With summer on the horizon, many of us start thinking about vacations. If we want to include other generations — adult children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews — in our plans, we need to confirm arrangements soon. Multi- or intergenerational vacations require a considerable effort in conceiving, coordinating, executing. I’m not talking about adult children visiting us at home, though we often behave as on holiday when they do. I’m referring to destination vacations.
According to the Chicago Tribune, 32% of American grandparents go on vacations with their grandchildren. While boomers often foot the bill, that doesn’t mean they should dictate the terms. Some of the joy lies in anticipation. Through consultation, excitement can mount for all participants before they even step into a plane, train or automobile.
- Location: choose a place that offers activities to satisfy everyone in the group. Look for pursuits that enable us to engage with the younger generations, not simply observe them from the sidelines. In the summer think swimming pools, beaches and nature trails, for instance.
- Accommodation: we opt for a three-bedroom unit, with a full kitchen, to house four adults and two, next time three, young children. I liked our rustic cottage at the White Pine Camp in the Adirondacks — with no TV, Internet or telephone.
- Dining: food is important, but it may not be fine dining. Menus should be simple, readily prepared, and appeal to the children’s appetites as well as our own.
- Privacy: allow for private moments and respect the personal space of others. After all, quality time doesn’t have to equal togetherness 24-7.
- Attitude: traveling can be stressful, especially with little ones. Leave our stress at home to bring our best selves to the trip. Maintain a sense of humour, remembering that misadventures may eventually turn into family lore. And, as the key organizer, don’t fret about everyone’s enjoyment. Each adult must accept responsibility to get the most from the holiday.
From our friends Judy and Al: “Each summer Michigan State University (as one of several U.S. universities) offers a three-day program called Grandparents University for grandparents and their grandchildren ages 8 to 12. We attended two years ago with our grandsons, Max and Lev.
Attendees live in a dorm and eat at the residence hall cafeteria. We took classes on cookie decorating, smashing atoms, cattle farming and making biofuels, plodded through cow pastures, extracted DNA from strawberries, broke rocks, bowled, toured a cyclotron, and hiked around campus on a scavenger hunt using GPS coordinates as our “map.” We played games and attended a pep rally. Each experience led to conversations, reflections, and giggles. We marvelled at our grandsons’ ability to focus on and learn from the classes.
We learned along with them, often thanks to their expertise in technology. They helped us understand how to use GPS signals to find things and showed me how to use a selfie stick with my cell phone.
Since Al attended MSU as an undergrad and I earned my MA there, we shared memories of our college years with Max and Lev, telling them about life “in the good old days.” For example, there was an empty telephone booth in the dorm lobby. We explained what it was and how it had been used. The boys were amazed we didn’t have cell phones and had to have coins to place a call. And they couldn’t believe we had no computers or internet to help us with our school work.
The camp provided an excellent opportunity to learn, play, and create together. It was a wonderful bonding experience that built lasting memories!”
For a somewhat similar experience Road Scholar markets adventures packed with field outings designed to involve two generations.
- AARP travel surveys show that families take intergenerational vacations to get everyone together (83%), help build special memories (69 percent), connect grandparents with grandkids (50 percent), enjoy quality time (36 percent) and pass time with younger generations (29 percent).
- We can relate in a relaxed manner, without the pressure of deadlines or work/school commitments.
- Vacationing together improves our long-term relationships. An added bonus: we’ve become better acquainted with our son-in-law.
- Maintaining pleasurable ties with younger generations promotes a sense of well-being.
We have formed enduring stories from two multigenerational vacations (three for Glen with a week-long camping trip) and look forward to forging new ones in the future. Please add your views on multi- or intergenerational vacations in the comments below. •