A few days after publishing the Vacational Merit post I came to the striking realization that I totally forgot about a specific vacation! VISITING FAMILY! How could I forget those vacations? Visiting family is totally the reason I travel these days!
(By the way, any cousins who feel so inclined to move to Ireland would have my full support in the matter. Especially if you moved into a castle. Heck, how about I just come live with you? I can tend to the... uh, sheep? Yep, sounds like a plan.)
Genuinely enjoying a vacation centered around visiting family is a learned skill. And as each family is totally unique with it's own strange quirks to tackle there is no one-size-fits all guide to thriving in it. But there are a few basics.
There will be chaos. A visit to family nearly always coincides with an extended gathering (often for a meal, either as a cause or effect of people coming), and the more people the more chaos. And when the small child generation is up, the compounded hordes will only add to it. So be prepared for it, make sure you know when you need to take a break, and figure out how to facilitate this (having a nursing baby is a WONDERFUL excuse to need to go find a quiet corner every so often).
There will be food. Family gatherings often focus on a large meal, either as the cause or the consequence of people visiting. Which means many people will be crammed in together cooking all sorts of delicious food. Lots and lots (and LOTS) of food. Lets hope you really do like the family recipe legacies (there is a certain Grandma Whalen fudge recipe in my family tree that is AWESOME), as not only will you be eating them, but you may get the honor to be the one to make them as well.
There will be hugging. Some families are huggier than others, but good luck getting out of a gathering without at least a few. I remember visiting my father's extended family a few years back, and the few remaining great aunts (his mother's sisters) all still calling him "Little Denny" and remarking on how he still has his family trademark red hair.
There will be defined family roles that will never changed. The baby will ALWAYS be the baby of that generation (even when they're pushing 60, or more). The oldest will ALWAYS be in charge. And that's just how those things are.
There will be story telling and heirloom bestowing. It passes down the family history to the next generation and gives a common theme to the visits (especially when it's the same story shared every year). Sometimes I take pause, and wonder what stories I will be sharing with my children. What snippets of life will turn into family legacies for my generation, and which will forever be lost with age. I doubt many people have a rhyme or reason to it, and that the shape of the ancestors is molded by whatever small pieces were taken a fancy too. Will I remember the story Aunt Leslie told me that one time about when she was a little girl and got the bridal doll she so dearly wanted, and how it was broken shortly there after? Will I think to tell my children? Will they listen? Will the antique trunk with the doll's homemade dresses end up in my closet? Or in someone elses? Or in no-ones at all?
There will be advice. It's one of those generational things, the older generation must impart their wisdom and judgment onto the younger, and the younger must weigh the value of life lessons lived in eras past and what applies to the shape of the world today. Also, the younger generation must nod a lot, as being agreeable to the advice of your elders is seen as having been raised well, and you really don't want to end up in the middle of THAT argument should you demonstrate otherwise.
And finally, there will be love. Perhaps not in large quantities in every family, but sufficient amounts will be present in most. And that is why you do the family visits in the first place. Because they are family, and on some deeper level you both respect and love them for that simple fact.