The time has come to rally the troops for your multi-generational holiday extravaganza – except there’s a problem. Grandma wants to go the beach to get her tan on, dad wants nothing more than to be left alone for some piece and quiet. And as for the kids – well, they couldn’t care less about this meticulously planned trip of a lifetime.
Travelling with three generations of family is exciting, difficult, tiring and wonderful – and even though you tell yourself you’ll never endure it again, as soon as you are back home, you find yourself hunt for your next adventure.
If a holiday with your kids and your parents is on the cards, these nifty tips will help you keep tension at bay and everyone happy (well, within reason).
Not all destinations were created equal, which is why you’ll need to meticulously research destinations that will match the needs of your little ones, partner, parents, dog, and even good old Auntie Sue. As a general rule, you're better off keeping multi-generational holidays closer to home – Europe has an abundance of countries oozing in rich culture and family friendly attractions. European city breaks are always winners; you can usually find food that isn't so obscure it will make your little fussy eaters shrike in horror, but there are still enough differences to make you feel you're trying something new.
Everyone loves an optimist but inevitably tensions may still creep in, which is why its crucial to ensure that you all have at least an hour by yourself (or with your partner) every day. Just because you’ve decided to holiday together, it doesn’t mean you have to be joined at the hip. Plus, holidays are far more enjoyable when every member of your party can have a breather, whether that’s catching up on social media, a stroll by the beach or getting lost in a book. If you set off sight-seeing with the whole clan, you may well want to see different things, so it's important to find a healthy balance so nobody misses out. Remember, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and that's certainly true with multi-generational holidays. By giving each other a little space, you’ll enjoy the moments you do spend together so much more.
Regardless of age, we still crave help from our parents, but when you are taking the whole gang on holiday it’s important to set boundaries. Grandparents love nothing more than spending quality time with their grandchildren, but remember you’re on a communal holiday and the oldies don’t automatically count as baby sitters. It’s important to address boundaries before jetting off, because if you don't, that's how wires often get crossed. If you and your partner know you want some evenings alone to have dinner or catch a show together, double check before the holiday that it’s ok with the grandparents to stay and look after the little ones. Not only will it clear up any miscommunications, but everyone knows where they stand before going away.
You’ve gone to all this trouble to organise a special family holiday, pulled out all the stops with tours, dinners and unique attractions, but that doesn’t mean your plan is full proof. As much as you wish you could stick to the kids usual 7am breakfast routine, holidays are all about enjoying time together, so don’t let yourself get in a habit of bossing everyone about and missing out on fun, because you're too busy fretting over the schedule. Of course sticking to a routine ensures you all get the most from your holiday, but the best moments are the ones you can't plan for.
If the tension becomes so unbearable you can feel the atmosphere suffocating you, you can always rely on a safe word to let everyone know you've reached breaking point. Agree on a word before the trip – make it as outrageous as you can; the funnier it is the quicker the tension deflates. And if you're looking to get a good chuckle out of everyone, especially the kids, belt it out as loud as you can.
When you have to cater for different tastes across a range of ages it can be difficult to keep everyone in a good mood. So make sure you pack crayons and pads. Colouring-in is a timeless way for grandparents to connect with the little ones, and it's great for keeping kids quiet too! And while we don’t condone gadgets as the only source of fun, they can be the ultimate companion during multi-generational holidays, especially if someone needs to escape into headphones or needs some help coping with travel sickness.
Even though this be a mantra of daily life, one of the worst things you can do on holiday is go to bed with an unresolved argument hanging in the air. Put it this way, you wouldn’t leave the stove on overnight, and the same applies to family rows. No matter how hard it is, make a pact to end every day with a hug, a laugh and a kiss and you can rest assured tomorrow will be a better day.
Document all your adventures and keep all the pictures of your time together, even the unflattering pictures of the mother-in-law taking a bite out of a juicy burger. The good, the bad and the ugly memories are what makes multi-generational holidays so special. Even when you think you couldn’t go on another one again, once you see the snaps of the grandparents snuggling up to the kids, it makes everything worth it. The beauty of multi-generational holidays is the nostalgia and joy it brings so you’ll want to remember it all.
Looking for more tips for avoiding the horrors of family travel? Check out the eight worst things about travelling with kids – and expert tips to turn the nightmare into a dream (well, almost).
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