The wonderful thing about travelling with family is that there are always extra eyes and hands to help you out with the kids, both during the journey itself, as well as for the entire duration of the trip.
And should anything unexpected happen — touch wood! — you’ll have family to help.
The tricky part is in finding activities that will cater to everyone’s interest. While parents of young children might be content to simply check into a hotel with a good pool and remain there for the entire duration of the trip, this may not be as appealing to active grandparents who want to make the most of their travels to explore and experience what the world has to offer.
Similarly, while getting up at the crack of dawn to watch the sun rise over beautiful temple ruins may be the highlight of an adult’s trip, the two-year old may find the convenience store nearby a more exciting destination.
If this is your first time on a multi-generation trip, consider a short holiday near home to begin with, and save the more ambitious trips for the future.
Here are some tips from parents who have ‘been there, done that’ — survive a multi-generation vacation!
Consider everyone’s needs
Prior to the trip, involve all members of the travelling party in planning the itinerary. This gives everybody an opportunity to voice out if there’s something in particular they’d like to do or would prefer to skip, and reduces the possibility of disagreements during the trip.
Practice makes perfect!
You might even want to do a few trial runs, like going on family outings just to get a feel of what the dynamics of the group will be like. This is exactly what Senior Marketing Executive Lynn Ng, 33, did before her trip to Hong Kong with her in-laws.
“My parents-in-law are wonderful with the kids (aged two and six years) when we visit them every weekend, but they’d never been out of the house with them before. So we spent a few weekends before our trip going on family outings to let us all have a feel of what it might be like. We enjoyed that so much that we’re doing more extended family outings now!”
Do your financial planning
It might also be good to discuss money matters before the trip – will finances be managed by one person in particular? Or will bills be split?
For 36-year-old Event Consultant Evelyn Goh, having a designated ‘financial controller’ for shared meals worked out beautifully for her family. “My mother is an accountant by training so she assumed the responsibility of holding the family purse on her own! We all put some money into the family purse and my mother used that money to pay for all our shared meals and shared activities. When the money got low, she’d let us know and we’d all top it up.” Evelyn has an eight-year-old son and travels once a year with her sister’s family as well as her parents. Their last trip was to Beijing.
Sort out roles and responsibilities
Find out from the elders what they would like to be responsible for during the trip. This not only lightens your load, but also allows them to contribute actively to the trip and to feel appreciated.
Need ideas? They could be responsible for holding on to the kids each time there’s a need to load or unload luggage onto vehicles, or watching the little ones while you handle the checking in and out of hotels.
Set the ground rules from the start
If Junior has a small appetite and you’d like to keep it for meals, remind Granny and Grandpa that treats are okay after meals, but not before.
Discuss safety issues with everyone. For example, all adults should let at least one parent know if they want to bring the kids aside to show them something, or to make a purchase. This will help prevent unnecessary panic for parents.
Rest those legs!
Procurement Executive Klessis Lee, 37, recommends arranging for private transfers when visiting places of interest that require lots of walking or involve long travelling times. This will to make it easier for both young and old. “Take many small breaks in between travelling by stopping for snacks at cafes to replenish energy and rest tired legs!”.
She has travelled to Bangkok and Taiwan together with her family of two young children as well as her mother and her mother-in-law.
Be flexible with schedules
Remember that you don’t always have to stick together for the entire duration of the trip. If you’re going on a longer holiday, consider splitting up for certain days for different activities, and perhaps meet up at designated restaurants at fixed times for dinner.
Stay-at-home mum Summer Goh, 32, suggests that splitting up once in a while might be better than staying as a group throughout the trip, because everyone gets to experience things that they enjoy. “Have low expectations so that anything better that comes out of the trip will be a bonus and hopefully these happy moments will leave behind lasting memories for the whole family!”. Summer’s latest trip was to Batam with both sets of grandparents. She has two daughters, aged 6 and 3.
Plan your disappearing acts
You may be parents, but you still have to ask for permission… from your parents! Especially before you disappear for a well-deserved massage, or into a boutique. Remember that it’s also a holiday for your folks and they’re not just there as your babysitters!
We hope that these tips will help you if you are considering a multi-generation holiday. Have a nice trip! And good luck.