Here are our tips for how to plan (and enjoy) a successful family vacation for all ages.
The appeals of multigenerational family vacations are many. They offer opportunities for grandparents and grandkids, who may live thousands of miles apart, to spend time together. For parents and their children, they are a chance to get out of the routines of daily life while exploring a new destination. According to one recent survey, more than one-third of Americans plan to take a multigenerational vacation (sometimes called a 3G trip, that is one that includes at least three generations of a family) in the next year.
There are some secrets, however, to pulling off a successful multigenerational vacation.
1. Location, location, location
First, you need to decide where you are going. Finding a destination that can appeal to family members with a variety of interests can be a challenge. A sunny beach in Mexico may be one relative’s top choice while New York City with its cultural highlights appeals to someone else. Orlando offers a hard to beat mix of activities and options, with a lively shopping and dining scene, but also a range of outdoor activities either in Orlando or nearby. There are also, of course, the parks—Disney, Seaworld, Universal—literally designed with the family vacation in mind. Two added bonuses of Orlando are that you don’t need to worry about winter snowstorms throwing a wrench in your plans and traveling there doesn’t require a passport (at least for American residents, that is). You won’t have to leave your sister behind if she has yet to get a passport.
2. Where to Stay
The next decision is where to stay. A hotel or resort can offer appealing services and amenities—often a choice of restaurants, concierge services, a gym. Vacation rentals generally offer more space for your money. Instead of sharing several rooms and having to treat the hotel lobby as your living room—trust us, this is not ideal—you’ll have your own common areas in your own home. The Encore Resort at Reunion in Orlando combines the best of both options. The resort includes Finn’s Café (a three-meal restaurant on site), Shark’s Lounge, and its centerpiece, a ten-acre waterpark. They also offer daily housekeeping and concierge services—you’ll have help always at hand.
Encore also offers the best of a vacation rental property. The spacious 3- to 13-bedroom homes include not only living rooms and state-of-the-art kitchens, but each one comes with its own pool. Whatever the size of your family, there’s likely a home that is the right fit at Encore. You can check the website to see available homes and book.
The goal is not to gather your family together from around the country, and then have everyone be at a loss about what to do next. At Encore Resort, you’ll have the choice of using the resort’s own waterpark and then also Orlando’s theme parks. Figure out what time you’ll spend together as a group, and then also figure out some times when everyone is free to split up and explore on their own or simply spend some down time with a book or video. Hitting the right balance between a completely unstructured trip and one where everyone is on a tight schedule can be hard, but with input from everyone in your family about what they want to do, it’s possible to pull it off. The concierges at Encore are there to help. Once you know the days you’ll want to visit the parks and what meals you want to eat in downtown Orlando, they can arrange transportation, reservations, and tickets.
It’s a challenge these days, but if you are going to spend quality time together as a family, that often means less time on our devices. Forcing a digital detox on a 13-year-old is a next to impossible task, but you can put some limits on the hours when they can be on their devices and require they be turned off for at least portions of the day. And it’s not just the kids that need policing. Resolve that you, too, as well as other adults in your group, will only check and reply to emails during certain hours. No one will ever regret the time they didn’t spend on their iPhone.
5. Share the Memories
Having corralled relatives from distant parts of the country for a few days of quality time as a family, you’ll want to remember your time together. Figure out ways in which everyone can share their photos through Dropbox or another photo-sharing website, and then turn them into an album with a service like Shutterfly of Snapfish. Also, while your kids may groan at the task, try to get them to write a few words about their favorite memories of your family trip. It will be something that eventually they will appreciate, even if it’s a decade or two before they thank you.