Too Old for a Family Vacation?

I’ve been writing a lot about my fall visit to Croatia, but as you might have realized – I’ve been weirdly vague when it came to personal pronouns. I didn’t have the guts to see it in written words yet… But to be finally honest: It was a vacation with my family.

Yes, I am 25 years old and spent a vacation with my family.

My sisters and I in Baška

The last time I went on a family vacation I had just turned 17. My parents had rented a cozy little apartment on the Costa Blanca in Spain, which was perfectly located: A half-hour drive to the beautiful city of Alicante, and 10-minute walk to the beach. But I had just turned 17 and sunbathing mixed with sightseeing wasn’t exactly how imagined my fun summer vacation. So I snuck out, let random guys buy me tequila shots and cocavino, and got caught. The usual.

I remember angrily scribbling into my diary that I would never ever ever ever ever ever ever go on vacation with my parents again. The next summer I flew to the United States on my own for two months, and didn’t miss my family for a second. I’ve been planning my own vacations ever since.

The view from our Airbnb house rooftop terrace 

And yet, in 2012, I ended up betraying my 17-year-old self. And it turned out to be pretty okay actually. How did that happen?!

My parents usually go on one trip each year and they were looking for a nice new destination for the annual vacation last summer. I had learned about AirBnb apartment renting earlier that year and introduced them to it. At some point helping them with researching, my sister Anneke and I stumbled upon this super cute old house in Baška on the island of Krk in the Adriatic Sea. When we saw that the house had five beds, we started joking around how we would just go there as a family.

Our lovely blue doored AirBnb house

And somehow the joke became serious. My sisters and I are students right now so we all have empty bank accounts – but lots of wanderlust. And renting an apartment with our parents sounded like a cheap option to get out and get some much needed sun. And just like that  – we were booked for a trip to Croatia. With the parents. In our twenties.

Feet group photo with my mom and sisters

At first, somehow it felt like nothing had changed since our last trip. When we were younger my parents would squeeze us, the dog, and food supplies into the car and drive anywhere in Europe: Switzerland, Italy, Spain, you name it. (And yes, my dad drove 24 hours straight to Spain. And back. Twice.) And suddenly we were back there again.

I reviewed my former (admittedly bitchy teenage) perception of a vacation with my family and realized that it is really not a bad way to travel. But like traveling with any given companion — a grown-up family vacation has its ups and downs.

Traveling with the parents

Advantage: Dad drives. You don’t have to worry about knowing where you are or about staying awake. We girls just cuddled up in the back of the car and slept, listened to music, watched the landscape pass by.

Family road trip style

Disadvantage: Dad drives. My dad is a little wannabe retro hippie. He refuses to use a satnav, and prefers old paper maps instead. Before we left he spent hours calculating the distances of certain routes, which I found pretty cool — I mean, who still knows how to do that nowadays?

But when we drove back from Plitvice Lakes, he wanted to try a short cut he had seen on the maps. A “short cut”. Right. We ended up in a dense forest where the “road” barely was a gravel path. It was dark already and we had no idea where we were. No lights, no other cars for longer than an hour, no cell phone reception. And signs saying there are old war mines everywhere. MINES!!

OMG

Advantage: Mom packs the “family things”. From olive oil to toilet paper, my mom is a road trip expert and she thinks of everything! If you’re staying in an apartment, bringing your own cooking supplies is way cheaper (especially in Croatia) and more efficient. Salt? Kitchen towels? Coffee filters? I totally would have forgotten these things. And she even brought board games, books, and chocolate cookies — in case the weather got bad. Moms are just the best.

Our daily breakfast table –
thanks to my mom who even brought home-made jam

Traveling with the sisters

You know how sisters are: They can be your best friend, but there also is no person in world who could annoy you more. Since we all moved out over the past years and didn’t have to share the same bathroom anymore, we started to get along really well. But the Croatia house just had one bathroom. And the bathroom door didn’t even have a key. So, that was a little challenge.

Anneke and Elena were really fascinated with the beach pebbles

Advantages: Sharing. We all just brought one bag of cloths, but we had three times as many outfit options, because we could exchange everything from dresses to belts or earrings.

Disadvantages: Sharing unwillingly. My sister Elena is a little kleptomaniac when it comes to my things — lotion, make-up, sun cream… nothing is safe with her. She drives me nuts sometimes.

Us girls in Baška

Advantages: Having a sister at your service. Sisters function as personal photographers, outfit advisers, hair stylists, giggling-backup, and Disney-movie-quoting entertainers on long car rides.

And a grown-up family vacation

Going on a vacation with your family as a grown-up works if you turn it into a real grown-up vacation. Us girls naturally paid our share for rent and gas. We took turns in cooking dinner and making breakfast, so my mom wouldn’t have to do everything.

“Our” cute little summer house

And I didn’t have to sneak out anymore. Anneke, Elena and me just went out for drinks at night, while our parents went for a walk. Drinking a bottle of wine at the waterfront with my sisters felt relaxed, grown-up, and totally not like 2004 anymore. And we even found someone to buy us tequila shots.


What do you think —
is it totally embarrassing that I went on a family vacation at 25? 

Have you ever been on a grown-up family vacation?

  • In my opinion, it’s never too old for a family vacation! Yes, like you said, it definitely has its positives and negatives but I really enjoy spending time with my family. Even when we argue! I like your idea of helping share the costs and responsibilities to make it known you are an adult and should be treated like one 🙂

    Also, you and your sisters look so much alike!

    • JulikaSarah

      I actually had a really great time, although we did come back to the usual parent-kid-situations from time to time. My dad already asked where we are going this year 🙂

  • Julika, why in the world would you think that that’s embarassing?? I think it’s GREAT! Let’s face it, the older we get, the lesser we spend quality time with parents and sisters. I have two sisters as well by the way. And 3 years ago we went on vacation, the five of us, to Greece. I was 26 and loving every minute. In fact the saddest moments were those when I realized that we might never do this again, just the five of us, because my oldest sister is married with kids now. I hope you cherished it all despite of its little downs (and believe me, I know about the downsides of being with sisters 24/7… you girls look so alike! My sisters and I all look different :)).

    • JulikaSarah

      You’re so right, Mariella! We should cherish all these precious family moments. And I love that you have two sisters too – that would probably make you my perfect roommate 🙂
      Everybody tells us we look so much alike, but I always think we look completely different! I guess sometimes you just don’t recognize the similarities yourself 🙂

  • There is no such thing as being too old for a family vacation. I was 23 the last time I took a trip with my parents and I would do it again in a heartbeat! Your pictures are great… you have a beautiful family 🙂

    • JulikaSarah

      Aww thanks Sarah! We’re actually thinking about going on another family vacation in 2013 🙂

  • You and your family are so beautiful! And I probably go on family vacations every other year….my family is very large and my siblings are mostly pretty young so its overwhelming, but every few years its nice to do a big family vacation!

    • JulikaSarah

      Aww, thank you Ashley! I love that you and your family go on family vacations regularly! The great thing with my sisters and I is that were only a few years apart and when we’re going for drinks together it feels more like a normal girls’ night out 🙂

  • Ashley of Ashley Abroad

    This is so cute! The three of you are so pretty :). I actually adore family vacations and don’t think you are ever too old for them.

    • JulikaSarah

      You’re sweet! Thank you! My parents were actually already joking about going to Greece together in September 🙂

  • Aww, I love this post: You’re never too old to spend vacation with your family! Unfortunately my last family vacation is at least 10 years ago (and I just turned 25). So I guess, you’re a lucky person 🙂

    • JulikaSarah

      Thank you, Anita! You’re absolutely right – I should really start considering myself lucky! 🙂

  • Agness Walewinder

    C’mon, you can never be too old to have an unforgettable vacation with your parents, brothers and sisters! I’m 24 and I wish I could take my mom and sister for a nice trip, honestly 🙂

    • JulikaSarah

      Aww, you’re right Agness! Maybe we should do this more often 🙂

  • This is a really sweet post! Brent and I vacationed with his family when we were doing a work exchange in Wales, and they came to visit us. I have to admit, all the mooching was pretty nice. I think my problem traveling with anyone new (family or not) is that I’m pretty used to being the planner (since Brent lets me, haha), and so it was a little challenging traveling with his family and not having the total control that I’m used to. I haven’t vacationed with my parents since I was 17 either, but they’re planning to stay with us for a few weeks in Japan. It will definitely be interesting!

    • JulikaSarah

      Thank you, Jess! Going on a vacation with your boyfriend’s family is a whole new level – every family is quirky in its own way, so it might take a while until everybody is on the same page. I’m glad it worked out for you!
      In Croatia, I actually was the one who planned our itinerary – my sisters would have been happy with sleeping on the beach, but I wanted to see so much, go hiking, and try the local food 🙂
      I’m looking forward to hearing how your family vacation in Japan turns out 🙂

  • Elle-Rose

    Love this blog post! And I totally agree with all the little advantages and disadvantages! My mum actually lives in Dubai – so any visit to see with my sister her feels like a traditional family vacation from when we were little. It’s helped though, by the fact that mum will usually be working when we visit, and we have a whole apartment (just like home) to live in so we’re never on top of each other and we have all the home comforts. xx

    • JulikaSarah

      Thank you so much! It’s good to hear other families experience similar ups and downs on their vacations 🙂 It’s so exciting that your mum lives in Dubai – I’ve been trying to convince my parents to move somewhere exotic for ages now 😉

  • dewtraveller

    I love my family vacation! Love this post for the fact that I totally agree with you on the advantages and disadvantages. I’m 25 and I still love family vacation especially ever since my sister and I moved out, I miss my little family! I don’t think I’m ever embarrassed going with them as we always have a good time.

    • JulikaSarah

      Thanks so much Aggy! It’s great to hear that you’re so close with your family too!

  • Lauren David

    just stumbled across your blog via expatedna!
    I think it’s awesome you had the opportunity to take a family vacation! A few years ago, my mom mentioned she was going to visit her aunt in Vancouver, BC and that my brother showed interest. Next thing we knew, we had ourselves an impromtu vacation! Though my brother and I weren’t as lucky as you, we had to buy our tickets!
    As I get older, I appreciate my family more and more!
    How we change!

    • JulikaSarah

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Lauren! An impromptu family vacation sounds fun! And I wholeheartedly agree with you – the older I get, the better my family and I get along. I can appreciate them a lot more today than in my grumpy teenager phase 🙂

  • I still do family vacations! Cuba tends to be a popular destination with my parents, but I’m trying to sway them towards Asia. I want them to bring themselves and my two sister to this side of the world. 😉

    • JulikaSarah

      I love that you have two sisters too and that you still do family vacations, Audrey! Let me know how the swaying-the-family-towards-Asia-plan is working out — maybe I can learn a few persuasion tricks from you 🙂

  • I went through the whole ‘I’m never going on holiday with my parents ever again’ phase too, but a few years later I started doing it again and love it. We do various different combinations, occasionally the whole family (brother, sister and partners), sometimes just my parents, other times just with my mum. I think it’s a sign of being grown up when you can enjoy the company of your parents as adults (most of the time anyway!).

    • JulikaSarah

      I absolutely agree Lucy — getting along with your parents (even when sharing a little vacation apartment!) is definitely a sign of being grown up! I love that you still do family vacations too! 🙂

  • Jessica

    I actually enjoy family vacations waaay more now that I’m older! I had a great time traveling around Europe with my family last summer, but it does sometimes weirdly devolve into old family dynamics from when my sister and I argued in high school.

    Plus, a huge plus to family vacations is eating at much better places than I would otherwise. I’m super stingy about food, so it’s nice to relax and have somebody pick nice things to eat.