When your 'vacation' is really an obligation, you're taking an 'obli-cation'. You've taken these trips: cross-country to the in-laws' for the holidays. A family or friend's destination wedding. The mandatory winter break or summer holiday family reunion/group vacation.
When you take an oblication, the usual steps you take that ensure fun travel may no longer apply.
On any of these occasions, you may find yourself spending priceless vacation time traveling to a destination you wouldn't choose, spending time with some people you wouldn't choose.
But an oblication doesn't have to be a holiday write-off. Of course you have to be present and enthusiastic for the 'main events' – the point of the get togethers.
But there are ways to salvage your next oblication and make sure you create some great vacation memories.
1 Stay in a hotel instead of someone's home
Nothing creates tension like being trapped in a guest room even when it's someone you love. We know, they expect you to stay with them. But tip-toeing around incompatible household schedules and rules and lifestyles 24/7 is no fun. Early birds vs. night owls. Health-food obsessed vs. take-out fans.
Booking a hotel gives you space of your own, more freedom to follow your own timetable, and amenities that will feel like a real vacation treat. Whether it's a pool or spa or a terrific bar to relax at the end of the day, or a gym where you can work out or a juice bar where you can stick to your healthy eating habits, hotel stays make oblications into vacations.
A hotel can give you an excuse to spend time with sub groups – like drinks at the bar with just your sibling, or taking all the kids to the pool and giving other parents a break, or lounging in the sauna with just the girls or just the guys.
2 Or in a different hotel/resort than the rest of the group
When the oblication is already at a resort or hotel, you can still carve your own space to create your own holiday. Ask your travel agent about nearby properties where you can stay away from the group and rejoin them for the 'main events'. Yes, the group may get the benefits of a minimum group booking. But hopefully there are enough people in the group that your independent booking won't jeopardize that.
3 Or in a 'ship within a ship' / separate resort wing
More and more groups are cruising together for Thanksgiving, Christmas/ Hanukkah, spring break, summer holidays, weddings/vow renewals, even bachelor/ette parties.
You have to be on that cruise. But there's still a way.
Some ships have more luxurious 'ship within a ship' options, and some resorts have these wings, too. These private enclaves are nearly like being in a separate ship or resort, with their own pool/ spa /lounge/ bar/ restaurant facilities that feel like you are in a separate hotel or ship. Except that you can head to the main part of the ship or resort and join the bigger group whenever you wish.
Talk to your travel agent about those options on the ship or resort – or, if the group is still deciding, get your travel agent to help you identify and book cruises and resorts where this is an option.
You'll enjoy perks and special experiences that will make your oblication feel like a real holiday – and worth every penny.
4 Carve out some sub-group together time
If you come and are fully enthusiastic for the main events, one of the real pleasures of family or group getaways is the opportunity to reconnect with friends and family members – and that doesn't have to happen in a whole-group setting.
Don't just hope for - plan some of these moments away from the main group (see hotels, above).
Maybe it's just the two of you – no other friends, family members or even your own kids in tow. In fact, those extended-family get togethers are ideal times for parents to spell each other off and take turns taking care of groups of kids to give other parents a break. Or grandparents to have the kids all to themselves.
Book an excursion - even if it's just coffee or wine on a terrace – with a sibling, parent, grandparent, or small group of friends you rarely get to spend real time with.
That relaxed intimacy and conversation will be among your most special memories.
5 Research the destination as if you had chosen it for a 'real' holiday yourself
Even if it's not the destination you would choose, it's still a change of scenery, a new place to explore and experience. Don't assume you'll be spending all your time pre-programmed. Do your research and discover experiences that interest you. And book some in advance so the time doesn't slip away without experiencing the destination as you would if you were there on a real holiday.
Even if it's your significant other's - or your own - hometown, pretend you're on holiday and discover what tourists love to do there. Embrace anything local with an open mind. Whether it's a hike in a local park, a visit to a local museum or artist's workshop – you can feel like a tourist anywhere if you put your mind to it.
6 And if you're the one planning the 'obli-cation'…
The plan is for everyone to enjoy being together, right? Help create a holiday environment everyone can enjoy. Don't expect everyone to be together or try to program every minute of every day whether it's at your home or at a destination.
Work with a travel agent to find destinations and hotel/resort/cruise options like the ones above so each member of the group can be carve their own niche holiday. Share these tips – and use them yourself! So you and everyone coming to the oblication can leave with happy smiles and wonderful memories.
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