Vacations with Extended Family

Can relatives of all ages travel together in bliss? Don’t give up on the dream–you can make it happen with smart planning and these tips.

You’re looking forward to time devoted to family in a great destination. The reality: toddlers, teenagers, parents, and grandparents have different schedules and agendas. Fortunately, with careful planning, anyone can orchestrate a trip with the whole clan.  

Just ask Deb Geigis Berry, founder of familyadventuremom.com, a website based on her experience organizing multigenerational vacations for 14 years. The trips involve Berry, her husband, and two kids, now 11 and 14; her sister and brother-in-law; and her parents. “There’s almost a 70-year age gap between my son and my dad,” Berry says. “We’re talking decades of diversity in abilities, ages, and interests.” 

Here’s what she recommends for anyone planning a multigenerational getaway. 

Start with a meeting.

Berry kicks off summer-vacation planning with a family discussion during the winter holidays. At this meeting, the family members say what they’d like to do and spell out what they need—be it a private bathroom, a pet-free facility, or an afternoon spent kayaking. For the trip to be enjoyable, she says, everyone needs to speak up.  

Look for well-rounded destinations.

Consider everyone’s preferences when making plans on where to go. In Berry’s family, the kids prefer to be near water, while her sister and brother-in-law enjoy outdoor adventures like climbing and cycling. Her parents are content ambling around in small shops. Among Berry’s favorite destinations has been Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, which has water activities for her kids, mountains for her sister, and nearby small towns where her parents can shop and visit the library. 

Keep the focus on togetherness—but give everyone some space too.

There’s no point in going on a multigenerational vacation if everyone takes off and does his or her own thing, so early on, establish how you’ll make time to be together. Berry’s family always eats breakfast and dinner together and then does group activities in the evening. But during the day, the family divides into two or sometimes three factions based on preferred activities. “There’s a lot of mixing up between the eight people,” she says. “I might do something with my parents, brother-in-law, and sister while my husband takes the kids to the beach. Or I may go to the library with my parents while the rest of the groups goes canoeing. We typically discuss the next day’s plan the evening before.”

Learn to compromise.

You might like to sleep till noon, but your brother-in-law wants to showcase his culinary prowess at breakfast. Meet somewhere in the middle (say, you wake up a bit earlier, in time to enjoy his gourmet brunch), so you both get a little bit of what you want. 

Cater to different taste buds.

If you have a vegetarian dining alongside a meat-and-potatoes aficionado, you’ll need to find restaurants that offer variety. Check out diners, buffets, or Panera Bread® bakery-cafes. 

Create new traditions.

One of the main reasons for a multigenerational getaway is to establish new memories. Whether you play a nightly round of charades or cook Great Grandma’s favorite recipes, find rituals that everyone enjoys and build them into your outing—each year if your trips become annual events. Don’t forget to capture your memories with family photos and even a shared vacation journal.