Traveling with your family can be a roller coaster business: They’re the few people who have known you all your life, they are well aware of how you magnificent you look at 7am or when you have the flue, they’ve seen you achieve great things and they’ve watched you behaving like an idiot. No pressure. But it can also be an awesome, long overdue reunion when your brothers and sisters are scattered over the country (or Europe) and you usually don’t get to see them all at once. (The day-to-day reality is probably somewhere in between.) Rita has already given you lots of advice on how to travel with your parents and now I’ve done some badass investigative reporting on what it’s really like… to spend two weeks with parents and three siblings in Italy. Three!? Whoa.

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Day 1. Traffic traffic traffic

We were meant to take five hours to get to Munich. It took ten instead thanks to the genius plan of hitting the road the same day everybody else does (last day of school). The battery of my Kindle died after two hours, my newspaper was read in the 30 minutes that followed and because I’m having serious trouble to sit still for long (even being in a cinema for two hours usually freaks me out), the atmosphere got a little tense on the cramped backbench. My sister insisted on playing Taylor Swift which I assume is only because she hasn’t slept at all (!) the previous night because of a huge goodbye bash from her year. C’mon, she’s just 16 and not meant to be a wild party girl for the next ten years!

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Day 3. Bergamo and Milan 

After a long, wine-induced night at my uncle’s in Munich and another full day spent in the car we finally made it to northern Italy, checked out the holiday apartment (super spacey) and Lake Idro which you can see from most windows. Yaaay! We made a pitstop to both Bergamo and Milan to get my brother from the airport. The cities are beautiful and full of architectural twists but a collective frustration set in when we couldn’t track down a single wi-fi spot. 24 hours without social media, shock horror. It turned out that we pretty much spent two weeks without wifi. Spoiler: It was the best thing that could have happened.

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Day 4. Rain rain rain

We thought the rain during the first three days was an accident or a very strange one-off natural disaster. But it wasn’t. It came down in buckets and none of us packed any appropriate clothing for temperatures below 25°C. We walked to the local Lake Idro and took the dog for a swim – isn’t he the most beautiful and fluffiest creature on this planet? There was also a pizza place just opposite our house, so… some delicious oven-baked pizza did the job and made for lots of laughter and jolliness (Is that a word?) in the evening.

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Day 7. Hiking and Lake Garda (and rain)

We drove to Arco at Lake Garda to shop hiking boots (me!) and long trousers (me also!) and walked up the local castle to catch a (rainy) view on the beautiful lake. We took two different routes on the way back, lost each other in the woods and once my Dad, brother and I found the others, we threw tiny stones and flowers at them from the behind the fortress because that’s what mature people do. The only one who noticed that though was the dog. On the way we popped by the cutest (albeit touristy) village, watched some sailing boats and the holiday elite dining. An inappropriately summery dressed, huge family including an old dog whose ears are basically non-functional didn’t quite fit that picture. You know the movie Little Miss Sunshine? We’re probably that family.

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Day 8. Garda, Tremosine and ice cream

After I saw Miss Sophie’s photos of Tremosine there was no way of not visiting the village that is party built on rocks. So I dragged my parents into the car at 8am and right into the wildest rain storm I have ever experienced (see how the weather situation is getting a bit out of control?). The pavement lids were bursting out of the streets, I kid you not, and it was genuinely scary. The weather stayed rather gross when we arrived in the town of Garda, our first stop, so instead of doing a six-hour hike we made a short walk to the beautiful San Vigilio, took cheesy photos and sneaked into a private beach. The latter was of course my idea but seeing my parents happily participate put a huge grin on my face. We took a flashy ferry back to the Western side of the lake (which, take note, is way prettier!) and drove up to Tremosine. It was already getting dark and the road up to the village was so so so tiny and full of rocks and turns and twists, it’s a miracle the car is still alive and well! But once you’re up there, your jaw drops big time and nothing else matters.

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Day 9. Surfin Italy. 

Today was the first day of surf school. My two brothers, my sister and I took a five-day course to escape the grey skies in the mountains, brush up on our windsurfing skills .. and 50 per cent of us were falling in love with a curly, brown-haired surf teacher who has the cutest and shyest smile! Cliche much?

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Day 12. More surfing.

Surfing is awesome, we were spending every day on the water. Sometimes the wind was so strong it feels like trying to hold the sail close to you is breaking your bones (but you’re oh so fast, you’re practically flying over the lake), sometimes it’s absolutely dead (wind force 0 that is) and you’re far away, far away in distant land and no idea how you’ll get back to the school. On such “miserable” occasions however, it is highly advisable to sit down on your board until said surf teacher comes with an old motor boat and “rescues” you “poor girl”. That’s what my sister did! She is 16! Unbelievable! At night we were at a beach party where my brother did the crazy chicken dance, the other one is testing his flirting skills on Spanish ladies (weird to watch but not bad) and the sister and I are throwing angry glances at each other because of a head full of curls.

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Day 14. Bye bye baby!

The last day has dawned! We celebrated it with yet another sessionon those boards and then my sister and I decided (well, I decided, she was mad at me for two hours) that we would probably make more of a lasting impression if we didn’t ask surfer boy to touch his hair. (I still, three weeks after we got back, get the odd “Do you think he remembers me?” Whatsapp message from her) We sneaked away from the rest of the clan, got some pizza and wine and went to boat landing stage that we’ve been to so many times over the last two weeks. After six hours of sleep we get back into the car (see procedure Day 1).

So? It was intense. Sometimes it was flipping great, sometimes nerve-wrecking but that’s all part of the deal. We had some loud fights followed by awkward moments, and some genuine fun. Families, just like relationships if you want to do it right, take a lot of time and work and sometimes you catch yourself thinking that a weekend getaway with the girls would have probably been less stressful. It’s weird to come together a few times a year and realise that everyone’s become a grown-up in the meantime. But it is so worth making the effort and you’ll rewarded with strengthened relationships. Cheesy conclusion over, what are your experiences with holidays with the fam? Do you avoid them where possible or do you jump right at every surfer bo… ehm, opportunity?

All photos taken by Caroline Schmitt