It’s no surprise that families are traveling together. Mom and dad packing the kids up into a car can be seen on many Disney and Hallmark Channel movies. But did you also know that grandma and grandpa are joining in on the fun? And it isn’t just so mom and dad can have some back up support and can sneak a date night in while away.
According to a survey on family travel conducted by Harris Interactive for the U.S. Travel Association, “Children who traveled with their extended family reported that they get to spend quality time with their grandparents (78 percent), they feel closer to them (60 percent), and they like to remember stories about what they did with their grandparents (65 percent).”
Given the benefits of traveling with the grandparents in tow, is it any wonder that multigenerational travel is on the rise? For those of you who have not taken a trip, the idea can be daunting. You can’t get yourself out the door let alone your parents or in-laws. Feathers could be ruffled and toes stepped on. You need to go in with a plan to make it work and that starts on the very day the idea is sparked.
Communicate… a lot
The second the idea of a family vacation is mentioned get on the phone to find out if each party is serious. Then start dreaming about where you will go. Get on the phone, Skype, FaceTime, text message, whatever you need to do to make sure everyone’s input is taken into account in the beginning. Now is the time to dream big about what you would like to do. Get the ideas on the table and then you can start trimming down your wish lists into reality. The week before you leave on your trip is not the time to finally speak up about something you don’t like or you have to do.
Who’s in charge?
One person, not a committee of 12, needs to be the primary project manager of the trip. Everyone may throw out ideas, but there has to be one central person holding it all together and making sure all of the pieces fit. That project manager can dole out tasks for people to do, just so long as they can reign in the family when decisions need to be made and deadlines (i.e. flight and hotel bookings) have to be made. Be kind to your project manager. It is not an easy thing to plan a trip for family, especially when everyone has an opinion.
Decide up front who is paying for what. Will you cover your family, while grandma and grandpa pay for themselves? If either of you offer to cover everything you have to mean it. You cannot waffle, or go back and forth during or after the trip. It isn’t fair to anyone if you suddenly decide that you didn’t get your dream vacation in Italy and you want the grandparents to pony up $4000 for that trip to Europe you just took them on. You agreed to do this. Deal with it. Also, if you will be splitting the costs, be realistic. Grandma and grandpa may be retired but that doesn’t mean they are made out of money and can afford that 4 star hotel you want.
Once you know where you are going and when, it’s time to start planning activities. Discuss what you will do together and what will be done apart. Do your kids need naps? Maybe that is a good time for the grandparents to wander off on their own for a few hours, or take a nap too. Do not assume that any extra family members you bring along will be your babysitter whenever you like. If you know you would like to sneak out for a quiet dinner with your husband, talk to your parents or in-law ahead of time. Even if grandma is always taking care of the kids whenever she is at your house that doesn’t mean she wants to do it while touring Paris. She may have her own romantic dinner planned.
Remember what’s important
Above all else, remember why you are taking this trip. You love each other. You want to share the world with your children and your extended family. If you need a break from the chaos just say so. Many times everyone will understand. Keep the lines of communication open and you will come out on top. It’s when those lines go silent that you have to worry. Just like you worry when your kids get a little too quiet when playing in the other room by themselves, you should check in with your extended family members to make sure all is OK throughout the trip.
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