I recently wrote about the joy of travelling with your adult children after a great trip away with my 28-year-old daughter. This seemed to resonate with some folks so I thought I’d offer some tips for a successful trip away with your grown-up child.
1. Limit the numbers.
While not an absolute necessity, I’d suggest you try to keep it to just yourself and one of your adult children (if you have more than one). What makes it a great trip is shared, quality one-on-one time with your grown child, where you mutually decide and compromise on what you’re going to do. Adding even one more party can skew things to the point where one or other of you becomes the third wheel.
For example, bring your partner along and your kid may feel like they need to submit to whatever the couple wants to do, or go off on their own to give them ‘alone time’. Similarly, bring the kid’s partner or sibling or friend along and you may find the group dynamic changed so you’re the odd one out.
Of course a family trip with all your adult children and relevant partners is also a great vacation, but is not what I’ve got in mind with this list.
2. Know how costs will be shared
Money can often be a touchy subject. As the parent, you may be accustomed to paying all the costs for family vacations. But your child is now an adult with his or her own income (hopefully). So it is not appropriate to assume you will still bear all the costs of a trip together. But how do you decide how costs will be shared?
Your kid may be on the fast track to the executive suite, so you may be thinking that they can easily afford to take you along for the trip. However, they may still have the mind-set that the parent absorbs all the family vacation costs, even now that they’re earning more. Best to get the cost-sharing understanding out in the open before you book the trip to avoid hurt feelings, and wallets, later.
It’s probably best to start with a 50-50 cost sharing understanding, just as you would with an adult friend.
If your kid has a limited budget and you are able and willing to carry a bigger share by all means do so. Similarly, the shoe may now be on the other foot, where you’re on a limited retirement income and they’re pulling in the big bucks. In which case, they may take on a higher proportion of overall costs.
Whatever you do, don’t bring an accountant’s eye to cost splitting. Any over-payment on your side is worth it for the experience.
3. Decide on the type of trip
You need to make sure your plans and goals for the trip are aligned.
If your adult child is looking forward to clubbing every night at the hot spots in town, you may want to reconsider if this is the trip for you.
Similarly, if your idea of a great trip is getting cozy poolside with a good book each afternoon, while your child has compiled a long sight-seeing list, one or both of you will end up disappointed.
You next need to make sure you’re aligned on the budget level for your trip. This is an extension of the cost-sharing discussion touched on above. If one party can only afford hostels or budget hotels, while the other wants nothing less than 5 star hotels, there’s going to be a clash. It wouldn’t be fair to make the party on the limited budget pay half the cost of the deluxe hotel. Come to an agreement beforehand.
Perhaps, you stay at a 3 or 4 star hotel but the hostel-lover only contributes half the cost of what the budget hotel would have been.
Another approach would be for the flush party to say ‘I’ll pay for the hotel and you pick up the rental car’ – assuming the rental is much less. This can also avoid hurt pride that might arise from nitpicking the details when splitting costs of each item.
4. Be considerate of the other person’s interests and abilities
As noted above, the overall goals for your trip need to be aligned. But once you get into the details of your daily itineraries, you both need to have some flexibility to ensure each of you gets to do what you really want to do.
You also need to make sure that what one party ‘really wants to do’ is not beyond the abilities of the other. If nothing less than the full 20 mile hike along that rugged mountain trail is going to satisfy your child, and your sore knees challenge you walking around town, don’t agree to the hike. Forget ‘doing it to make them happy’. Either they do it on their own, or with someone else, or save it for another trip.
Fortunately, this is not a stranger you’re going with. You’ve already got a pretty good idea of each other’s interests and your compatibility. Still, the last time you travelled somewhere with them, they may have been a teenager. You may be surprised that their interests have changed. Be open to things you may not have chosen on your own. You may really enjoy it.
5. Have fun!
Embrace this opportunity to spend days of one-on-one time with your grown adult child. Enjoy it!
Have a positive attitude and fully engage in every moment of your time together. Take lots of pictures. Have fun!