This is the most embarrassing thing families do on vacation

Embarrassing things families do on vacation: Striking silly poses.

The silly photos. The touristy behavior. And the chaos — oh, the chaos!

If I had to pick just three of the most embarrassing things families do while they travel, those would be the ones.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how families make fools of themselves on vacation. That’s because my kids are engaging in more cringe-worthy behaviors as they become teenagers. They include taking photos and videos that must never find their way to social media, being disruptive, and disturbing the peace.

Just yesterday, I heard a knock at the door of our vacation rental. When I opened the door, I was facing a large bearded man wearing a sleeveless Harley-Davidson T-shirt.

“I’m your neighbor downstairs,” he announced.

I immediately knew what we’d done — or, more precisely, what my youngest daughter and son had done. They were loud. They played “catch” right above his bedroom and even when I begged them to quiet down, they ignored me.

Mr. Harley was tough to ignore now that he was standing there in the flesh.

“Hang on,” I said. “I’d like to introduce you to my kids.”

“Kiiiiids,” I yelled upstairs. “Come meet our neighbor.”

After they met Mr. Harley they never ran in the house again. When it looked as if they might, I reminded them that Mr. Harley probably had friends who were in a motorcycle gang. That’s all it took.

I wish it were always that easy. But it isn’t. That’s why it’s worth taking a closer look at the ways families embarrass themselves on vacation, and how to avoid trouble.

Iden runs along an abandoned track at Golden Spike National Historic Site in Utah. A posed photo? You decide.
Iden runs along an abandoned track at Golden Spike National Historic Site in Utah. A posed photo? You decide.

The posed photo

When you travel with your family, it seems there are only two kinds of photos you can take: pictures of the scenery around you and posed photos. I’m only exaggerating a little. Once the kids see your camera or phone come out, they put on a goofy face and start to prance around like gazelles.

Some families have turned the posed photo into art. You don’t have to look far to see families-on-vacation pictures — in front of the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, In-N-Out Burger in Glendale. They do funny things in those photos like wear silly grins or make that heart shape with their hands, which I find really annoying.

I’m one to talk. We have albums of posed photos from several continents on Google, many of them so embarrassing that I can’t share them or even write about them. But my New Year’s resolution for 2019 was to stop taking them.

How do you do that? Institute a “no posing” rule. Be discreet about the phone. Keep ’em guessing — is he checking his email or taking a picture? Kids do the strangest things when they know there’s a lens trained on them. Refuse to take a photo of a child who is dancing around like a monkey. Actually, that brings me to my next point.

Aren Elliott at the Portland Art Museum in 2017. Museums are not for sleeping -- or are they?
Aren Elliott at the Portland Art Museum in 2017. Museums are not for sleeping — or are they?

Touristy behavior

I admit we behave like tourists because we are tourists. But do we have to be such obvious visitors? No, we do not. And I’m not even talking about staring at the skyscrapers in Manhattan or running through the waves in Waikiki as if it’s the first time we’ve seen the ocean.

Sometimes, tourists do inappropriate things like trying to take a nap in a museum (see the picture of my oldest son above, caught in the act). Sometimes, they just walk into traffic, expecting the world to stop as they take a picture of a statue or building.

I asked my kids about the most touristy thing they’d ever done. They both said “ziplining.” True, ziplining is touristy. But after a while, they revised their answers.

“Shopping,” admitted my 12-year-old daughter.

She hates shopping. Buying stuff makes no sense to her, and especially if she’s purchasing souvenirs that end up collecting dust in the basement. That said, she says she likes going to some shopping malls, the Ala Moana mall — a vast outdoor shopping district in Honolulu — being her favorite.

You can avoid touristy behavior by refusing to do what everyone else is doing. That’s always a good idea when you’re on vacation because you’ll not only avoid standing in ridiculously long lines, but you’ll also have a unique experience away from the beaten path that’s been covered to death by my colleagues in the travel writing community. How can you tell if you’re doing something touristy? To paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, you’ll know touristy behavior when you see it.

The back seat of our Honda Pilot in Texas in 2017. Chaos!
The back seat of our Honda Pilot in Texas in 2017. Chaos!

And finally, the chaos

Families are chaotic. But put a family on the road, and the chaos spreads unchecked. The back of the car, which used to just be cluttered, now looks as if a small tornado has passed through it. Your hotel room is in such disarray that you don’t know where the bed ends and the carpet begins. I wanted to show you more pictures to prove this wasn’t just hyperbole, but my kids wouldn’t let me.

I don’t know why everything becomes disorganized, but I think I have a solution: declutter. Get rid of the things that contribute to the chaos. In my family, it’s the extra gadgets, toys, blankets, and other items that don’t belong on the trip. If nothing else, these items lead to embarrassing vacation photos of the back of your car like the one I just shared with you.

I harbor no illusions about changing the world. My rants will probably not reduce the number of cringe-worthy family vacation photos. Nor will they stop families from doing touristy things. But they might rein in the chaos just a little.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at Cavalrytravelinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend