Sure, you already know how rhythms of relationships change as families age; those changing relationships affect traveling together too. Give some thought to this checklist as you consider taking a multigen family vacation, or if you are the adult child traveling with parents. These tips from a veteran multigen family traveler who has experienced family vacations as both the planner and the invited will help you avoid some common pitfalls of multigen trips.
Who’s in Charge?
Balancing respect of the elders with determination to make the travels fit your interests can be tricky. It gets complicated being the obedient child once you’ve accomplished your own traveling and really do know what to do and how to proceed.
Who Invites Whom?
There’s a different give-and-take if the elders extend the invitation, versus the adult children calling Mom and Dad to say “Travel with us.” If your parents invited you, won’t it be hard to exert your preferences which might be very different from theirs?
Families traveling with young kids are advised to inolve the kids in some of the planning decisions. Pays off with enthusiasm and engagement. That may not play the same way when you ask your folks what they want to do. Worst of all, if they declare something that makes you groan, sorry you asked, who pulls rank?
In my experience: After a lifetime of heading to the beach for a sleeps-many house rented by their Dad and me, my grown kids are now doing the renting and inviting us, the folks. Haven’t seen the same trend yet from the grandkids, even though they’re old enough!
Consider giving your preferences first, reservations already made, and then ask. Or suggest your morning intentions and ask the elders about theirs for the afternoon.
Is This Really Shared Travel? Or Do You Want a Babysitter?
I love my grandchildren and my traveling. They don’t need to be mutually exclusive. When parents invite their parents to travel together as three or four generations, intentions need to be up front, out loud and clear.
- What activities are truly fun for everyone together?
- How much time each day do the elders want for quiet or adventure without the others?
- Have you identified a unique experience for grandparents and grandchildren, on purpose without the middle generation?
Here’s what has worked for us: Travel stories about a grand adventure, books with cultural sense-of-place flair, handcrafted textiles or pottery, sometimes paintings — these are the things my grandchildren know return with me so they expect the same as part of the search when we travel together.
Road Trip Generational Etiquette
Did your father do all the driving on road trips when you were a kid, your mom in the front passenger seat keeping order somehow among the kids in the back? Better find out if that’s what he expects from you and your wife–or tip him off ahead that your manhood does not diminish if your wife drives.
Don’t let safety take you by surprise with multigen roadtripping as it did me. Chat a bit about driving styles.
In my experience: My 80-year-old parents wanted to do some of the driving after I picked them up in North Carolina to meet my sister in Virginia for her son’s graduation from The Citadel.
OK, I knew they seemed safe on trips to St. Simon’s Island and The Cloister where they loved to dance, or back to the old home place in New Jersey, or to my Georgia home.
What I found out as their passenger was they changed drivers every 100 miles. Exactly 100, stopping on the shoulder of the interstate highway. Good grief, I should have anticipated the questions to ask before setting out.
Beach House, Mountain Cabin Meals
The dynamics of respecting whose house the clan gathers within changes when you rent a beach house or mountain cabin. Equalizer in a rental is a good thing, but it’s still smart to identify the parameters early on.
This is not Mom’s kitchen. However, does everyone on the trip really like Mom’s cooking?
Not my mother’s. In fact, as the elder mother myself now, I much prefer the grilling, cake baking and detailed recipe-following of the generation younger than I in my big blended family.
Balancing the workload and getting in the groceries needs conversation in advance.
In My Experience: My husband loves to provide for the crowd and he’d fill the pantry with hot dogs and canned chili, nitrate-filled sandwich meat and single slices of wrapped cheese.
Farmer’s market fresh and local is more the style of the others sharing the rental kitchen so the advance talk works best to limit quantities.
Budget building with parents for travel is tricky. Dear Old Dad probably has an image as the family pay agent but your tastes and credit card balances are undoubtedly different.
Agreeing to discuss costs later usually means somebody gets stuck, or feels that way. Avoid that with up-front conversations like, “Hey Mom and Dad. Want to split the cost of a beach house? I’ve done the research and the prices seem to be $$$.”
Dining out if your generation does craft cocktails and the elders don’t make splitting down the middle or alternating the bill a bit testy. Talk about restaurant check settling long before choosing the restaurant.
In My Experience: When I joined two sons and their families in Costa Rica, I brought cash. They rented the house, figured out the transportation, and booked the surfing lessons. Buying the food was a place for me to fit in.
Splitting the Activities
My big blended family splits up in all sorts of different patterns when we travel. I still find it hard to believe only stepson John and I wanted to soak in the Baths of Baden Baden during a big family gathering in Germany.
In My Experience: Taking it easy suits my husband and our high-energy daredevil son Andrew chooses genuinely to hang out with him on many family trips. That’s been true since he was a high school exchange student in Siegburg, Germany.
Find me an opera or ballet or theater and firstborn son Adam is off for tickets with me, anywhere in the world. We figured that out traveling with two generations in England.
Where have you traveled with your parents? Any notions to make it smoother the next time? Share with us in the comment section below.