Like many families, mine is spread out across the country with some in South Florida, some in Louisiana and us settled in Ohio. Because of this we don’t get to see each other nearly as often as I would like! Between my mom, my sisters and our combined children, our group has a diverse age span as well so finding a destination that works for all of us can be especially tricky.
Planning a Successful Multi-Generational Vacation
My mom has had health problems and has mobility issues and added to the mix was the fact that my little sister was 7 months pregnant so had her own unique needs. But I was craving time with my extended family, so I planned a successful multi-generational vacation getaway to Smoky Mountains National Park that we could all enjoy. Here’s how we made sure that we were ALL having a great time.
1. Pick a Destination With Diverse Appeal- Although the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area is not half way between all of our hometowns, it offered the most diversity in things to do in an area we could all easily drive to. Since we all had different ideas of what we wanted to see and do, we all could find activities we enjoyed. Between us we hiked and attended Ranger Programs at Smoky Mountain National Park, shopped in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, played in the pool and hot tub, ate at restaurants and relaxed at our rental cabin. Some of our group explored the tourist attractions in town like putt putt golf and go carts and some of us stuck to the National Park but because there were so many different things to do in the area, everyone had a great time.
2. Allow For Down Times- Another reason we picked the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area for our multi-generational vacation and family reunion getaway was the abundance of rental cabins that fit our needs as a large family. Booking through Vacation Rentals by Owner (www.vrbo.com), we found an absolutely perfect fit for our large group in a 2500 square foot two story cabin in Hidden Spring’s Resort called Pure Mountain Pleasure. (See the listing here.) With two stories, a large kitchen, and two huge back porches we could spread out as much as we wanted. We had our own hot tub and the resort also had a pool which the kids loved playing in. Best of all was the large first floor master suite. My mom has health problems which prevent her from safely walking stairs and it was wonderful for her to have a room to sleep that did not require steps. With three additional bedrooms plus a TV room and downstairs play room, my mom and the younger kids could nap or relax with a book comfortably and take breaks in peace and quiet. With our large group, we used all the space and I can not say enough about how much we loved our cabin. At under $2000 for the week in peak season it was economical for our four families staying together as well since we could split the cost and also cook most of our meals in the fully equipped kitchen.
3. Split Up- Because of our diverse interests, ages and physical capabilities, it made sense to split up at times during our week together. We didn’t so much divide by family group but by interest and this allowed all of the cousins to spend more one on one time with each other. For example, Dave and I wanted to hike to Rainbow Falls along with some of the kids so my older sister stayed at the cabin with my mom to relax on the porch and my younger sister took the smaller kids to a Junior Ranger program. We also split up for a day hike along the Appalachian Trail which you can read about here. By occasionally splitting up to enjoy individual pursuits, everyone had a great time doing what they wanted and no one felt compelled to participate in activities they did not enjoy which is key to a good vacation.
4. Stay Together- No matter where our exploring took us during the day, we made sure to have at least a few breakfasts together and to be back at the cabin in time for dinner each evening so that we could spend some of our time all together. Before we arrived, my sisters and I split up the breakfasts and dinners and cooked for the whole crowd on our assigned days. Cooking for a large group is not that much harder than cooking for just my family and I really appreciated having a few nights off! Eating out meals together was a great way to reconnect and talk to everyone about our day’s adventures. We also planned a few group activities that we could all enjoy together including exploring the National Park Visitor Center, driving the Cades Cove Scenic Drive and a movie night complete with popcorn and candy at the cabin.
We had a fantastic time on our multi-generational vacation in the Smoky Mountains! I loved seeing all of the cousins play together and it was wonderful to spend time with my mom and sisters. Everyone enjoyed themselves in their own way. I can’t wait to plan another family reunion getaway!