Regardless of the specific destinations included in an itinerary, multigenerational family vacations to Italy require a unique approach to planning. This type of trip needs to work for different energy levels and different schedules (naptime!) while allowing quality time together and an amazing experience for travelers of all ages. I have planned many family trips and so in this post I share with you my top tips for a successful family vacation to Italy.
Multigenerational travel can be a wonderful way for families to connect. Traveling this way helps to maximize your vacation time in Italy. You don’t have to split vacations between family members and destinations—it brings your worlds together. And, relationships grow. It’s also a chance to prioritize time and experiences together over material things—a good lesson for the young and young at heart. Multigenerational travel is generally described as three or more generations traveling together, including grandparents/parents, living-at-home or grown children, and grand or great grandchildren. More recently, extended family, including aunts/uncles, cousins and nieces/nephews are added to this mix. Every year, I help families just like you plan a memorable multi-generation family vacation in Europe.
Why is multigenerational family travel popular?
So why are more families traveling together these days? Today’s world demands a fast pace of life to squeeze it all in. Often both parents are in the work force. Kids are active in sports, clubs and extra-curriculars, and teens have after-school jobs and busy social calendars. Family time is at a premium.
Traveling with extended family is a great way to connect and enjoy one another in greater depth than at annual holiday get togethers. Bringing everyone together for an extended period of time, while discovering new experiences, is a rewarding investment in the family dynamic, particularly if differing ages, travel styles, and predilections are catered for and everyone leaves happy.
Multigenerational travel is largely driven by grandparents who enjoy an active lifestyle and want to share experiences, not material goods, with their kids and grandkids. They want to build memories and introduce their grandchildren to the world on a global scale. They also want to provide their grown children (parents of the grandchildren) with a break from the hectic pace of their daily routines. 77% of multigenerational trips are planned around a milestone event, celebrating significant birthdays or anniversaries, retirements and destination weddings.
What Do Multigenerational Families Want From the Experience?
As mentioned, today’s family group wants to spend time together, so they are looking for experiential activities that integrate all members of the family. Cultural vacations, or custom tours, like what we offer, include activities that engage all ages by learning about local history, seeing native performance art, or tasting regional specialty foods.
Multigenerational travel can be complex, so families are often looking for services like mine that are easy, yet have something for everyone. Private tours that are customized take the burden of managing transportation, accommodations and itinerary planning off of the head of the family and is a surefire way to treat everybody to an engaging, unique, immersive experience that will run like clockwork.
Value is important as well, particularly for the family member that is footing the bill. Meals and excursions can add up quickly for a large group – or even a couple hungry teenagers – so having a defined meal plan, or certain tours and activities included helps keep the budget under control.
6 Tips for a Successful Multigenerational Family Vacation
There are often challenges in planning a multigenerational trip including selecting a destination and date family members will agree on, creating an itinerary that will ensure everyone has a great time and making sure everyone gets along before and during the trip!
There is a secret sauce to having a successful multi-generational family vacation so here are some tips for planning a memorable multi-generational family vacation:
1. Stay in one location: For multigenerational families, I would suggest trips that don’t move around too much. The beauty of our trips is that they are customized, and all activities can be opted out of, so if an older member of the group didn’t feel like an included bike ride or hike, they could choose not to do it, without compromising their experience. You want to pick a setting where you have lots of opportunities to connect as a group but can also spend time apart or in smaller groups engaging in activities, so staying in one location for the durations is ideal like family run hotels centrally located in historical centers, countryside farmhouses, called agriturismi.
A villa has its limitations. First, any countryside location requires a rental car, which means everyone in the group must be okay to drive in Italy. Also, if you’d like to keep accommodation flexible for travelers who may join your group, a villa is not an expandable accommodation. And finally, villa rentals in Italy are in the vast majority of cases, Saturday-to-Saturday rentals only.
2. Designate One Trip Planner: While everyone’s input is essential, it’s equally important that one person take charge of the actual planning so that the process is organized. If you don’t, the planning process can take four times as long, and the trip often ends up not being the experience that everyone would like. Once you’ve picked your destination, have that designated family member gather information from others about their interests and what they’re most keen on doing. That person can then work with us to create a sample itinerary that they can share with the others, taking any feedback into account and adjust it accordingly.
3. Don’t Pack it In: Speaking of an itinerary, it’s a good idea to make sure that yours isn’t overscheduled with too many activities. If you’re rushing from one thing to the next, you may miss out on precious family bonding time. The feedback I get most from my clients is that the best moments on a multi-generational family trip happen when everyone is hanging out. While one structured activity a day makes sense, incorporating in downtime promotes spur of the moment fun.
4. Plan Universally Enjoyable Activities: The structured activities you plan should be appealing to everyone in your group, with the exception of infants who can’t participate because they’re too young. What you pick will depend on where you are: in Italy or Spain, all family members can have a blast with a hands-on cooking class. Many of our included activities can be enjoyed together like boat excursions, walking activities in natural settings, visiting interesting museums like the Egyptian one in Turin, checking out WWI trenches, visiting local markets, visit cool Etruscan tombs or Roman ruins, visiting local farms where children can pet animals, truffle hunting, visiting locations that produce ham and cheese, visiting the largest caves in the world, going to the beach for a day if the weather is nice…even when visiting wineries it is fun for kids walking and running among the vineyards.
5. Ensure plenty of advance planning time: Armed with suggestions from family members of where the next trip should be is a good start, but then the real work begins by the family planner to pull the trip together. Often, this is a daunting task, requiring advance planning time and help from a qualified and knowledgeable travel expert. The outcome is generally better in the end, from a cost and time perspective, as the family can tap into the local travel expert’s knowledge of the region the family is interested in visiting. Using a specialist will make the family planner’s job easier, as a specialist will likely have experience managing family travel, often including the logistics involved in gathering multiple families coming from various locations.
6. Have a plan for dinner: Breakfasts are often included with accommodations, and lunches can be figured out while you’re out and about. But don’t let the crowd get hungry and then start thinking about dinner. Wandering the streets of an Italian or French medieval hill town at dinner time, looking for a table for two or four and discussing the options can be fun. But this approach for a table for 10 or more will leave everyone hungry and frustrated, or – best case scenario – seated at an ultra-touristy restaurant, looking at a menu in five languages.
7. Set expectations: Italy is a bucket list destination for many travelers. Some of your family members may want to get off the beaten track while others may want to see the country’s main sights or spend a few days at the beach. Your group may include luxury travelers and budget travelers, so you need to decide what sort of trip it’s going to be (with input, of course) and then set expectations.
To decide what the itinerary would be, each person got one request. When I work with my clients, we spend a lot of time creating the overall itinerary. I brainstorm lots of ideas and send information about places and activities and accommodation I think they would like. All the expectations get set during this back and forth discussion, and we make sure that everyone’s priorities are met before we finalize their Italy itinerary.
Your family may not remember all of the trip planning and arranging, but eventually they will come to understand the immense value of a multigenerational family trip. Having your family activities pre-planned months before your flight may not sound like a big perk, but leaving the plans to someone else frees you up to relax, connect and make memories together.