"Are we there yet?” takes on a whole new meaning when “family trip” means traveling with your kids and your parents. So how can you successfully pull of a multi-generational family vacation? Linda Morgan, editor of ParentMap and author of the book, Beyond Smart, shares some tips.
Are trips with three or more generations becoming common?
More and more. Take a look at grandparents these days. They are more active. They ski, they hike, go on bike trips, kayak – they are right alongside their kids and grandkids. At least 5 million family vacations a year in the United States span three generations. Last year, 32 percent of American grandparents who took vacations took a trip with their grandchildren. And the number is expected to grow as the population ages.
Why are they so popular?
Often, grandma and grandpa plan these – and foot the bill. And they are a terrific way for families – who are so busy – to spend time together. And it works for everyone—the kids learn a lot from the grandparents, and the grandparents get young and get down with the kids. The kids might explore grown-up museums and you get to visit cool parks, playgrounds and merry-go-rounds.
How can you make sure it all goes off without any glitches?
You can’t. Someone is bound to have a sore throat, a lost blankie or a crying spell. Kids are always hungry and sometimes you have to settle for fast food when you’d rather dine. What you can do is plan smart and be realistic: Make sure you pack medical supplies, bring all the right clothes and toys, books - and give the grandparents some alone time. Some separation can be a good thing.
What tips can you give parents who are traveling with their children and their parents?
Start small. If you're a family-travel rookie, take a ferry ride with the kids and grandfolks to Whidbey Island, Bainbridge Island or Vashon Island. Spend the day discovering the markets, beaches and parks, and get the feel of exploring the terrain while you’re sandwiched between generations.
Location, location, location. Forget your exotic vacation plans, where you are hiking up mountains or even walking for miles. When your travelers include the young and the not so young, you need to think flat surfaces, stroller-friendly roads and walking-distance attractions.
Don’t overplan. Leave time for spontaneous exploring and sheer silly stuff that every generation will enjoy. We always tried to find some beach or pool time so the kids can just chill. Stop at a park, let the kids go down the slide, take a fun boat trip on a lake.
Just chill. You’re on vacation. Enjoy your kids, your parents and your kids enjoying your parents. That may mean relaxing the rules — just a bit — and letting the grandparents sneak in that extra story or boat ride or chocolate éclair.
For more on this and other parenting topics, go to the ParentMap website.