Authors: By The Associated Press
Planning a vacation with two generations (AP) -- parents and kids - can be tricky. Planning a vacation with three generations - grandparents, parents and kids - can be daunting. With family get-togethers coming up over the holidays, and some families already planning next year's trips, here are three first-person stories about different types of multi-generation vacations - a road trip, a house rental and a cruise - as recounted by Associated Press reporters.
Some of my happiest childhood memories are of the road trips I took with my grandparents, mother and brother in the 1960s. One year we made a loop through the Pacific Northwest; another year we visited national parks including Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. I remember the unreal blue of Crater Lake and the well-thumbed AAA guide that steered us to inexpensive motels.
After my daughter was born, it seemed natural to return to three-generation vacationing. In the last five years my mother, my daughter and I have crisscrossed much of the United States. We've been to Colonial Williamsburg, Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone - again. We've been to the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.
My mother, a historian as well as the captain of our expeditions, has aimed to balance kid-friendly activities with the historical and cultural attractions she craves. A museum one day, a trail ride the next. It hasn't always gone smoothly but it's been fun.
Williamsburg's 18th-century re-enactments were right up my mother's cobblestone alley. My daughter was 8 that year and her attention wavered. A brickmaking demonstration interested her more than a tour of the Governor's Palace. But a promise that the following day would be spent at a water park kept grumbling in check.
We went to Mount Rushmore in 2008. I had not seen it before and was suitably awestruck. My daughter thought it was cool. In planning the trip, my mother had not realized that our stay in South Dakota would coincide with the Sturgis Rally, which attracts hundreds of thousands of motorcycle riders annually.
As we drove through Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota that August it seemed we were the only non-bikers on the road. The restaurants and motels were full of beefy, tattooed men in Sturgis T-shirts. Members of a biker church sold bottled water at a rest stop. They could not have been nicer to us. One of my abiding memories of that trip is my 10-year-old taking turns on the indoor water slide at a hotel in Rapid City with a biker who seemed to enjoy the splashdown as much as she did.
Earlier this year, we visited Tennessee and the Civil War battlefields of Stones River and Shiloh. Exhibits and ranger talks brought wartime heroism to life, though my daughter's attention, once again, flagged. But she liked the zipline course at Ruby Falls, near Chattanooga, and all of us enjoyed the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, which has a 72.7 percent grade and bills itself as the world's steepest passenger railway. Families that visit the area should consider staying, as we did, at the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel, where the lobby is the city's lovingly restored historic train station and you can eat dinner in a repurposed dining car.
We'll do another trip next year, destination as yet unplanned. I can't wait.
By Associated Press Writer Karen Matthews
As an American, I'm used to the "If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium" style of travel, running frenetically from place to place.
But when the British side of the family proposed spending two weeks relaxing on a rustic property outside a small town in Tuscany, I had to confess it sounded idyllic.
We were 20-odd family members and partners, from an 18-month-old to an 87-year-old, coming in from London, New York, Boston, Madrid and the Italian city of Padua.
We stayed in three stone houses atop those lovely Tuscan hills. We were 45 minutes from the nearest big tourist attraction - the medieval city of Siena - and we had no plans, other than swimming, reading, cooking, eating and spur-of-the-moment excursions if we felt like it.
Days were spent mostly around the pool, which occupied a gorgeous spot overlooking only fields and more hills. There were occasional trips into town to shop for food, get a morning coffee or an afternoon gelato, or to hook up to the Internet (no Wi-Fi at the house).
We had no cooks coming in, as some do. Instead, in a brilliant system devised by two young members of our group, we divided into teams of two or three people. Each team was responsible for meal duty one day a week. The team would do all shopping, cooking, serving and cleanup. And everyone else would relax, knowing they soon would have a turn.
There was an indoor kitchen, but we never used it. All meals were cooked in an outdoor kitchen that boasted a wood-fired grill, and eaten on a stone deck. Dinners were long and leisurely - come to think of it, so were lunches - always with a few bottles of nice Tuscan wine. Nobody watched television. Instead we talked, played cards, and read books, though I have to admit my young kids, deprived of their usual electronics, were addicted to games on their father's iPad (to his annoyance.)
On days where the sun and the pool seemed a bit too much, or when we feared our kids were getting too noisy, we packed them up in the car and took off. We brought the kids into Siena for an afternoon stroll one day, then came back ourselves - just parents - to see the art and amazing mosaic floor of the cathedral. (I am forever grateful to the older family members who babysat the kids.)
Though this holiday was not planned around kids - Europeans, sensibly, do that much less than Americans - there were interesting places for them to see, too. On a trip to Pisa to pick up her older sister, our young daughter enjoyed seeing the Leaning Tower, which has been shored up, but still leans. And they loved Bomarzo, a 16th-century "Park of Monsters," full of scary stone sculptures. (They also liked a nearby complex of outlet stores - much less romantic, but there you have it.)
One of my favorite events was also the most unexpected: An evening talent show. Nobody got a pass; everyone had to have an act. Performances took place on the deck where we ate. We had three judges, "American Idol" style, and cream pies to throw at the judges at the end.
But the biggest surprise for me was something many people take for granted. In the decade since I had become a mother, I had never once been able to read a book on holiday. This time, with the help of a huge crew to entertain the kids, I actually read an entire book: "Life," by Keith Richards. Cover to cover. Victory!
-By Associated Press National Writer Jocelyn Noveck
My brothers and I had not shared a vacation since we were kids. Now we were grown, with eight children from 12 to 27 between us, all standing on the deck of a cruise ship as it pulled away from the Seattle harbor, headed toward Alaska.
It was my mother's idea. A couple years had passed since my father's death, and I believe the trip was her way of saying, "Your father isn't here anymore, but we're still a family."
The weeklong trip had something for every generation, starting with the spectacular scenery. My mother paced herself, going ashore to visit a glacier and a bald eagle habitat but skipping other excursions to rest aboard the ship.
My brothers and our wives tried different things from whale-watching to sea kayaking to visiting the art galleries and gift shops in port towns. On the ship, diversions ranged from photography classes to a talent show to an Elton John tribute act - he was actually good. And a bonus: My younger brother won the ship's blackjack tournament.
The seven grandchildren went on many of the same trips, but what they enjoyed most was the freedom to roam the ship, eating what they wanted when they wanted it. The prepaid all-you-can-drink soda cards made the younger ones such as my son, 12 at the time, feel like big shots, and they're a bargain compared to paying by the glass.My daughter, then 17, said there could have been more activities for teens. The club and game room on the Holland America ms Oosterdam were aimed at younger kids.
The cruise lines are trying to fight the image that they appeal mostly to older people by adding new entertainment acts (Norwegian brags about the Blue Man Group), amusement areas complete with a carousel (Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas), rock climbing walls, 3-D movies and other attractions. Disney has its own cruise line.
Sometimes, just the route might make a difference for younger family members. On our trip along the Alaska coast, it was cold enough most days that the kids didn't want to swim on the ship, and of course snorkeling excursions were out of the question.
A cruise is a good option if there are family members who have limited mobility. It also eliminates the need to pack and unpack every day, yet the scenery changes with every destination. Big ships tend to have more activities, and they have a range of room sizes and prices - an important consideration for many multi-generation family trips.
While everyone in our group tried different activities each day, we gathered as a family for dinner, just as we did years ago at home. It's those memories of spending time together that will endure long after the excursions have ended.
-By AP Business Writer David Koenig