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How to Plan a Sri Lankan Family Vacation

Sri Lankan families going on vacation is no walk in a paddy field. There are just too many variables. It’s like going on a medieval quest of sorts.
So, we’ve compiled a few helpful tips to make it easier!

A typical Sri Lankan family vacation consists of not just immediate family members, but the extended family as well! (Or as we call it, ‘the whole jingbang’)

In addition to that, it often includes high-energy debates on politics and the occasional drunk uncle. Here’s how you can navigate the affair and come out of it with a stellar vacation plan!

Getting the jingbang together

So, before deciding on when, where and how to vacation, you’ll need to gather the whole jingbang first! The easiest way to get this done is to set up a little tea corner and lure them in with biscuits, cake, and the tea time classic, dodol. Once all the adults are in the room, put something interesting on the TV and banish the kids to it. Following this, have a little gossip session so that everyone gets comfortable and begin gorging themselves on the treats. This will ensure that they’ll be too stuffed to move for the next hour or so. Now you’re ready to discuss.

The date debate

You’ll need to select a day everyone will be available. This will be the day after when your achchi’s doctor’s appointment, uncle’s cricket game, cousin’s tv series episode, sister’s concert rehearsals are all done and dusted. Once you have the date, you can decide on where to visit.

Location, location, location

Of course, this isn’t a democracy, so you won’t get a vote on it, but eventually you will all agree on either Kandy or Galle. If it turns out to be neither, you’re on a roll. This is where the scrambling for an opportunity to have your viewpoints heard happens, and if everyone’s ideas get shot down, not to worry.

In the confusion, you’ll inevitably sift through numerous articles, ranging from “The Best Places to Travel to in Sri Lanka” to the “Lesser Known Travel Spots in Sri Lanka” series, or “101 Things to do in Sri Lanka”, because even though you’re Sri Lankan, you’re not QUITE sure about what you can do in the country.

Once you’ve all successfully agreed on where to go, you will need to decide on a mode of transport.

The majestic Dutch Fort by the sea, Galle. A classic!
Image courtesy: familytravel411.com

When walking isn’t an option

A remote area only accessible by private modes of transportation will require you to book a van (or a bus, depending on how many people you have in your family… No judgement! In fact, many of us can relate.) If you’ve all got vehicles, that would make things significantly easier.

Alternatively, you can take the train as one big, happy family. (And the beautiful scenery is enough to distract from potentially problematic debates like, is ginger tea in a coconut shell the ultimate Lankan welcome drink or is it cordial?)

Take the train. Put some space between yourself and that aunty who always pinches your cheeks.
Image courtesy: Flashpacking Travel Blog

You can’t sleep in the van

After deciding on transport, there’s the whole ordeal with booking a hotel (or bed and breakfast). Deciding on a hotel includes hastily searching up the latest credit card deals and discounts for the season and haggling with reception. After this strenuous back and forth, it will be time for more tea and casual decisions, such as the mandatory tea stops.


Sometimes your dad’s grandaunt’s daughter’s husband’s brother’s house maybe en route to your final destination, and this may serve as a tea stop. Otherwise, one of the older members among the group may launch into a nostalgic rant about a particular petti kade where they either met their first love or used to hangout with their friends. And once the tea stop has been decided, you’re all set!

The best tea stops are the least conspicuous ones because when you enter, you’re KO’d by the loud music and prominent scents of fresh tea and spicy shorteats.
Image courtesy: emilypolar.blog


The road trip standard is playing music and vibing to avoid actually having conversation with your family. To ease any potential tension, just compile a playlist of the most nostalgic songs (ABBA? The Gypsies? Jim Reeves?). You may receive a few sneaky ‘gifts’ which turn out to be cassette tapes, so try and be polite when you return them to the senders.

If things go smoothly, we estimate this whole process to take roughly about 5 hours (on average), which is pretty good, given our track records of jumping into rabbit holes and predisposition towards beating around bushes.

Now that you’ve successfully planned your vacation, here are a few things to be prepared for on the day of the trip itself!

Being prepared

If you planned on leaving early in the morning (like at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m.) prepare to be delayed as numerous people sit grumpily on the veranda and sip their tea. One of the kids will have some kind of minor injury, which will need tending to, or somebody’s going to get into a fight with another because of a silly nickname or a ‘stolen’ toy.  

After this, somebody’s going to bring up Donald Trump or another major figure in international politics. Beware, as this will lead to local discussions and may throw your entire holiday off the rails. If you notice anyone heading in this direction, immediately hand them a piece of dodol.

As it’s Christmas, you may be expected to exchange gifts. If you’ve forgotten to get any for the rest of the family, don’t panic. Simply feign you need to urgently visit the washroom and sneak off to the nearest Shopping Centre instead! Use your Credit Card to pick up the forgotten gifts… and pick up a heart-warming amount of discounts and other benefits yourself!

In the end, it’s ‘All’s well, that ends well.’ Isn’t that what we Sri Lankan families like best? Happy Holidays!!

Cover photo image courtesy: intrepidtravel.com

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