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No ‘we’ in family: when family travel is not a democracy

This is the story of how, over the course of three weeks of travel, I became a dictator. Learn from my mistakes and start your dictatorship before you even leave.

A stick of fancy deodorant, three bamboo toothbrushes, a tube of toothpaste, a plush samurai sword and two pairs of goggles. This is what we lost on our most recent family trip overseas. And all because, for a brief moment, I allowed the democratic process free reign.



Family travel is all about compromise. So there you are patiently walking around some car racing track in Montreal, or attempting sleep in a Hello Kitty room in Tokyo, knowing that eventually it will be your turn and you’ll be on a beach in Cebu getting a massage far, far away from the kids for a blessed hour (of course you take joy in the happiness of your loved ones, but it does help if you’re happy too). 


Three year old Mandy aside, we’re all experienced travellers who have honed our individual packing rituals over many years. But family packing is a different beast, requiring a coordinated plan of attack, with little room for compromise. 


Deodorant, sword and googles already gone, I eventually took over all the packing, assuming responsibility for all that was left behind. “Where’s the adaptor?” was met with “In the red pouch in my handbag.” No longer was the hope that someone else had it in their bag. There was no one else. Only me. And so we moved cities and countries and hotels with the assurance that I, and only I, had packed it all. It worked.


Until, after that massage in Cebu, all supple and glowing from the coconut oil, I hurriedly packed our bags in twenty minutes. And left behind our toothbrushes and toothpaste. 


So perhaps, for those still questioning democracy, here is proof that dictatorships are doomed to fail. Or at the very least have bad teeth.


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Written by: Gaya Avery
Published: 4 November 2018

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