4 Secrets to Travel With Grandparents

by Matt Villano

4 Secrets to Travel With Grandparents

How can you ensure that your next multi-generational vacation comprises more happy memories than horrid ones?

In theory, multi-generational travel kicks ass. Who doesn’t love the notion of 80 years of [insert family name here], together experiencing faraway places for the first time? Who wouldn’t warm to the idea of the new dogs teaching the old ones new tricks? Just thinking about it is enough to make even the most stoic among us verklempt.

In practice, however, multi-generational travel can be sort of a hot mess. Grandpa doesn’t relate well to grandkids. Everyone's on a different schedule. Your mother drives your wife nuts. After three days, everyone is ready to go berserk. And that’s just the good news.

How can you ensure that your next multi-generational vacation comprises more happy memories than horrid ones? Here are four of my secrets to making it work.

Embrace space.
Just because the entire clan is vacationing together doesn’t mean everyone has to stay together. Instead, book separate rooms in separate sections of the same hotel, or separate rooms at a completely different hotel that’s within walking distance of everyone else. With this setup, you’re close enough to participate in group activities, but far enough away to feel like you can retreat to your own environment when it’s time to leave the family behind.

Lighten the agenda.
The No. 1 cause of tension on a family trip: The schedule. With this in mind, strip the itinerary of everything but the most mission-critical stuff. Family members should respond favorably to this flexibility. If they don’t, one of two things is up: a) they are just curmudgeons or b) they are miffed about something else and projecting those frustrations into a completely different circumstance. (Also, fewer formal “activities” will yield more serendipitous moments.)

Ask questions.
Traveling with the oldest generation of your family is like traveling with detailed storybooks of the past. Especially when your kids are present, engage the grandparents (and great-grandparents!) and ask them to talk about their time as kids—particularly their favorite vacations. This walk down memory lane undoubtedly will help put the current vacation into a broader context. Who knows? It also may teach you something new about your own parents.

Be appreciative.
There will be times on a multi-generational trip when one of your relatives will do something that drives you nuts. There also will be times when you will do something that irritates them. These irritations are (or, at least, they should be) ephemeral; the bigger picture on a multi-generational trip is togetherness. Most families these days are too fractured to vacation together; if you can travel with the bulk of yours, be grateful.

Think I’ve forgotten an important tip? Think I’m a whack-job? Leave a comment and let me know.