My Big Fat Family Vacation


I am the oldest of seven kids. Yep, seven. Growing up, I caught on fairly quickly that our family was different from most of my friends’ families. Spaghetti was a dinner we rarely (if ever) ate, due to the amount of little hands just waiting to paint the walls with it. It took us at least half an hour to get ready to go ANYWHERE. We were homeschooled, so you could walk into any room of the house and find children diligently pouring over their workbooks. We didn’t have a family dog until I was almost in high school, probably because my mom didn’t really want another being to take care of.

IMG_3042 copyVacations were one of the big things I noticed we did differently. I want to go on the record and say that I do not resent any part of my childhood. I loved every second of it and love my parents for what they were able to provide me and my siblings with. That being said, vacations were always a little…interesting in my family. I will never forget the one and only time my family attempted camping. Between the rain, the cold, cooking over a tiny portable stove and washing dishes in a sink we inflated, shower in a public shower, and the greenhouse-esque environment of the tent during the day, it was quickly decided that camping was NOT for the Mechlings, and our camping gear has been residing in my parent’s basement ever since. (The tent has come out for some “deck campouts” since then, though!)

We were WAY too big of a group to make a Disney pilgrimage. To go somewhere that didn’t have a family member with a house big enough for all of us to stay in was out of the question, and when we did have to stay in a hotel somewhere, we all packed into one room like a bunch of IMG_3097 copycozy related sardines. Vacations were also an opportunity to sneak in some summer school, so Williamsburg (my aunt lives in Virginia), Washington D.C., and New York City (my grandmother lives in Connecticut) were popular stops for us, thanks to their many monuments and historically significant events.

Now as an adult, and half of my siblings in their 20s too, family vacations have morphed into something completely different. With fewer mouths to feed and bodies to clothe, my parents are now able to broaden the vacation horizons a little. A favorite destination of ours is Destin, Florida, and we’ve been heading down there every summer for the past few years.

Earlier this year, my entire family (including son-in-laws!) spent a week in a dream beach house. The total number of people in the house: 12. Was it packed? Yes. Was it a ton of fun? Absolutely. Are group vacations like this something people can actually enjoy? You betcha, but it takes some work.

Jordan’s Guide to Having the Best Family Summer Vacation:

IMG_3148 copyStep #1: Be flexible. 

Plans do not have much of a shelf life when it comes to family vacations, at least in our house. Have a general idea of what you want to do, but don’t be completely heartbroken when your desire to go hit up the town shops gets trumped by the majority vote falling to going to the beach for the day. It’s a vacation. Go with the flow!

Step #2: Pitch in.

When vacationing with a group, it truly does take a village to keep everything going smoothly. Not ten minutes after we had unloaded everything at the beach house, my mom, sister, and I piled back into the car while everyone else jumped into the pool, and headed to the grocery IMG_3074 copystore to stock up, leaving with three cartfuls of food for the week. We ate every meal at the house, and everyone pitched in with cooking and cleaning up. Have a quick family meeting when you arrive (or beforehand, if you’re really good!) and divvy up the duties. Everyone doing little things here and there will be much more relaxing for everyone.

Step #3: Have a sense of humor. 

One of the best things about big family vacations are the inevitable hilarious moments NO ONE will ever forget. There were summers we journeyed up the East Coast with a TV/VCR combo wedged between the driver and passenger seat of our minivan, held in place by a couple of bungee cords. Dad had an awesome arm rest and the kids had hours of entertainment. Squeezing everyone into one hotel room? Turned into one giant slumber party, complete with figuring out at least one of us was a massive sleep talker. This year was the first family vacation with my infant son, who decided the beach was the perfect place to have a blowout diaper, in a swim diaper, of course. (Swim diapers, which are meant to not soak up water…or anything.) We were able to bury the orange-colored sand pretty easily. Any situation, no matter how aggravating or inconvenient, will almost always have a punchline. Be the person who finds it.

IMG_3090 copyStep #4: Embrace every moment.

“Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless—like chasing the wind.” Ecclesiastes 6:9

I still can’t believe that family vacations now involve spouses and grandchildren. It feels like yesterday my whole family fit into a Suburban. Now it takes at least three cars to get us all on the road together. “The days are long, but the years are short.” You never know what next year’s family vacation will look like. Savor every moment of insanity, belly laughs, and sightseeing. God has gifted you with the family you have for a reason. Cherish your treasure and make every memory you can.



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