What you need to know before attempting a multigenerational trip

Have you ever taken a multigenerational trip with your kids, siblings and parents? We recently succumbed to one with The Huz’s family to celebrate his parent’s 50th wedding anniversary.

Gen Z kids
Cousins of all ages pretend to like each other for the camera.

Multigenerational trip

Our Multigenerational trip wasn’t so bad, actually. Ideally we would’ve gone to Italy, where my father-in-law is from, but we needed more time to plan that. Still, heritage tourism is a thing and I’d love to travel to Italy with that side of the family and meet distant relatives together.

Instead, we went to San Diego and I shared our experiences on Calgary’s Global Morning Show (see clip below). Additionally, I’ve got more tips below on how to make multi-gen trips smoother.

What to know before booking a multigenerational trip

Whenever you’re travelling with others, it needs to be clear who’s paying for what. You need to determine your budget, unless you’ve got a loaded and generous family member offering to foot the entire bill. (Don’t everyone think of Grandpa all at once.)

This will help minimize misunderstandings and reduce possible resentment about family members not paying their fair share.It’s not the easiest subject to bring up, but not discussing it can ruin your holiday and create long-lasting bitterness,” warns Claudia Laroye of The Travelling Mom blog.

While Claudia highly recommends multi-generation trips, she cautions they’re not for everybody. “It’s critical to know your trigger points family wise. You’re going to have to be patient and compromise on certain things,” she says.

You see these trigger points being exploited all the time during multi-day family get togethers. That’s why so many adults don’t love travelling home for the holidays.

You’ve seen it – adults reverting back to childish behaviour. Being the baby of the family by a good 10-years, I think I should get a pass for this. Sadly, nobody else does.

You’ve got to put on an extra filter during these types of vacations, even if you are really, really annoyed your brother wants to jack the kids up on pop before bedtime. (Not my brother, Melissa’s.) If you or someone in the family can’t filter, it’s gonna be tense (read: suck) for everybody. 

multigenerational trip
San Diego Safari Park Zoo was a fab place for our nuclear family to reconnect

Best locations for multigenerational trips

Nothing is worse than feeling obligated to go to a destination you don’t care for, or one that’s out of your price range. It’s gotta be a location of interest to everyone and easily accessible. This is where compromise comes into play. 

Hawaii was a strong contender for our multi-gen trip, as was (weirdly) Vegas. In the end, San Diego won out. The city just ticked all the right boxes for  us.

There were loads of vacation rentals along the beach. Everyone was able to get direct flights. The weather should’ve been perfect. (We caught the first major rain in like, four years.) There was a good mix of attractions for all age groups.

The old people (see pic below) could go to Coronado Island, golf or walk along some easy seaside trails. Families with young kids (and my 22-year-old nephew) wanted to hit up the San Diego Zoo and Legoland.

Most importantly, there were loads of outlet malls and fish taco joints. And course, Canada with a baby or young children is always an option, too. 

Dan chinos
Forget your dad jeans? Fuhgeddaboudit! On multi-gen trips, you can borrow from your own dad or brother. Score!

Built in babysitters?

One bonus of taking a trip with the grandparents is being able to sneak away with your partner. But you can’t assume grandma and grandpa want to spend time alone with their grandchildren while the parents go off on their own. Sure, it may happen, but it’s not a guarantee.

If they choose to be, grandparents can be helpful, but they are not the hired help. Ask in advance if they can assist with child care. Don’t spring it on them.

You may be better off hitting up an aunt, uncle or one of your kid’s cousins if they’re old enough to babysit. Offer the kids cash and do something nice for the adults who’ve given you precious time off.

If you do take advantage of built in babysitters, make sure your kids are well set up with toys and activities. Here are some of my favourite travel toys for toddlers.

Tips for managing multigenerational trips

Multi-generation trips work best when there’s some semblance of routine for the kids, layered with activities to suit everyone’s interests. To avoid getting on each other’s nerves, don’t spend every waking minute together.

Kids need downtime, even more so when they’re overstimulated. There’s no shame in carving out a few hours each day for your own family unit or swapping off with your partner so everybody gets a break.

Colleen from Travel Mamas gave me the suggestion of having each family unit take a night and make dinner for everyone. I floated the idea to Dan’s sister and brother, but we didn’t firm it up.

That first night most everyone was exhausted after a gruesome day of travel delays, but I had arrived early and was keen to make it happen. I had Grandpa chauffeur me over to Trader Joe’s, where I bought a bunch of ready made appetizers that could be quickly heated up, plus a two chickens to roast and rice for risotto.

Because it was Dan’s parents anniversary trip, we didn’t want to include them in the plan. We wanted them to have a break from dinner duty. We should’ve discussed the plan with them, because they actually wanted to have a night, and made their famous shrimp pasta.

Most of the time, each family went their separate ways during the day. Sometimes random kids joined other families. This was especially awesome when I joined Dan’s sister’s family one day and got a break from my own.

Catching up on everyone’s adventures on the patio overlooking Mission Bay was an ideal way to cap off the day. Even better was not having to worry about meal prep. One big dinner and you were done.

Evenings were spent teaching the kids card games or walking along the beach with a to-go mug filled with wine. 

The point of multi-generation trips

Shared memories are what make multigenerational trips so special. Luckily, you don’t need an expensive outing or bucket list adventure to make them. With the right setting and the right people in the right frame of mind, these moments just happen. 

For more tips on surviving multigenerational trips and other aspects of family travel, please check out my newly released book: 25 Places in Canada Every Family Should Visit.

Have you ever taken a multi-gen trip with your family? Please comment and let me know how it went for you.

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