Holidays with adult children are a far cry from stewing over how to occupy your young children during the 10 long weeks of summer. But like all vacations with children no matter what their age, they are a live and learn experience.
As I white watered down a river in Costa Rica with my husband and adult children, our handsome muscle bound guide obviously felt the need to quell the look of terror in my eyes.
“OK Mama! Just reach out and grab my arm as you go down these shutes. I will stop your tube from turning over. ”
Like the rock climbing, perhaps I should have sat this one out. But I managed, despite spilling into the warm water regardless of the proffered arm. I even received special consideration from the guide as he pulled my canvas tube through sections where the river was quiet while the others had to paddle on their own.
Apart from the fact that the guide kept calling me Mama, the day was a dream. If this is vacationing with my adult children, I’m all for it.
But this holiday, like others before, taught me a few things about how to vacation with adult kids.
According to local travel agents, I have made some classic mistakes.
On the Costa Rica vacation, we planned too much. While five of the six of us were gung ho to see everything from turtles laying eggs to snorkeling to touring organic and fair trade coffee plantations at break-neck speed, one of us, exhausted from work, wanted some time to lie by the pool. We adjusted our schedule and found it benefitted everyone.
“You need to balance everyone’s wishes”, says Darren Prashad, the manager of Merit Travel in Ottawa. “Level of physical activity, food, interest, and accommodation all need to be taken into account. The kids may like to stay at a hostel but Mom and Dad may want more comfort.”
On our Australia vacation, we worried needlessly about our university aged girls. They wanted to take part in Sydney’s street parties on New Year’s Eve, and while we agreed, we were scouring the streets at 2:00 am looking for them. They arrived back at the apartment an hour later, safe and sound, happy and tired. It would have helped if we had taken a deep breath, and realized that they had lived through similar experiences in Toronto and Montreal.
“Buy a SIM card for your kids’ cell phones, give them money for a taxi home, do whatever it takes to make you feel comfortable, but realize your adult children may want to do activities on their own,” says Eoin Gibbon, an international travel consultant with Flight Centre, also in Ottawa.
There are other issues that can arise.
Spending every waking hour together is one. Mr. Prashad recommends families take small group tours which are designed for up to 16 people. He says this way all members of the family are doing the same activity but they will have other people to interact with if family togetherness becomes overwhelming.
Our family has found having ample space for everyone is also critical, instead of cramming everyone into one room. We have rented villas and condos which provide more space and are often cheaper than hotel rooms. A kitchen allows us to make our own food, a cross cultural adventure itself as we wander through open air markets figuring out what to eat.
Budget is also a concern. Families often have unrealistic expectations of what they can do both within their budget and timeframe. Sometimes families think they can go on an African Safari on $5000 for four people and travel agents have to pare down their expectations.
While Mr. Prashad says in his experience parents foot most of the bill for holidays, Mr. Gibbon suggests that it is a good idea to get the kids to pay part of it to ensure everyone is invested in the trip.
All three Ottawa travel agents that I spoke to said that money was not a silver bullet for a great holiday. Wen Jin from Mid Earth Travel Agency said she has planned seven day trips within Canada.
“Parents with adult children can have a wonderful, enriching and inexpensive vacation in Southeastern Ontario at Parks of the St. Lawrence,” says Susan Le Clair of the St. Lawrence Parks Commission. “They can camp at one of our eight campgrounds along the St. Lawrence River or stay in a cabin or the new Family Lodge on Woodlands Island on the Long Sault Parkway.” She adds that Upper Canada Village will host Food Lovers’ Field Days and the Iron Pan Competition this summer which includes taste testing, heritage cooking demonstrations and heirloom garden tours.
And if your kids don’t want to travel with you? Take heart. Even travel agents don’t necessarily travel with their kids. Wen Jin says she rarely serves clients who travel with adult children. “Children want to travel on their own or with friends”, she said. “I just sent my daughter on a trip to China without me.”
Have you any stories or advice about travelling with adult children? I would love to hear from you. Please leave your comments in the Reply Box below.
This article was first published in The Glebe Report.
For more information on vacationing with adult children, check out Five Great Vacations with Adult Kids; and How to Enjoy a Vacation with Your Adult Children and Savouring Family Trips when the Kids are Adults.