealt with?  Were you able to make some fun memories?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.