National Geographic Traveler Contributing Editor, Heather Greenwood Davis, shares tips on how to please all ages on vacation.
A cruise vacation can satisfy a lot of people at once. You make that one big decision of where you want to cruise and how big a ship and most of the rest of it falls into place. For a big family with a lot of kids who are hoping to get most of their entertainment on the ship, you’ll want to go with one of the big cruise lines. Norwegian Cruise Line is a great example. Their ships offer huge kids’ clubs, family suites, connecting suites and a lot of entertainment on board. Where the boats are going aren’t that important—you’re in it for the ship.
For families that really don’t want the crowds or are looking for more interaction with the destinations they’re sailing to, think of smaller expedition type ships. UnCRUISE is a great option for a variety of age groups where people are active and want to be doing more together. The ships are small enough (64 passengers max) that you’ll feel like you’re all together. Activities offered at different levels mean the Energizer Bunny can do the long hike and the slow poke or younger kids can opt for something less taxing. They offered in bucket list destinations like Alaska and Costa Rica, as well. And if you’re a big enough group in some cases you can charter the ship and set your own course. Plus, on a cruise you’re not constantly fishing for your wallet, you know you’ll eat well and you’re all together.
This can be a huge landmine, but here are a few suggestions:
- Deal with it up front. The moment the idea of a family trip is raised, have everyone advise regarding interests and budgets.
- Choose trips that allow for different price options within the same trip. An all-inclusive, for example, means that families know what they’re paying up front. Everyone can do their own thing and meet up for meals, etc…
- Locations are near and far, which can cut down on travel time and costs associated with that. It’s a key part of your planning. Remember, not everyone across Canada or the U.S. can get to the Caribbean at a great price all the time. Definitely give yourselves time to book fares far in advance.
- Look for group discounts. Most accommodations will offer some sort of group discount and work hard to maximize your good times. They can arrange a block of rooms, or secure seats in the restaurant, if you let them know in advance.
OTHER ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS
Choose accommodations carefully. If you haven’t shared a room with your sister since you were six, this may not be the time to bunk up.
- Home rentals work well here. Remember that hotels, especially in big cities, may be more expensive and can’t always guarantee connecting rooms.
- Villa stays are another great option. If there are enough of you sharing the villa, it can be much more economical than a hotel and you’ll often get perks like a cook who can cater to any special dietary needs and even a car and driver to get you around town. Not to mention, you’ll have the space that you won’t usually find at a hotel or resort.
TRAVELLING WITH GRANDPARENTS
This is such a great idea but it requires everyone to be realistic.
Consider booking a vacation where the itinerary and support are already built in. Outfitters like G Adventures and Intrepid Travel both offer incredible international family trips. Most keep group sizes low and try to pair similar aged travelers in a group but if you’ve got a large group you may be able to take over a trip. It’s a great option because it means you aren’t stuck trying to plan an itinerary, costs are known up front and even if you’re in mixed company, everyone gets a break from each other.
Pipe up early as they start discussing where they’re hoping to go or what adventures they’d like to do. Decide early how much you’re contributing to the trip financially and how comfortable you are with both parties’ (your parents and your kids) ability to handle situations that might pop up on the fly. If you aren’t comfortable sending them on their own, don’t. The point is for them to have a good time together and if that’s going to mean you’re calling non-stop and ruining the experience you might as well nix the plan.
FOR FAMILIES THAT DON’T GET ALONG
Remember - some families aren’t meant to travel together. Seriously, if you don’t get along at home why would you bring that on your precious vacation time? Pretend you’ve got other plans or feign illness, just don’t go!lifetravel