My Family Travels, Too – Planning a Vacation with Aging Parents and Children
Planning a vacation that appeals to the interests of multiple generations poses unique challenges. I understand this well: with an eight-decade age difference between my mother and her grandchildren, our family vacations require significant planning (and some compromise, too!) to ensure that everyone has a good time. And a good time can be had by all – our entire family has travelled to Thailand and Australia just to name few places and we’ve not only survived, but thrived! Here are six tips to ensure a kick-ass vacation for everyone:
1) Know everyone’s abilities: When planning a trip that includes both young and old, consider the abilities and limitations of multiple generations. If your parents are in excellent health, then your young children’s abilities might set the pace for your activities. As your parents age, though, their physical limitations may increase while your children become more active. By factoring in each participant’s physical abilities (especially stamina), you’ll have a better chance of keeping your expectations in line with reality.
2) Check your expectations: When our parents have trouble keeping up with us, we can find that more irritating than when our children need a break. Perhaps that’s because we expect these challenges from a child but not from our parents. Or maybe we’re reluctant to acknowledge a parent’s limitations because they indicate that we, too, are getting older (and who wants to admit that?). As you start to plan a multigenerational vacation, think carefully about the expectations you have for your parents, your children, and yourself!
3) Discuss finances with your parents: Talking about money is always tough, but it’s something you and your parents should do well before hitting the road together. You’ll need to cover the usual territory, such as whether the costs for shared accommodations will be split down the middle between you and your parents, and who will pay for meals and activities. When children are along for the trip, you and your parents need to discuss babysitting as well. Keep in mind that babysitting is a job—and your parents may prefer to spend most of the trip just relaxing (something that’s hard to do while looking after young children).
4) Don’t plan every moment of every day together: Getting everyone to agree on activities can be tough with a big group. Instead, select a destination with a lot of things to do so that everyone can have a great time on this trip. Also keep in mind that people have different schedules and different preferences (for example, I love to get up early and scout out cafes, whereas Mom prefers to sleep in and have a late leisurely breakfast). Encourage everyone in your group to be flexible.
5) Plan activities together and separately: Have a discussion with everyone about the activities you would really like to do as a group, and be sure to space those activities out during your trip so they don’t exhaust anyone. Or consider planning a few meals with everyone—such as one or two nights where the whole family cooks or checks out a local restaurant together. Getting everyone to agree on a particular cuisine can be tough, so if you’re dining out your best bet may be to find a restaurant with enough variety to accommodate everyone’s tastes.
6) Plan on breaks: When planning a trip, don’t forget to factor in rest periods for everyone, regardless of age (even if your children are older and no longer need naps). If you’re extremely lucky, your children and your parents will be able to handle the same activity level. Odds are, though, that your vacation will be a fine balancing act among the needs and interests of different age groups.
Mom and I took our first overseas vacation together when she was sixty-four, and in the more than twenty years since then we’ve logged over 300,000 miles (and counting!). We’ve encountered some challenges, but if you make up your mind in advance to have a great time, your multigenerational vacation will fulfill your expectations. Much of our “reality” is based on what we decide to feel and believe, and this is especially true when it comes to travel. I won’t kid you—travel can be difficult at times. But a healthy sense of humor and ample good spirits will make it better. So before you even turn on your computer and start exploring potential destinations, first make sure you break out your sense of adventure!
With a father as a pilot, Valerie Grubb began traveling at the age of four. She and her mom took their first overseas vacation together more than 20 years ago and have logged over 300,000 miles (and counting) since. Throughout the last 20 years, they have visited destinations such as Thailand, France, Australia, China, Italy, and Cambodia. Originally from Indiana, she currently lives on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Her book, Planes, Canes, and Automobiles, is available for purchase on Amazon.com