While driving my grandchildren to soccer practice, my grandson asked where his Papa was. I responded that he was at work, and as most 3-year-olds respond, he asked, “Why?” Before I had a chance to answer, he said, “Is Papa saving money for Disneyland?” Then the excited chatter broke out amongst my two grandchildren as they began to “plan” their multigenerational family Disney vacation. Here is how to make multigenerational family travel fun for everyone.
Mexico was the perfect setting for our first multigeneraitonal familyvacation, ages 2 to 62, but now we have to regroup for the next big vacation.
The key to a successful family vacation is to invest as much planning time as necessary before you book! Begin planning at least a year in advance. Everybody has different budgets, different vacation styles and different personalities. Find out who is really serious about vacationing with the family.
We have 4 daughters, ages 16 to 27, 2 grandchildren, other family members and friends that travel with us on our big trip. Grandma might prefer relaxing beaches; the grandkids favor Disney; Grandpa dislikes flying long distances, and your adult kids want to go to a dude ranch. That combination is a lot of age difference and lots of interesting personalities thrown together.
Open a dialogue with the family about their interests, activities, favorite sports, and dream destinations. With such diverse ages and abilities, this might not be the time to take three flights to an isolated Canadian mountain destination. It’s important to get everyone’s input and then offer up several appealing options, so everyone has a say. However, at the end, majority has to rule as not everyone will agree on every aspect.
In the early stages of planning, you don’t need a firm commitment, but you do need to know who’s interested. Once you know who’s in, then you have to re-ask, “How do we plan such an impossible trip for so many different personalities, and which ones offer something for everyone in the family?”
Pause Before Booking
Before committing to any vacation, make sure everyone really is committed. Don’t book optional and expensive excursions or activities, until you know what everyone wants to do. If at all possible, leave optional booking to the individuals. It’s far better to pick a basic destination, such as Mexico, Disney, or a dude ranch, and then let everyone pick and choose what they want to do.
Everybody Needs a Little Me Time
Balance your family time with your “me” time. You may want to create shared memories, but we all like quiet moments away from the rest of the family. Remember grandparents are not accustomed to busy toddlers, and teenagers don’t want to spend every waking moment with their parents.
Consider the layout of the accommodations too, especially if you are rooming together. Are there enough bathrooms? Does everyone have their own bed or bedroom?
Stay flexible to allow for spontaneous fun times. Let Grandpa and his grandson go lake fishing, while grandma, Aunt Betsy, and granddaughter play board games and Mom gets a massage at the resort.
Finally, don’t worry about keeping busy every minute. It’s okay to kick back and not do anything.
Remember – It’s Supposed to be Fun!
Last summer’s multigenerational family vacation to Mexico seems so long ago, yet the grandkids (ages 2 and 4 last summer) amazingly still remember. I asked them what was their favorite thing about our Mexico vacation, and their response? “The pool, Grandma!” My granddaughter also sternly reminded me that I and her Papa got to stay more days than she did.
Multigenerational travels are not going to be perfect. Families are messy and aggravating at home AND when traveling. Your teenage daughter will roll her eyes and you will embarrass her. The grandkids will become cranky at naptime. All the things that annoy you about your husband, sibling or parents will still annoy you away from home. Remind everyone that this may not be their dream vacation, but a getaway with the extended family is an important once-in-a-lifetime memory in the making.
Let go of your expectations, and go with the flow. Have fun and take lots of pictures. You’re making family memories that will last a lifetime.
Photo credits: Diana Rowe