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It can be really fun to bring your child’s grandparents along on a family vacation, but I don’t have to tell you that it can be frazzling too. With all the extra people running around, it’s no wonder the mom in Home Alone forgot one of her kids and flew halfway to Paris before she remembered him. And although I’ve never done anything like that (yet!), we’ve gotten lost or forgotten something more times than I would like to admit.  We travel with both my parents and my in-laws a lot and they have very different styles. My parents are both type-As. They want to go-go-go when on vacation. Carpe Diem! is my dad’s motto. My in-laws, however, are more chill. Planning a trip that everyone will enjoy can be challenging.  But, I’ve planned lots of multi-generational trips for my travel agency clients, so I’ve learned a few tricks that help everything go smoothly.

 

There are a lot of benefits to taking the grandparents along for the ride, which make the extra planning worth it. You get extra hands to wrangle your kids, the grandparents get to give your kids a bedtime kiss or see them before breakfast. And if you don’t live near your parents, why not meet them in the middle and do something different?

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of toddler and dad in the water at the beach

A beach trip is a perfect big family trip, who doesn’t like the beach?

 

 

Pick a Destination and Make a Budget

 

When picking your destination for your multi-generational trip, make sure you take into account everyone’s activity level and preferences. If your parents can’t ride rides anymore, then Universal Orlando might not be the best choice. But if your parents are anything like my dad, laying on a beach somewhere for a week isn’t going to work. He needs more action. 

Once you have a destination, you should agree on who will pay for what. You can split everything right down the middle if that suits you. One group might want to treat the other. We often break the trip down into chunks, something like: my parents pay for the condo and we pay for the food and activities. Whatever you decide, just make sure everyone understands and is happy. You don’t want anyone to be surprised. Nothing ruins a good time like arguing or stressing about money.

 

 

Toddler, Beach

“Mom, why did you let them put sand on my legs?”

 

 

Choose your Accommodations Wisely 

 

You have lots of options when it comes to places to stay, but they fall into two main categories, hotels and AirBnBs. There are pros and cons to both. If you get an AirBnB, they usually have a kitchen so you can cook a few meals to save money. You’ll also have more room to spread out. And having access to a backyard is great if your kids are high energy. But, there are lots of advantages to staying in a hotel too. You’ll gain access to amenities like housekeeping and possibly a pool. You could even choose an all-inclusive resort if you really want to relax and not worry about anything. Whatever you decide, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can just share a single hotel room. That is too many people in too small of a space for anyone’s comfort.  I say no more than 3 adults to a bathroom if you can help it. 

 

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Toddler and Grandpa in Chair

One bonus of a condo is that it might come with a rocking chair. This rocking chair is incredibly effective at getting people to drift off!

 

 

Make a Flexible Plan

 

We did a weekend trip with my parents a few weeks ago, and on Saturday night it occurred to all of us that no one had thought about what we would do Sunday. We spent almost an hour just trying to research what to do the next day. And by the end of it, everyone was annoyed. To avoid all of that, go into the trip with a loose outline of what you would like to do each day. I wouldn’t suggest that you make a minute by minute breakdown. Your kids will never allow you to stick to that. Something like: Zoo on Monday morning, Beach all day Tuesday, etc is good. A fun thing we like to do: let each member of your group pick one activity during your trip, and everyone else opts in or out. 

 

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Toddler napping in stroller

Mom plans, TJ sleeps through the best part. Every. Single. Time.

 

 

Plan Some Time Apart

 

If you are traveling as a big group for more than a weekend, you should plan some activities in smaller groups. Everyone will need a break from each other. Trust me, some small group activities help keep the peace. Traveling with grandparents is also an excellent opportunity to plan a date, after all, they are available for babysitting! It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. My husband and I went for blizzards at Dairy Queen during one trip with my parents. We got a little break from everyone. My parents got some alone time with the toddler. Everyone wins! Neither my parents nor my in-laws live near us, so they both love the opportunity to get some quality alone time with their only grandbaby. Someone will inevitably get on someone’s nerves during the trip, after all, you probably haven’t spent this much time with your parents since high school! 

 

 

 

 

Relax and Go With The Flow

 

Finally, once you actually get there, be OK with throwing the plan out of the window. The whole reason you took the trip in the first place is to enjoy each other’s company, right? So if your parents HAVE to go to the beach one more time, or your kids decide they would rather get a root canal than go to another museum, roll with it. Some of my favorite travel memories were things that were unplanned. My dad and I were late, one time, meeting my mom at Disney World because we stopped to watch a space shuttle launch. It’s a great memory, even though we threw out my mom’s plan for the day. I’m a pretty Type A person too, but I’ve learned that we all have a better time if we loosen up the itinerary. Besides, the day I have a bunch of outdoor activities planned is the day it will rain anyway.  

I’m usually a stickler for TJ’s schedule, but on vacation I let it go a little. I let him stay up late, and eat more junk than I normally would. He’s only going to be little once, and I don’t want to let his schedule get in the way of having fun on vacation. 

 

 

Toddler, Dinosaurs

I let TJ stay up WAY past his bedtime so he could see these dinosaurs. His excitement was totally worth the crankiness the next day.

 

 

Traveling with grandparents can be a ton of fun and a great way to create memories for your kids. I have many memories of time at the beach with my grandma and going on a cruise with my other grandparents. No matter where you go or what you do, as long as you enjoy the time together it will all be worthwhile. And if something goes wrong, try not to worry and stress out about it, your kids just might think of it as one of their favorite memories someday!

 

 

Emily Householder Stacey is a writer and travel agent based in sunny Cleveland Ohio. Even though she loves to pick on them, she counts herself very lucky to have the best parents and parents-in-law a woman could ask for.

 

 

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