How to Travel With Your Parents – and Your Children – and Their Children

One of the goals of Family Money Values is to explore what it takes to build a longer term view of family – to build a legacy that lasts for several generations. In our article Build a Long Term Wealth Plan for Future Prosperitywe state that some of the outcomes a family might expect if they do build a long term wealth plan are that family members may:

  • keep in touch more
  • share more of the same ideas, concerns and values
  • cherish and pass along the family history and legacy
  • use each other as resources, drawing on one another’s strengths
  • grow financial resources significantly over time

But, after you leave home, how do you keep and grow the relationship with your parents and grandparents? After the nest is empty, how do you develop that new adult-adult relationship with your child and bond with your grandchildren?

Sharing experiences is an excellent method of keeping in touch; sharing ideas; learning; creating; and passing family history and legacy; as well as using each other as resources.

Of course you will visit back and forth, call, email and share holidays, but these events and times are rife with parent/child history. Traveling together can create new opportunities to get to know one another in new ways and to create shared experiences, memories, values and history.

Why Travel Together?

  • Finances – the older generation may be able to help younger generations with costs of the trip.
  • Bonding – you will see each other in a different light, getting to know each other as adults and develop stronger relationships between grandparents and grandchildren.
  • Education – you may learn things about each other (and the world) you didn’t know.
  • Travel help – you can give each other a break and mix up interaction patterns. Grandparents may want to take the grandkids on a side trip, giving the parents time to be kid free. Guys can hang together to do guy things, while girls do something they prefer.
  • Legacy – create shared experiences, observe and demonstrate values to help your family define their legacy.
  • Demonstrate maturity – the younger generation can show off life skills to their parents or grandparents. Having your adult child offer to pay for a parent’s meal is very exciting to a parent. Not because of the monetary savings, but because it demonstrates multiple lessons learned to the parent. It shows the adult child is now established enough financially to be comfortable footing a bill, it shows the adult child understands give and take in a relationship (not just take), it shows the adult child understands that parents may no longer be the money bags in the family!
  • Broadened travel experiences – because different generations may be interested in different activities and paces, each gets exposed to a different view on travel.

Dangers of travel together.

  • Role reversion – all generations may revert to prior roles played. Parents may try to direct; adult children may revert to resentment and anger at parent’s direction. Children and grandchildren may seek parental approval, parents may express approval or disapproval to influence outcomes.
  • Too much togetherness – you aren’t used to being around your parents, your children, your grandchildren so much – togetherness can lead to quarrels.
  • Frustration with itinerary or pace – parents or grandparents may think the pace is to fast, kids and grandkids may get bored. Changes to itinerary may not be well received by all. Too much or too little structure may be cause for concern.
  • Bad assumptions – if financial concerns weren’t made crystal clear, parents or grandparents could be assuming everyone is paying their own way but children or grandchildren may be assuming they get a free ride. If family members have grown apart, they may make assumptions about the interests, skills and physical abilities of each other that lead to problems.
  • Lack of control – all family members may not get their way – some may not get to do what they want on their vacation.

My stories about traveling together.
Mom loved to travel, she called herself a gypsy. After Dad died, she didn’t travel as much. I worked for TWA at the time and got free flights myself and reduced cost flights for my family. One year, when the boys were teen and pre-teen, we all went to Florida and took Mom. She was in her early 70’s and walked with a cane. We had a great time and she was a real trooper when we took her Epcot center and Disney World. One of our funny memories was her, driving one of those 3 wheeled motorized scooters around Epcot. She was a crazy driver! I’m so glad we were able to travel with her on this trip and on a couple of others as adults.

oldfaithfulIn 2003, my spouse and I toured Yellowstone National Park and loved it. We regretted not having taken our kids while they were growing up, and vowed to do so someday. The grandkids are old enough now to enjoy that trip, the boys are established in their careers and we are celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary this year, but still young enough to do the walking – so we decided that this should be the year. We invited our sons, their spouses and children (that is 10 people) to go with us, offering to give each family unit an allowance to cover a part of the journey, plus paying for 3 nights at Old Faithful Inn and one big family meal. They are responsible for everything else.

I started planning a year and a half out. I knew that rooms get reserved fast, especially Old Faithful Inn – where I really want everyone to stay, so I started coordinating the planning a year and a few months out – trying to line out the dates everyone could go, what kinds of rooms they might want and lending them DVD’s of Yellowstone so they could start thinking about their own planning. We will all spend 3 nights in the Old Faithful area, doing some things together and some things as family units. I hope to grab the grandkids and spend time with them there too. Another goal is to get to know our new step-grandchildren a bit better. The remaining days in the park are to be planned by individual family units, perhaps meeting for specific events (such as a dinner at Lake Yellowstone Hotel one evening).

I’m sure my kids and their spouses think I am pretty anal starting so early and planning in detail. They have different styles – so in preparation for this trip, I did a bit of research to figure out how to make the trip go better – to get some tips on how to travel with extended family.

Tips on how to travel with extended family.

  • Have lots of advance notice. Start discussions and planning at least a year ahead so everyone can save up for the trip, plan work schedules and etc.
  • Be clear about who is paying for what. Youngers may expect elders to foot the bill, but elders like to have youngers step up financially and it shows that they are successful adults – whoever is coordinating needs to make a no-surprises budget – so that extras folks may want are considered.
  • Keep in touch every few months about the trips. This helps remind folks to save, builds anticipation and keeps travel wrinkles ironed out.
  • Work together on itinerary. Don’t plan everything for the kids/grandkids. Parents have a tendency to do that (I know I do). Elders tend to plan things out in more detail, youngers tend to wing it on itinerary. Have all adult parties involved somehow in planning the destinations, activities, lodging, food and etc. Try to have separate lodging.
  • Do some things together, some things in immediate family units – find things you all have in common for the things together.
  • Stay away from touchy topics. Go with a willingness to get along. Elders should get on their soap boxes and youngers should avoid things that trigger them!
  • Be accepting – you probably know behavior patterns that are likely to show up, you can accept and ignore those, suffer through them (thus ruining your trip) or try to change them – which seldom works and always causes frustration.
  • Consider everyone’s needs. Know what everyone’s activity level, comfort level, safety requirements and travel experience is – plan common events to the least expert levels. Build in rest times. Build in alternate activities folks can do if they want. Elders will probably be more apt to want to stay in safe, comfortable and somewhat familiar locations, youngers may want to be more adventurous or save money for other activities and sleep cheap.
  • Ease into the trip. Start slow, with lots of alternates, rest times, apart times and work towards common time and more vigorous activities and events.
  • Expect the unexpected. Some members may need to drop out – health, work or other reasons may make it impossible for them to go. Decide ahead of time what will happen if you lose travelers before going.

I hope I am doing most of the above in coordinating the Yellowstone trip! I know it will be very hard for me to expect the unexpected – if someone has to drop off the trip especially – but now I know that I just need to figure out what the result will be and move on!

Have you traveled with your parents, your adult children and/or your grandchildren? What difficulties did you encounter and how did you resolve them?

  • Boston Travel
  • AskMen
  • MyItchyTravelFeet
  • MatadorNetwork
  • CultureAddictHistoryNerd
  • VibrantNation
  • Uptake

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