After spending so much time apart thanks to COVID travel restrictions, this summer’s family reunions have taken on new meaning. In some cases, families have decided to take these reunions on the road, and make it a multigenerational family vacation.
And while that may sound great in theory, when you’re crammed into an Airbnb with two actual beds that says it sleeps 12—and even though everyone said they’d be fine on the air mattress over the group planning texts, now no one’s offering to sleep on them—you may be second-guessing your life choices.
But instead of fleeing to the nearest body of water and escaping via rowboat, consider some tips that Paula Span put together for an article for the New York Times after consulting experts in family dynamics, plus a few of our own thrown in for good measure—they could help.
Have a family discussion about expectations before the trip
Everyone has their own idea of the perfect vacation, but when you’re traveling with a large group of people from different generations, and with different preferences and rules, there is potential for a lot of disappointment and/or hurt feelings. So hash out your vacation goals and plans before the trip.
This includes talking about chores, childcare, and money
No one (understandably) wants to be the person stuck doing all the cooking, cleaning, and childcare during a “vacation,” so be sure to work out some sort of schedule or rotation ahead of time so everyone knows who is responsible for what.
And as uncomfortable as it may be in your family, discuss how costs will be split amongst the group. Does every family unit buy their own groceries? Is everything split evenly? An awkward conversation now can prevent a blowout fight later.
Go in with realistic expectations
It will become clear from the first planning conversation that the trip will be all about making compromises. As much as everyone says it’s about relaxing and unwinding, nothing about a multigenerational family vacation is remotely relaxing. So don’t go in thinking you’ll have time to yourself, or that your group activity will be chosen.
Mentally prepare for the unsolicited advice and/or criticism
We’ve all been stuck in our homes for so long, and at times it may have felt as though you were in your own little world. But that’s not the case anymore—and you’ll be dealing with other families and individuals who are also used to doing things their own way.
If you’re a parent, then you’ve likely already experienced the joy of receiving unsolicited, unwelcome advice from family members, friends, and perhaps even strangers. Assume that will happen—along with a healthy dose of criticism about your cooking, parenting, and pretty much everything else. Remember that people have been holding this in for more than a year, so there’s a good chance it’s all coming out around the bonfire.
Also, keep in mind that the criticism can be subtle, or disguised as a question. “Oh, that’s how you make a salad? I’ve never seen it done that way.” Or, “You’re planning to cut little Johnny’s hair before school starts, right?”
Build downtime into the schedule
There’s probably so much you’ll want to see and do on your trip, but scheduling some downtime is a must. Everyone’s going to be physically and probably emotionally exhausted (and possibly overstimulated with all the people and activity), so make sure people have some time to relax—or at least regroup—during each day.