Even close-knit families can grow apart as adult children establish themselves in careers and move away from the communities where they grew up. One way to reconnect is to go on a vacation together as a family.

Planning family vacations with adult children (and, perhaps, their children) can be a challenge, but many people find that it is absolutely worth it. Below are four essential tips for planning a family vacation that is fun, relaxing, and drama-free.

Enjoy Your Vacation With Your Entire Family (even if They're No Longer Babies)

1. Plan Early

It can be difficult to find a time when adult family members, particularly those with spouses and kids, can all get together for a family vacation. Your best bet is to start planning your vacation as early as possible.

Planning early can help with a few things:

  • Scheduling: Time slots fill up quickly. By planning early, you have a good chance of finding a week or weekend when everyone is available.
  • Savings: You can often lock in lower transportation fares and save on accommodations by booking your room early.
  • Comfort: Accommodations at vacation destinations often book up quickly. You'll have a better shot at being able to stay where you want to if you reserve your accommodations early.
  • Work: Many employers require workers to apply for time off in advance. Early planning allows family members to secure time off.

Consider using a shared online calendar, such as Google Calendar, to share schedules and identify availability more easily—if you're all on the interwebs, that is.

2. Consider the Needs of All Family Members Involved in This Trip

All families are different. If children or teenagers will be part of the family vacation, it might be wise to select a destination that has activities and attractions that appeal to families. At the same time, adults who don't have children may not be happy about vacationing in an area that primarily caters to children. If you have a mix of parents, non-parents, and children of various age groups, seek a destination that offers a broad range of activities for every age and social group.

Be mindful of the needs of children when selecting accommodations. Many adults are perfectly happy staying in hotels that offer basic amenities. Parents, on the other hand, may have more stringent requirements. Families that travel with their kids often seek hotels that have swimming pools, play areas, game rooms, and even in-room refrigerators for storing snacks. Families may also wish to stay at hotels that offer family suites or connected rooms.

Another consideration is special accommodations for elderly or disabled family members. If you know that one or more people in your group may need access to rooms equipped for people with disabilities, you'll want to research the accommodations offered by hotels at your selected destination.

3. Discuss Costs and Payments

It's possible to save money on vacation, but that doesn't make it cheap nonetheless. So when planning a big trip somewhere, keep in mind that not all family members have the same vacation budget. Hard feelings and discomfort may emerge if some family members want to take a vacation that costs more than other family members can afford.

When possible, have a frank discussion about what each family or individual can spend on a trip. Once you have that information, you can begin searching for destinations and accommodations that will work for everyone. If this proves challenging, it may be wise to hire a travel agent to assist you in your trip planning.

Once you have major plans, it's also important to ensure that payments are made in a timely fashion. If participants won't be paying for their transportation and accommodations directly, your family will need to decide how to collect funds from everybody who will be going on the vacation. One option is to appoint a family member to be the "treasurer" who will collect funds and make necessary payments. Another option is to have a third party, such as your travel agent, handle the collection and management of the travel funds. Regardless of what you choose, make sure that everybody knows the deadline for the payments.

In addition to booking early to stay within your travel budget, check whether you can receive a discount for booking tickets to various area attractions before you leave for your trip. You can also check online for printable coupons that can save your family money on events, activities, and dining.

4. Create a Flexible Activity Schedule

The whole point of going on a family vacation is to spend time together. This doesn't mean that you have to be around each other all the time, though. Try to avoid rigid schedules that force everybody to do the same things at the same times. This is, after all, a vacation and your family members will want to relax.

For example, you could agree to eat your breakfast and lunches independently, while meeting every evening for dinner. Your group may also decide to split up depending on specific interests. The teens may decide to spend the afternoon at a water park while parents with smaller children may choose to visit a zoo or children's Museum. The adults who don't have young children may opt for an afternoon of shopping or even a late brunch. Later in the evening, everyone can get together for a meal and quality family time.

Final Thoughts

Family trips with adult children can be incredibly special. In many cases, this may be the first time in decades that the family is able to be together. You can make the most of this opportunity by encouraging open communication on travel preferences and budgets while also creating an itinerary that allows for both family time and independent exploring.

Note about the author: Haily Greene is proud to call herself the "stereotypical soccer-mom." From organizing her son's Boy Scout bake sale to coordinating a 15-family-member trip to the Grand Canyon, she's done it all and has mastered the art of making everyone somewhat happy in any situation.