by Diana Rowe - Traveling Grandmom
With the U.S. population becoming more mobile than ever and many children moving far from home after leaving the nest, distance has separated many families. Although I'm fortunate to have two daughters and two grandchildren who live nearby, I'm no stranger to separation with one daughter in Boston and another in Oregon with my remaining three grandchildren.
Almost three years ago, I joined the multigenerational family travel boom and planned a tropical vacation to Playa del Carmen, inviting close family and close friends ages 2 to 62. We were hooked and followed up with another Mexican beach vacation last summer. I'm counting the days until we travel together again in 2013.
Over the past decade, multigenerational travel has progressively become more important and popular. In 2011, a Preferred Hotel Group study reported that 40 percent of U.S. leisure travelers (20.8 million people) took a multigenerational trip in the previous 12 months. Family moments are increasingly precious and rare, and uniting the clan together for a shared vacation creates unforgettable memories.
Coordinating memorable family vacation requires extensive planning and compromise. What's the family travel planner to do-and how do they plan a trip for diverse family personalities at destinations that offer something for everyone without breaking the bank?
Whether your multigenerational family is a handful or dozens, pre-planning is essential. Often the process begins a year or more in advance. Take into consideration budgets, different vacation styles, diverse ages and abilities. A three-leg flight to a remote island may not be the trip for a multigen family with younger children or a wheelchair-dependent great-grandma.
This is also a perfect time to have "family travel meetings." (Bonus: those planning get-togethers are also quality fun time spent with your family.) Open up a dialogue to get each family member's input. Ask everyone – including the youngest and oldest family member – what are their interests, activities, favorite sports and dream destinations. Make it a point to get everyone's input and write it down! You might be surprised at the surfacing pattern.
Review your list, and then brainstorm several appealing options. Ultimately, however, majority has to rule as not everyone will agree on every aspect.
Prior to booking any vacation, confirm everyone's commitment. Send an email and get a definite "yes" in writing from everyone.
Decide who is financially responsible. Are the grandparents covering the entire vacation? Is every family paying their own way? Establish the ground rules before booking, and you'll remove the financial stress during the trip.
When possible, leave the optional activities and excursions to the individuals. Not everyone will want to golf. Nor will everyone want to participate in a snorkeling adventure. Pick the destination, and let everyone pick and choose their activities. Balance your time together with private time. Busy toddlers are exhausting for grandparents, and teenagers want time away from their parents. Shared memories are amazing, but everybody needs a little space.
Multigenerational family vacations are not going to be perfect – family isn't perfect. It's okay if this trip isn't everyone's dream vacation. Remind your family (gently) how important and rare it is to get together to make once-in-a-lifetime mutigenerational family vacation memory.
Finally, remember to relax and have fun. Let go of your expectations, go with the flow, and live in the moment.
For more multi-generational family travel tips and fun, follow Diana as the Traveling Grandmom at TravelingMom.com http://www.travelingmom.com/home/profile/userprofile/dianarowe.html