Traveling with a crowd? You're not alone. Today, there are more groups of extended family members traveling together than ever before. According to a 2014 AAA survey, multigenerational family vacations were up 4 percent from the previous year, and 36 percent of families were planning to take a multigenerational family trip in the next 12 months. Plus, in a recent Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts survey, one in five grandparents said they'd been on a Disney vacation with their grandchildren.
The increase is in part due to more families living geographically farther from each other than at any time in history. A group trip is often the most convenient option for today's modern family to gather in one place. While multigenerational vacations can be a memorable experience, the planning process can prove overwhelming. Here are some handy ways to stay organized when planning, plus tips on how to make sure every member of your family is happy with the getaway.
1. Set vacation expectations
A preplanning kickoff meeting can help put vacation objectives in motion. Prior to booking the trip, here are some topics to discuss:
Budget: Set a vacation budget as soon as possible. This will help everyone avoid overspending and help narrow down your destination options. Also, consider how much will be spent per day on food and entertainment. Another factor to take into account: if any family members have credit card loyalty points or frequent flier miles available, which can significantly reduce the overall cost of the trip.
When: Decide the ideal time to take the vacation and for how long. Allowing ample time for everyone to schedule time off from work, school and activities will create less stress leading up to the trip.
How: Ask whether travel by car, train, boat or airline is preferred. For car rentals, consider whether one larger vehicle (like a minivan) would be more cost-effective than two separate cars.
Goals: Discuss the needs of each traveler. For example, do most want to be relaxing at the pool or seek adventure and excursions? Kids should also be included in talks and asked to provide feedback so they feel like they have a stake in the vacation.
2. Let someone else help you plan
While you and your family may already have a favorite destination, consider researching new travel options that may also fit into your family's set budget and trip guidelines. Visit booking sites for deals or check out Groople, which provides customized trip quotes for larger groups. Travel agents can also be a valuable resource. Not only can they provide a neutral, outside perspective, but they can negotiate group discounts and organize all of your itinerary details to help the trip run smoothly. And, if your trip runs into a snag, your travel agent will be able to help clear it up on your behalf.
3. Look beyond hotels
While most hotels set a capacity limit of four guests per room, many properties are finding ways to cater to larger groups.
Vacation home rentals are another option, with a variety of booking sites offering rentals with four bedrooms or more. (Check sites like Big Sky Luxury Rentals, Rental Escapes, Inspirato and HomeAway for options). These rentals offer the comforts of home, plus they sometimes cost less than a hotel room. Many rentals are also equipped with budget-saving amenities, such as full kitchens, private pools and separate bedrooms.
4. Consider a cruise or an all-inclusive vacation
Cruises and all-inclusive vacations are other popular options for family trips, especially since many cruise lines, including MSC, offer deals that allow kids to sail for free or at a discounted rate. Cruises also excel at offering plenty of on- and off-board variety to a wide range of age groups. With all the food and entertainment options, everyone in your group is sure to find something that suits their needs.
If you and your clan would rather stay on land, hotel brands like IBEROSTAR and Dreams Resorts offer kids-stay-free promotions throughout the year, which can significantly reduce your vacation expenses.
5. Research your travel insurance options
Since there are so many moving parts to traveling with a large group, snafus and hiccups are bound to happen. Travel insurance is worth considering since it can offer protection if a trip doesn't go as planned, with coverage available for trip cancellation and emergency medical care. The only problem: picking a plan that suits everyone's needs can be tricky. InsureMyTrip allows you to compare policies from more than 25 providers. For group travel, 80 percent choose a comprehensive travel insurance policy.
Julie Loffredi is an award-winning journalist and correspondent. She writes about travel tips for a variety of publications and is a contributor at travel insurance comparison site InsureMyTrip. You can follow her on Twitter @julieloffredi or connect with her on LinkedIn.