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A vacation management plan makes it fun for all
August 31, 2013 - Anita Hanaburgh
I think the whole idea started when my Brazilian son-in-law claimed he had never been out West — to the Western United States, that is. Had he ever ridden a horse? Nope. Ever fly-fished a trout stream? Nope. Ever hiked the “Big Ones?” Nope. Ever seen a buffalo? No. Never. The grandkids joined the conversation: “We haven’t’ either!” So the plans for a family vacation began.
My first thought was a dude ranch. I was looking for “keeping ’em busy, letting someone else cook,” but the prices were $250 a night per person, the places booked months in advance, and activities were limited to raunchy stuff (the grandchildren range in age from 2 to 22).
After some discussion and many ideas, we began to focus on visiting Yellowstone National Park and renting a big cabin in the woods. Sounds, good but my anxiety began when I thought “what will we do in the woods with this mix of 14 children, step-children, spouses, significant others, teens, tweens, toddlers, young adults?” I had visions of adults and kids sprawled in front of the TV waiting for lunch and a cruise director to appear.
What will we eat, this mix of vegans, vegetarians, carnivores and fussyvores? And who will do the work? Oh, busboy, I guess we all know the answer to that!
“Don’t worry about it,” my partner exclaimed. “You always make too much out of nothing. We’ll just buy some cold cuts.”
“I’ll bring my own food,” the vegan reports.
“We could each cook for our own,” one daughter suggests.
“Oh, we’ll all pitch in,” another offers.
But I?foresaw a kitchen in chaos.
“Pitch in?” To feed 14 people for seven days, there had to be a plan — a plan that allowed people to do what they wanted and be well-fed while doing it while keeping everyone sane.
I took it upon myself (are you so surprised?) to find a place that offered some help with activities, and I found it at Big Sky Resort in Big Sky, Montana.
A huge resort, an hour from Yellowstone, with multiple activates accessible to all. Kids could walk to an adventure base camp, ponds with boats, swimming pools, etc. Big Sky had cabins with six bedrooms, grocery stores, restaurants and a concierge with a list of free and pay activates. Phew! I was getting somewhere.
Now for the food and the plan. Enter my friend Laurie with a thought: “On our family gathering, we gave everyone a day when they had to cook and set up the activities.”
“I emailed around and got feedback and all decided to follow Laurie’s ideas, with some adjustments. Maybe it will help with your group vacation.
Each family or team takes one day. We divided into “teams” so the numbers were even. Grandpa and I picked up a grandchild. Here are the rules:?
- Each team picks a day. The team plans, shops for and prepares breakfast and dinner and is in charge of the cleanup. Still, everyone helps with the cleanup of all meals. We had storage spots for leftovers and multiuse foods. A cupboard for “help yourself” and a cupboard for “hands off.” Don’t eat it without asking. No lunch is set. Each team is responsible for having food available for its own team lunch to eat in or pack out.
- Each team’s leaders select the activities they most want to do (swimming, hiking, raft riding or playing cards) and research it before going and set it up and lead it. Others may join you or not. People choose what they want. The activities are listed on a calendar, creating much anticipation before leaving.
- Plan one or two full-group activities or meals in advance so you are all together a few times. We did this on my team’s day. It was horseback riding.
- Plan the extra nights “on your own” when leftovers are eaten or there is time for some or all to eat out.
The advantages of this plan? Each team gets to cook the food they want, share their skills with all, and get the kids involved. One person isn’t doing all the work. Everyone learns where everything is, and they aren’t always asking. “Is there a blender?,” or “Do we have large bowls?” One person isn’t doing all the work. It was fun to plan the meal ahead and bring only what was needed. There are a variety of activities set up, and everyone gets to do the main activity they want. No one is stressed.
Each team took the job seriously and had a plan before coming. They were excited about what they were planning and making for each other. Everyone was generous, meals were delicious. There were a lot of activities, always something to do. I never cooked a single dinner, and I had a wonderful, relaxing time with my family.
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