Written by special contributor, Morris Lilienthal
As the average nuclear family size continues to trend lower, today’s family trips often encompass grandparents and extended families. Many families find that trips that include young children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are well worth the added planning and coordination. Bringing the whole family together can yield lasting memories but may require a little extra patience on everyone’s part. Take a look at the following tips for planning multi-generational travel.
Select Accommodations Carefully
Look for rental houses and villas that cater to multiple families. The key is balancing private bedrooms with shared living quarters. When people have a chance to retreat to a private space for a nap or quiet time, they’re more likely to enjoy gathering together during the day. Having private space for each family can also help young children and the elderly stay on their normal daily schedule and routine. Airbnb and VRBO are two great options for cool rental houses the whole family will enjoy. These websites offer many interesting and unique accommodations.
It’s also important to weigh the special needs of your family. If a family member requires handicapped accommodations, research those options at your destination. Consider the special needs of elders with dementia or limited mobility.
While everyone enjoys going out to a good restaurant, multi-generational families should also strongly consider eating in. Seating a large party at a restaurant often requires an advanced reservation, extra time, and can be expensive. Instead of the headaches that may come with eating out, consider eating in if your vacation rental has a nice kitchen or grill. Additionally, the kids will appreciate not being glued to the table.
Plan the Right Kind of Trip
Certain vacations lend themselves better to multi-generational travel than others. Cruises are famous for large family gatherings as they ultimately keep everyone together but allow plenty of flexibility to branch out for age-specific activities during the day. Shoot to gather together at meals, but allow age and interest groups to split up for some daytime activities. Trips to the beach or mountains also lend themselves well to multi-generational travel while amusement parks and ski trips may limit participation for young children and grandparents.
Capitalize on Overlapping Interest
You may be surprised to find that a grandparent and grandchild or an aunt and nephew have an overlapping interest, like animals, politics, sports or games. Ask questions to discover common interests among family members who may not have otherwise had much in common. Many kids love board games and cards and grandparents will appreciate the quality time together. Consider planning two or more daytime excursions and let family members split up according to their interests and activity levels. Recreational activities like golf, hiking, and boating may also bring about multi-generational fun.
Get on the Same Page
Have a common understanding about the point of the trip and individual versus group time. Holidays and birthdays are great times to get away with the whole family for a vacation. While it’s good to let family members split up some during the day, each member of your family should also be willing to compromise and share their time with the group. Invariably, some activities and restaurants will appeal more to one person over another. Encourage everyone to be flexible. It’s also important for kids to understand activity limitations of grandparents, and conversely, for grandparents to remember kids may have limited palates and attention spans.
Plan Down/Flex Time
Don’t overdo it with grandparents or young children. Limit the activity schedule to top attractions and understand that with a large group, you won’t get to see and do it all. It’s a good idea to plan only one or two large activities per day. Build in plenty of flex time to your group’s schedule and consider the downtime needs for children and grandparents. It’s much better to do one or two activities while everyone is well rested instead of 3 or 4 activities while everyone is drained.
Find Your Family’s Balance
Set clear expectations on balance at the onset of the trip. Your family likely includes some morning people and some night owls, and while that’s perfectly normal, consider having set breakfast and dinner times that will allow everyone to be together. Balance all aspects of your trip, including activity versus relaxation, sophisticated meals versus casual dining, and time together versus time apart.