When my parents announced they wanted to take our family to Maui for my dad’s 60th birthday, I agreed to go with some hesitation. We had three things against us: I hadn’t lived with my parents since I left for college in 2003, we would be traveling with my one-year-old niece, and my stepmom is deathly afraid of flying. But I’m not one to turn down a vacation and so, six months later, my husband and I boarded a plane to Lihue and hoped for the best.
As it turns out, the trip was a huge success. I haven’t enjoyed that kind of quality time with my family in more than 10 years. It was refreshing to reconnect with each other in such a beautiful destination and get to know the newer members of our family in a much deeper way. Our vacation together will remain one of my most treasured family memories.
What made our multigenerational vacation successful? I think a lot of it had to do with my stepmom’s careful planning and that fact that everyone brought a certain level of flexibility to the experience. I’ve been on numerous vacations with my in-laws as well, and it seems like we get along best when there are clear expectations and everyone is able to voice their preferences while holding them loosely.
Here are a few suggestions gleaned from my experiences traveling with three or even four generations:
- Establish roles and expectations before you go. Who is paying for what? Will you be cooking or eating out? If everyone is covering their own expenses, establish budgets for food and activities beforehand. Figure out what activities are optional versus mandatory for your group.
- Choose a timeshare rental for your accommodations. When my family vacationed in Hawaii, we booked four separate hotel rooms for nine people. We could have easily stayed in multiple two-bedroom timeshares for half the cost and enjoyed even more square feet. Most timeshare units also come with kitchens, multiple bathrooms, and common living areas, giving you additional opportunities to save money and spend time together without being in each other’s space.
- Take some time for yourself. Don’t feel like you have to do everything with everyone. Maybe grandma and grandpa opt to lounge by the pool while everyone else hikes a mountain. That’s okay. Embrace the diversity in your group and the fact that you may need a little space in order to enjoy your family the rest of the time you are together.
- Push yourself to try something new. As an adult, my favorite family vacation memories center on new experiences, when a family member went outside of his or her comfort zone. In Belize, my sister-in-law got an adrenaline rush flying through the jungle on a zipline. In Hawaii, my grandma overcame her fear of water and went swimming for the first time since she was a kid. These memories will stay with me indefinitely.
- Don’t expect to do anything on your first day of vacation. When you’re traveling as a group, it’s important to have realistic expectations. That includes not doing anything on the first day of your trip. When it’s just me and my husband, I like to jump right into activities. But I’ve learned that my family usually needs time to get oriented, shop for groceries, and settle into their accommodations.
- Make sure basic needs are met. I’m one of those people who gets incredibly grumpy when I’m hungry, a trait I share with about half of my family members. We’ve learned through trial and error that’s important to have snacks on hand at all times. We also try to schedule regular bathroom breaks.
- Get together after your trip to reminisce. I love cooking recipes inspired by my travels. It’s even better sharing these dishes with family and reminiscing about the time we spent together. Even though we may not see each other every day like we did on vacation, reliving the memories reminds us that the heart of our relationships is still there.
Through many adventures abroad, including working in a Spanish inn making beds, cooking batches of paella, and conversing with inn guests, Christine Anderson discovered her passion for hospitality and copywriting. She joined Grand Pacific Resorts and ResorTime last year eager to inspire others to travel through her writing. She prides herself on walking 350 miles across Spain in five weeks.