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Multigenerational Family Vacations: 6 Tips For Making the Most of Time with Grandchildren

Multigenerational Family Vacations

Time away with family can be wonderful – and sometimes challenging. Kids of all ages are occasionally prone to fighting, sulking, whining, and burying their heads in their phones. It can be frustrating even to the most patient grandparents.

Meaningful time together can create a lifetime of memories, so how can you help make your family time fulfilling and enjoyable for all when taking vacations with grandchildren? We interviewed parents, children and grandparents who had some terrific advice to share. Read on for their words of advice, and ours as well! 

In their words: “Bring earplugs!”
In our words:  “Take time for yourself.” 

Young people can move at a fairly fast pace. Take time to relax and do what you enjoy. Stay back, if necessary, during a family outing. Sleep in late. Take a nap. If you’re exhausted during your vacation, it will be much harder to enjoy it. Also, when picking a vacation destination, keep in mind the different schedules of children and older adults. Make sure your home base is easy to access for naps, different bed times and varied levels of activity. 

In their words: “Don’t parent your children or grandchildren–be the grandparent.”
In our words: “Focus on fun.” 

If your kids are along for your family getaway, let them do the disciplinary work. You may feel the urge to share parenting advice, or passive-aggressively discipline grandchildren, but unless asked for advice resist the urge to impose your parenting experience! Everyone will enjoy the vacation more if you’re the fun one, spending creative, playful time with the grandkids. 

In their Words: “Get down and dirty.”
In our words: “Pick activities carefully and wisely.” 

Try to select things to do as a family that allow everyone to participate. It will be more fun to be an active participant than a passive observer. Our seniors had some fantastic ideas to share:

For destination vacations, consider resorts that have activities for all ages. Check out RoadScholar.org for inspiration and specially designed intergenerational adventure trips. 

For time with young kids, bring a coloring book, craft projects and new games to play together. Consider cooking projects.

One senior wisely advised, “Do whatever they want.” Your time together is about the kids having fun. Your greatest joy will be knowing that the kids had a great time with grandma and grandpa, so try something new and create shared memories. 

In their words: “One at a time is SO much easier.”
In our words: “Create special experiences with each grandchild.” 

If you can find any way to spend some “alone time” with each of your grandchildren, seize the moment!  Leave sibling rivalry and opportunities for complaints at the door, and find something fun to do one-on-one. It can be as simple as a walk, getting an ice cream cone, reading a story, or going on a shared adventure. That one-on-one time is priceless for building memories. Create the time/space for that outing and let the kids guide the way. Undoubtedly, they’ll have wonderful recommendations for how you might spoil them.

In their words: “Put away those darn phones!”
In our words: “Plan a ‘no technology day,’ or seize the opportunity to learn something new about social media.” 

Kids may have a hard time separating from TV, Snapchat, Instagram, and the endless games on their phones. Let their parents set the rules, and let them do what they do. But, make a suggestion that you have a “no technology” day while on vacation. You’ll have to be creative and perhaps work harder to entertain, but it will force more meaningful interaction and activity. Try to plan a no-tech day in advance.  Springing it on kids with no notice is not likely to be met with a positive attitude! 

Kids’ social worlds often revolve around technology. Ask the kids to show you how they use social platforms or apps. Don’t be afraid to post something with them – a photo or comment. You’ll be the coolest grandparent around! 

In their words:  “Not too many ‘Happy Meals.’”
In our words: “Dinner time is priceless.” 

Mealtime can be tricky. Kids get antsy. They want to eat and run, and often adults want to sit and relax.  Make the most of mealtime with good preparation. Create a tool chest of games and conversation topics to take you through the dinner hour. Here are a few ideas: 

Buy a set of “conversation cards,” sold in toy stores or online. Caring Cards are particularly good for all ages. Or try The Family Dinner Project for more great conversation ideas.

“Two Truths and a Lie” is a great game to share at the end of a day. Think of two things that have happened to you (from your day, or from the past month) that are true and one that’s a lie. Have the other people at the table try to guess which thing is the lie. Stumping people is the most fun, so think carefully!

If you’re at a restaurant, consider bringing a deck of cards or other small travel games/activities to play while you wait for food, or at the end of the meal. It will extend your time together. Parents often come armed with activities, but it will be greatly appreciated if Grandma or Grandpa pop out something new in a restaurant. 

Family time is truly a gift. Enjoy the summer and your time together. We hope you have a chance to create some wonderful memories together.

Lynda Bussgang's picture

About the Blogger

Adam and Matan Adelson Multigenerational Program Manager

Lynda is the Adam and Matan Adelson Multigenerational Program Manager for Hebrew SeniorLife. Lynda is responsible for overseeing and developing multigenerational programs for all of Hebrew Senior Life’s housing communities, as this cutting edge approach enhances senior living, and positively impact child development. Lynda sits on the National Board of Directors of Facing History and Ourselves and is an active board member at The Rashi School. In her personal time, Lynda shares her talents as a professional vocalist specializing in Broadway music. She is a graduate of Harvard College and...

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