Remember when summer family vacations used to require so much schedule-juggling that you needed a spread sheet to get it all organized? It wasn't easy to find the perfect week or two when everyone was free. You had to factor in baseball and soccer practice for the kids, camp, and your own demands at work. Sometimes, it almost didn't seem worth it. But then there would always be a moment when you would look at everyone gathered together having a great time. That's when you would begin planning for next year.
Now that many of us are empty nesters, family vacations are even more complex. The kids have lives of their own and may not want to spend their precious days off with the folks. But you still miss them and want to see them for some extended time, right? Here are a few tips to lure them back for a week or two:
Rent a house in a desirable location. There are lots of places to look for these. Try college alumni magazines or contact local realtors in places you think your kids would like. Try to find a house with lots of space for the family to spread out so you're not all on top of each other all the time. It should also be a location that offers something for family members of all ages and interests: some hiking, sightseeing, and simply lying on the beach. You can pick up the whole rental bill or charge your kids a nominal fee if you think that's appropriate.
Offer to take care of the grandkids. If your kids live far away, you probably don't spend a lot of ordinary time with your grandchildren. Giving your kids (now parents themselves) a little time off benefits three generations. You get to see the grandchildren; your children get free baby-sitting. One caveat: you may be the caretaker, but you have to abide by your kids' parenting rules – even if they're not what you would do. Otherwise, don't expect any more alone time with the little ones.
Start an annual tradition. As your kids get married and have to deal with the complex demands of even more extended families, try establishing one holiday a year for your particular branch. Avoid the biggies (Thanksgiving, Christmas) when the potential for conflicting obligations is greatest. Memorial Day, the Fourth of July or Labor Day are better. Start now and in a few years, you will have an album full of precious memories.