The Parent Trip - ‘The holiday feeling has to work for them and you’
As more millennials tag along on holidays with their folks, Sinead Ryan looks at the rise of intergenerational travel - and who foots the bill
The time has finally come to spend the inheritance. The kids are gone, you're ready to don the backpack and see the world with your other half as your grown-up children find their own way in the world.
But tentatively suggest a 'final' family holiday and you're swamped with interest. A free trip? Even if it's with mum and dad and you're in your 20s? What's not to like?
More and more couples are going on holidays with their adult children. It used to be the case you couldn't wait to get away from your parents and holiday with someone 'fun', but with easy, cheap packages, working abroad and wanting to hook up with siblings in far flung places, the opportunity for travel together can persist into adulthood.
Travel Editor Pól Ó Conghaile says: "I'm seeing more and more 'multi-generational' holidays - where grandparents, parents and kids travel together - every year.
"I've seen extended family groups pushing buggies around Center Parcs in Britain or on once-in-a-lifetime trips to Lapland, and they're a particular target of cruise companies - Royal Caribbean has them firmly in mind when launching 'Symphony of the Seas' - the world's biggest cruise ship - for example."
Ó Conghaile says cruises are popular because they have everything in the one place, "from quiet corners to Broadway-style shows, toddler soft play areas and big water parks".
He says that extended family trips are booming for several reasons, such as "sharing the childcare, splitting the cost of a villa or apartment, for example".
Maria and Sean Murphy regularly go on holidays with their three adult children, Jennifer (30), Conor (26) and Ciara (21). "The great thing is that they're doing all the research for it, they know what they want and they have the IT skills to do it all," says Maria, who's a busy county councillor in Meath.
In 2015, the family took the trip of a lifetime to visit eldest Jennifer who was working in New Zealand. "We went because of their ages. They were all branching out and it was an opportunity to see Jennifer," Maria says.
"Conor was coming to the end of his education and it was becoming harder to get together and have family time. Holidays keep them close to us and each other. We did lots of water based activities and they stayed overnight in a forest park while Sean and I went back to the hotel. We could relax while they're off together."
Maria says the children don't get a freebie holiday, however.
"If they're working, the deal is they pay for their own flights and a portion of the accommodation. It's important to contribute, even if it's not the full share.
"The other good thing is that we now have more drivers to share the load. It's not party central - a family holiday is about being with the family so there's a natural assumption about respecting each other."
The Murphys hope to continue the tradition and this year they're considering Italy. "They're doing the research on locations and what they want to do. It's harder to pin down a week everyone is free and some of them want a holiday with friends too. You never know what will come along in life. It's not always going to be mum and dad, so it's really nice when it is."
Sligo-based Alan West is a farmer and his well-known illustrator wife Annie says this means holiday time is often a last-minute concept. "I absolutely hate flying; you'd have to get me kicking and screaming on to a plane, so if we take a holiday it's usually in Ireland anyway."
They "grab the opportunity when we can", with children, Amy (26), Bob (20) and Elizabeth (18). "The farming calendar precludes planning ahead but we once blew the budget and went to Disneyland and it was hell," says Annie. These days, a trip to Amsterdam to visit Amy there is more likely.
"The whole idea of a holiday in the sun is repulsive to me, but now it's a short trip and we can just mooch around, people-watch and not feel the need to come back and tell everyone we saw all the sights. It's the preferred destination for us from now on, especially as Bob is a young farmer also.
"I like the idea of going with them on holiday rather than them coming with us. They're making all the decisions because they know about stuff we don't. They're all curious people and when they were small you needed to have playgrounds and pools and your brain would shut down for two weeks.
"It's such a relief to be over the days of camps and kids clubs, but they'll still tag along today because you've got the wallet. I particularly look forward to the third stage when I'm senile and they're paying for everything!"
Clinical psychotherapist Stephanie Regan says "pre-departure chats" are a good way to lay ground rules and take in all points of view.
"Holidays are like home; they're still on your turf so it is reasonable that you have a strong say, but the holiday feeling has to work for them and you.
"So, if they usually babysit for a younger sibling, then discuss beforehand if they are happy to do a night or two. If they are earning money, then a gesture of a meal out together or other acknowledgment that money is being spent on them is to be expected.
"Once you get to three generations, a family holiday can be special and lovely, but it needs careful handling and adult children with their own kids need to be aware their parents may be enjoying their own lives and not always holding out to have every moment filled by little ones.
"So if you bring your children, mind them and arrange babysitting services beyond your parents."
How to travel with grown-up kids
- Make sure everyone has a say in the destination and activities. Consider renting two cars so you're not stuck all doing the same thing.
- If they work, they should contribute financially to the trip. If you're self-catering, everyone pitches in on meals - refuse to play 'mum' while on holiday.
- Everyone gets a turn to be 'tour guide' for a day and decide on activities.
- Young adults know the internet inside out - let them find out information and ease off the pedal. Your goal is to spend family time together - do you really care where and how?
- Not everyone has to stay the entire time, especially if they're converging from different places. A 'drop-in' holiday for a few days is a great opportunity to catch up.
- If you are involving partners (or kids) of your adult children, the dynamic of intergenerational holidays may need to be discussed or you'll end up babysitting while they're escaping for fun.
- Avoid the impulse to act like parents. Remember what it was like when you travelled in your 20s - most kids are smart and savvy to a far greater degree.