This year, as a collective Christmas present, our family decided to take a vacation together.  We called it the “gift of time” because what we really like to do and don’t get to do as much, is spend time together.

The destination we chose was Washington D.C., over Labor Day weekend.  We decided to add an extra day, extending the already long weekend.  Off we went, celebrating Christmas in September, the grandparents, three grown children, a two-year old and an infant. It turns out we chose well, except for the heat, which hovered around 90 degrees, the summer crowds had thinned and the hotel prices were great.

Here are a few suggestions that helped us:

  1. Let each member pick something they would like to see.  We put together an itinerary so that everyone got to see or do at least one thing on their list. Nobody left disappointed.
  2. Book a hotel close to a metro stop and eating establishments.  At the end of a long day visiting the sites, you just want to get back to the hotel and find somewhere close by to eat dinner.
  3. Get connecting hotel rooms, if possible.  This made it nice for the parents to hand off the grands in the morning, so they could get a few minutes of peace and quiet before breakfast.  My granddaughter loved going back and forth through the “secret door”.
  4. Download the DC Metro Map app onto your phone.  You can get it for both Apple and Android phones.  We downloaded it onto several phones, so more than one person had the map. This proved to be very helpful.
  5. If you are planning to use the metro a lot, consider purchasing an all-day metro pass.  It pays for itself after three or four trips, depending if you travel off-peak or not.  Children 4 and under ride free.
  6. Keep the little kids in the stroller while you are in the metro station.  It is easier and safer to get on and off the train quickly if they are contained in the stroller.
  7. Bring an easily fold-able stroller and one that reclines for nap time on the go.  If you plan on using a double stroller, don’t bring one that sits side by side.  Because they are wide, it is difficult to get them on and off the metro train and they don’t easily fit through a lot of the museum doors or museum security areas.
  8. Find out ahead of time which attractions allow strollers and which ones don’t.  You can usually find this information on their websites.  For example, the Butterfly Exhibit at the Natural History Museum did not allow strollers, but had a place to store it while we were in the exhibit.
  9. Bring water and snacks for the kids (and possibly adults). Food is a bit pricey at the Smithsonian cafeterias.  Have a little something on hand to hold them over until you can find a reasonable restaurant.  The small individual bags of cookies and crackers work well.
  10. Less is more. Don’t try to cram too much into one day.  It is better to see a few things and have time left over to relax, instead of being harried, harassed and exhausted because you had to get it all in.

We had a great time and are now looking forward to our second family Christmas vacation.

Does your multi-generation family travel together?