How to survive a holiday with parents and children

After two years of pandemic isolation, travel referral platform Zicasso has seen cross-generational travel bookings increase by 50 percent

After two years of pandemic isolation, travel referral platform Zicasso has seen cross-generational travel bookings increase by 50 percent

It’s nearly 100F in the shade, there’s a line a mile long, and three sets of eyes, ages 11, 13, and 78, stare mutinously up at me. “We can ‘do’ Paul Revere’s house in 10 minutes,” I say desperately. “Five, with a tap. Now will you be happy?” It’s a moan of resentment. I don’t want to check if this actually came from my daughters or my mother.

If, like me, you took three generations on holiday this summer, you’re in for a treat, thanks to what travel association ABTA calls the ‘travel for reconnection’ trend. After two years of pandemic isolation, travel referral platform Zicasso has seen cross-generational travel bookings increase by 50 percent, while more than a fifth of Gen Zers (18 to 24-year-olds) say they’d rather go on vacation with their grandparents than their friends.

My own multi-generational holiday came because of a Covid-delayed research trip to Boston to look at the archive of journalist Alistair Cooke, creator of the BBC’s Letter from America. I had always wanted to take my daughters, Faith and Alethea, to the US, but my husband’s work commitments prevented him from joining us. So when my mother, Carys, suggested she come instead, I jumped at the opportunity for mother, daughter and granddaughter to reconnect after nearly 18 months apart during lockdown. And Boston seemed like a perfect destination – combining the glorious beaches of Cape Cod with the excitement of a busy city and some cultural tours thrown in.

Except for the fact that we are all very different.

My glamorous mother is the kind of woman who will order a Greek salad at a burger joint, while my younger daughter Alethea never intentionally eats a vegetable. I love nothing more than a good mooch around a museum; my daughters shudder at any mention of the National Trust. And most importantly, how on earth are four women going to manage in one hotel room when the 13-year-old needs a minimum of 45 minutes in the bathroom to do her hair every time we go out?

If, like me, you took three generations on vacation this summer, you're trendy - Jake Belcher

If, like me, you took three generations on vacation this summer, you’re trendy – Jake Belcher

As an inveterate planner, I start by asking an expert – Dr Audrey Tang, of the British Psychological Society (and also the author of The Leader’s Guide to Resilience, which I think could be useful for any future family occasion) about the practicalities. “Multigenerational vacations are a wonderful opportunity for generations to spend time together,” she says. “Your child will always see themselves as your child, but with a grandmother they can see themselves as someone different. And the same goes for your mother and them.”

And for me in the middle? “Just remember that a common mistake is to think that this is going to be the holiday of a lifetime, which can put a lot of pressure on the organizer.”

“Your child will always see themselves as your child, but with a grandmother, they can see themselves as someone different” – Jake Belcher

Tang is clear that a successful holiday of this kind has several elements: make sure you don’t do everything together, and that everyone chooses what they want to do – not from a checklist that I give, but things they discover for themselves. No vacation without representation, as the Founding Fathers might have said, if they had taken their extended family for a tour of Yosemite after writing the Constitution.

So I had only myself to blame when very different suggestions came back. My mother fancied a sunset cruise around Boston Harbor and sipping a cocktail in a classy bar. The girls plumped to visit Target, the American superstore they had heard about from their friends. Meanwhile, I was ready to check off the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, home of the greatest unsolved art crime.

But despite Tang’s advice that we should all contribute ideas, the fact remains that someone still has to book the Duck Tour, tip the porters and make judgment calls about dinner versus seafood for supper. And it was one of the most enlightening parts of the holiday for me. One day I found myself particularly stressed, herding everyone on and off the “T” (Boston’s public transportation system) and choosing the route to see Harvard. Until I realized that even though I have a mortgage, a family of my own, and an overdraft, I had somehow unconsciously fallen back, expecting my mom to be in charge of us all.

“The girls were pumped to visit Target, the American superstore they had heard about from their friends” – Jake Belcher

But the trip was my idea – and I was the one with the apps, credit card and O2 pin to make it happen. “It’s so nice to have someone else organize things,” Mom said the third time I misread the Citymapper app and took us on a 20-minute walk in the wrong direction.

And that was fair enough. My parents had two decades of packing me and my three siblings into the back seat of a Renault 5 for rainy holidays in North Wales, Eastbourne and once, memorably, a camping trip to the Forest of Dean when we discovered my brother was suffering. from claustrophobia in tents. There was no reason for my mother to have to make any decision other than debating between the joys of a Leave It To Me cocktail or a Signature Martini in the historic Street Bar at the Newbury Hotel.

Meanwhile, I was the one who had ignored Tang’s good advice that we didn’t have to do everything en masse – hence the riotous looks outside Paul Revere’s house during a heat wave. Yes, Paul, the British came – but very, very reluctantly.

“There was no reason for my mother to have to make any decision other than debating between the joys of a Leave It To Me cocktail or a Signature Martini in the historic Street Bar at the Newbury Hotel” – Jake Belcher

The other enlightening issue was money. As Dr Joan Harvey from Newcastle University points out, our three generations have different attitudes to budgeting. “The older generation has probably been brought up cautiously with money,” says Harvey. “That level of frugality won’t apply to your generation who tend to go for instant gratification but may well be maxed out on credit cards. While the younger generation just can’t afford big purchases, they spend what they earn on drinking and eat out.”

The truth is, I haven’t told my mum the correct price of anything I’ve bought since a Top Shop sale in 1994, for fear of scaring her with my wasteful ways. So, working out the budget was one of the most excruciating parts of the holiday for me. Mind you, maybe I should have taken a different view, as Harvey, a boomer himself, notes: “People my age want to spend their money on ‘experience goods’ – and they often have more disposable income to finance such trips for everyone . Why would I want to buy another toaster or set of spoons when I could be making memories?”

Away from the glorious beaches of Cape Cod, Boston also offered the excitement of a bustling city with some cultural tours too - Jake Belcher

Away from the glorious beaches of Cape Cod, Boston also offered the excitement of a bustling city with some cultural tours too – Jake Belcher

Fortunately for my mother (and her bank manager), I didn’t take Harvey’s advice literally by suggesting she pay for all of us. But Harvey was absolutely right that the experience was what mattered most – and our best were often unplanned. The kids are laughing hysterically when a stray wave at Race Point Beach in Provincetown, Cape Cod soaked my pants. Reenacting scenes from Legally Blonde in Harvard Yard instead of discussing college admissions. A fierce battle over who had won an ancient Egyptian game in a new immersive Tutankhamun exhibition. And the rather too frank remark of one of my daughters when discussing how to make a statue of me after seeing them in Gardner: “Yes, but to sculpt one of you, we need a lot more clay.”

Even the scavenger hunt that seemed to take in every monument in Back Bay turned out to be giggles at our inability to follow it. But this was mainly thanks to the fact that such digressions gave my mother time to use family words the girls had never heard before – their favorite being my grandmother’s Welsh Presbyterian response when invited to an upcoming event “Yes… if the Lord spares me. ” (She is now 101).

“Our best experiences were often unplanned, despite my love of organizing itineraries” – Jake Belcher

“I always tell people, remember why you’re doing this,” says Tang. “If it’s because you want to spend time together, then it doesn’t matter if you spend time together visiting the re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party or lounging by the pool. Keep the ‘why’ in mind.”

So next time I will take all advice to heart. I don’t want to plan anything, we can all do our own thing, and yes, mom: you can pay.

Five resorts to delight the whole family

1. Orlando, Florida

Once you’ve seen Minnie and Mickey, there’s a surprisingly wide range of attractions for parents and grandparents. Visit the Orlando Ballet or the Philharmonic. Less than an hour from the city, you’ll find the Everglades, natural springs and excellent beaches. The shopping is also good. Click here for The Telegraph’s pick of the best hotels in Orlando.

2. Zakynthos, Greece

There is more to Zakynthos than house music and cocktails, with the northern half of the island now a destination for discerning families. Head to the Peligoni Club, which boasts great restaurants and, for the teenagers, Shipwreck Beach – the most Instagrammable cove in the Mediterranean and only accessible by boat. See peligoni.com.

3. Bad Ragaz, Switzerland

Heidi-style mountain adventures and decadent spa hotels, few holidays cover all the bases like the Swiss Alps. Grand Resort Bad Ragaz boasts hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms, golf courses and a casino, plus a family-friendly water park. See resortragaz.ch.

4. Côte d’Azur, France

Always a solid bet when you have different ages to please – especially if you’re basing yourself in a well-located villa (try purefrance.com). The little ones will love Plage du Port Gallice and Plage de l’Escalet, while the rest of the family can enjoy the rambling vineyards, castles, museums and charming hilltop villages.

5. Dorset, England

You don’t have to go far for this spectacular stretch of coastline, filled with geological wonders and beautiful coastal bays. Take the kid to The Pig on the Beach (pighotel.com) in glorious Studland Bay and you’ll be within easy reach of Corfe Castle, the Jurassic Coast and a host of excellent museums, including the Swanage Railway Museum and the Purbeck Mining Museum.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.