In a 2011 study on multigenerational travel, Preferred Hotel Group found that 40% of the participants (20.8 million individuals or households in the USA) had, in the year prior to the survey, gone on a trip that included three or more generations, and 40% of those travelers had vacationed outside the USA. Most of the survey respondents planned vacations around major life events such as anniversaries, birthdays, and weddings, and many of these regard multigenerational travel as a way to connect with other family members (especially those who live far from each other). No doubt, several of our readers are in this situation as are mom and me (there is an 82 year age gap between Mom and her grandchildren!). Here are a few ideas on what to look for in a destination when traveling with kids and parents.

Before exploring potential destinations, ask all participants what they want to do on this vacation together. If someone says, “I don’t care,” don’t accept that answer. Trust me: everyone cares. So keep pushing your family members for their input. This information will help you plan a vacation that strikes a good balance between activity and relaxation—and the input will take some of the pressure off you (because you won’t be solely responsible for everyone’s happiness). Also talk to everyone who’s going on the trip, regardless of his or her age. Even very young kids have their own ideas, and including them in the planning process can build their excitement about the upcoming trip.

traveling with kids and parents

The Grubb family (back row): me, my father-in-law and mom, (front row): Dani in Eric’s lap, Memory and Niki.

Once you have a better understanding of what your family members want to do while on vacation, search for destinations that have a variety of activities (with different physical demands) as well as interesting options for relaxation. At these sorts of places, the more active set can run as hard as they want while the members of your group who want (or need) a more relaxing vacation will also have a good time. Having multiple options also makes it possible for people to vary their activity levels day by day. So, for example, someone who originally planned to relax by the pool but decides to join the others for a day of more strenuous activity can do so.

When evaluating destinations, make a list of priorities to help you narrow down your options. For example, here are some of the features Mom and I value having at or near our accommodations when we travel:

  • Places that are good for relaxing and chilling out (e.g., beach, pool, seating areas)
  • Physical activities that suit our abilities (for example, walking paths rather than hardcore hiking trails)
  • Activities that the whole family can enjoy together (from age 2 ½ to 84)
  • Art galleries, museums, and other non-strenuous activity sites
  • Spas
  • Quick access to the hotel (for when someone needs to take a break)

That last item is pretty important for both young children and aging parents. (And for me, too! There are definitely times when I need a quick power nap.) The preparations for traveling with multiple generations entail accommodating everyone’s capabilities—and that includes making it possible for anyone in your group (regardless of age) to take breaks as needed.

Because they usually have a wide variety of activities organized by age and activity levels, all-inclusive resorts and cruise ships are definitely worth a close look. Planning a vacation at one of these places can actually reduce the amount of planning you need to do: because the activities are all in one place, you don’t have to do a lot of “what to do in the local area” research. Features and amenities can vary wildly, so be sure to compare several places before booking a stay anywhere. Some of the features you might find include bar areas where adults can congregate once the kiddies have gone to bed, a wide range of food options to appeal to picky eaters of any age, and adults-only pools (in addition to all-ages pools). Also, all-inclusive places are sometimes less expensive than other vacation options, because they don’t have à la carte fees for individual activities. (Your wallet will certainly be happy about this feature if, like my brother’s twins, your children fixate on a particular activity and want to repeat it over and over!)

traveling with kids and parents

If possible, I upgrade to a room with a balcony so when we relax, we do so in an awesome setting!

At whatever destination Mom and I choose, I always look for hotels with onsite relaxation spots (such as a beach or a pool) or lounging areas with beautiful views. (I typically don’t count spas as “relaxation spots” because their high price tags exclude them from the “daily activity to unwind” category—and actually make me feel stressed about paying the bill when I return home!). Even when we have our noses buried in our books, Mom and I still love to surround ourselves with new sights and sounds. An outdoor setting (especially one where we can watch the sunset—with a cocktail in hand, of course!) is always a top priority on our amenities list, and I usually upgrade our hotel room to get a balcony or view of water, mountains, or other scenery.

As long as I chose a location wisely, everyone is usually happy, regardless of age! The activities that are available for everyone definitely influence their “happiness” factor, although, so be sure that your trip planning includes assessing the available activities options. Ensuring your destination has a wide range of possibilities that include physical activities for those who prefer to be out and about all day long as well as laid-back options for those who prefer to take it easy and relax will go a long way in helping achieve this goal.