Planning to travel with adult children? Contributor Andrew Wagner-Chazalon offers advice on how to turn a vacation with grown-up kids into a truly memorable experience
The trip could have been a disaster. My sister and I, both in our 50s, and our late-70s mother taking a holiday in England. It had been 30 years since we had last travelled overnight together, and we hadn’t done a week-long trip together since we were children. It could have descended into a week of bickering and petty annoyances. Instead, it was a wonderful holiday, a trip that brought the three of us closer together, and had us soon making plans to do something similar again.
For many people, travel with adult children – or grandchildren – is part of the retirement plan, says Ray Snoei, a registered financial planner with Manulife Securities Limited.
“For many of my clients, travel is one of their number one goals in retirement, particularly in early retirement,” says Ray, who works with clients in Orillia, Barrie, Oro-Medonte and other Ontario communities.
Travelling with your partner or with a group of like-minded friends can be fairly easy to navigate, he says. “You usually have similar interests and goals for the trip, and the relationship dynamic is well-established.”
But such trips aren’t always possible. Many seniors are single, or their partners aren’t interested in travel; friends may not be interested in taking the same trips; or you may just recognize that the people you like to have dinner with aren’t necessarily the people you want to spend a week with.
Travelling with family can be a wonderful option… or it can be an unmitigated disaster. Here are some handy tips to ensure it goes well.
Choose the Right Kind of Trip
Margaret and her husband had always done long driving trips. When he passed away, Margaret missed the travel and so invited her daughter and her two young grandchildren to do a road trip. They would take her motor home and drive from Ontario to BC and back, the kind of trip she and her husband used to do.
“Looking back on it, it was doomed from the outset,” Margaret laughs. “We argued over everything – how often to stop and where, whether to visit this attraction or that one, where to eat and where to camp.”
Any trip involves long periods of togetherness, but a road trip takes that idea to the extreme. In a vehicle, there is nowhere to escape your travelling companion. That’s fine when travelling with your partner, somebody you spend every day and night with anyway. But it doesn’t always work out as well when travelling with others.
A much better option is to look for a trip that allows everyone to take a break from each other – a stay at a resort, for example, or a hotel stay in a city where the group can separate from time to time.
Set a Realistic Timeframe
It can be exciting to spend time with your adult children, a chance to recapture a bit of the joy of their childhood and also enjoy being around these interesting adults that you helped to shape. When you get a chance to plan a trip together, it’s tempting to maximize that time together.
Resist that temptation. “We took more than two weeks to drive to BC and back,” says Margaret. “It was too long.”
A better option would have been to try a shorter trip – a week or even a few days – to test out the dynamic before committing to a longer trip.
“We knew within a few days that this wasn’t going to go well, but by then we were committed,” she says.
Be Clear About Finances
Even if you’re travelling with friends, it’s important to clarify how expenses will be divided. When travelling with family, it’s doubly so.
Your children may assume that you’re paying for everything – just as you did on family trips when they were children. That’s fine, but only if that’s your expectation as well.
If you don’t set clear ground rules before the trip begins, it can build resentment or second-guessing.
Sorting out the big expenses – flights, hotel rooms, car rentals, and so on – can be fairly easy. The tricky part can come with the incidental expenses. If you’re paying for dinner every night, will you get frustrated if your son orders several drinks with dinner? If you want to go to a show at the casino and your daughter comes along just to keep you company, does she still buy her own ticket?
On a recent road trip with their adult children, Sandra and Charlie set the ground rules before they left.
“Much of this was our treat, so we said we would pay for the accommodation and meals,” says Charlie. “And we would buy a round of drinks at dinner. If the kids wanted to have any more drinks, or wanted to buy anything else, they were on their own. It worked out beautifully.”
Allow Spaces in Your Togetherness
Even if you’re not doing a road trip like Margaret and her daughter, travel involves spending a lot of time together. That can be wonderful, but most of us need a bit of alone time – and some of us need a great deal of it.
Recognize this and discuss it before you go on the trip. Talk about how much time you’d like to spend on your own, perhaps framing it in terms of things you’re looking forward to doing.
If you really enjoy sitting by the pool and reading a book for a few hours, or you just love to walk the beach in silence every morning, say so. And encourage your travel companions to do the same. Your time by the pool may be a chance for them to go and enjoy some water sports, or find the best shopping, or look for other things to do.
Communicate With Each Other
A lot of these tips come down to clear communication, and with good reason, says Ray Snoei.
“I work with a great many families, helping them craft their financial future. And one of the most important things we discuss is communication.”
Ray encourages his clients to talk to their children about their financial intentions, so that there are no surprises or misunderstandings.
“The same principle applies to travel as it does to financial planning: talk about it openly, and it’s amazing how often you will avoid hurt feelings.”
To learn more about how Ray Snoei can assist with your financial planning needs, visit his website at https://raymondsnoei.com.
Andrew Wagner-Chazalon is the managing editor and CEO of Dockside Publishing, and writes about the luxuries to be found in Muskoka and throughout Central Ontario