Bonding for all ages: How to plan an enjoyable multigenerational holiday


  • Family
  • Monday, 06 Nov 2023

Their 10-day road trip in New Zealand remains Suriani Azhar’s family's favourite trip. — Photos: SURIANI AZHAR

GLOBAL experts may have predicted that 2023 is the year of solo travel – after two years of post-Covid-19 revenge holiday – but Malaysians are still very much a fan of family trips, with extended families often included in the party.

Travel platform Traveloka’s data shows that flight bookings by big groups of Malaysians have almost doubled from January to September this year, compared to the same period last year.

Traveloka president Caesar Indra says the trend of multigenerational travel has amplified post-pandemic, brought about by a heightened appreciation of families and time spent together. “Families are now actively planning for multigenerational travel as people value the time they spend with one another,” he adds.

He says what makes it more convenient for big families to travel is the availability of a wide range of digital payment services, even for last-minute bookings, something the middle generation of the travelling group engage in.

“Technology has given rise to a greater demand for convenience and connected experiences. With more travel platforms offering digital journeys, families can easily browse options, even at the eleventh hour, and are more likely to go on vacations,” Indra says.

Suriani's siblings take their children to theme parks in Dubai, while their parents enjoy a city tour.Suriani's siblings take their children to theme parks in Dubai, while their parents enjoy a city tour.

Family tradition

For Suriani Mohd Azhar, 37, and her four siblings, whose parents have been taking them on holidays since they were young, multigenerational travel is just a matter of continuing their family tradition.

Even now, when three of her siblings have their own children, they still travel together as a group of 16.

“While my father still calls the shots on where and when we go, our family holidays now mostly collide with the business trips he and my siblings take,” says the lawyer.

“Three of my siblings and their spouses work in my father’s telecommunications services company, so when they have to travel for work, we will double it as a family holiday. We did that for Dubai, Amsterdam and Paris,” she adds.

Like Suriani, public relations manager Nurul Hanna Hussein Shah, 36, and her siblings have also been travelling locally and internationally since they were kids. “But once we started college, our holidays abroad became less,” she says.

So when her parents relocated to Dubai in 2011, leaving Nurul Hanna and her siblings in Malaysia, they used the opportunity to revive their passion for travel.

“It’s a meaningful way for us to bond, given that we seldom see each other. We make it a point to travel together at least once a year,” she says, adding that they have gone to different parts of Europe, Japan, Oman and Turkiye.

For their young family, Loong Wai Pooi, 32, and husband Edward Chin want to create their own family tradition of going on family holidays which include their extended family members.

“We just started this three years ago, and all our family holidays are planned to include my parents and sister,” says the mother of two girls, aged one and three.

So far, the staff nurse has taken her family on short road trips to Melaka and Sekinchan, and to Penang and Cameron Highlands.

Nurul Hanna (second from left) with her family in Dubai last year. — NURUL HANNA HUSSEIN SHAHNurul Hanna (second from left) with her family in Dubai last year. — NURUL HANNA HUSSEIN SHAH

Plan and prepare

A 2010 study published in the Journal of Applied Research in Quality of Life says that planning or anticipating a trip is the happiest part of one’s vacation and Suriani agrees on this finding.

“That happiness in anticipation can go for a few months to years, depending on the budget. The bigger the budget, the more time we took to plan,” she says, adding her family took almost two years to plan for their trip to New Zealand in 2018.

Suriani has all her family members shoulder the ground work. “Everyone has tasks. My research-loving mother is our treasurer, my two brothers will handle on-site logistics since they travel abroad a lot, my second brother and his wife will handle food while I have my hands on the itinerary,” she explains.

One might think that domestic holidays are easier to plan but Loong disagrees: “It takes us months to plan our holidays. But then again, my sister, who usually takes on the task of planning, is very detailed and diligent.”

“We usually ensure everyone has their leave approved before we decide on the dates and duration of our holiday,” she adds.

Nurul Hanna says she loves planning and organising her family trips and it typically takes her three months to get it all done.

“The process was relatively straightforward before I had my daughter, Aamina Aynara, two. Now, it is more challenging as I need to take into account her nap schedule, safety and comfort, as well as her interests,” she says.

Planning a trip with a toddler, she adds, requires more time and consideration, from determining the best flight time to ensuring her comfort and finding ways to keep her content so that other passengers aren’t disturbed.

“Detailed planning is often needed if young children or ageing parents are part of the trip, but technology has reshaped how consumers plan and now an app can help you do this fast and easily,” says Indra.

Loong (seated, right) with her family in Melaka. She travels with her sister and their parents. — LOONG WAI POOLoong (seated, right) with her family in Melaka. She travels with her sister and their parents. — LOONG WAI POO

Give and take

A personalised itinerary that takes in every group member’s preference and needs is what a multigenerational family holiday needs.

“It’s about finding balance where everyone is able to give and take. It is important for the designer of the itinerary to know everyone in the group,” says Nurul Hanna.

She, for instance, would include shopping for her father and sightseeing for her mother as they enjoy these activities.

New to travel planning, Loong gets input from her family members who would share their preferences in a group chat. “We try to include everyone’s needs and preferences in the itinerary but lucky for us, we love the same things; cafe hopping and food hunting,” she says.

To be fair to everybody, she says, the food should appeal to everyone’s tastebuds, from old school kopitiam and dim sum breakfast to hipster cafes and restaurants.

“We tend to maximise the number of places we visit, especially when we are only on a short holiday, but in the end, compromise is what binds us together,” says Loong.

Suriani adds some down time in a day’s itinerary for her family members (especially those with children) and her parents, to recharge.

“Travelling can be physically tiring, so I need to consider everyone’s energy level too. It is better to spend more time at one place than to rush everywhere and not enjoy the experience,” she says.

She also allocates a free-and-easy day for everyone to do what they are not able to do as a group. “The only way to manage the gap of preference is to give and take,” Suriani says.

Indra says as much at the industry is enthusiastic about technology, the beating heart of travel will always be people. “The way forward is to prioritise personalisation for travellers, while continuing to innovate the industry,” he adds.

Indra says the beating heart of travel will always be people. — TravelokaIndra says the beating heart of travel will always be people. — Traveloka

Off we go

The moment the family reaches the airport, Suriani says, her brothers would take charge. “From arranging airport transfer to checking in into our accommodation and familiarising with the surrounding area, they do them all,” she says.

Her family, Suriani says, prefers a hotel to vacation home. “After a full day of tours with everyone, we need our own space to rest and relax. It is also easier for us to manage our own family,” she adds.

Armed with a thoroughly crafted itinerary, the family has no problem going on tours themselves, ditching private tours.

“Self-driving allows us to experience and explore the destinations without any time restriction. But we will take a private tour if it is more practical and convenient for us,” she says.

During their holiday in Dubai, Suriani and her siblings booked a full-day Dubai tour for their parents while they took the children to the theme parks.

Unlike Suriani, Nurul Hanna says her family prefers vacation homes which allow them to cook their meals or give them the flexibility to dine in when halal food options are limited.

“When you travel with a large family that include little children, it is all about being prepared. We would bring along familiar food like rice, canned sardines and even instant noodles,” she says.

To move around, her family prefers driving or taking public transport as driver service and private tours can be costly.

Loong, on the other hand, is open to the idea of staying in a hotel or an apartment. “We are fine as long as it is clean and affordable. Reading the reviews of the potential lodging helps us to decide too,” she says.

Treating their itinerary more like a list of plans, her small family also prefers to drive as it gives them the freedom to stop at any time, before moving on to the next item on the list. “Taking the wrong route means a longer travelling time, but sometimes this makes us discover new places,” she adds.

Best spots

Of all their trips, Suriani says the family unanimously agrees that New Zealand is their favourite. “The 2018 trip was the first for many things for us. We rented four caravans and drove ourselves for 10 days, and everyone took on their duties very well,” she says.

“It was so well-executed that even my grandfather, who joined us for the trip said that we worked like an army troop,” Suriani says.

Even though the family had just came back from their holiday in Turkiye two months ago, Suriani says they are now planning to go to Harbin, China for its International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival next year.

Nurul Hanna and her family love Japan, so since 2011, they have been going back annually to visit different prefectures. “We love the food, friendly people, efficient transportation system and the safety that the country consistently provides,” she says.

But personally, Nurul Hanna has fond memories of her Turkiye trip as it was her first holiday with her parents and daughter. Her family has their eyes set on visiting either Norway or Scotland in the later part of next year, followed by a caravan road trip in New Zealand.

Even though it is their hometown, Loong has no issues going back to Penang whenever they have long leave.

“As we are all food lovers, Penang is an obvious choice for a holiday. It’s a food paradise with an endless variety of delicious food, from hawker centres to cafes,” she says.

On their future holiday plans, Loong says they are planning a special birthday trip next July to celebrate the birthdays of her parents, sister, youngest daughter and herself.

According to Traveloka, the top domestic destinations favoured by Malaysians are Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu and Langkawi, while Jakarta, Bangkok and Medan are the most popular Indonesian destinations.

“These places are home to family-friendly attractions such as amusement parks, indoor activities and nature-related sites. More importantly, these destinations also offer a range of rentals like villas or homestays that have child-friendly or accessible facilities within their budget,” Indra says.

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