3 Tips for Planning Adult Family Vacations

Family at seaside on wintry day
Paul Mansfield Photography/Moment/Getty Images

Just because the kids are grown doesn't mean you have to give up family vacations. In fact, as many parents of young adults already know, family vacations can be a lot more fun when the kids get older. You can enjoy a great bottle of wine together, and meals don't have to revolve around a kids' menu. It's much easier to fly with your 20-something offspring than with fidgety 7-year-olds, and they carry their own luggage, too. 

Why You Should Take a Family Vacation With Your Adult Kids

An increasing number of families with teens, college kids, and 20-somethings continue to vacation together. These trips are "more a luxury than an obligation" to a cash-strapped young adult, says travel guru Donna Airoldi of TravelMuse.com, but there's more at work here than finances.

Young adults, especially if they are single, enjoy time with their family as a respite from their working lives and social obligations. It's nice to be able to relax with parents and siblings in a way it may not be easy to do with other people in their lives. 

Today's parents are far more involved in their children's lives than previous generations and many young adults are discovering that working life interferes with family time. They may not be able to get home, for example, for Thanksgiving, so vacation time becomes a chance to reconnect with parents and siblings.

The question is...how do you plan a family trip that appeals to everyone?

3 Tips for a Fun, Stress-Free Adult Family Vacation

Follow these tips to ensure that you have a great time.

Focus on Location, Location, Location

When the kids were little, vacations revolved around amusement parks, wading pools, and a museum-free existence. College kids and 20-somethings are adventuresome travel companions and you can take advantage of this.

They love physical adventure, cultural immersion, fine dining, cool shopping, and nightlife. They may enjoy some beach time, but they want to mix that with zip lines, surfing, and kayaking. These are activities that Airoldi notes are “great for the 20s and parents in their 50s” too.

Bustling cities, such as New York, Seattle, and Montreal are all great choices. So are areas with voluntourism and educational opportunities. Cooking classes in Tuscany, anyone? Or tango lessons in Buenos Aires?

Choose the Right Home Base

Hotels are fine but don't even think of trying to save money by putting everyone in one room. A better option for families with grown kids may be a villa, condo or apartment rental in a central location. This is both spacious and convenient because everyone can get around on foot or via public transportation.

Rentals also tend to be less expensive and more comfortable than booking a series of hotel rooms. There is plenty of room for lounging and sleeping and a kitchen gives you the thrifty option of a few homecooked meals.

Try Airbnb, Vacation Rentals by Owners (VRBO), Homeaway.com, or simply Google the name of the city and the words "vacation rental" to find city-specific possibilities.

You might want to leave the accommodations up to your kids to plan—their ideas and choices will be different from your past experiences and will give them responsibility for part of the trip, allowing you to sit back and enjoy.

Be Flexible With Scheduling

You have picked a great city with ample opportunities for entertainment, now let everyone enjoy it! Be mindful of everyone's unique taste—for example, if you are on an outdoor adventure trip, some may prefer to opt-out of the tougher hikes or ski trails in favor of leisurely walks or hot cocoa in the lodge. Don't insist on everyone doing everything—we all need time to ourselves, even on a fun family vacation.

Don't overschedule your time, says Airoldi. Plan on some togetherness, but realize that half the fun lies in spontaneity. You are traveling with grown-ups now and when a fun, new experience presents itself, you should all feel free to take advantage of it!

By Jackie Burrell
Jackie Burrell is a former education and parenting reporter, experienced in issues around parenting young adults as a mother of four.