The time has come to rally the troops for your multi-generational vacation 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 peace 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 hunting for your next adventure.
If a vacation with your kids and your parents is in the cards, these handy 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 vacations closer to home – the US and the Caribbean has an abundance of states and countries oozing in rich culture and family friendly attractions. European cities are always winners too; 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 and chic.
Everyone loves an optimist but inevitably tensions may still creep in, which is why it's 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 vacation together, it doesn’t mean you have to be joined at the hip. Plus, vacations 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 vacations. By giving each other a little space, you’ll enjoy the moments you do spend together that much more.
Regardless of age, we still crave help from our parents, but when you are taking the whole gang on vacation it’s important to set boundaries. Grandparents love nothing more than spending quality time with their grandchildren, but remember you’re on a communal vacation and the older family members 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 vacation 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 organize a special family trip, 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 around 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 coloring books. Coloring 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 vacations, 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 vacation 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 tiffs. 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 vacations 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 trips is the nostalgia and joy it brings, so you’ll want to remember it all.
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