Traveling with Family Members of Different Ages: 12 Lessons Learned

Multigenerational Travel Badge, Step 3

Step 3 of any badge is to share what you’ve learned with others. To complete Step 3 of the Multigenerational Travel Badge, we took the trip! We used the research we did ahead of time on traveling with family members of different ages to have a smooth trip that was enjoyable for all. Research and learning from others was Step 1 and 2 of this Travel Badge. You can read about the tips we found here

We had a terrific trip with very few issues, but we certainly learned a few lessons along the way. We’ve compiled 12 of those lessons below so you can be prepared for your next multigenerational trip!

1. Prepare family members who do not travel often for the airport process.

Remind these family members about TSA rules like no liquids over 3.4 ounces in carry on luggage. Our mom arrived at the airport with a full size toothpaste and shampoo! We also had to remind our group to empty their water bottles before going through security. It was helpful to let my mom and niece know a few minutes ahead of time when they would need their passports out. Patient reminders about when boarding passes or train tickets are needed go along way to make sure no one is caught off guard and frazzled. 

family travel, train, nurnberg

2. Discuss the weather forecast and appropriate clothing before you leave.

Check your weather app and plan accordingly. This can be difficult because you don’t want to over pack but also don’t want to be without the essentials. Be as prepared as possible and remember in a pinch you can usually find what you need at your destination. One very important thing to consider is comfortable shoes. Some of us were unprepared for the large amount of cobblestone streets in Germany. Heeled sandals may look great but were definitely not the best decision (a twisted ankle is an instant vacation downer). Blisters on day one are also a bummer, so be sure to break your walking shoes in ahead of time!

3. Discuss luggage and other travel essentials like plug adaptors ahead of time.

My mom doesn’t own a plug adaptor, which is needed to use American cords in European electricity plugs. Luckily the one I have (which I love!) has multiple USB charging ports as well as a regular plug option, so we were able to share. The one I use is no longer sold but this one is similar and has great reviews. The right luggage becomes incredibly important when making tight train or plane connections. The lighter and easier to maneuver, the better! You can see the light weight carry on bags we used on the trip here and here and my favorite travel backpack here.

Munich Germany, family travel

4. Pay attention to the needs of the group.

Is someone starting to slow down? Don’t let anyone get too hungry. Make sure you are doing activities that peak the interest of different people in the group (not too many for just one person). Each night we’d review the plan for the next day and make additions and changes as needed.  

5. Share your photos.

Rather than have everyone take a photo of everything (especially if that slows some members of your group down), create a shared album on your iPhone or on Google Photos and have all travelers upload their pictures there. Teach your family members how to use Airdrop if you have iPhones. This can save data and time when sharing photos on the spot. Another idea is to sign up for a free photo taking/editing class at your local Apple Store before you leave. These quick free classes gave us many great vacation photo tips! Also consider making a photo book with your shared photos. These make great post trip gifts! We love creating these on Snapfish, Google Photos or Shutterfly.

6. Take rest days.

Rest days were extremely important on this trip. If you can, plan ahead for what you might do that will feel restful, but if you can’t, flow into what feels right. In Nurnberg, the weather got up to 100 degrees. I had a loose plan that we could go into a museum or go see a movie if we couldn’t stand the heat any longer but a movie isn’t something we especially wanted to do in such a beautiful place and a museum sounded more exhausting than relaxing. After a leisurely lunch along the river under some shade trees we stumbled across some tents and lawn chairs. Upon closer examination we noticed the chairs were sitting in sand. It looked like a Jimmy Buffett party. The signs said “Sommer in der City.” Intrigued, we decided to check it out. I am so glad we did. We ended up spending 4 hours resting and drinking and just hanging out in the giant donut shaped shallow pool and it was one of the highlights of the trip. Certainly not something that I could have planned!

Another time I wanted to take a walk in the woods on a cliff above Salzburg. I was determined to at least give it a try despite the 97 degree heat. On the shaded path we saw a cat (crowd pleaser in my group) and then stumbled upon a beautiful hotel that welcomed us into the air conditioning for a drink at the gorgeous glass domed bar. This ended up being another highlight of the trip and we stayed for well over an hour. Again, completely unplanned, but flowed into due to our circumstances. If it had been cooler I might have insisted we walk by instead. 

7. Figure out how to handle money and paying for things.

For our group, we decided it would work best to pay all our restaurant bills together and figure out who owes what later by keeping track on my phone. This is especially nice to do in another country where there may be a language barrier to explaining how you want to split the bill and at restaurants where they will not allow you to split it. Rather than paying only cash and figuring things out on the spot, we are able to spend time figuring it out once we are back home and focus on the fun and enjoy the moment while we are traveling. The New York Times suggests using Splittr or Splitwise apps for tracking and balancing expenses when traveling with family or other groups.

8. Embrace some tech-time.

My teenage niece spent A LOT of time on her phone, but we mostly embraced it. In fact, she did a terrific job documenting what we did each day by posting each night on facebook a selection of pictures and description of our activities. Now we will have those to look back on. Only when we were playing euchre in a Biergarten and she was distracted by her phone was it an issue – and then it was only an issue because she was my partner! It was wonderful to have her there with us and she is curious and smart and a real trooper. I enjoyed teaching her the little that I know about how to navigate the trains in Europe. You can read our tips for traveling with teens and navigating no-phone time in our multigenerational travel research post.

Salzburg austria, travel

9. Bring cards or something to do for downtime.

We played cards a couple of times which is a nice way to spend an evening while drinking and relaxing. People watching games are also great. We played a “spot the American” game where we tried to guess which tourists walking by us were American based on their clothes. I think we all learned a lot from this game! 

10. Discuss sleeping arrangements and shower times.

In our Airbnbs there were shared beds, bunk beds, and sometimes two twin beds in tight quarters. It was helpful to know ahead of time where different people would sleep so we did not have to have a discussion about it once we arrived. Half of us tended to shower at night and half in the morning which worked well – especially when traveling with women who have long and/or high maintenance hair! 

11. Set and reset expectations as the trip goes on.

Pardon my French, but sh*t happens. Be adaptable and assess as you go. The itinerary, no matter how carefully planned, will likely need to change. If you go into the trip knowing this it will be easier to make changes on the fly. I usually have a plan B and plan C in my back pocket in case we miss a train connection or a restaurant isn’t quite what we thought it would be, but sometimes the best decisions are made in the moment based on what feels right for the group to do next.

marburg castle, travel with family

12. Debrief on the way home, but also a few days after the trip.

Check in with your family members. How are they feeling? What were the highlights of the trip for them? These discussions can be a lot of fun to have and give nice closure to a trip of any size. We all have travel journals that we like to record our memories in for looking back on in the future. We’ve linked some nice options for travel journals below. The pink one (right) is for documenting one trip and the “Let the Adventure Begin” gold option has space to write about 6 different trips.

What lessons have you learned when traveling with family? We’d love to hear from you. Comment below, send us a message, or reach out on Facebook or Instagram with your travel trips. We also invite you to complete the travel badge! You can find the badge guide and worksheets to help you complete it here. 

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