Choosing to travel as an extended family with parents, in-laws or siblings, can be an amazing way to see the world while creating family memories. In fact, multigenerational travel that includes three generations is one of the top travel trends in the world.
But before you book that reunion cruise to Alaska or bucket list trip to Machu Picchu, consider the following: Can you actually stand each other’s presence? Who’s going to foot the bill? And who’s got the wheel? Building a successful multigenerational trip plan is the difference between enjoying the best trip ever, or enduring the trip from hell.
We’ve done more than a dozen multigenerational trips over the years, and yes, we’re still on speaking terms with all of our loved ones. There’s no secret sauce to this success. But it involves organization, an eye on the big picture, and facing up to our (and our loved ones) challenges and limitations.
But wait! Before you send that “Let’s do an Alaska reeunion cruise!” email, start by asking yourself "Can I handle a week or two with my ‘insert name of relative(s) here?” Do you get along with your relatives? Does your spouse? If not, can everyone suck it up for the greater good?
The benefits and value of multigenerational travel are pretty clear: sharing the costs of accommodation, food and travel; fostering intergenerational relationships; celebrating milestones; and creating lots of fantastic, and even infamous, memories. BUT, it may not work for everyone or every family. It’s critical to be honest with yourself about what you can handle, much less everyone else.
Now that you’ve decided "Yes, I can!" you can let the planning begin.
Start as early as possible. What kind of holiday are you planning? Will it be a cruise, hiking the Inca Trail, or a cycling tour of France? Surveying the participants a year ahead of your ideal departure is the first step towards determining the where, what, when and how.
About that what’ part. Remember to consider the ages and physical abilities of all family members. If you’re travelling with babies or elderly parents, your mobility may be limited. Planning a trip that involves multi-day hikes or biking along the Danube for a week may not be in the cards this time round.
Once the where has been agreed upon, coordinate travel plans. Everyone is everywhere these days, so think about transportation methods and where everyone will meet up. If you’re moving along together, determine if everyone can fit in one car or if two are needed. Reserve your wheels ahead of time and choose the best driver in your party (remember, this may not be you).
In terms of sleeping arrangements, renting a house or apartment together is a great way to save money and foster togetherness. If a bit of absence makes the heart grow fonder, separate hotel rooms or cruise cabins may work best.
And’s let’s not forget about the money. Nothing creates trip stress and family strife like money stress. Bickering over money is a time-honored family tradition in many households, but it can kill a great vacation dead before it even begins. Not to mention the damage done to relationships.
Determine who is paying for what. Travelling can be expensive. Pooling resources among family members can save money, but everyone has to be on board with the plan. Figure out who will pay for what, and how expenses will be divided during the trip. This will help minimize misunderstandings and reduce possible resentment about family members not paying their way.
Practice the art of patience. Even the best relationships can be severely tested by jet-lag and GPS fail. Recognize your own trigger points and find a coping mechanism. If taking five in the bathroom or screaming into the pillow helps avoid a confrontation or damaging conversation, get thee to the safe room. Or face the issue head on, remembering that while you will always be your mother’s child, you’re an adult now too, and should act like one.
Finally, be ready to compromise. If you’ve planned your trip well, you already know what everyone wants to do on holiday. Make a schedule that allows for them to get something of what they wish for, whether it’s TBL visiting a family memorial, the beach, or shopping. All family members have to commit to giving a little to get something back.
The benefits of multigenerational family travel far outweigh the downsides. It’s worth the time and effort to celebrate family togetherness and create memories that will last a lifetime.