August 20, 2017

5 Multigenerational Travel Mistakes to Avoid

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Molly & My Mother-in-Law, Kay, at Castillo San Cristobal

I went on my first multigenerational vacation six years ago, but back then I thought I was just taking an Alaskan cruise with my husband, our two daughters and my in-laws. We explored nature in Ketchikan (in the rain), played Bingo on the ship and walked around Juneau. It was just the right speed for two in their 60s, as well as two who were both younger than five.

This past week, we were off on another multigenerational vacation, but this time the group had grown from six to nine with the addition of two more children and my husband’s uncle. We went to Puerto Rico and hiked the rainforest, built sand castles on the beach and took a trolley ride through a nature reserve.

While I think all three generations had a fabulous time, I can’t help but think about the mistakes I think I made. So here are five tips to help put you on the right path to having a fantastically wonderful multigenerational vacation.

Love the One You’re With: As folk singer Stephen Stills famously sang, “Love the One You’re With.” By this I mean, don’t make loved ones trek 10 blocks across Old San Juan to get to the San Juan Museum. Not even if it means your daughters will be one step closer to getting the “Arts & Sports Achievement” certificate at the end of the year (the one with the gold foil seal).

Consider Everyone’s Ages and Abilities: When planning a vacation, think about the ages of everyone on the trip and what they’re capable of doing. Puerto Rico is home to the famed El Yunque Rainforest with great hiking trails and beautiful views. The day we went to El Yunque, my husband, eight-year-old daughter hiked the popular La Mina Trail.

I would have been disappointed if I’d missed this hike to La Mina Falls, and was lucky my in-laws wanted to sightsee in the park by car with my other three kids. However, it would have been more ideal if I’d better thought through vacation activities before forging ahead on my own.

Take Breaks: Just because you’re on a family vacation doesn’t mean you need to spend every waking moment together. My in-laws love afternoon naps and so do my kids, so we had a nice break of a few hours every day after lunch to rest and recuperate. The one exception was our day trip to Old San Juan. It’s safe to say that everyone was pretty cranky that day after so many hours of togetherness. Lesson learned. Take a break, take a nap.

Get Your Own Rooms: When we went to Puerto Rico, we rented two separate condos that were two buildings apart. One condo had three bedrooms for me, my husband and our four kids, while the other condo had three bedrooms for my in-laws and my husband’s uncle. It was perfect to be able to retreat to our own condos (and own rooms) every few hours rather than constantly being on top of each other, like we were when we went to Walt Disney World together back in November (even though the rental was a huge five-bedroom house!).

Before You Book, Find Out When Everyone Wakes Up: It’s no fun to get a 7 a.m. start each day of your vacation if you’re used to waking up at 9 a.m. (as if I have any idea any more what it feels like to wake up at 9 a.m.!). My kids wake up early and fortunately, so do my in-laws, so leaving our condos by 8:30 or 9 a.m. wasn’t a big deal. However, it could have been a problem if there were some late-risers in the group, so find out ahead of time when everyone wakes up and when they’d feel comfortable heading out to tour for the day.

Of course, there are loads of other tips to make the most of multigenerational travel, like being flexible and making sure to stay in accommodations that have kitchens to help handle different meal schedules. However, I thought these five tips would put you on the right track toward having a fun family vacation with grandparents. If you have more tips and advice, just leave me a note in the comments section below.

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