How to Plan a Family Vacation with Adult Kids

How to plan trips with adult kids

We’ve had this fantasy about whisking our entire family off to an exotic location for some time now.

Imagine the five of us blissfully getting away from it all, laughing and sharing our experiences as we sip umbrella drinks while the sun sets into a tropical ocean.

Putting together a family vacation after the kids are grown and living on their own seems like it should be a snap compared to traveling with toddlers, or worse yet, teenagers.

So why is it so hard?

With no roadside diaper changes, exploding sippy cup disasters, “Are we there yet?” shouting, or hours of headphone-induced sullen, silent stares, how difficult could it be?

We’ve learned that getting everyone in the same place at the same time comes with a whole new set of complications.

Working around your adult offsprings’ schedules can make travel planning problematic to say the least, and even more so if they have kids of their own, but we’ve uncovered a few tricks that can help.

Split ’em up. Our fantasy of a full family vacation has yet to be fulfilled, but we have been able to whisk them off one (and once – two) at a time to less-than-exotic locations. By keeping it simple and having just one schedule to work around, we have found merits in spending that one-on-one time.

Side note: To avoid unfairness issues, we have been careful to make certain that all of The Spawn get equal time away with us.

Take a trip to their new hometown. This can certainly cut down on costs, and the newly self-reliant don’t have to find a way to take off work. Most young adults are early in their careers and don’t get a lot of vacation time, so heading to their hometowns is how we do manage to get our whole brood together for the holidays now that they are all out on their own.

Lucky for us, our girls, The Piglet lives in Paris, Decibel lives in New York City, and The Boy lives in Alaska — both fantastic destinations — but almost every place has something to offer. Like most people, they have never been to many of the attractions right in their own backyards, so our visits become a vacation for us, and stay-cations for them.

Rent a house for a week (or a weekend). Pick a location that is easy for everyone to get to and has accommodations big enough for everyone to stay together, just like the good old days.

Try a condo on the beach, or a house in a cool town, or a cabin on a lake, maybe a chalet in the mountains, anywhere that has plenty of opportunities for everybody to have fun. Best of all, visiting times can be flexible, the whole clan doesn’t have to arrive at the same time and everyone can come and go at their convenience.

Keep it simple: Don’t over plan. Tours and planned excursions can be fun, but too many can lead to unnecessary stress. Leave plenty of downtime to allow everyone to explore their own interests or — best of all — simply hang out and enjoy each other’s company.

You might have to kick in some dough. In addition to time constraints, it’s important to remember that most fledgling adults are short on funds. Planning a big hootenanny may be fun for us, but it can be a giant financial stress bomb for them.

Why not go all Godfather on them? Make them an offer they can’t refuse. Pick a destination that everyone’s always wanted to see and then offer help with their expenses.

Give them some time. It might sound like fun to make a trip a big surprise, but practicality dictates that discussions should be held ahead of time. Remember, the little buggers are all grown up now, they are busy people with busy lives. Springing something on them could badly backfire.

We don’t want to make them feel like putting on those headphones again.

David & Veronica,

YOUR TURN: Help us out here! Have you had a successful vacation with your adult kids?
Where did you go? What did you do? Do you have any planning ideas to help us out?

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20 thoughts on “How to Plan a Family Vacation with Adult Kids”

  1. We knew our kids were leaving us far behind when I told the first kid “you won’t find a job in Wisconsin related to your college major.” He said “I know mom, bye mom.” Soon all the kids graduated & were living in different parts of the world. We moved from Wisconsin to Utah to be closer to them. Now they all live within a days drive and promised not to move farther away.

  2. How true! And it only gets more difficult as they marry and have children. I say this even as my daughter is arriving today with her 3-month-old daughter and my son might be joining us this weekend with two of his three children. Daughter is without husband in town, son without wife in tow. And this is just getting together at one of our houses. The last time we were ALL together on a trip/vacation was a few years ago at my daughter’s wedding in Mexico. I dream of someday getting us all together in Hawaii, specifically in Hanalei, Kauai. 🙂

  3. Great travel tips! We had the opposite problem for awhile…as our adult daughters assumed they’d be going us on EVERY trip we took! Now, that they are busy and one has three kids we’re doing more of the hometown vacation idea as you suggest. Still fun in a different way

  4. Luckily we only have one son so we don’t have the issue of trying to allot our time equally. However, his work and career responsiblities can be hard to work around,too, while we’re trying to plan vacations. Maybe if we tempt him with an exotic location…

  5. Mine haven’t quite got to that stage of being settled down – At the moment its more a case of us doing trips incorporating where in the world they are!
    Last year it was the Alps in Europe – This year it looks like its going to be BC, Canada! 🙂

  6. I totally understand and was nodding all the way through this post. My daughter just turned 24 and started a research assistant job while in medical school. She never has any time. I try to visit her as often as possible, but what little bit of free time she does have, I’m afraid she doesn’t want to spend with “dear old mom” :).

    1. Awwww… she’s young, it’ll turn around. I remember when the kids would come home for college vacations and being upset that they wanted to be with their friends (okay… I’ll admit, I was jealous). Then I realized it wasn’t a slight – there just wasn’t enough of them to go around! -Veronica

  7. Our son recently got married and my husband and I have talked about planning a family vacation one day. I think it would have to be after we retire so that we could travel based on their schedule, which would be much easier for them. And I agree – I don’t think a surprise trip is the way to go. It’s not practical. Hope you can make it happen one day!

  8. Great blog David & Veronica! We’ve made all the same observations as you guys with our own spawn. We’re fortunate (or unfortunate depending on the day you ask) that both of ours are still in town, so going to them has been easy, but now that we’re about to hit the road full time (in just 2 more days!) our swinging through Atlanta will be like a homecoming visit.

    I’d add this tip: go where the kids want to go. For example, we’ve been to a certain mouse-dwelling amusement compound in central Florida dozens and dozens of times and can take it or leave it…but our kids love to go, so we go with them, and we always have fun just being with our progeny!

    -Chuck & Lori

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