Have you always wanted to take a vacation with your extended family, but feel like it might be too hard to make everyone happy?
Don’t be intimidated. A growing number of families are in the same boat! According to survey data gathered by Preferred Hotel Group, many people are now taking at least one trip a year that includes three or more generations of their family.
With multi generational family travel growing in popularity, we’ve compiled seven tips for planning an unforgettable family vacation that gets everyone– from grandparents to grandkids– excited. If you think of any we’ve missed, feel free to add your tips in the comments!
1. Location is key
When choosing a destination for multi generational family travel, it’s important to take everyone’s preferences into consideration.
Does your family want to experience a place that is new and exciting for everyone? Is there a significant bucket list item that one of you is itching to check off alongside loved ones? These are important questions to ask in the initial stages of planning a multigenerational trip.
While some destinations are packed with opportunities for outdoor adventure, other places are all about the culture. Determine what everyone wants to spend his or her time doing, and try to find a location that will have a little something for everyone! Don’t forget to take weather and time of year into account as well. There’s no point in planning a winter trip to Switzerland if your family members are dreaming of the tropics.
Our suggestion? Come up with a short list of realistic options and poll your fam. It will make everyone feel included in the decision and elevate excitement for traveling together!
2. Consider comfort zones
Odds are there will be some varying degrees of energy within your group. But multi generational family vacations don’t mean that higher-energy activities (such as hiking or snorkeling) have to wait for a different trip.
What’s important is that, when there are more physically demanding activities added to the itinerary, there are options for making them lower impact if certain members of the family feel less comfortable. Small adjustments can make activities into choose-your-own-adventure opportunities.
Select a hike that has a less strenuous walking path option, or with a scenic overlook or lodge nearby for relaxing. Take a snorkeling tour on a more comfortable boat so that, if some of the party just wants to enjoy a drink on the water, they won’t feel left out. All-inclusive family vacation packages often cater to travelers of different ages and activity levels.
The most important thing to remember is that your family will cherish the moments when everyone is spending time together, regardless of whether everyone gets their feet wet or not.
3. Build in some downtime
When visiting a new place, it can be tempting to try to do everything that you’ve read about, dreamed about, or had recommended to you. Unfortunately, when you’re planning a multi generational family vacation, scheduling every second of every day could lead to disaster (or at least disappointment).
Sometimes kids need naps. Heck, sometimes adults need naps! Being proactive about planning for much-needed rest throughout a trip can help you avoid having to scratch doing something you were really looking forward to because the group is exhausted.
At the very least, we guarantee that injecting a little more flexibility into the schedule will help everyone feel more rested and ready for fun.
4. Plan for varied interests
The best bet for ensuring that a family trip appeals to everyone is to make sure that there’s something exciting planned for all. If visiting a museum or cultural center is a highlight for one member of your family, don’t skip it because you’re worried that the kids might be bored. Just follow up the trip to the museum with a couple of hours of beach time, or whatever is bound to put a smile on their faces!
Equally important? Explaining to the group why each activity has been included in the trip. Your sister-in-law might be more excited about taking a cooking class if she knows that your mother always dreamed of going to culinary school. Likewise, that “boring” museum might be far more impactful if the kids watch a YouTube video to give them some cultural context beforehand.
Trying something new as a family can also be a way to bring people with different passions closer together. Does your family like to help others, but has never volunteered together? Plan a family vacation with purpose by adding in a volunteer experience.
5. Pack light
We’d say that this tip applies to every vacation you take, multigenerational or not. But nonetheless, it’s an important reminder. When every person in a group brings two suitcases instead of one, every step of the journey becomes more complicated.
Don’t have fancy dinners planned? Skip the sports coat and dinner dresses. Pack casual, culturally appropriate clothing that can be worn a few times throughout the trip.
Dressing in layers can not only help with rapidly-changing weather, but can also prevent the need to return to your hotel to change throughout the day. We have a feeling you’ll have enough to juggle without worrying about regular costume changes.
6. Have all the information
It’s important to get real with your family members before heading out on a trip.
Is there anything about the vacation that people are worried about? Are there physical or emotional needs that may need to be addressed while traveling? Ensuring that the group is transparent about their needs before departing will your multi generational family vacation much less stressful.
This doesn’t have to be reserved for needs of a serious nature, either. Does your husband have zero-tolerance for shopping in touristy markets? Does your mother hate being rushed to order food while visiting a restaurant? Having these discussions beforehand can help ease any tension that might come up when traveling together.
7. Get the kids in on the fun
Traveling with children can sometimes feel like a lot of work. But allowing them to play an active role in how the trip unfolds can actually make things easier.
Before departing on your vacation, go over the itinerary with children and allow them to ask any questions they might have. Be prepared with some questions yourself. What are they most excited about seeing/doing/experiencing? What are they most nervous about? Gauging their excitement level and letting them pick out some favorite activities beforehand will allow you to help guide them through the trip more easily.
It can also be fun (and practical) to assign the kids a job for the trip. Maybe they could be responsible for keeping a travel journal, documenting all of the things you’ve seen and done along the way. Perhaps older children might get excited about making a video documenting the family trip. Getting creative and giving them a purpose for participating in each activity will make everyone’s trip more fun. -Sara McDaniel
BIO: Sara McDaniel is a San Diego-based educator who uses her summers to explore the world, often alongside her students! In addition to writing for The Volunteer Traveler, she has directed international programming for various travel organizations. When she’s not writing or researching, she can often be found swimming in the ocean, eating all of the delicious foods, and teaching in San Diego State University’s College of Education.