Vacationing with multiple generations of family members has become a top travel trend.
With the help of multigenerational vacations, two or three generations of a family – perhaps those spread across the country in today’s mobile society – have a chance to develop special bonds as they share traveling experiences.
A 2014 poll by the American Automobile Association found that 36% of American families planned holiday trips involving at least three generations in 2015, up 4% from the previous year. Also, a network of high-end travel agencies last year named mutigenerational travel the industry’s leading trend for the fourth year running.
Fueling the movement, possibly, are fit and active baby boomers in search of meaningful experiences and relationships. If your family seems suited to the idea, it may be worth trying. The trick is planning well enough that all generations enjoy their time together.
Here are some factors to consider – and bear in mind you don’t have to confine your idea to cruise ships or a theme-park-based vacation. Such travel could just as easily include touring Costa Rica or an African photo safari. Whatever your destination, if you are the organizer, plan to solicit feedback and be prepared for a lot of work to ensure all goes smoothly for everyone.
Budget and Destination
Before you spend time researching exotic destination ideas, establish a budget. Is the family patriarch and matriarch footing some or all of the cost, just the hotel or flights? Or will every adult family member cover the costs for themselves and their children? The combinations can vary, but be sure to figure out exactly what you can afford before embarking on this intergenerational voyage. Only after you determine a budget, however funded, can you begin to solicit ideas on destinations.
And do ask each family for an idea or two. There is likely to be more enthusiasm for the general idea if everyone has input. You may spark some useful ideas by asking where everyone would like to go if money were not a factor.
As you think about your decision, use your family knowledge of what everyone likes (or is able) to do. Small children may not tolerate day-long visits to historic sites or museums. Grandparents, aunts and uncles don’t necessarily like taking on the role of babysitter while they’re supposed to be on vacation. Strive to find a solution where all ages and people with varied interests can find comfort.
Next, find out how far everyone is willing to travel. Your family may be spread out across the country. Do you need to find a central point, or are some family members willing to travel farther than others? If travel abroad is possible, is everyone’s passport up to date? Anyone afraid to fly or anxious about long plane rides?
Finally, how will you organize the days? Will everyone be expected to do the same thing day after day, or will you build in plenty of optional time for individuals and families to seek their own adventures?
Timing and Date Setting
What are your timing limits? School (public, private, high school, college) break periods or summers only? And for many adults, vacation schedules are set by employers. Start planning a year to six months ahead so you can work around schedules and availability before deciding on a date. Try to accommodate everyone if you can. After all, the joy is in getting to know one another better, to build relationships, share knowledge, and reconnect with cousins and siblings. Early on, learn what you can about everyone’s vacation schedule or circumstances. Sometimes workplace seniority systems can be finessed by asking early.
Preferences: The Finer Points
As organizer and promoter of the multigenerational vacation, it’s up to you to assess situations as they arise. If you have family members who insist on a cruise while others won’t consider anything that doesn’t involve hiking gear, the togetherness idea may be a nonstarter. Or can you find a happy compromise? Say a cruise to and among the Galápagos, involving guided hikes around the various islands.
Will every hotel you book need to have a pool and reliable Internet connectivity for those who need it for personal or business reasons? If you rent a vacation home, are the sleeping accommodations suitable for each family? For each generation? Do any family members have trouble negotiating stairways?
Who will do the cooking and the cleanup? Can those duties be equitably shared? Does anyone have dietary restrictions? The answers will help you divide and conquer what could be a great deal of work. Of course, you can also rely on a specialty planner or organized tour that caters to multigenerational families to iron out the details for you.
A few final tips from those who have organized multigenerational family vacations:
- Begin planning and saving a year ahead of time.
- This is a lot of work, so don’t sign on as organizer unless you truly believe in the idea and that it could work for your family.
- Limit your communications to only what is necessary; solicit group opinions sparingly, or you may find your inbox running over as you negotiate every small point.
- Plan one memorable event to mark the occasion as special, say a hot air balloon ride, a clam bake or a unique local event.
- Be sure to include time to document the adventure and share the memories via an online shared photo album, Instagram hashtag or other forum. You’ll want something to look back on.
Relax and enjoy even if things don’t go according to plan. The point is to spend quality time and make memories together.