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Forever Young: Tips for Successful Multi-generational Travel

As November rolls around and we head towards the holiday season, it got me thinking about multi-generational travel. Families gathering for the holidays means a variety of people with different interests coming together; often times with travel involved. So, I’ve compiled some of our takeaways from traveling with grandparents to far away places like Thailand, Ireland and South Africa as well as places closer to home: the family cabin, family ski vacations, beach vacations with family, and more.
Kayaking, Grand Bahama, Bahamas

Double kayaks make for a great multi-generational activity, Grand Bahama, Bahamas

#1 Strike a Balance

When you are dealing with age ranges from babies to grandparents there are going to be many different opinions on what is fun. It is important to strike a balance between those activities to ensure everybody enjoys their time together. Have everybody write down their top two or three activities or places they’d like to visit while on vacation and then pick one or two of the most popular. We try to balance something physical in the morning with something more relaxing in the afternoon to make sure everyone can participate.
Walk with Meerkats, South Africa

Animal encounters like this Walk with Meerkats experience in South Africa are great multi-generational activities

#2 Privacy Please!
Privacy can be important on a family trip where there’s lots of activity going on throughout the day. Taking a break from the action and having some private time can mean the difference between a successful and not so successful trip. We try to ensure that everyone on the trip has their own private space to retire to when they need a break. It’s also a good idea to build in some private time for grandparents and parents to relax separately from the kids. We call this our privacy policy.
#3 Flex Your Ability to Roll with Change
As with all family travel, it’s important to be flexible and go with the flow. If everyone seems to be tired or an activity is not looking feasible, don’t push it. You’ve got to get a pulse of the group’s overall spirit and make sure that any activities aren’t getting too overwhelming. You can always reschedule to another day. On the other hand, if everyone seems to be enjoying themselves on a certain activity, extend it. Make sure you leave time in your schedule to add more time to activities where everyone is having a good time.
Relaxing with grandparents, Bahamas

Downtime on theme night (see below): Pirates!

#4 Get Down with Downtime

One common mistake we see in multi-generational travel is over scheduling; it tires people out and could make for a cranky family. Every day be sure to leave some time in the schedule for fun to happen organically. When people are just sitting around relaxing, that’s when the memories happen. Whether it’s conversation or board games or quiet walks on the beach, if you don’t leave time for these moments to occur how can they?
#5 Breaking Up is Easy to Do
Taking some time away from each other is OK to do sometimes and with multi-generational travel, it’s OK for different groups of people to do different things. While the point of the trip is to bond together, often times there are activities that the younger generation will want to do that the older generation – whether physically unable to or just worn out – will not want to participate in. Don’t prevent the bonding that happens on adventure activities from happening because you have an older group with you. It’s OK to plan for them to relax while the younger group does something more active.
digital scavenger hunt, Bahamas

Multi-generational digital scavenger hunt, Bahamas

#6 Put the Team in Family
We try to add a service day or a theme night and/or a team-building activity into every multi-generational or multi-family trip. Activities that mix different members into groups they might not usually hang out with gets people bonding and builds new friendships. Our kids love pirate night (see picture above) – not only do they dress the part, but they talk and walk like pirates. Digital scavenger hunts are also a favorite. You get to know the area, solve riddles, and the pictures you get from these activities are priceless!
Kliptown school, Soweto, South Africa

Three generations volunteering together, South Africa

Enjoy your holidays and I hope you have time to express thanks to your loved ones for all the love and joy they bring to your life.

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