Now you've chosen your family heritage trail approach, next comes the most important part: Plan to make it fun for the younger generations. They will be enthused to see the house where you grew up…for about 5 minutes. But if you go armed with photos and stories about that corner of the yard where you fell out of the tree and broke your arm, or the kid who lived in the apartment upstairs who ended up being a state senator, or the obnoxious neighbor who chased your dog with a broom, they'll be a whole lot more engaged.
Try these tweaks to make your vacation fun, comfortable, and memorable for the whole family:
- Map it out—visually. Create a map with the celebrated key points of interest in your family's heritage. It can be a town map, a U.S. map, or a world map, depending on your approach.
- Talk about then as compared to now. Be prepared with stories about your personal and family history that bring the places you visit to life. Bring photos taken back in the time in which family members lived there. Before the trip, you can also involve the kids in researching the places you'll visit.
- Make it fun. Create a scavenger hunt in which an item has to be collected from each site you visit. Play family-heritage bingo with cards you make ahead of time that include photos of the places you'll visit. Create a quiz about your personal or family history that includes facts your clan will learn along the trail.
- Allow for spontaneity. As with all multigenerational travel, don't over-schedule your time. Leave some open time for the interesting side-trip to see the world's largest rubber-band ball or to a playground where little ones can burn off excess energy.
- Do your due diligence. While your family's historic sites will be the focus of your trip, it's a good idea to intersperse a few new activities that are fun for all ages.
- Read up on multigenerational travel basics. For example, bring portable games or books as backup entertainment for rainy days, balance physical activity with more low-key activities, plan for varying energy levels, bring the right equipment for grandbabies, and remember the snacks!
- Document the memories you make. Take photos and video. You may never have this opportunity again, so don't miss it. Make a scrapbook as you go, adding keepsakes every night. Tape a family radio show along the way, describing what the older and younger family members see from their own perspectives.
In my 25 years working with families, the saddest thing to me is when I hear a grandchild say that she never knew an interesting or fun fact about her grandparent because she never thought to ask. Don't wait for the kids to ask about their family heritage! Take them to it, make it real, and bring it to life. Tell us about the creative ways you meet the Great Family Heritage Trail Vacation Challenge!