*for my godmother Hannelore. Because we spoke about it last Monday.
1. Rent one big house together. Working “together” to choose a house, everyone should drag their feet and be overly polite until the bossiest one just takes care of it. The Boss should resent that they had to do everything. Everyone else should resent that The Boss got to make the decision. No one should say anything (yet).
2. Gather funding. This financial component is essential for establishing tension from the start because everyone in your family has different incomes. Even The Boss (who is the wealthiest) says, “Whoa,” upon seeing the price per night.
3. Make sure the house is spacious enough to accommodate everyone (technically) but also no one (comfortably). Some variations to maximize relationship destruction:
- Select a house with one fewer master suite than the number of couples. Don’t forget to unfairly resent the couple who didn’t get an ensuite bathroom.
- Select a house with enough beds for every kid but one.
- Put every kid in a sleeping bag on the floor except one, who gets a bed. Because, as everyone knows, Clarissa is a little princess who’s done no wrong since the day she was born, and what, now you’re mad at, like, a child?
Note: Everyone must hate the house but say they love it.
4. Invite that estranged family member. Or you know what, don’t. Either way, someone’s going to be furious.
5. Bring a ridiculous amount of food. Each family should bring enough food to feed eighteen families for four months—except the one family who brings enough to feed one family for one week. Unreasonably label the reasonable family “stingy.”
6. Demand that everyone eat what you brought.
7. Retain some very specific and important rules about what should not be eaten. Do not tell anyone what they are. Become quietly angry when the rules are violated.
8. Consent to all dinner plans. But as game-time approaches, start to cook something else entirely. Take up a lot of burners; always somehow be in the way of the assigned chef. Claim the menu shift is due to dietary restrictions, but really you just want something else, and, like, it’s YOUR vacation, too, right? At least once, “remind” someone who’s already made you dinner that you have plans to eat out. Also, let the same two people do the dishes after every meal. If you’re one of them, sigh audibly. But say nothing (yet).
9. Carry all earthly possessions to the beach. Basketball and bocce and volleyball and football, and what the fuck are they getting out, a badminton net? Drag it all down a giant dune and forget about the trip back up. The Boss should force the family members who brought only a towel and a book to play badminton, and then everyone should think, if Diana and Michael were so keen to play badminton, why didn’t they lug down a shopping cart of beach equipment themselves?
10. Play board games 24-7 for some reason. Without clearly delineated winners and losers, everyone risks surviving vacation feeling calm, even pleasantly refreshed. Bonus: no matter how competitive you are, anyone either more or less competitive than you is super annoying.
11. Finally explode—but on the wrong person. Try taking it out on the kids because they are an easy target. Or that one widowed family member who can’t call for backup. Get it all out. There’s a lot in there.
12. Hide in that one tucked-away bathroom, as you have been doing all week. Only this time, stay in there for so long that everyone starts to talk in hushed, reverent tones about you. Cry and scream.
13. “Apologize” for exploding. Play nice in the final eight minutes of vacation. Smile. Give everyone a hug. There. That’s your apology.
14. As you pull out of the driveway, tell everyone we should definitely do this again next summer. Same house, same mini golf where Uncle John threw a hissy fit about how Uncle Billy doesn’t correctly calculate penalty strokes, same everything.
14. On the ride home, strap in for the long, damning post-mortem with your spouse. Add screaming, crying kids. This is the best part. This is your true vacation.
15. Kind of miss the whole thing the instant you’re home. It wasn’t so bad, right? It was kind of fun. Reinforce this idea by telling everyone at the office that it was great. This is just the kind of mind that will get you back in the family van next summer.
If these strategies fail to spark bitter acrimony among your extended family, try again next vacation. And add alcohol. And more screaming, crying kids.