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Vacationing with Grandparents

When my husband suggested we join his vacationing parents in Laughlin, Nevada, for Thanksgiving a few years ago, I was wary. It's not that I don't like my in-laws; I was just worried that there wouldn't be enough for our daughters, who were then 3 and 4, to do.

Turns out, we all had a blast -- swimming, boat rides, even feeding burros. My mother-in-law helped with the girls, so my husband and I had some time alone, and my kids had four whole days with their beloved grandparents.

We're not alone: More and more families are trying multigenerational trips. "Today's families are scattered across the country, so if you want your kids to see their grandpar ents, you probably have to travel," says Marion Lindblad-Goldberg, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. And with time off scarce, many couples prefer to go someplace fun with Grandma and Grandpa rather than just visit their parents' homes.

Besides being a bonding experience, multigenerational trips can be just plain fun. Planning the getaway can be tricky, though, since you have to accommodate a variety of ages, energy levels, and interests. To navigate it all:

Start small

Could you stand a week with your overbearing father-in-law? Can your husband cope with your mother's snipes about his long hours at the office? If you're worried, test the waters by going away for a long weekend -- you can always plan a longer trip next time.

If you suspect your in-laws' quirks may be too much to tolerate, talk to your husband beforehand about intervening when you give him the high sign or spending a couple hours a day with them on his own so you get a break. But be prepared to be surprised by what a change in venue can do. "My mother-in-law is domineering, and normally she drives me nuts, but in Florida we got along great," says a mom of two from Shaker Heights, Ohio. "We weren't on her turf or mine, so we didn't get into power struggles over things like what time to eat or how to cook vegetables."