There’s so much to love about multigenerational travel with your extended family. It’s a time when grandparents and grandkids can bond, parents can get the occasional break, and everyone can explore the world together all while on a family vacation.

There are also some specific challenges that come from family trips that include older and younger family members in the same group, though. And sandwich-generation parents would do well to adjust expectations when it comes to traveling with older relatives and children. With COVID-19 vaccines soon to be widely available in the U.S., more and more multigenerational families will finally be able to take a long-awaited trip together again. If that includes your family, here are four key secrets for traveling with grandparents. Ignore them at your peril.

1. Work with Different Ages & Different Interests. 
It’s okay that your kids’ and your parents’ interests don’t align perfectly. On a well-balanced family vacation, there’s room for smaller groups of people to break off and do the things that interest them. That’s a long way of saying: Don’t make your toddler sit through the three-hour meal your parents have booked at a nice restaurant (it’s going to disappoint everyone), and don’t force your parents to spend the day horseback riding at a dude ranch (unless they want to, in which case, they are heroes). The point isn’t to do everything together, it’s to be able to come back together as a whole family for quality time and fun activities that suit the whole crowd, from young children to teens to adults.

2. Respect Individual Needs. Some people need naps (both young and old). Some simply can’t walk for miles (again, both young and old). Others just need a little downtime now and then to recharge and read a good book. There are all sorts of physical limitations that kids, especially young kids, and grandparents, particularly older grandparents, bring with them on a multigenerational trip. To expect everyone to keep up with the fittest members of the family is unrealistic. Instead, cut everyone some slack when it’s time for group activities and aim for the achievable. Your entire family will be happier.

3. Embrace a Slower Pace. The little ones and oldest members of your extended family tend to need a little more time to recharge than the rest of us. Rather than seeing that as a burden, think about it as a lesson for us all to slow down and enjoy a little more unstructured, unscheduled vacation time. Not only will you make room for everyone to be on their best behavior the rest of the time, but you also create opportunities for spontaneous connection that come out of being relaxed, on vacation, and with the people you love.  

4. Choose a Trip the Entire Family Will Love. Some family-friendly destinations are custom-made for multigenerational travel. We’re looking at you, national parks, and national park lodges. You too, Walt Disney World. And don’t forget a family-friendly cruise ship, or all-inclusive resorts—especially resorts with a kids club. 

Look for destinations that not only cater to families with little ones but ones that offer something for the entire family—from young children and teenagers to parents and grandparents (not to mention aunts and uncles on an extended family vacation). In other words, think of it this way—a multigenerational family vacation is a lot like real estate: location matters. A lot. 

Written by Christine Sarkis

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