We have had a string of visitors since Christmas, and while most visits have been pleasant, one of them was pretty bad, and all were demanding in that we are used to our peace and quiet and being an introvert, I don’t like very much to be around a group 24/7.
Actually, there is only one group of people with whom I vacation regularly and NEVER have one problem. Here is how we keep it cool with my Perfect Holiday Friends (PHF).
1. Freedom. Everyone is free to do what they want. My PHF do not wait until someone suggests an activity to slowly drag their feet behind one leader. One would say “hey, we are going to the beach, who wants to join?” and you would hear “cool, I’m in” and another “I prefer to read a book, have fun”. Both answers will be perfectly acceptable. Implicitly, we all bound around diner but if you have a day trip and won’t make lunch, that is fine. This is my holiday, this is theirs, everyone can spend it how they please.
2. Initiative. That is the obvious counterpart of freedom. You are free to skip lunch, but do not expect anyone to make your meal. With my PHF, we do not set a cleaning or cooking schedule, you will find the girls making breakfast while the boys are tidying up around the house and the kids are playing in the garden (yes, PHF even function with kids).
3. Otherwise, planning. If you are not blessed with PHF, you need a schedule. BF’s horrible holiday friends suggested one couple takes care of lunch and another couple of diner. They would cook but I would be left with the dishes, the bathroom cleaning, the kitchen cleaning, and generally going after them like you would after children which was frustrating and annoying coming from adults. With this kind of people, make a clear schedule, who cleans, who cooks, and any other rules you may have to specify. Sadly, to BF’s friend, that included “please do not pee on our flower beds if you are drunk, our room is underneath and we don’t trust how you aim”. Yes, we needed a plan for that too.
4. Money money. With my PHF, we barely talk about money. We all contribute to what we consume and the only thing we would split is the rental fee. Then one friend would drive us and I would fill the tank while another one pays for the tolls and the next buys groceries. It works because we would rather pay a little more than have to write down and track all expenses (like me, my friends have a no budget approach), AND because none of us would ever dare freeload on the others. With PHF, we know when one has paid a bit too much and we won’t let him wipe his card for a day to make up for it. If you do not trust your friends to be that honest with their spending, because you have already seen them split the bill and forget the tip, or have shrimp and cocktails while you had salad and water and say “let’s split that in two”, set some rules before you leave. Get an estimate of the expenses (rent, gas, food, fun) and you can even ask for their share upfront to ensure solvency. If one expense is above normal, say you want to go bungee jumping one day, do not book for a party of 8 and then charge everyone, ask first who wants to do it and is willing to pay extra for it.
Now that we live in a remote place and the next supermarket is 20 miles away, we ask guests to bring over any food and drinks they will need. It ensures that if you don’t like my cooking you can make your own, have your allergies or specific foods, and don’t get there empty handed “thinking (you) would buy groceries on arrival” after a 9 hour drive.
5. Holiday on the lowest budget. My PHF always make sure that we have a fun time but don’t break the bank. They are happy cooking most of the meals at home and paying for experiences or travel to new places instead. We do have one PHF who makes about half the money the others make, but always plan a holiday she will afford easily. I have said no to holidays with other friends because I know they would spend as much in a week as I do for a month of motorcycle travel, and we would not do much. We would just eat in restaurants three times a day, have coffee and ice cream and cocktails to fill the rest of the time, and barely visit our destination. Try your best to make the holiday affordable for the lowest budget, and then if you want to splurge one night, go with your spouse or the two friends who will enjoy it, do not force the broke person to tag along. They will feel bad, you won’t enjoy it, both people lose.
6. This is real life. This may be the first time that you see your friends outside of college/ a bar/ work/ any social occasion for more than two hours. You can’t know in advance that Mary snores, Tom showers for 45 minutes and Bob gets cranky if he doesn’t eat at 12 on the dot. We all have defaults and we can’t put on our best smile all day. A weekend trial may be a good idea before embarking on a week long holiday.
7. Your friends are not my friends. BF’s friends came to see him, not me. I had met them on several occasions but I don’t think we would be friends without BF. Even my PHF’s other halves who are awesome are always “PHF’s other half” and sometimes, I like that they take initiative and leave our original group on its own to talk about whatever we talk when they are not around (spoiler alert, THEM). When BF has company over, I try to disappear for a few hours so they can talk about the past, family gossip, or me. Or else they would be a bit frustrated that I hung around the whole time and I would be bored listening to conversations about they adolescence.
8. Your kids are YOURS. I am always happy to play with my PHF’s kids when they are around because they are rarely in a bad mood, and pretty self sufficient when you don’t want to play with them. If they aren’t, one of their two parents will take the kid to another room, read a story or have some quiet time, allowing the other parent and the rest of the group to still enjoy the vacation. With BF’s friend, the kid was ruining everybody’s day by staying around and whining that his mom wouldn’t play with him. It may be a good time to relax on the TV rules and let the kids be kids on their own while you enjoy your adult time, but in any case, do not ruin everyone’s holiday by letting the tantrum go on in the living room.
9. It also applies to family. Just because your parents invited you and your new love to share a holiday doesn’t mean your mom has to cook and clean after you, or they have to pay for everything. Schedule some alone time for each couple or family unit to get a break. If dad wants to see the War Museum but you would rather go to the flea market, agree to meet in three hours instead of dragging the whole group around for the sake of one person.
10. Know when to say goodbye. Even with PHF, I know that after a few days, it is time for everyone to go back to normal life and part ways. A couple of BF’s friends came to our remote house, knowing it was a bad dirt road, without a spare tire. We warned them to drive slowly and they didn’t listen. When we thought they were gone, they called from 10 miles away that the tire had blown, and instead of calling a mechanic, called us, had us look around for tools, lend them our car to get a spare tire, didn’t think about filling up the tank or letting us know they wouldn’t make it in time for diner, and stayed for another night after we had cleaned their room and sheets. It took them longer to come back to us than to drive to a nearby mechanic. Your friends are here to help you when there is no other alternative, otherwise, try to be independent and function on your own. Especially if you have been depending on them for the past week.
Bonus tip: big groups don’t work. Depending on how many PHF can go on holiday, we are between 5 and 8. If we are 8, we keep it to two or three days top. After that it would be complicated to please everyone, and housing situations won’t be ideal. I have holidayed with big groups while in college and it makes every of the above ideas more complicated. You won’t enjoy your friends as much if you are 12 at a restaurant table. Keep it simple, and small.