12 Tips for Multigenerational Family Vacations
By Nancy Schretter, Editor
Multigeneration family vacations are very popular with our readers, and there are a number of things to consider before taking such a trip. If you're stressed about planning this year's multigenerational family vacation or family reunion - relax. The Family Travel Network is here to help.
Here are twelve family travel tips that will make your next multigeneration family vacation the best ever.
1. Consider health, safety and personality issues. Plan an intergenerational vacation that will cater to the needs of all ages rather than one solely designed with grandchildren in mind. Be honest about the preferences and limitations of all participants and their activity, diet or health restrictions in mind. If standing in long lines is not comfortable for grandparents or grandchildren, think twice about going to a theme park. Likewise, if the grandchildren are accustomed to plenty of daily structured activities with kids their own age, it may be best to choose a cruise line, tour or resort that offers daily children's and teens' programs for your vacation destination.
2. Brainstorm and plan the trip together. Travel experts have found that the most successful family vacations are those that involve both parents and children in choosing destinations and planning for their trip. The same is true for intergenerational travel. Working together surfaces important information and cements the "buy-in" process. Talk with every member of the groups about their interests, activities, favorite sports and dream destinations.
3. Specifically discuss expectations. It's important to discuss goals for the trip - such as having fun, getting to know each other better, experiencing enriching activities together, and learning about the world. Parents and grandparents should take the time to talk about what they're looking forward to, including meals together or specific shared activities. Through these conversations, the group will learn more about each other and find destinations and activities that everyone can enjoy. If only one part of the group (such as the grandparents) are paying for the trip, this expectations discussion is particularly important.
4. Set an budget that everyone can afford. Successful multigenerational trips do not have to be expensive ones. The best intergenerational vacations are those that are designed with your personalities, needs and interests in mind. Decide on a comfortable budget for your trip and make sure to include such items as souvenirs, tips, and a few unexpected activities or necessities. When calculating the group's budget, however, be careful to consider the needs of your traveling companions and cut corners wisely. For example, even though on-property theme park lodging may be more expensive, it is often well worth the cost for easy proximity at nap time or to provide the chance for a relaxing afternoon swim. Go over your final itinerary with the entire group and make sure everyone feels comfortable with your travel plans.
5. Make it special. Let every member of the multigenerational group choose one thing that they'd like to do on the vacation. This will allow everyone to feel more involved and will get the vacation off to a great start. If you have a tight budget, explain that at the outset and set a dollar figure for how much things can cost. Let the kids do some research on the Internet to find things they'd like to do.
6. Build in private time together as well as time apart. While the goal of an multigenerational family vacation is to create shared memories, it is also important to remember that children need time to burn off energy and enjoy the company of kids their own age. Likewise, grandparents need quiet periods for rest and some adult companionship as well. Keep this in mind when sorting through your vacation options. Cruises and intergenerational tours are popular for this reason. They offer supervised activities and programs for children and teens, allowing parents and grandparents to enjoy some time on their own. These itineraries typically also include blocks of time for shared activities, such as meals, tours, excursions to local attractions, entertainment, and group events. Remember to stay flexible on your trip, as children's moods and interests can change constantly. If members of the group find something they'd rather do, try to be spontaneous and go with the flow rather than sticking with the planned schedule.
7. Keep up the excitement. Travel plans are often made far in advance of the trip, but out of sight doesn't have to mean out of mind. Pick up some travel brochures and a guidebook and share them with your multigenerational group. Grandparents and parents can look for books that are set in your vacation destination and share them with the children. The Internet contains a variety of websites with pictures of your destination and information on activities that can be easily shared via e-mail. As the date draws closer, send everyone a suggested packing list for the trip.
8. Be prepared and expect the unexpected. Make a list of items that grandparents, parents and grandchildren will need to bring on the trip. These include identification, contact and health insurance information, recent photos, and medicines. In addition, check the latest federal requirements well in advance and bring the proper travel documents with you. If any member of the group has any dietary needs or medication requirements, make sure to be aware of those and share them with the appropriate parties as well. Take a few additional items in your carry-on luggage along with medicines and travel documents, such as a cell phone for emergencies, a change of clothes and bathing suit in case luggage is lost, and travel games and snacks for the trip. Think ahead and plan for occurrences such as air travel delays, illness, and homesickness.
9. Pack a great attitude. Attitude is everything when going on a multigenerational family vacation. If unforeseen events happen, stay flexible and positive. Relax and go with the flow. The children will learn important life lessons from watching how the adults on the trip react and everyone will have a much better time on their vacation.
10. Set a comfortable pace: Keep in mind each family member's individual preferences for waking hours, activity schedules, dress, dining options, nightlife, and needs for sleep and plan accordingly. Respect your differences and be willing to bend the rules a bit if necessary. Letting teens sleep in for an hour might make all the difference in having a great time on a multigenerational family vacation.
11. Leave the expectations at home: Multigenerational family vacations are one of most anticipated events of the year, so it's easy for grandparents and parents to get all misty-eyed envisioning the great memories and intimate bonding moments that will be created on their trip. If we're being honest, however, we know that family vacations never go exactly as planned. There may be bumpy moments, relationship issues may surface, travel snafus happen, the weather might not cooperate, and the kids might have a meltdown or two. It's okay. Just take the experience as it comes, don't dwell on it and go with the flow. Sometimes those vacations where things don't go as planned make the best vacation memories of all.
12. Capture and preserve your vacation memories. Consider giving each grandchild a journal and a disposable camera to bring along on your journey. Kids love taking their own pictures and it is fascinating to see travel through their eyes. In addition, be sure to bring along plenty of digital memory cards or film to capture every moment of your trip. Pictures and postcards can be put into a scrapbook after you return, providing a lasting keepsake of your wonderful experiences together.
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