Are you at a point in your family where your kids are not toddlers and your elders are not incapacitated? Can you even consider taking a trip with the three generations? Should you? If you haven't laughed yourself silly yet, read on.
It goes without saying that if you are even considering traveling as a three-generational group you already have pretty good relationships.
This could be a chance (perhaps, the last?) to further the bond between the generations and make memories for the young folks. It doesn't have to be a three-month trek into the jungle or even Disney World. It could be a juant to a historical site in your own state. Elders often love a peek back at history, and teenagers can often have a lot of fun on these trips.
Generations traveling together are a human experiment in flexibility, compassion, and practicing good humor when things go wrong. Lessons in unselfishness can be learned by all. No one gets to take themselves too seriously without being called on it, and please don't make your plans so tight that there is no room for anything to go awry. Go, knowing that things will go wrong. Then roll with the punches. That's part of the adventure.
1. Don't assume anything! Communicate. This means that you shouldn't assume that the oldest and/or youngest generation on the trip can't do something. Make a pact before you leave that everyone is responsible to voice his or her needs, and that everyone is listened to and his or her views respected.
2. Look at the experience as great training for everyday life. As the years pass, the needs of all generations will change. If everyone views this as an adventure for now, as well as an opportunity to foster generational bonds, this will pay off for a lifetime.
3. Give each generation time to do something without the others. Teenagers may or may not need an adult with them at all times. Likely, there are some things they could do alone. Young children and elders may need more rest time.
4. Compromise. This may seem obvious, but when three generations are involved, not everyone may understand how important something is to the other generations. It could be rest, or it could be alone time. Whatever it is, compromise will be necessary - frequently.
5. Think of alternate things to do for each day. Someone may think he or she will enjoy an activity, and then find out that it is uninteresting. Let that person off the hook. Keep alternative ideas handy.
6. For the middle generation, the sandwich generation, if you will: remember you have needs, too. You may feel responsible for everyone else having fun. You need to have fun, too. Send the grandparents off with the teenagers or young kids, while you stay behind, or go ahead, and enjoy some couple time.
7. For the oldest generation, double check with the physician so that any health problems and medications - which can mean extra sunscreen or limits to how deep a diver can go can go - are well known to all.
8. Have a buddy system at all times so no one needs to handle all of the worry about where everyone is. Mix it up - not just couples. The buddies can be any generation.
9. Let everyone know that complaints after-the-fact aren't an option. Everyone needs to be responsible for her or his own fun and/or misery. If you don't speak up early in the event, then the problem is yours (barring a medical emergency, of course).
10. Plan for delays, teenage angst, a few squabbles, and circumstances under no one's control. Make an alternate plan for each day, so a weather problem doesn't make everyone sulk.
The bottom line is communication and respect. With those in place, the rest is, if not smooth, at least not a cause for divorce or to be written out of the will.
Support a caregiver or jump start discussion in support groups with real stories - for bulk orders e-mail Carol: