Many people cringe at the thought of spending a weekend with their extended families, let alone a two-week holiday. But it doesn't have to be doom and gloom as I discovered on a summer road trip with three generations of loved ones. Just like any holiday, creating memories and spending quality time together were our main motives. But to achieve this, it's essential to have some tactics up your sleeve.
1. PLANNING IS EVERYTHING
Travelling with a multi-generational family requires an enormous amount of planning, particularly if you're a group of 11 and are travelling in peak season. Agreeing on an itinerary was the first key decision. We settled on a two-week road trip from Queenstown to Christchurch via Tekapo.
That dreaded word – "budget "– should be tackled early on. Open communication and honesty are key to avoid conflict when discussing finances. Transportation, logistics, accommodation and sightseeing should all be covered. Once these elements are agreed upon, you've got the foundation for an enjoyable trip.
2. CALL IN THE RINGLEADER
Every corporation has an illustrious leader, the person who keeps the show together. And holiday planning is no different. The role is best allocated to an individual with strong organisation and communication skills along with an extraordinary amount of patience. All questions should be directed to this person as it reduces confusion within the group. I was the person to take on this challenge in our party of 11, who ranged from 3 to 67 years old. Get everyone's contact details so you can easily communicate decisions. I also talked with the little people – after all, it was their holiday too. Understand that too many cooks spoil the broth, and you're off to a good start.
3. ASSIGN A REPUTABLE TRAVEL GURU
The travel guru is the ringleader's offsider who has the knowledge and expertise to create amazing itineraries. A reputable travel consultant can provide unbiased suggestions that may not have been considered. They also have access to negotiated rates and allocations that aren't offered to the general public, including group offerings. Engaging a travel consultant means payments are made directly to them, which is cleaner for managing the group's funds. Travel consultants can distribute detailed itineraries to everyone, saving the ringleader having to compile these documents themselves. A reputable travel guru will also have your back if something doesn't go to plan, which in today's uncertain times, is a massive benefit.
4. BONDING EXPERIENCES ARE WORTH THEIR WEIGHT IN GOLD
Pre-booking sightseeing saves time and avoids the frustration of activities being sold out during peak times.
We found the best time for sightseeing was straight after breakfast as it avoided being trapped in that annoying place called limbo. We didn't go overboard – a half-day activity every day or second day worked well for us.
It was challenging finding activities to suit every age group, however, a few stood out. The Walter Peak High Country Farm tour from Queenstown was an all-round crowd-pleaser. It included a trip on the classic TSS Earnslaw Steamship, a sheep shearing display and a gourmet barbecue lunch. A day trip from Queenstown to the charming gold rush village of Arrowtown also went down well thanks to the gold-panning experience. Jetboating in Queenstown was an exhilarating thrill, which even the grandparents got into. The Japanese-inspired Onsen Hot Pools overlooking the mountain range of the Shotover River in Queenstown was a beautiful bonding experience. The drive from Queenstown to Tekapo included a stop at the Cardrona Hotel Pub, where the kids enjoyed the impressive playground complete with a giant Connect Four.
The Dark Sky Summit at Tekapo's Mt John Observatory was phenomenal for stargazing. Although the tour didn't start until midnight, we dragged the kids along as it was beneficial for them from an educational perspective. Carefully chosen sightseeing activities are essential as it's these experiences that everyone will remember for decades.
5. GET DOWN WITH DOWNTIME
Downtime is vital to allow everyone to recharge before the next activity. This is especially geared toward the younger children as no-one wants to see the devil's child emerge from the deep because of lack of sleep. The grandparents might wish to offer babysitting services after the young children are asleep so that their adult children can have their downtime over dinner peacefully. Or perhaps indulge in an adult activity l such as an Otago Wineries tour, where you can enjoy a wine tasting in the Gibbston Valley Wine Cave and devour a three-course lunch with matching wines.
6. TABLE FOR 11?
Repeatedly, we fronted up to restaurants without a booking and were turned away because they didn't have space – an especially frustrating experience with hungry, cranky children in tow. Make reservations in advance where possible, especially during the peak of summer.
Including breakfast with prepaid hotel rates helped provide a stress-free start to the day. Our best dining experiences were those at Walter Peak High Country Farm and Stratosfare Restaurant in Queenstown – both of which were included as part of the tours. Any dining experience that avoids the awkwardness of bill splitting sells it for me.
7. KEEP THE LINES OF COMMUNICATION OPEN
Maintaining clear communication while travelling is essential and mealtimes are a great time to hold briefings. Reconfirm the next day's itinerary, recap the meeting point and time for activities and run through the eating arrangements. Create a Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp group chat to allow instant and effective communication. Accept that things may not always go to plan and always keep the lines of communication open.
We didn't just survive our multi-generational holiday, we enjoyed it immensely. It involved a monumental amount of planning, patience and discussion but the amazing memories it created made it worthwhile. Ten months on and we continue to reminisce about our incredible time together. As someone much wiser than me once said, "Families are like branches on a tree – we grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one."
For more New Zealand travel ideas and inspiration, go to newzealand.com