Deborah Armstrong

What? You’re going on holiday with friends! Are you crazy?

Deborah's Diary

It takes a lot of nerve to agree to holiday with friends. Being tied to another family for seven days without the possibility of escape is daunting. Family is different. Friendships can be broken over the silliest disagreement. Actually, families can be, too, so forget that argument. Travelling with family or friends can be a bad mistake. Think very carefully before you commit. And then, after a few bottles of red wine, say “Yes, we’d love to go with you to London!” (That’s not exactly how it happened, but both families love to over exaggerate and this is my one and only time.)

When travelling with friends it is important to set up guidelines. Decide on travel arrangements, places of interest to see together and when to separate. Our family makes very agreeable travelling companions. We let the Ingledales (the other family) do all of the bookings so that if anything goes wrong it’s their fault.  But seriously, it is easier on all of us when the ones with the highest expectations for accommodation look after that aspect so that they have the peace of mind that they are staying in the best hotel. Even when the hotel does not meet our expectations, it’s okay. We were all together and that’s all that counted (despite the extremely small bed).

The same when dining, stopping at the local pub for an ale, or having a coffee break. Anything is fine with the exception of Garfunkel’s – it reminded me of Denny’s. Pret a Manger and Paul’s are definite stops for lunch or coffee.Ontario could make good use of these franchises. Split the bills or if you are the first one to the counter, pay the bill for the coffee and tea. If you are going to be friends for the next twenty five years, believe me, the tab will even out. This is a rule both families have followed for twenty five years – now we’re onto the next. If you don’t think the tab is even, remember you can skimp on your wedding gift for their child’s wedding.

When you’re travelling in a large group, ours was 6 or 7 depending on the day, it is important to try to stay together, at least on the same block. Rule of thumb is that the leaders, usually the men, must stop at all crosswalks and wait for the ladies to catch up. Serious window shopping is a constant and must be accepted at all times. Me, well, I was always the straggler but not from window shopping. Arthritis is a bitch when walking, even when heavily medicated. I knew that eventually I would catch up. There’s always a red light at the next crossing. Wear bright colours, too. They help when you are being looked for. Red coats really help when everyone else is in black. Red may even single you out for pick pocketing – only a tourist would wear red.

Even if you don’t shop, enjoy the shopping because you never know when you might find something you want or learn something about fashion. The Ingledales are amazing shoppers. They all have an eye for fashion and they know a good price when they see it. We just stand back as they tear through clothing racks to find the perfect shirt or coat – and they always do. And when we need to buy clothing? It’s with their approval only – we can’t embarrass them (too much). Hubby got the perfect cap and scarf to keep him warm on our walks – with the Ingledale’s approval. He looked so English.

Enjoy the sights. Even if fine art or relics from the Medieval Age are not your thing, you are bound to see something that will grab your interest. Everyone can agree on bad art and everyone will have a comment for a chastity belt. Guaranteed.

Make light of stressful situations. Laugh when your luggage doesn’t arrive with the others. Say something totally off the wall when you have no idea where you are or how you got there. Enjoy the blond moments and the gray haired ones – there are always plenty to share. Give your friend a hug if it stops your from throttling your husband.

When your families do decide to go their separate ways for a day or two it’s all good. Doing what your family wants to do without worrying about making the other family happy will not cause you guilt. It will only make you look forward to meeting up with them again because by the end of the day you’ve had it with your own.

A sign of a successful holiday is returning home happy and eager to go away again, even with the same people. I haven’t talked with Mrs. Ingledale since we returned. We’ve both been too busy, as per usual. Pictures have been posted on Facebook and we all look happy. What more could we ask for?

Next time we go south. We’re game. Are the Ingledales?

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