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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.