The Secret to Planning Successful Family Vacations with College Students and Young Adult Children

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Travel with young adult children in Jamaica.
Successfully getting the family together in Jamaica. Photo credit: Kim Orlando / SheBuysTravel

Family vacations are not over just because your kids grow up. Once the kids head off to college or get their first job, the vacation dynamic will change but it can be for the better. SheBuysTravel Kim Orlando has two kids in college and one who is starting his career. She put her foot down (along with her credit card) and pulled off a family vacation with college students and a young adult. Here are her tips to help you do it, too.

Planning Family Vacations with College Students & Young Adults

Two years. That is how long it took to get all five of my family members–two working adults, one recent college grad, one still-in-college student and one about-to-enter-college student–together for a trip. It didn’t matter how enticing the trip was, I couldn’t get them to commit. A cruise to Europe couldn’t do it. A rafting trip in Utah couldn’t do it. Threats of serious consequences couldn’t do it.

Finally, I stumbled on the secret to planning family vacations with college students and young adults: Finding a date that works, not a destination that entices.

Everyone in my family has commitments: new full time job, summer camp, part-time work. All legitimate reasons for being “too busy for a family vacation.” At least that is how I rationalized it last year.

What I didn’t realize until Year 2 of “too busy for a family vacation” is that we were setting a very bad precedent. We were making time for other commitments: weddings, graduations, funerals. But we couldn’t find time for fun together as a family. I also didn’t realize how angry that would make me feel.

I did not want my next family get-together to be at a funeral.

My three young adult children. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

Why Family Vacations with College Students & Young Adults?

Three simple words: bringing everyone together. My son has lived away from home for the past four years, my daughter for the past two and my youngest was so busy with high school activities that we just high fived in the hallway. Who are these people? I knew their financial and nutritional needs but who are they within our family dynamic? What is our family dynamic now, with these young adult versions of the kids we raised? We needed time away from our daily routines to reconnect.

I started in February by sending out a bulletin to all family members telling them to block out May 26-31. We would take advantage of Memorial Day weekend and the end of the college year for a family vacation.

We were tempted to cancel or change plans several times. My college grad wanted to take a trip to California before he started his full-time job. While the youngest was asked to join a special group at school for a dinner during that week, and my daughter could not job hunt until we got back.

But I stuck to my guns. The college grad took his trip later; the special dinner went on without my son and my daughter got an online job.

Where Are the Best Spots for Family Vacations with College Students?

Now that I had everyone committed, the question became: Where do we go?

Five days is not a lot of time for a family vacation, so I didn’t want to spend a lot of time traveling. I looked for a destination that was an easy 2-3 hour flight away, affordable for five, and exciting for the whole family.

On the list: Quebec City (we would drive), Bahamas, North Carolina, and Jamaica. We chose a family-friendly all-inclusive in Jamaica, for a lot of reasons: I had not been there since 19 * cough cough * 84, it was only a 2-hour flight, we could fly from our “neighborhood airport” (White Plains, NY) and the beaches and water are beautiful. We used points from flights and our travel rewards credit card to book our flights. Our all-inclusive lodging was provided by Moon Palace Jamaica and the Hyatt Palladium.

Read More: Is an All-Inclusive Vacation Right for Your Family?

Travel with young adult children in Jamaica.
Enjoying family time in Jamaica. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

Jamaica: Family Vacations with College Students and Young Adults

Jamaica was not on everyone’s A-list. My husband was very reluctant to go. His research indicated that Jamaica was totally unsafe for foreigners. The country has gotten a lot of media attention because of some gang-related activity in Montego Bay and Kingston. Several well-meaning friends warned us about articles they had read.

Other friends who have been to Jamaica recently told me not to worry. “Treat it like any other foreign place: be alert, lock up valuables and book excursions with reputable companies,” they said.

Certainly, when we were on the resort property at Moon Palace Jamaica Grande, we felt perfectly safe. The people we met were warm, eager to serve and upset by the negative media treatment. The people who work in or who are affected by tourism (and that is a large part of the population) go out of their way to make visitors welcome.

Walking Around Ocho Rios, Jamaica

The atmosphere did change when we left Moon Palace for a walk into town. Every few feet someone asked me if I wanted my hair braided or if I wanted to buy some knick-knacks. But no one was scary and I did not feel threatened in any way. We felt very comfortable walking to the grocery store to buy local candy and some peppercorn to make jerk sauce.

I became friendly with a Jamaican mom who said our young adult kids would be safe walking into Ocho Rios on their own. And I told her that her kids would be safe walking around New York City alone. But I did not send them alone into town to shop and she said she would not be comfortable sending her kids to walk around NYC alone. Chalk it up to fear of the unknown, protective parenting… whatever. You have to do what gives you peace of mind.

My kids, who are now young adults, were perfectly fine not going into town. There was plenty to do at the resort. And, they are all 18 or older now, which meant open bar exploration at the all-inclusive resorts–another secret to planning successful family vacations with college students and young adults!

Kim Orlando, founder of SheBuysTravel, is a lifelong traveler, an entrepreneur and a sought-after social media and marketing consultant. She has made hundreds of appearances on TV and in digital and print media, sharing advice and tips built on decades of travel experiences. Hailing from the hills of Kentucky and taking her story to New York, Los Angeles, and beyond, Kim built an online platform, the original TravelingMom, that has reached millions of moms and empowered them to explore the world with their families. Today, TravelingMom has evolved into SheBuysTravel. Kim has been featured on “News Nation,” “Today,” “Good Morning America” and on numerous satellite media tours. She has contributed travel guidance to outlets including The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal and more. (Read more about Kim’s media appearances here) Her travel mantra is simple: All travel counts. “You don’t have to go far. Leaving your home is travel,” Kim says. “Wherever you go, even just to the next town over, you can learn something new, see someone and something you haven’t seen before. “It’s good for the brain and good for the soul.” An epiphany in early parenthood started Kim on the journey that led to SheBuysTravel. She’d been a fan of a newsletter for women travelers, and she saw an opportunity. “I thought something like that for moms could be extraordinarily helpful,” she said. “I was traveling for work, traveling for fun, and I was looking for support.” That seed grew into the award-winning website TravelingMom, created as a resource for traveling families of all stripes. Today, TravelingMom has evolved into SheBuysTravel, with an expanded mission to serve women travelers at any stage of life. Millions of readers have visited the site for trip planning help, travel secrets, destination information and gear recommendations. What sets SheBuysTravel’s content apart, Kim says, is its foundation in real-world experience. “Our writers and editors have actually gone out there and done this stuff,” she says. “They’ve booked the flights, tried the tour, tested travel clothing, visited that new hot spot to see if it’s worth the hype. It’s all real.” Memorable Adventures A 2022 tour Kim guided to Bhutan was a particularly standout experience. “Bhutan sounds so exotic, of course,” she said. “But the part where my heart just glows and warms is thinking of the people we met – amazing women doing amazing things in Bhutan.” Their ranks included a former police officer whose ventures into food science helped mitigate food insecurity for residents of Bhutan’s highlands. Top Tips Planning for travel can be daunting, Kim acknowledges. “I always say: Go anyway. No trip is going to be perfect. There’s always going to be something you didn’t expect, something that doesn’t go the way you pictured or planned it. And that something is what’s going to make it a great trip.” And on a practical note: “Go early! Getting to the airport or hitting the road just an hour earlier relieves so much stress.” Kim’s Background Kim, a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management, holds degrees in finance and entrepreneurship and has deep experience in developing and running businesses. Her previous work includes developing and running communications workshops and overseeing document management for corporations. SheBuysTravel hits a sweet spot where Kim’s two loves of travel and entrepreneurship meet. “The longer I work in this field, I only want to do more,” she says. “I find the travel world so exciting – not just the trips, but the whole online world of travel. There are still so many opportunities.” The World Awaits “The ‘best trip ever’ probably won’t be the same for an empty-nester or mom of three versus a single woman celebrating a bachelorette party with her friends,” Kim says. “We want to keep it real for traveling women, no matter what their age, life stage, where they came from or where they’re going. “We want to inspire women to travel in any shape or form.” In her free time, Kim enjoys visiting her adult kids, creating trips and traveling with her BFFs to explore the world. Her most recent adventures can be found on InstagramFacebook and LinkedIn.
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One response

  1. We are planning a family vacation with 2 college students. The information on Jamaica is very helpful. As four adults, my husband & I, a son and a daughter; I could used advice on getting the most form our dollar when configuring the rooms. Ideally, a 3 bedroom suite would be nice to be all together. That does not appear to be an option at all inclusive resorts. any recommendations?

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