After two years of being separated and distant from our loved ones while also managing the stresses of the pandemic, you might be considering an extended family or intergenerational travel to make up for lost time and dip your toes in travel again.
Planning an intergenerational trip with different households comes with extra considerations and concessions, and can turn into a real mess if not done carefully. However, if done correctly it can create memories for your family to last a lifetime. Here is our best advice for planning numerous trips with relatives, in-laws, grandparents, and friends – both pre-and post-pandemic (are we there yet???).
Begin with everyone’s wishlist
Intergenerational travel is all about the wishlist. Dedicate some time to daydream, as these travel plans are starting to brew. This could start as you’re sitting together for a holiday or special meal, or in a group chat if you won’t be in person anytime soon. To what area(s) is the group interested in traveling, what are they interested in doing there, and for how long do they want to stay? You only need to start with the preliminary details, and daydreaming is the fun part.
Appoint one person as the planner, with multiple points for input
In these initial conversations, allow one person to come forward as the designated planner and who ideally has some travel or planning experience. Although it sounds great to make all these decisions together, consensus decision-making is challenging and if not done correctly can bring resentment and hard feelings into the trip. But everyone’s voices can be heard if there are multiple points for input, while someone is also ensuring there is forward momentum.
The planner should reflect on those initial conversations and find overlapping themes in location, trip length, and activities. They can start pitching some ideas to the group that meets those criteria and ultimately settles the basic details. At various points moving forward, the planner should account for additional conversation as more details are available, such as specific travel dates, lodging choices, and itinerary. The planner will manage all the deadlines leading up to those decisions, hopefully crafting a padded timeline that allows for feedback at each of these steps, sometimes a Plan B, and unfortunately even untimely responses. And the earlier you start all this, the better.
Learn everyone’s budget
Intergenerational travel must account for different budgets. Finances are an important topic that dictate every decision moving forward. It may also be a sensitive issue and could benefit from an initial discussion in private. However, sufficient planning time usually means more options and better deals so you can find fun that fits everyone’s budget and ideals.
As the budget conversation unfolds, find out what everyone can reasonably afford to spend on lodging, activities, ground transportation, and food per day and overall. You will want to inquire about airfare if you are arranging that too. We find some folks have an easier time estimating an accurate amount if you break down the categories and they offer a daily allowance for each, and others have a grand total in mind they don’t want to exceed. You could ask both ways and see how those answers align. Ideally, you need to learn where people are at – and where they might be willing to splurge if the right opportunity came your way.
Ensure the timeline mentioned earlier also includes time for cost-sharing, whether it be split expenses and paying a portion by a certain date, or transferring funds in advance so the planner can make reservations and has the appropriate resources to do so.
Engage tech tools early in the process
Technology is your friend, as it allows for planning, feedback, and cost-sharing with more transparency and ease. Intergenerational travel can be tricky to plan so the more help you can get the better. You can engage simple tools such as Google Sheets to share planning and timelines or use project management software such as Asana since many companies offer a free online version with robust tools. You can also use Doodle or Google Forms to decide on dates, survey interest, and more. Other apps such as TripIt can help share itineraries. Most importantly, decide how you will share costs and ensure everyone has those apps before the trip begins. PayPal, Venmo, and Splitwise are all popular financial apps.
Some of these apps have more than one function and using a multi-purpose tool helps to minimize the number of places your travel mates need to interact with those details. In an ideal world, the planner will scope out what might work best for the group and ensure any details or decisions are available there and outline for the other travel mates how they can and should contribute to the process.
Decide on your daily travel
Determine how far folks are willing to travel once in location. On travel and flight days, is there a certain amount of driving (or other ground transportation) time from the airport to the home base that would be excessive? Once at the hotel or rental, how far are they willing to travel for day trips? These are important questions to ask to understand everyone’s tolerance level, and will also help in narrowing down the best home base.
Beyond that, how are you getting around each day? Are you renting/hiring a car, taking taxis, public transportation, or some mix of this? This plays into the budget conversation as well, since these scenarios represent very different financial amounts.
Ensure everyone is on the same page regarding food
Do your travel mates prefer to eat out most meals, do they hope to save funds or eat healthier by booking a place with a kitchen and going grocery shopping, or is this a mix? It is also helpful to learn what meals they prefer to eat out or prepare at home, from breakfast, lunch, and dinner, to snacks and drinks. Finally, ensure you learn if there are any dietary restrictions or preferences to accommodate. Depending on the answers, this will help further pinpoint your lodging as you may want to be closer to restaurants or grocery stores – which may be in different parts of town.
Discuss daily schedules and activities
Once you know how many days you are working with, less your travel days on either end of the trip, discuss and decide how many of your remaining days are planned. Include in there how much downtime or alone time your travel mates need. Learn about how early and how late their travel days ideally begin and end. Ensure folks feel included in the planning both for interest and accessibility, but also know they can opt-out.
When it comes to intergenerational travel, it is important to research what the highly-rated activities are and assess where interests lie. Is there something they cannot leave the trip without doing? It’s helpful to know what’s at the top of everyone’s list, and this may be enough to fill your whole itinerary. Beyond that, you have a list of other things that can fit in as time allows or if other plans fall through, but that you are not prioritizing.
As you sketch out the itinerary, alternate between high and low-energy days with breaks each day (or on certain days) so no one leaves the vacation feeling exhausted. Within this framework, alternate activity types as much as possible will maintain variety but likely also sustain energy levels. If you want to do two days of mountain climbing and two days laying at the beach, the second round of either of those will likely be more interesting and perhaps physically possible if they are not done back to back. But above all: resist the urge to overschedule. Group trips are about quality outings over quantity.
Bonus tip! Arrive in advance
If possible, it helps for the planner (or another guest) to arrive at least a day early to learn the area. Depending on how early they are able to arrive, they can have a pre-vacation trip that solely meets their needs while also allowing for some homework that benefits the entire group. That’s a win-win.
The person who arrives early can find the nearest markets, gas/petrol stations, coffee shops, and more, plus manage the check-in process for lodging. If this person is the planner in the group, they likely have more travel under their belt, a higher tolerance for managing those details, and likely some tricks in their pocket for the inevitable travel hiccup. Managing and addressing expectations and emotions is not to be underestimated on a group trip, and keeping group dynamics at bay helps to ensure the trip is smooth for everyone.
And regardless of how folks answered the food questions, spend some prep time grabbing a few snacks and beverages to get the hotel or house at least minimally stocked. Everyone appreciates having something to eat after a long travel day and that ideally requires little effort. Even if you have big dinner plans to launch the group trip, those snacks will come in handy at some point – between activities or after a late night.
Stay tuned for more tips on traveling with grandparents in Part 2 of this series on intergenerational travel. If you have other ideas for our like-minded community, please share them in the comments section below.
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