Family Vacation With Adult Children: Travel Itinerary Tips

Santa Barbara sunset on the Whisper.

I just returned from my August vacation, a 6-night  family trip to California to visit my oldest son Bijan and a 6-night trip to Scotland to drop off my daughter Leda for her 4th year at the University of Edinburgh. The trips were nearly back to back but both went off without a hitch.  Both trips featured lots of good times with friends and family and great   material for future writing projects.

There is always  a bit of pressure on me to craft a bang-up itinerary when we travel as a family.  Travel is what I do for a living. My four now-adult children grew up traveling along with me. Together, they are an adventuresome lot- they love the outdoors, historical attractions and great dining.  They even like museums. The kids don’t mind traveling with Mom and Dad- especially because we still foot the bill.  But they do have their conditions. As my 26-year-old son recently said, “We are not your luggage”.

The challenge always is for me is to create a trip that will please everyone at an affordable price. So here are some of the things that have worked for me over the years when choreographing a family vacation itinerary that includes adult children.

  • Make plans and do your homework. No one wants to waste vacation time standing in line for hours to buy tickets to a theme  park or wait for a table at a restaurant.  I made reservations in advance for every dinner for both trips and saved the spontaneous restaurant choices for lunch.  Besides, reservations can always be cancelled if you change your mind. For our trip to California I bought our Universal Studio tickets in advance on-line and saved a few dollars from the at-the-gate price. I also reserved our free tickets on-line and in advance to the excellent contemporary art museum The Broad.  We felt like Hollywood VIP’s as we walked by the 1 1/2 hour line for same -day tickets and waltzed right in.
  • Be realistic.  Over the years I have moved away from jam-packed itineraries. Case in point was this year’s visit to Edinburgh.  I didn’t schedule a full day’s activities for day one.  Leda and I had an overnight flight to Edinburgh and I requested (and got!)  early check-in at the Hotel Indigo  where we were able to take a shower and have a short nap.  In the afternoon, we walked over to the nearby Edinburgh Writer’s Museum  before having a light dinner at modern Scottish eatery  Checkpoint  before an early bedtime. It was a perfect first day in Edinburgh. Less really is more.


  • Bookend your trip with both a memorable start and finish.   In California, our trip started with a bang and a first night dinner and magic show at LA’s  Magic Castle . We  ended our California trip on a high note too with a with a private chartered sunset cruise of Santa Barbara’s harbor on the Whisper– it was just $99!


  • Include a variety of activities so that everyone has something to look forward to.  Whether it is just a vacation for husband and I or with the entire family, having dinner at an Iranian restaurant makes Masoud kheili happy.  Bijan is a composer (really!) and I usually include something music-related on the family vacation. It’s a great way for the rest of us to learn about his world.  Last year we saw a flamenco  performance in Malaga and two years ago,  we saw Madama Butterfly at Verona’s outdoor amphitheater- it was magical! For this year’s family trip to California, we saw Herbie Hancock perform at LA’s iconic  Hollywood Bowl. The 1920’s amphitheater is nestled in the Hollywood Hills and offers the opportunity to enjoy music outside under-the-stars. We had a pre-concert picnic on the grounds with gourmet sandwiches that we picked up from Pitchoun.


  • Know what your family likes and be prepared to adjust your expectations as your family changes. Renting a car and driving in unfamiliar cities has proven to be stressful for our family. The kids refer to Masoud and I as the “King and Queen of Lost”.  Over the years, the kids have introduced us to the benefits of using Uber instead.  The kids  and Masoud are all huge fans of hotel club lounges- for the free breakfast and especially for evening drinks. And travel  fun for my crew of  twenty-something kids often involves a vineyard, brewery or distillery tour.

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