Vacation, Families, and Excess Baggage

 According to the U.S Census Bureau, in 2011 the average family size was 3.18 people, (insert the required .18 of a person joke here). Multiply this by approximately four, and you have the number of suitcases my traveling party tries to shove in the back of a rented limousine.

   There are certainly perks to having a big family. You never have to share the table with strangers at a hibachi restaurant and you constantly have enough people around to field a soccer team, if need be. However, among the items on this inexhaustible list, quick and convenient travel isn’t one of them.

   The number of travelers in my family always changes. My immediate family consists of seven people there are three grandparents, six people in my uncle’s family, and always some tag-a-longs. The biggest group in recorded history was 19 in Vail, the winter of ’02. But there’re usually some conflicts, so the magic number is typically around 13, give or take a cousin.

   Describing what it’s like to be in my house with these 13 people the day before a trip is like listing the side effects of a prescription drug: may cause nausea, irritability, or lack of volume control, and don’t try if you are at risk of heart attack or stroke. Everyone is stressed and unprepared, and we all want to be left alone to freak out about our missing bathing suit in solitude.  However solitude, along with important travel documents, and the right flip-flop, is nowhere to be found in a house filled with enough people to violate building codes.

  If that’s not enough, consider the impending3:30 a.m.wake-up. When you’re traveling with a dozen other people, it’s best to get to the airport hours before anyone else. That apparently includes the pilot.

    At the airport the real fun begins. A big family will receive dirty looks from people in the check-in line. We just take way too much time. We try to make friends with airport personnel, and at least one of our bags is over 50 pounds. People dislike this kind of delay.

   Once past check-in we annoy the people in security. To move through security faster, TSA recommends packing an organized carry-on. My family’s bags look like they were hit by bombs. We make sure not to say the B-word in airport security though, after an incident back in ’05.

   Getting past security is taxing. But remember, traveling with the size equivalent of a respectable hip-hop entourage is a marathon, not a sprint.

   If being in an airport is difficult, being 30,000 feet in the air defies explanation. Though I pity the innocent bystanders most. It’s really convenient for us to constantly reach across the aisle for a piece of gum, or yell from first class to coach, but not for anyone else. Thus, I often volunteer to take the seat surrounded by strangers. It’s much easier in that position to pretend I don’t know my family, and join the other passengers in staring in disgust.

   Slowly though, things calm down. My older brother will fall asleep with his head on whoever’s next to him, while my mother shamelessly watches “The Lion King” on her seat back screen.  In these moments I start to revel in thoughts of the vacation to come: the unsuspecting hotel whose employees will know our names by the second day, the beachfront we will crowd, or the gondola we will fill to capacity. And I’m ultimately happy that we won’t have to share a hibachi table with strangers, and if need be, we can field a soccer team.

    These thoughts carry a person through hours at baggage claim, or a slow-moving customs line, delayed even further by a joke about my 7-year-old cousin smuggling cigars into the country.

 Because, although traveling with a big family is rough, it isn’t entirely bad. Entirely, though, being the operative word.

Did I mention how hard it is to make a dinner reservation for 13?