How to Enjoy a Trip With the Whole Family—Grandparents, Parents, Kids, and All

These handy travel tips will go a long way if you have a crowd in tow.


Planning a trip for the whole family—kids, parents, grandparents, and all—can get complicated.

Photo by Arthur Poulin on Unsplash

Everyone has a tale of a big family trip gone wrong, but with a little know-how, you can enjoy vacationing with Grandma and your brother’s rowdy twins. After all, there’s a lot to think about when you have a crowd spanning all ages.

Accessibility should always be a primary consideration; choosing a destination, accommodation, and a range of activities that offer everyone an equal chance to enjoy themselves is key. Are nap times for younger travelers a must in the itinerary? Pre-plan to avoid any temper tantrums. And don’t run away from adventure travel just because you have older family members in tow—plenty of destinations offer a mix of adrenaline and relaxation.

Ahead, we pulled together 16 tips for a multigenerational trip that will help things run smoothly.

1. Choose the right tools for planning a multigen trip

Getting everyone together to plan a group trip is never easy—add a few generation gaps into the equation, and it gets even tougher. Some travelers may not be as comfortable with custom lists on Google Maps, and others may want to plan everything via a group phone call. When you face this dilemma, you have a couple options: Assign one or two (willing) people the majority of the brainstorming and planning duties, and/or use a mix of planning tools to appease all preferences. Here’s a short list to get you started:

  • Pinterest: Less tech-savvy family members can pin things they want to see on this easy-to-use platform, and the planners can make it happen.
  • Google Docs: This is a great tool for sharing reservation information or links to various tour operators, hotels, Airbnbs, and more. You can even find premade itinerary outlines created specifically for Google Docs.
  • Google Maps: Create a list of starred places to visit, and share it with your crew. This is also great to have on hand when people inevitably ask, “Can you share your favorite places?”
  • Splitwise: Splitting the bill for dinners, hotels, and activities can be a headache. This app makes it easy to track what everyone owes throughout the trip.
  • WhatsApp: This is a good one for those traveling internationally or planning group travel with family members across countries. It’s just like texting but works over a Wi-Fi signal.

2. Rent a house. Or a cabin. Or a villa.

For big groups, a vacation rental beats a hotel. The shared spaces promote bonding, and you don’t have to waste time coordinating when to meet up in the lobby or tracking down everyone napping in their separate rooms or wandering around town. Plus, you’ll have access to a kitchen. Dining with a big group can get expensive, and who doesn’t love a home-cooked meal once in a while?

Although Airbnb and Vrbo might be the most popular platforms for finding vacation rentals, consider some of our top alternatives. Some, like Kid & Coe, specialize in kid-friendly properties while others, like Homes & Villas by Marriott Bonvoy, give you a great hotel-like experience, but with the amenities of a house.

Whatever you do, make sure you have multiple bathrooms. When more than one or two people need to shower, having an additional bathroom can make all the difference.

3. Make sure everyone agrees on the room situation

When there’s more than one room to choose from, there’s room for conflict. Does the first to arrive get first dibs? Or does it go oldest to youngest? A rotating system from year to year? Consider accessibility needs—older travelers may benefit the most from the biggest or comfiest bed or the first-floor room that doesn’t require climbing stairs, even if they are the last to arrive at the vacation party. Figure out the loose plan well in advance of arrival, especially if you’re getting to your destination after a lot of travel. A simple text exchange or phone call can help avoid a lot of tension.

4. Look for outdoor space, especially if you’re traveling with kids or pets

Pick a place with lots of outside space for the kids to run around. A pool is a bonus; it gives people something to do if they want to skip an outing. An outdoor space is a must if you’re traveling with pets—who knows how far the nearest dog park may be.

5. Look for half-day rather than day trips

Choose a place with half-day options nearby rather than a trip where you change locations every day. It makes life easier for everyone and provides an easy out in case someone wants to take an afternoon to themselves before rejoining the larger group.

6. Pick group tours that engage the whole family.

If you do a group tour, make sure the focus is engaging for the whole family. You need a guide who can click with the kids and answer the “boring” questions adults will want answers to. This is another area in which to prioritize accessibility. Not everyone is going to want to go on a horseback ride. Airbnb Experiences offers a great starting point for options everyone will enjoy.

7. Arrange for alone time.

A little alone time can go a long way when traveling in any group situation. If there are adult siblings who all bring kids, arrange for each group of parents to have a night out alone while the others watch the kids. Even if there aren’t any littles on your trip, schedule a night where you all agree that everyone can do their own thing (rather than track down a table for eight . . . again).

8. Decide groceries at the start.

Talk groceries on Day One. Decide how many meals you’ll eat out and who’s buying the groceries, and get input from the group on what grocery items they want. Forcing other families or family members to pay for snacks they will never eat may create tension.

9. Rent more than one car

Even if you can all fit in one car, it’s a good idea to have more than one rental car so that subgroups can do different activities. A second car allows one group to hang back (without feeling trapped) while a separate group goes off on an adventure.

10. Don’t force people to do activities they’re not interested in.

There are jigsaw-puzzle people and there are crossword-puzzle people. Accept this. Do not try to force one to be the other. That said, if you have a house full of jigsaw-puzzle people, you should have at least one giant jigsaw puzzle on hand. Make it known before the trip gets going that it’s OK if anyone wants quiet time on their own or to do a different activity.

11. Parents: Talk about screen time.

Make sure all parents agree on proper amounts of screen time and the sharing of screens—try to agree on a rule that works for all kids. It’s much harder to convince your kid that they’ve had enough of the iPad for one day when their cousins are still happily watching Bluey.

12. Don’t make too many rules.

The trip should be fun for everyone.

13. Don’t rush things.

Moving a group of people around is like herding cats—doubly so when there’s a wide age range. Build in extra time to navigate airports and any excursions.

14. Don’t turn the trip into a forced march.

Let people know that excursions are optional and that the whole group will enjoy catching up at lunch or dinner. This goes for budgeting, too—some people may not want to fork out the money for the VIP hot-air balloon ride, and that’s OK.

15. Don’t try to do too much.

Plan your day’s activities; then cut the amount of things to do in half, leaving lots of extra time for rests along the way and more leisurely meals.

16. Finally . . .

What Grandma or Grandpa says, goes.

This article originally appeared online in 2015; it was most recently updated in March 13, 2024, to include current information. Erika Owens contributed to the reporting of this story.

Lisa Trottier is a journalist whose work has appeared in AFAR and Sunset Magazine.
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