Traveling Across the Generation Gap [Q&A]

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Seeing the world with immediate and extended family is an increasingly popular way to bond and create new traditions across generations. We asked Dodee Crockett, Merrill Lynch wealth management adviser, to share a few considerations for travel.

Traveling with family is a wonderful opportunity to connect in a meaningful way across generations. Making sure you are financially prepared ahead of time will allow you to maximize this precious time together.

Why do you think traveling with family members spanning several generations has become increasingly popular?

Retirees are more active than ever before and are increasingly spending their time and money on vacations with loved ones instead of just leaving an inheritance.

Apart from transferring wealth, traveling together with family is an opportunity to share a unique experience and wisdom. For example, more families seek out the kind of experience that combines vacation time with volunteering for a local nonprofit, attending a class and learning something new, or experiencing another culture—not as a tourist, but as a participant.

With the newfound ease of renting a home in other locations, families decide to use the savings accumulated from renting out their vacation home to fund extended and, sometimes, more elaborate experiences.

How do you decide on who pays for what?

Expectations are crucial and so is a realistic budget. It’s important to speak with your financial adviser to see if you can afford to take your extended family on vacation. If you are only interested in paying for a portion, it’s important to communicate that with all concerned.

Try also to establish who’s paying for what up front. If you want all or part of the vacation to be a gift, say what you’d like to pay for, what you won’t be paying for and why you’re giving a portion as a gift. You could cover the cost of renting the beach house, for instance, and your family could pay for groceries or meals out.

Second, get creative. If you’re covering the big up-front expenses, it’s important that you leave the door open for people to help out in non-monetary ways, such as preparing some of the meals or planning excursions. Everyone will feel better knowing they brought something to the table.

One of the best examples I’ve seen of sharing some of the costs came from a group that included two parents, their four children and spouses. The parents paid the bill for the cruise and travel for all. Four “ports of call” were assigned by a drawing to each of the couples. The planning (and cost) of the excursion for the group was borne by the couple to showcase their own “port.”

Finally, it is important to communicate so everyone is on the same page. This could be done by sending each adult a detailed email that itemizes the costs each family member will cover.

What are some things to keep in mind when considering taking a multigenerational trip?

There are four key things to keep in mind. First, be sure there are activities and opportunities planned for all ages and abilities. Second, if the kids get unruly, leave the disciplining to the parents. Third, plan some time apart—don’t feel the need to spend every minute together. Last, but certainly not least, budget carefully, and, again, spell out in advance who’s going to pay for what.

What are some financial considerations all families should keep in mind before they leave for vacation?

Before you hit the road, let your financial institution and credit card companies know about your destination and dates of travel to avoid hiccups when you’re enjoying your time away.

And consider your mobile device for additional peace of mind when traveling. For example, some bank apps can help you track expenses, check your balance or monitor for fraud—from most any destination.

To avoid impulsiveness or overspending, be sure to make a detailed budget for yourself and your family for extras like theme park tickets, snacks on the road and Wi-Fi service.

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