Parents Survival Guide: What to do when you bring a friend on vacation

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After last year’s 40th birthday bash in Mexico, this year, we decided a low key staycation right here in California was exactly what we needed. We initially planned a multi-family weekend getaway, but we hit a few snags last minute and the multi-family turned into just us! After a little begging and pleading, we conceded to let Whistler bring a friend, knowing that he would likely be very bored otherwise. This wouldn’t be the first time we traveled with other children, having frequently traveled with friends and family, however, this would be the first time we would bring a friend on vacation, sans their parents. As the mom of a very well behaved, usually quiet, only child – this was an eye opening experience.

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The pros quickly become apparent during those first few hours of vacation bliss. One of our favorite side effects was that it gave us a little freedom to do our own thing instead of having to constantly keep the kids entertained. Which means I got to lay poolside reading my favorite book instead of playing the 100th game of Marco-Polo. As an added bonus, all of that time spent playing together quickly wears them out just in time for a low key dinner. 

bring a friend on vacation

But eventually the vacation bliss wears off and reality sets in – and by reality, I mean the cons. Soon joyous laughter turns into never-ending squabbles. As soon as someone begins to whine “It’s noooot fair”, you quickly realize you need a game plan because if you’re not careful, they no one will make it thru day one. 

Bring a Friend on Vacation: Survival Guide

bring a friend on vacation

Duplicate items and personalize so each has their own

This goes for everything – pool toys, activity books, water bottles and snack containers. Your angel only child will quickly learn that having that sibling they’ve always wanted means sharing.

I always make sure I carry a Sharpie Extreme marker on my travels solo and the multi-pack we brought along this time proved to be one of our most valuable assets. Usable on a variety of surfaces like plastic, glass and wood, the writing resists fading when exposed to UV rays and water making them an indisposable tool for family trips.

Rent a House

Skip the hotel and opt for renting a house instead. It gives everyone their own bedroom and space to spread out. You will also have a kitchen for healthy dinners (and a way to save money), laundry, pools, and separate areas for kids and adults.

Schedule Quiet Time Apart

Sometimes too much of a good thing, is a bad thing, even for the best of friends. Schedule quiet time apart to reduce the squabbling and allow the kids to rest. Tired kids are cranky kids!

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We also discovered that quiet time usually turned into nap time which equals quiet adult time. We made use of those Sharpie Extreme markers to personalize our own glasses, filled them with our favorite beverages and were able to enjoy some adults only time by the pool!

Over Pack Activities

Board games, toys and activity books are all great items to pack along. When they get bored of them, encourage the kids to think outside the box and make up new ways to play


Once again, the Sharpie Extreme markers came in handy by turning “boring” games, into something new and different!

Engage in Friendly Competition

Is there anything kids bond over better than showing up the old parents?

Provide Lots of Healthy Snack Options

Snacks like these cute Bento Boxes can be made up ahead of time so the kids can reach for something healthy when they’re hungry. Keeping away a serious case of the hangries while keeping sugar levels down is key to everyone getting along.

bring a friend on vacation

Plan a Field Trip

One of my favorite things about staycations are exploring our own backyards. Get out of the house or hotel room and take the kids on a field trip – head to your local museum, marine center, beach, art gallery or zoo.

Thank you to Sharpie for sponsoring our trip and this post. All opinions remain m

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