Planning a family trip? Here's nine ways to survive multi-generational travel

It's a funny thing: most of us travel to get away from our families, and yet there's a fast-growing trend towards multi-generational holidays. That is, taking parents, kids and grandparents and going away somewhere together.

I jest, of course, about the getting away from families thing. Mostly. But still, it seems slightly surprising that so many people want to take the whole gang away with them on their big break. Shouldn't we leave the drunken bust-ups and awkward airing of decades-old feuds for Christmas gatherings and birthdays? Apparently not.

If you're thinking of packing up your entire family and heading off together for your next getaway, it's worth considering how you're going to make it a success. These are my best – though not foolproof – suggestions.

Go somewhere sunny

This is a pretty important one. You need space when you're travelling with a large group, particularly with people of different ages who may have different needs and desires. So you really, really don't want to end up cooped up together somewhere while the rain pours down outside. My advice: go somewhere reliably sunny, where you can leave the house or hotel whenever you want and get some air.

Consider cruising (or a safari)

I'm not a huge fan of cruising, but I can see its appeal when it comes to multi-generational travel. There's a lot to do on a cruise ship, and at least some of it will appeal to everyone. Kids get their things, parents get their things, grandparents get their things. And you all get together at meal times to enjoy food that someone else has prepared. A resort will also do the job, and even an African safari holiday will give everyone plenty to do during the day, while still having meals taken care of.

Get a big house, or room, or tent

This relates to the first entry about space. This is not the time to scrimp on a small hotel room or a tiny Airbnb. On this trip, you want to go big on accommodation. You want everyone to have plenty of room to move, and to have some private time. You ideally want separate bedrooms for everyone. You want shared social spaces, but you also want places to get away from your most annoying family members. Get a house, or a villa, or just a gigantic tent.

Ensure everyone is catered for

You might find an activity that you all enjoy, something like skiing, but the chances of this are pretty remote. The kids are probably going to be into something very different to the grandparents. So, make sure everyone is catered for. Make sure there's something that everyone can do on this holiday and can get excited about. That way, everyone feels catered for and included, and you have fewer dramas.

Set expectations early

Do the grandparents want to babysit? Or would they rather be sipping cocktails on sun-loungers? Who's doing the cooking? Who's getting up early with the kids and who is sleeping in? You might assume this sort of thing will take care of itself at some point, but it's actually far better to talk about this before your trip and make sure everyone is on the same page.

Talk about money

Here's something else to discuss. Who's paying for everything? Not just the flights and accommodation but all of the ongoing costs, the groceries and meals out, the drinks, the taxis, etcetera etcetera. Work this out early, before you go if possible. Make sure everyone is clear on the system and happy with their outlay.


Plan together time, plan alone time

You love your family enough to go on holiday with them, but that doesn't mean you want to spend every waking moment together. On the flipside, you don't want to go all this way and find you never see each other. For your big multigenerational trip, plan things that you'll all do together, and things that will be best enjoyed solo. Everybody wins.

Designate a leader

Here's another tip for drama avoidance: too many cooks spoil the beach holiday. You don't want three or four people all trying to make plans and organise outings. Instead, designate your little party a leader. Someone who is good with organisation. Someone who knows everyone on the trip. Someone who will just take control and book things and everyone else will be happy with that. (Shotgun not, by the way.)

Remember, less is more

Despite all this talk of planning and organising, don't try to do too much on your family adventure. People are going to get tired. It takes a lot of energy to just deal with each other and keep things nice, without trying to pack 20 activities into every day. So hold back on the plans a little, leave space for spontaneity, and for just doing nothing. People will be glad of it.

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