How to Have a Fun, Multigenerational Family Vacation

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On family trips, “there is very little money flowing uphill” to the older generation, Madonna Harrington Meyer, a Syracuse University sociologist and author of “Grandmothers at Work,” has found in her research.

Grandparents often default to picking up the tab, especially when children are visiting, but grandparents may be near or in retirement. Hosting costs can increase with each in-law and grandchild.


The senior Morgans used to shoulder vacation rentals, until their growing family meant bigger houses at higher prices. Now, they ask each family to pay one-fifth.

However, for the past few years, Donna and David Bolls, who live in Charlotte, N.C., have accepted a daughter’s invitation to join her family in a cottage on Seabrook Island, S.C. She declined their offer to pay part of the week’s rent.

“We try to grab the check if we go out to eat,” Ms. Bolls, 65, said. “Sometimes we split the groceries. We don’t want them footing the whole bill, even if they can afford it.” Caring for their grandchildren, 5-year-old twins, helps balance the ledger.

“People tend to fall back into their usual roles without thinking,” said Sally Tannen, an early childhood educator who for years has led the parenting and grandparenting workshops at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan.

Adult children can regress, expecting their parents to take care of them and their children. “But you’re an adult now,” Ms. Tannen noted. Similarly, grandparents may anticipate being in charge, a recipe for conflict in close quarters. “We’ve always been the caregivers, and it’s hard to let go of,” she said. “We like to hold on to control.”



By Paula Span

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