Spanning the Globe
Okay, so, where to go? Arranging the appropriate convergence of factors -- price, distance, amenities, personal tastes -- can be exhausting. In my family, my parents prefer pre-planned cruises and group bus tours. My middle brother has visited all 48 contiguous states, living out of a beat-up Toyota. My youngest brother and his wife once explored exotic places like Thailand and Africa but now have two kids and are somewhat averse to flying. Now divorced and single again, I like antiquing and noshing in places off the beaten track, as well as any part of Italy. My kids are older now, 9 and 6, and they have completely different needs than they had a few years ago.
In picking a destination, keep the abilities of both the youngest and oldest family members in mind. If elders are entrusted to choose the trip, McCarthy warns, it may suit them but not youngsters: "The one I always hear complaints about is the cruise to Alaska," she says. "The little ones are trapped in the cabins because the parents are afraid they'll fall overboard or catch cold up above. Meanwhile, the elders are enjoying the cuisine and nighttime entertainment." The flip side of this is the kid-oriented place that is not grandparent-friendly, like theme parks with long walks, rough rides, and endless lines.
I actually forged a Disney compromise when my daughters were 5 1/2 and 2 1/2. My parents like cruises but hate amusement parks, so we signed up for the one-week Disney Cruise/Park combo, bringing the girls to the park first and then having my folks join us for the mini-cruise. Everyone was happy. But for most trips, the location is not nearly as important as the setup: Hotels have proved less flexible than houses; having a full fridge and being able to cook is a must with kids. Having a common room to gather in while people are napping is also better than being trapped in isolated bedrooms.
Our most successful family-tree trip to date was the summer when we rented a two-family house in the unassuming Oregon coast town of Manzanita. We saw its cute July 4th parade, watched fireworks over its beautiful beach, ate in uncrowded restaurants, roasted s'mores on the porch. My lefty brother even showed up and made us all vegetarian lasagna for dinner. That said, there are an increasing number of resorts catering to family reunions and multigenerational trips.
My parents are already chomping at the bit to get us all back together again, despite the chaos involved. My mom maintains that the hardest part is calendar coordination -- and that everything else is easy to overlook. "We love to see you and your families," she says. "Even though you boss us around, you make us laugh a lot."
The most important rule: Keep smiling. And don't forget to pack sunblock and comfortable shoes.
Copyright © 2004. Reprinted with permission from the October 2003 issue of Child magazine.