Fighting over who uses the bathroom first (just like at home)…disagreeing over what to do each day…getting on each other’s nerves…travelling with your family can be a daunting prospect. But if you plan it properly it can be a fantastic bonding opportunity, full of laughter and love (and hopefully not lots of learnings!).
Here are 7 ways to make the most of holidaying with three or more generations of your family:
Like with any situation forward planning pays dividends, and when organising a family holiday with three or more generations, it becomes compulsory. For some, it works well if one or two people take control at the start to get the ball rolling, whilst for others, all sitting down together and devising a plan works best. You need to plan for the majority. But what’s important is that once you’re on holiday, everyone works as a team to make things run smoothly. Teodora Tzvetkova, Digital Marketing Executive at Headwater, once went on a 9-person family trip, including grandparents (aged 70+), parents (aged 30s-40s) and children aged from 10-15 years. As it was such a big party, the grandparents organised the holiday nine months in advance, which worked for them.
You’re going to need a place where grandma can relax, the grandkids can have fun, and mum and dad can go on a good walk. But where is this magical place, you ask? Generally speaking, holidaying close to home is best when there’s a few of you. A, because there’s less chance of falling out on a long-haul flight, B, because European countries have plenty of culture on offer and C, you tend to know what to expect with the food (good for young children who are fussy eaters).
Whilst away let everyone play a part – this keeps the peace and also makes the trip fun and helps everyone to bond. So, if uncle Jim is a bit of a “foodie” let him choose where to eat out for dinner, and if granddad knows all about the local attractions, give him the chance to offer his activity suggestions. Donna Webber, Sales Consultant at Headwater, goes on a family holiday once a year with her mum and her son, Lucas: “We vote every day as to what to do but the child usually wins!” It’s all about teamwork…sometimes.
You’ll likely have high expectations for your family holiday, and this desire to have everything run perfectly can lead to stress. Instead, lower your expectations and go with the flow – so long as everyone is enjoying themselves most of the time, what’s the problem? The truth is, you don’t have to spend every minute of every day with the rest of the group, or even every day, at that. If nanny and granddad are happy to babysit one day whilst you and your partner spend the day exploring together then great! Or if the kids have their hearts set on visiting a local theme park, then go, and leave the older, less mobile members of the family to do whatever they’d prefer. It’s perfectly acceptable to spend the daytimes separately too, and just regroup for dinner in the evening to talk about your day. Whatever works for you. It’s about balancing everyone’s demands and interests.
Karen Ross, Sales Consultant at Headwater, holidayed last year with her 29-year-old daughter, her 4-year-old grandson, her sister and her 18-month-old son (her nephew). She said: “We always say it’s everyone’s holiday and if you want to go off and do your own thing that’s fine. I had my own room and ate breakfast alone (everyone else was in one room as the children were very young and early risers at 5am!) As long as the children were happy then that was the main thing. We took it in turns to look after them but usually by 10.30pm everyone was danced out.”
And Teodora and her family follow the same mantra: “We didn’t stay together all the time. For example, some of us went to the beach one day whilst the rest of the family stayed at the hotel and relaxed. We tried to spend evenings together though, by having dinner in the hotel (it was half-board) and then all going out in the town for a drink.
Should things get a little heated between family members, prior to going on your trip we advise setting a ‘safe word’ that you can all use when you feel like you’ve hit breaking point. Choosing a funny word can help alleviate tension and lighten the mood. ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ might be a good one – it’s certainly long enough to get people to listen!
Multi-generational family trips require patience, organisation and flexibility. Factor in more stops en route for the older and younger generations, try and plan some activities that everyone can enjoy, and remember that if someone doesn’t feel well then plans can change quickly. You can get the most out of your trip by being flexible and not expecting everyone to want to do the same things.
Ultimately, the underlying reason for organising a family vacation is to spend some quality time with your loved ones who you might not see all the time, and to have fun together. It’s important to remember that you might not all agree on daily activities, some members of the group could be less agile than others, and that everyone has different interests and needs. But any time spent together is precious so be sure to capture the moments on camera so they remain as memories. Even if it’s a snap of 2-year-old Joey mid-tantrum or auntie Jean tucking into an ice-cream on the beach…and getting more on the sand than in her mouth!
A multi-generational family holiday offers a new way to connect with the family – you spend a week or two together and inevitably get to know each other better and do a lot of fun activities together that you probably wouldn’t normally do. For example, play volleyball, bingo, go on a cycling day-out, or sing karaoke in the local bar.
Everyone will have to make some compromises at some point (especially if there are kids), but it pays off as the whole experience can be really positive and refreshing, offering a new way to interact and connect with the family.