3 generations, 1 great vacation

Traveling with family can bring you all closer together. Use these questions to help plan a memorable getaway without breaking the bank.

 

ONE FATHER PUTS IT THIS WAY: “My two favorite things are being with my kids and grandkids and traveling. So, I’m always looking for chances to do both at the same time, and I’ve found that some of the most fulfilling moments of my life have been on those family trips.”

Vacation time can be an important way to maintain close family ties. Grown children move away for work, kids get locked into busy schedules, grandparents develop active lives in retirement, and suddenly, it’s all too easy to feel you’re losing touch.

For many people, it has been even trickier over the past couple of years to spend as much time together as they want with the ones they love. That’s why, as our lives move toward a post-pandemic normal, interest in reconnecting with family through travel has increased. The trips people are planning so they can make up for lost time can be modest and close to home, or something on a larger scale. As you begin to lay plans for your own family vacation, consider these tips.

Multigenerational travel is a popular vacation option for many families. It gives family members a chance to do many important and memorable things together such as learn about new places, share values and wisdom and recharge. Many families may also find that when they’re outside their everyday environments and having new experiences together, they open up more and are able to build closer relationships with one another, having conversations that they wouldn’t otherwise have at home.

One tip for keeping costs down is to look for alternatives to hotels and for nontraditional means of transportation.

Those experiences can run the gamut from camping in a national park to touring another country. No matter what the destination, traveling with a multigenerational group is an exercise in logistics — and economics. As you plan your next big family trip after such a long pause, here are four questions that can help give you and the people you love the most rewarding experience at the most reasonable cost.

Where are we going and what will we experience?

“Be sure your plans are appropriate for everyone who’s coming along,” advises Kyle McCarthy, editor of Family Travel Forum (myfamilytravels.com). “Remind them that travel today means more uncertainty and more responsibility for your own health.” As you work with your family to outline your trip, respect everyone’s needs and tastes, and in cases where there are differing opinions, try to reach compromises. Consider coming up with several trip options. Then solicit input from everyone coming along — including the kids, she suggests.

Options like all-inclusive resorts offer a variety of activities and dining choices — and often child care — at a fixed price. If you prefer a less structured vacation, look for ways to incorporate activities for all ages. Ask friends for suggestions or consult a travel advisor who specializes in multigenerational family vacations.

How can I manage costs?

The first rule of keeping travel costs in line is to set a budget based on what you can realistically expect to pay for the places you want to go. As anyone who travels knows, the price range for a single destination can vary widely based on how you want to travel. Popular family destinations such as Orlando can run approximately $100 per person per day for a seven-day vacation at select Disney All-Star Resorts, rising to $1,000 per day (depending on the size of your group) for a VIP experience led by a private guide. Similarly, for a South African safari, you can expect to pay, after airfare, from around $300 per person per day for a three-star safari lodge to $1,200 per person per day for a five-star experience.

In setting a budget for your trip, bear in mind that there are ways to avoid overspending. “First, determine your destination and create a list of what’s important for you to do there,” suggests Brian Shambo, a Merrill Lynch Wealth Management advisor who speaks with many of his clients about their travel plans. “Then weigh your travel options and cut back on the less important things.” One tip for keeping costs down is to look for alternatives to hotels and for nontraditional means of transportation. “For example, home-sharing apps might help reduce costs that would otherwise be spent on a hotel room. Also, using a ride-sharing service may cost significantly less than renting a car. The digital age makes customizing a trip to fit specific needs easier than ever before,” he says.


“Should individual families be responsible for their own airfare? Who pays for meals? Theme park passes? A lack of clarity about these details can undermine the sense of family unity.”

— Matthew Wesley, a managing director in the Merrill Center for Family Wealth™

Who’s paying for what?

“Are you responsible for all of the travel and lodging? Should individual families be responsible for their own airfare? Who pays for meals? Lift tickets? Theme park passes? A lack of clarity about these details can undermine the sense of family unity that a multigenerational trip is intended to create,” says Matthew Wesley, a managing director in the Merrill Center for Family Wealth™. “If your entourage is sizable, it’s essential to determine financial responsibilities upfront.” Wesley recommends sending each adult a detailed email spelling out the costs each family member will cover.

How will we all get along?

Every family has its own dynamics. If there are tensions between family members, they won’t necessarily go away just because you’re in a relaxing location. To prevent — or at least minimize — friction, you should all agree to ground rules in advance, says Eileen Ogintz, creator of the website Taking the Kids (takingthekids.com) and author of The Kid’s Guides, a travel guidebook series that includes Boston, Chicago, New York and Maine. And don’t feel the need to spend every minute together as a group. “Everybody doesn’t have to be in lockstep all the time.”

The recipe for the perfect multigenerational vacation is entirely dependent on your family’s taste for adventure, financial wherewithal and collective personality. And remember, although where you travel can help set the tone for your trip, what’s most important is that you’re doing it together.

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