Travel consultant Marcia Proctor suddenly receives many calls from families looking to book intergenerational vacations.
For example, she recently hosted a February getaway to the Dominican Republic for three families traveling together, each including grandparents, parents and children.
âIt’s a multi-family reunion,â she says.
After more than a year and a half with very few bookings due to the pandemic, Ms. Proctor, of Travel Agent Next Door Inc. in Toronto, sees many grandparents looking to travel with their adult children and grandchildren.
Many want a respite from the isolation and loneliness of the past 19 months of pandemic restrictions and feel the need to reconnect with the grandchildren they have seen growing up on Zoom calls.
According to Kiran Pure, a licensed child psychologist from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, multigenerational travel can be psychologically calming for seniors.
âTraveling with grandchildren is invaluable in building bonds and continuity in the relationship through quality time shared together,â says Dr Pure.
Still, the risks of COVID-19 remain, which means planning trips that are both safe and fun.
âIn these times, traveling, like any activity that brings people from different households together, is not without risk, even after individuals have been fully immunized,â says Dr Pure. “For grandparents, it’s important to weigh the risks and the benefits to make sure no one is at increased risk.”
Checking a destination’s COVID-19 workload and mandates can be a good way to assess its safety. And Dr Pure recommends getting fully immunized before traveling, as well as considering the health status of anyone traveling.
âFor any family member who has a medical condition, it’s important to ask their family doctor if travel is acceptable,â adds Dr. Pure.
Balancing multigenerational interests
With multiple generations – and often very different interests – it’s important to choose a trip that can meet individual preferences, says Proctor.
For example, she says some families underestimate the amount of walking seniors can do at Disney World, or that they don’t consider how tiring full days of sightseeing can be for young children.
That’s why Ms. Proctor recommends a pre-trip scan that takes into account factors such as; how much of a walk there will be, whether the hotel has an elevator, the size and location of the resort, and whether there are golf carts or other vehicles that can help people get around depending on their needs.
âPick a destination carefully and discuss it – make sure there is enough going on to keep everyone entertained,â she suggests. âAsk each person what they would like to do on the trip. “
Ms. Proctor often recommends a resort vacation because it offers a slower pace for older people, while also giving younger travelers the option of participating in more active water sports or excursions.
âNot everyone will be ziplining,â she says.
Many resorts also have children’s clubs, which organize kid-friendly activities and allow parents to enjoy some free time.
When it comes to trips abroad, planned activities can make or break the vacation. While older children may not like visiting museums, they may be excited to visit a toy-themed museum, amusement park, or see a play.
Cruise lines can meet a variety of needs as well, with less mobile family members able to attend shows and activities on board, while others sightseeing off the ship during the day.
Many cruises now train staff on how to care for children with special needs, says Ms. Proctor. They also provide a variety of foods to make sure everyone’s dietary restrictions are met.
Still, she advises multigenerational families to check the cruise line’s policies before booking. At the moment, some do not allow children under 12 to board because they are not yet eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19. She recommends that travelers contact a travel agent for the most recent information on COVID-19 restrictions.
Before booking a vacation, Ms. Proctor advises people to purchase cancellation insurance and health insurance. âThere is now a special product called COVID insurance,â she says. “This will apply if you test positive while on vacation.”
Manage expectations for family time
While grandparents idealize family vacations, they don’t always go as planned, Ms. Proctor warns. Often times, grandparents underestimate the changing moods of children and adolescents.
âManage your own expectations for the trip,â says Ms. Proctor. âTeens won’t want to spend every minute of the trip with their grandparents. “
Another common pitfall is confusion around childcare duties, which adult children can expect from their parents while on vacation – without asking first.
âHave this discussion in advance,â Ms. Proctor said, to avoid any unpleasant confrontation.
Mealtime can also be complicated with multigenerational families, she says. While young children may have to eat earlier, other older family members may want to have dinner later in the evening. On her multigenerational vacation in Cuba, Ms. Proctor says her family would have separate meals, reconnecting for dessert or a drink later that evening.
Before booking a trip, it’s also a good idea to discuss who will pay what, Ms. Proctor adds, so there’s no misunderstanding when bills arrive.
Also be prepared to pivot if plans change in the middle of the vacation, says Ms. Proctor. This could mean canceling an overly active hike if someone isn’t feeling well, or opting for a kid-friendly zoo visit if the kids are bored.
âIt’s important to have defined, yet flexible, schedules and routines that allow for ‘oops’ times when things don’t go as planned is important,â adds Dr. Pure.
By taking health precautions, planning the trip carefully, and recognizing that things may need to change while they are away, most families can enjoy their multigenerational vacation.
âChildren, their parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins ââand siblings spend time together [can] create meaningful memories and connection with each other, âsays Dr. Pure.
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