8 Reasons To Avoid Staying With Family When Traveling

Meet the Parents
Meet the Parents

The holidays are here, with many of us traveling to visit family in other states. Sometimes they’ll offer to put us up for a few days, and at first this is tempting. Ah, yes, the enjoyment of gathering in the well appointed living room near the glow of a cozy fireplace as we share memories and laughter with the spirit of Norman Rockwell smiling down upon us. Plus, think of the dough we’ll save by skipping a hotel! Too bad the reality is less Norman Rockwell and more Edvard Munch’s The Scream. So before you decide to crash with cousin Eddie, let me remind you of some downsides and you may set your GPS to the Ramada Inn.

1. Daily Routine Disruption (Yours and Theirs)

Cramming the assorted rituals of a bunch of people into one household can be rather chaotic. Who knew Aunt Mabel practices her saxophone jazz riffs at 5:30 each morning? Or that your sister-in-law eases into the day with a danish and a quiet crossword, while your niece cranks up gangsta rap for her Zumba workout? You’ve got those who eat lunch right at noon and those that skip it. Some folks sack out at 8:30 and others can chitchat until 2am. Factor in the family members still suffering from jetlag and a three-hour time difference and you have Big Brother: The Home Game. Complete with hours of pointless bickering, until everyone is cranky and irritable (in temperament and bowel).

2. Uncomfortable Beds

When I say “beds” here, I’m being generous. Grandma’s idea of a guest room is a sleeping bag in front of the washing machine. How about the futon? So lumpy it must be filled with Cousin Edna’s mashed potatoes from last night (more on that later). You could try the couch, provided you have a good chiropractor to realign your spine after four nights stretched across the permanent depression left by 25 years of uncle Henry’s ass cheeks. As for sofa beds, they are required by law to have a painful metal bar running directly underneath the pancake-thin mattress. What’s my sleep number? 666, because I slept like hell. Since most of these ‘beds” are found in dank basements, creepy attics and coffin-sized rooms, I’m thinking of starting an app called ScareBNB. To top it all off, there is never enough room for everyone, which leads to…

3. Uncomfortable Sleeping Arrangements

What’s worse than sleeping on a surplus WWII army cot? Sharing it with your brother-in-law! Space is already limited at family get-togethers, and someone always arrives with an unexpected guest, be it the new girlfriend, the Swedish foreign exchange student or the estranged spouse who only came along for the sake of the grandkids. This leads to last minute sleeping arrangements with enough oddball pairings to give Freud a boner. Sons sharing beds with mothers. Fathers with daughters. Adult male nephews in a twin bed. Married couples in bunk beds. Uncles with nieces and wait – how did my wife get paired up with that Swedish foreign exchange student while I’m curled on a beanbag chair with Aunt Mabel?

4. Food Preparation and Meals

Remember Cousin Edna’s mashed potatoes, suitable for futon filling? We appreciate the efforts when well meaning, but poorly skilled family members insist on providing a home-cooked meal, and sure, the secret ingredient is love. But it’s still hard to hide the grimace from swallowing soggy veggies and cardboard chicken.

Also remember that we are a people of diverse dietary needs and choices. Vegan. No tuna. Gluten-free. Nut allergies. Lactose-intolerance. Staunch (or is it starch?) “Meat and Taters” men. Add in local culinary quirks (“Try the deep-fried, yogurt-stuffed tomatoes. They’re a favorite in these parts!”) or a thoughtless comment (“A whole stick of butter in this recipe? No wonder you’re struggling with your weight!) and you get a meal that offers indigestion and indignation.

5. No Having Sex (You and Your Significant Other)

OMG! Are you kidding me? Way too awkward and weird to even think about.

6. Having Sex (Parents and/or In-laws)

OMG! Are you kidding me? Way too awkward and weird to even think about.

7. Unfamiliar Appliances

Suppose you wake up before the in-laws and want some coffee and toast. Simple. Then you realize they own some Scandinavian-made bistro-quality cappu-spresso maker with more knobs and switches than the Wayback Machine. Hope you enjoy that cup of froth-festooned black tar. The toast doesn’t go much better, because the toaster gives no indication of “light” or “dark,” instead featuring a dial surrounded by a series of undecipherable symbols. Does the black oval mean “bagel” or “broil?” It must indicate, “burnt,” as your bread pops out resembling a charcoal briquette.
And don’t get me started on unfamiliar shower controls. Whether separate hot/cold knobs or that single handle stick shift thingy, I manage to freeze and scald myself within seconds, usually when the water is aimed at my genitals.

8. Unintended Group Therapy Session Gone Wrong

We’ve all seen news reports of wedding receptions where a fistfight breaks out or family reunions that involve gunplay. How do can these seemingly joyous events turn so ugly? Two words: emotional baggage. Or two other words: deep-seated resentment. Actually a whole bunch of two words: sibling rivalry, bitter jealousy, psychological scarring, angry drunk, childhood trauma, chemical imbalance, grudge holding, chronic depression, inner demons, festering inferiority, repressed remorse. Did I forget any?

Let’s face it, most of us are a mental mess, and we have a billion dollar pharmaceutical industry to prove it. Get a family of eggnog-fueled ticking time bombs together for Christmas morning and the smallest thing can trigger an outburst (“That reminds me of when you pushed me into the compost heap. I’ve never forgiven you!”). Now you’ve gone from tearing open presents to tearing open old wounds, sharing grievances Festivus-style, and before you know it Aunt Mabel has killed Uncle Henry in the conservatory with the candlestick. TC mark

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Image Credit: Meet the Parents

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