Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle.
I glance over at my sister, Ang, and she meets my eye and giggles. The Tuscan sun is starting to fade in the sky and we’re dragging our feet in exaggerated slowness as we walk along a tree-lined sidewalk framing the legendary spas of Montecatini, Italy.
“I can’t walk any slower,” Ang whispers to me. She is hunched over comically and I laugh.
“Me neither,” I whisper back. “It’s going to be dark by the time we get back to the hotel!”
We both giggle again and look over our shoulders. Several yards down the path are our grandparents, looking around at the scenery and walking at their normal – er, let’s call it leisurely – pace.
Ang and I, both 20-something at the time, had energy and wanted to walk as fast as we could to the next destination and make sure we didn’t miss out on seeing anything. But we weren’t about to leave our grandparents in the dust, so we did that magic word and comprised – in this instance also known as walking…very…slowly.
If you find yourself traveling with a multigeneration group one day, follow these three tips to help you all still enjoy your trip.
Multigenerational Travel Tip 1: Compromise, Compromise
Understand before you leave for the trip that you and your family will be traveling at different paces. The young and nimble may be used to darting from this site to that site, while those older in years may need to take their time getting around. Compromise and just accept that there will be some things on your list of things to do that will simply have to be cut, however many of them can be adapted so they work for everyone. Half your group may choose to do an hour hike while the other half hangs out in a bistro or meanders around nearby shops. If everyone’s taste buds are in a conflict try one thing for lunch and another for dinner or find a restaurant that serves enough variety to please everyone. Stay patient and look at activities that don’t fit your usual pace as a traveling adventure and possible time for some unexpected bonding with your family.
Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle.
Ang and I continue down the sidewalk via our goofy pace. Our mother is in between us and our grandparents, either in an effort to keep us all together or she’s sick of all of us and needs a break from being in such close proximity all day. Latter is much more likely.
Suddenly she catches sight of our exaggerated walking and stops.
“Girls,” she says disapprovingly, but smiles.
Ang straightens up innocently. “What?” she asks. “We’re just walking.”
I nod in agreement and take a slow step backwards with my arms flung out wide.
Ang giggles again.
Sensing we’re in one of our private sister worlds, Mom rolls her eyes. “Just don’t get too far ahead,” she admonishes and goes back to her solo walk for a brief moment before pausing to take a picture of the Montecatini Alto cable car stretching up the hillside behind us.
We let her be and go back to walking at a snail’s pace.
Multigenerational Travel Tip 2: Be Solo, Stay Sane
When traveling with your family – especially in close quarters – it’s important to get alone time so you all don’t end up snapping at each other by the trip’s end. This can be a morning or early evening walk by yourself through the city you’re visiting or a stroll down the shore if it’s a beach day. Finding a coffee shop and writing in a journal or people-watching is a great way to get some “me” time as well. If it’s impossible to get away, simply putting in headphones and listening to your favorite music and letting your mind rest can give you the break you need from surly teenagers, hyper millennials, micro-planning middle generations, talkative grandparents, or crying kids (note: this probably only works if the kids don’t belong to you).
Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle.
“We made it,” I sigh and sink into the green-cushioned chair underneath a large canopy. We’ve just arrived at our favorite place to eat in Montecatini, a cute pizzeria right across the square from our hotel.
I smile across the table at my Grandpa. I’m used to sharing a table with him and dozens of my cousins and I am enjoying spending time with him in a more close-knit setting.
“Think it’ll be 30 Euros again tonight, Grandpa?” I ask, referring to the joke amongst us that no matter what or how much we order at the pizzeria, it always comes out to right around 30 Euros.
“Oh, I’d imagine,” he responds and returns my smile.
Tomorrow, he is meeting some of his first cousins for the first time and my sister and I will be there to witness it. I open the menu and try to concentrate on it, but excitement for the upcoming events keeps me from reading it.
Multigenerational Travel Tip 3: Enjoy Family, Build Memories
Yes, you may get on each other’s nerves at times. Yes, there may be things you didn’t get to do because it didn’t meet the group’s overall interests. Don’t dwell on that. Instead, focus on building memories with your family; ones you won’t ever forget. My family still laughs when we bring up the “30 Euro place” and Ang and I would happily trade our normally fast-paced traveling adventures for another trip to Europe with our Granny and Grandpa anytime.
With some patience, humor, and teamwork, multigenerational family travels can be rewarding and fun. It also may show just how dysfunctional your family is – but there’s a good chance that’s where some of the best memories will come into play!