The term “multigenerational” is linked to the hottest new trend in family vacations. But our family has been planning combined trips for kids, parents and grandparents, long before it was the cool thing to do. Why?
For us, multigenerational vacations are wonderful opportunities to share a special journey and pass on memorable family experiences to the next generation. We call them Legacy Trips.
Here are some tips for planning a multigenerational vacation that is great from start to finish.
1. First and foremost you must decide where you are going with your multigenerational group. This will depend on age and mobility of all members (young and old) as well as budget. Start with a conversation about “where would you go if money was no object?” Then adjust the location to fit the budget. For example, if everyone wants to go to a faraway sandy beach, can you adjust and find a location that stays within the country and still get that beach experience without the higher cost of international travel? This is also a good time to discuss who will pay and how the expenses will be divided up. Is this a legacy “gift” or is it a consolidated and shared vacation?
2. Once you have selected a destination, brainstorm a list of what each family member feels is their “must see” experience. Typically we do this through internet searches and borrowing travel books from the library that relate to the chosen destination. Don’t forget to ask the little ones in your family. If they are old enough to talk, they are sure to have their own opinions. Show them pictures in books and gage their reaction to various options. Once your list is created you can begin to develop an itinerary.
3. The list of “must see” attractions will dictate the next step, which is planning when you will travel. If you are looking for beaches, then research the best time of the year that has great weather and fewer crowds. Is your family into winter travel and sports? Again, look at typical weather for specific months. Then balance the weather, season, budget (peak season or not) and select your travel dates. Unless you are taking vacation time off from work that limits you to a specific time frame, wait to determine how many days your vacation will entail until you have narrowed down your itinerary.
4. When we zero in on the first draft of our itinerary, we typically try to take the top three choices of attractions from each person and start laying it out on a map. We order travel books from Amazon that highlight specific “must see” places and then utilize TripAdvisor reviews to weed out the things that we don’t want to include. The other factor to keep in mind during this step is the budget. Does that specific activity fit within the budget or is there something else similar that might be more frugal? Be sure and look at operating days and hours. There is nothing more frustrating than to have a major attraction location planned on your itinerary and then find out when you pull in the parking lot that they are closed on Mondays.
5. The itinerary planning must include consideration of age, attention span and mobility. For example if we plan a more strenuous hike that would appeal to my son, daughter and husband, then we always make sure that there is a less physically taxing option for my parents such as a visit to a museum or a stroll in a garden or park. When we finally meet back up later in the day, we now have double the amount of stories to tell about from our day’s adventures.
6. You might need to make several drafts of your itinerary before it is final. Always include the links to reviews and attraction websites for quick reference as you are typing up and evaluating your day-by-day plans. Once everyone is happy with the itinerary, you can move on to booking airfare (if needed) and lodging. Book flights on Tuesdays if you can. That is when the best prices are typically available. Take into consideration arrival times in relation to time needed to get to your first attraction and overnight location.
7. Locating and booking overnight accommodations takes research and perseverance. We like to do this with a two person team. One person to sit at the computer and “google”. The other to keep the map and the itinerary in front of them. Start by making a list of your parameters. Budget? Size and number of rooms. Location of rooms related to mobility and ADA access. Some countries refer to the “first floor” as something different than we do in the U.S. Consider if everyone in the group can walk and carry their travel luggage to a second or third floor? Is there an elevator? Parking is a huge thing in most international countries, so if you are driving a rental car, make sure your lodging includes safe and close parking options. Free if at all possible. Including breakfast with your room is a must to get your day started off on the right foot. This should also be free! Some lodging locations will even include an opportunity to order a packed lunch for you to take with you as you begin your adventures for the day. List the venue features you must have and those you can live without. Keep your check list in front of you at all times as you begin searching. Save links for your favorite options that tick off all your boxes into a document file for each overnight town. Send the links out to everyone for their input and use that feedback to narrow down the list. One more quick review and then book it! Always save confirmations in a document file and print off a hard copy as well. Also, be sure to check details on cancellation policies for your lodging in case of a last minute emergency or unanticipated travel change.
8. Now we have our flight or travel mode selected and booked! We have outlined our itinerary and used that to reserve our overnight accommodations! We have a specific list of activities and attractions we want to see! Our next step is to create travel files. We like to take our lodging confirmations, web articles and copies of books pages related to specific attractions and “must see” places, as well as any travel tips we have found from TripAdvisor, and put it all in a manila envelope with the location and dates on the outside. This keeps everything necessary for day-to-day travel at our finger tips. As we are having dinner each evening after our day of adventures, we get out the packet for the next day or location and read through our options. This helps us make final decisions on activities and schedules based on how people are holding up, the weather and any special holidays or local festivities we may have discovered along the way. This step is essential to keep the vacation fun, flexible and as spontaneous as possible. The original itinerary now becomes a well-researched guideline to help lead us into discovering the true cultural heritage of each beautiful and wonderful place. Some members of your family want to do it all! Some like to stop once in a while, take a deep breath, and soak up the culture of experience. There has to be a balance so everyone goes back home saying, “that was the best family vacation ever!”
9. Keeping the peace is imperative with any travel experience, but even more important when you combine multiple generations. It is invariable that there will be some “grumbling in the ranks” somewhere along the way. Just give it some space and don’t push it. Save any discussion regarding issues for the evening hours when everyone is more relaxed and have had a chance to put it into a bit of perspective. We always travel with each person having a blank journal. Taking a moment each evening before bedtime to write out your thoughts and experiences from the day always puts things in a different light. If you are traveling with little ones that can’t write or journal, give them a notebook with unlined blank pages. Take a minute to note the date and location, then have them draw a picture of their favorite thing(s) from the day. Add a “face” with the appropriate emotion such as “happy” or “excited” or “sad”. This allows them to express themselves along the way and gives you as a parent or grandparent a temperature gauge to see how they are doing. The journals become great tools for sharing and telling stories of your trip after you get back home.
10. The last tip relates to coming back home and all those hundreds of vacation photographs. Don’t waste any time getting your pictures processed or downloaded. Narrow down the lot and select at least 50 images that best represent the trip. Then sit down with your itinerary in your hand and write a caption for each image. It should include dates, locations, people and thoughts. Whew, that’s a lot. But now, even if it takes you five years to get these into some type of scrapbook format, you will be able to remember where you went and what you saw. Trust me, you will not remember all these little details within a few weeks after getting back to your “normal” hectic life. Combine the images with notes from your travel journal and you will have everything you need to write a great story about your multigenerational family vacation.
Now, where shall we go next? The world is ours to explore and embrace!