Emily Harris

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Our Top Multi-Generation Family Travel Tips

The holidays are often the time of year when families travel to be together, or get together to plan big family trips coming up.

Why is it some extended families have terrific vacations together, and in other families, one or more members just dreads the annual big family trip, and makes everyone else uncomfortable – or worse, miserable – too? 

Set your family up for success with our tips for multi-generational family travel.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer and Host, BestTrip.tv

1. Lay the budget groundwork

In some families, it's grandparents spearheading the big family trip.  Perhaps even paying part or all the travel expenses.  Maybe every family pays their own way. No matter what the scenario, two things are important: establish the deal up front, and make sure no one feels railroaded into spending more money than their family can afford on a vacation.  Holidays are only fun if you aren't dreading the credit card bill on the other side. If someone is covering some of the costs, make it very clear what is being covered, and what is everyone's responsibility.  This is not the time for discretion and innuendo.  Make it clear. 

And if everyone is pitching in, make sure every family gets the chance to influence and change the type of vacation so they can afford it, too.   Surely it's more important that everyone can be together at a beach destination within driving distance than a more exotic vacation that involves expensive flights?  Can wealthier members of the family fly to get closer to where less affluent families can drive? Three words: consult, consult, consult.  Be honest.  And respectful.

2. Don't Over-Plan.

That seems counterintuitive, but there are well-intentioned people in every group who feel the need to program every waking minute of every day. Resist those people.  Especially resist the notion that everyone has to be together every waking hour of every day. 

If there's an activity or event that is a big part of your trip, sure, plan that. And every family should do some research about what things to see and do and try in the destination are appealing to them, and share those ideas and information with other family members.

The magic of multi-generational travel is it gives different members of families the opportunity to spend special time together, to get to know each other, in a new way.  If this sister, that sister-in-law, her son and your niece and grandma all want to go to that museum, or fishing, let them go together.  They can bond over a shared interest or learning something new.  Others can pair or group off relaxing in that time, or catch up, or do another activity they'll bond over.

That can apply to meals, too.  Plan a couple of big, all-together meals (especially if the trip celebrates a milestone: anniversary, birthday etc), but leave room for smaller group meals, too.  Maybe grandparents want to take the grandkids out for a special meal just for them.  Maybe all the grown up brothers want to hang out and play pool over pub food like they did when they were all single. Leave space for those really special dynamics to play out.  You'll love the results.

3. But Do Book Some of your Plans Before You Go.

Flights, accommodations, you expect to book and probably pay in advance.  But if there are events or attractions you know part or all of the group is going to want to enjoy, booking those in advance can achieve two goals: one, you know you'll be able to do it, and you have a confirmed time to do so, and two, you've paid in advance. 

If all the ladies want to have afternoon tea at that special venue, get together, and book and pay for it in advance. You'll have a confirmed reservation and seating so there's less last minute fuss, and if it's already paid for, it will be more likely they actually get to do enjoy it, rather than get pulled into someone else's agendas and miss it.  

Activity pre-payment is also a great way to manage travel budgets.  It becomes part of your planning process so there are fewer surprises later, and you don't end up susceptible to fee hikes, or changing exchange rates.

4. Share the Burden and the Fun. And Leave the Drama at Home.

Don't assume grandparents want to spend their ENTIRE vacation babysitting grandkids.  Don't assume that your sister-in-law, who often organizes family gatherings, is willing and happy to spend the whole family trip holding a clipboard and herding the whole family.  These unspoken assumptions often end up in frustration, resentment, and even behind-the-back complaining.  NOT the atmosphere you are aiming for.

Break up the responsibilities and make offers.  Offer to take your nieces and nephews one night so their parents can have an evening to themselves.  Ask if grandparents want – and can handle - 'alone time' with the grandkids. Give siblings opportunities to reconnect.

And don't forget to relax!  If you make a concerted effort to take the high road, assume the best of every family member, and communicate that mindset with your immediate family, a fun, relaxed, and memorable – in a good way! – multi-generational family vacation is in your reach.

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