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Family Vacation: Traveling with Adult Children

Written by Rebecca Hastings


Posted on December 20 2018

Traveling with adult children and younger children is a very different experience. 

"Are we there yet?" A common phrase I would say, with frustration, to my parents when taking my oldest brother, who was eleven years older than me, back to college. The three-hour drive seemed to take forever. It wasn't until Junior High School, that I began to appreciate trips with my parents. It was 1971, my family was flying from Columbus, Ohio to Orlando, Florida to celebrate the opening of the new Walt Disney World. Back then, families traveled less often, at least in our circle of friends, but this trip would be a turning point for me. It left such a wonderful impression on me that I was determined to give my children the same awesome experiences. Today, one third of Americans (35%) are planning to take a family vacation more than fifty miles from home.  

When our kids were young, we tried to take a vacation every year. Family vacations were a time to relax and recharge; try new adventures, and learn about different cultures. Now that our youngest daughter is in her twenties, we still like to travel with her. "Multi-generation travel is booming," says Laura Del Rosso of Travel Weekly. In my opinion, travel has become a top priority for many parents and many of us want to travel with our kids. And we are not alone. In the UK, over a third of parents go on holiday with their adult children and many end up footing the bill. 


We can relate to this, when our daughter turned twenty-one in 2017, she asked if she could invite some college friends to join us. Our plan was wine tasting in Napa and Sonoma (thank goodness they were all twenty-one). Our philosophy is simple and parallels that of Patty Arvielo's, "if I do the inviting, then I expect to pay for the guest(s)". She adds, "if the friends offer to pay for something, let them". It's important for the young adults to learn how to reciprocate. This happened to us when our family was vacationing on the Isle of Palms. Our daughter and her friend purchased the breakfast for all of us, grandparents and cousin included...it was a very nice gesture.


Our daughter's friends are fun to have around, however, it gets a little more complicated when the friend is a boyfriend or girlfriend especially if you do not know them well. According to Elizabeth Fishel and Dr. Jeffrey Jensen Arnett of AARP, in order to cultivate a close relationship with your adult child, we should make room for the significant other. Mothering 21, a blog for "parenting" the over 21 set agrees, "if you want a happy camper, invite him [or her]. If the boyfriend or girlfriend plans to join you, it's always a good idea to let the adult children do some of the planning. When would they like to go? What would they like to see? Julie Beer in "Short on Quality Time with your Grownup Kids?" emphasizes the need to give your adult children some space. When our daughter wanted to invite her boyfriend to South Carolina on a recent family vacation, they spent a day in Charleston just the two of them. It was his first time in the state and learning about the cities' history was of interest to him, so it was extra special that they had their own time. 

Of course, the biggest challenge when traveling with your daughter's boyfriend or son's girlfriend is where are they going to sleep? We've tried various sleeping arrangements from bunk beds to sofa beds to separate rooms. The author of a New England guide (dealing with boyfriends and girlfriends) summed it up best "It doesn't matter how old you are, this one is up to the parents". 

The Benefits


You don't need to be too creative when hanging out with twenty-year-olds. Part of the fun is just bonding as a unit. One of the activities we did with our daughter's boyfriend was scuba diving, which was a new activity for him, but not for our family. This gave him something new to engage in and something new that we now all have in common. However, you don't need to entertain your guest with pricey activities either. A challenging hike, fishing, or just laying on the beach or by the pool can be just as relaxing and fun. The key here is to make non-family members feel welcome and involved. 

Each trip, I try to take items I know they will enjoy. For example, outdoor activities like a football to toss around from hugabox's Adventure Pack works very well.

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Creating shared family memories is another benefit. How many times have we shared the same vacation story with each other? The time my husband got sick in Los Cabos, Mexico, the three day hike on Dingle Peninsula in Ireland or the grizzly bear we saw in Yellowstone National Park.

Finally, the Journal of Travel Research reports that "family bonding is decreasing, likely attributed to increased career demands and changing family structures." Travel with the family can help improve communication within a relationship and increase a sense of well being in the older and younger adults.

Last but not least, remember to have fun. We all know travel is about compromise and being flexible. If not everyone wants to hike then maybe some should "kick back" while others go for it. You can always implement activities that will bring the group back together later on. The goal is for you to experience happiness and feel connected with yourself and each other.







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