I try to travel with my extended family every year. This summer, we visited Switzerland! My girls are young adults now, so things have changed a lot since we took our first intergenerational trip together in 2004. Now we usually do independent land tours, and the girls can handle their own luggage as well as contribute to the planning of our trips.
Trend in Travel: Intergenerational Trips
One of the hottest trends in the tourism business remains the intergenerational excursion. Intergenerational refers to events involving or affecting people of two or more generations. The tour business recognizes different generations of families want to travel together, so they are catering to the needs of those customers. Cruises designed to please all ages are multiplying. Families seeking comfortable accommodations are choosing hotels such as Marriott’s Residence Inn or house rentals through companies like VRBO. These offer a variety of sleeping arrangements and kitchen facilities. Tour companies like Smithsonian Journeys, college alumni groups and National Geographic dedicate divisions to family travel. Historic American destinations like Williamsburg, Yorktown and Boston offer activities that every member of the family can participate in, young and old.
Tour Groups, Resorts and Cruise Companies Cater to Intergenerational Travelers
The Cruise Line Industry research shows currently, only one in four passengers is a retiree. Today, cruising families dominate during school holidays. Summer and winter breaks are also busy times at inclusive resorts and dude ranches where families gather to relax, play and learn new skills.
In both cases, unpacking once reduces stress and offers more time to explore. The youngest travelers can participate in kids’ clubs, while middle school aged children love games and evening entertainment. For boredom-prone teenagers, there are sports and spa programs. Generations gather for meals or sightseeing. Many resorts and cruises offer babysitting services for adult evenings out. Spirited families might enjoy traveling in a recreational vehicle, offering freedom to stop whenever and wherever they want. They always have a place to sleep and cook. RV rentals range in cost and rental time.
There are many places to find travel advice for multigenerational families. Check out AARP Passport or the Sierra Club; both design outings in nature’s most beautiful locations. Upscale trips, like Tauck Bridges features locales like Paris and Peru for families. These tour companies are experts at organizing activities that people of all age groups can enjoy, and they split the kids and adults for certain occasions. Other excellent tour companies are Backroads, Thomson Family Adventures and Classic Journeys; all facilitate family groups and customize your tour to fit the interests of your group.
Learn Something New Together!
Consider a family fishing expedition in the Chesapeake Bay or Florida. For details, check out http://www.takemefishing.org. Think of something you love to do, and chances are there are tourist services ready to help you plan it. Coastal beach houses are a fabulous option for extended families. Read my story in Northern Virginia Magazine on things to do in the Outer Banks. Of course, living in the Nation’s Capital has shown me that families can have a very successful vacation visiting in Washington D.C. Almost all the museums are free and so are the monuments and parks. Research your Washington DC family vacation in my guidebook: The Unofficial Guide to Washington DC.
Safeguarding Your Vacation
Many experienced travelers subscribe to AAA to receive travel information and discounts. AAA has comprehensive services ranging from planning a vacation for the family to helping with travel insurance. When planning for expensive vacations, it makes sense to pay for travel insurance. Between unexpected illness and surprise scheduling conflicts, travel insurance can save you thousands after you’ve paid up front to reserve your accommodations.
Make it a Magical Gathering
A perennial favorite for grandparents with children (and parents, too) are the Disney Parks. Disney resorts attempt to please discriminating travelers, and they cater to kids better than any locale. Younger children, who aren’t ready for long hikes or city traffic, will find all the stimulation they need. Disney is mindful of people with disabilities, and the Parks are designed to accommodate strollers. Their website advertises a “Magical Gathering” program for family reunions. Check out the Unofficial Guide to Disney for more expert advice. To avoid the inevitable crowds, Disney Cruises are another option for multiple generations; you still meet the characters, see the shows and enjoy that Disney hospitality. The cruises are growing in popularity, as they voyage to the Mediterranean, Caribbean and Mexican Riviera. Now Disney has expanded into touring; http://www.adventuredisney.com has destinations throughout the world.
Close to Home but Worlds Away
For driving distance vacations in the MidAtlantic, luxury resorts such as Nemacolin Woodlands in Pennsylvania, the Homestead in Virginia, and Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia are geared toward accommodating everyone, from golfers to toddlers. All three resorts furnish families’ time to play together in warm pools, dine in a variety of restaurants and explore new hobbies. These upscale village hotels offer children’s clubs and baby-sitting. They have specialty activities; like Nemacolin’s horseback riding, rope climbing and seasonal sports. The Homestead boasts “learning made fun” with literary courses and biology studies, or for less intellectual pursuits, bowling and ice skating. The Greenbrier features a “creative curriculum” that includes entertainment like puppet shows and carriage rides.
Finding a BargainThe USA Today website publishes the annual top bargain destinations like Canada or Pittsburgh and observes that baby boomers receive less discounting today than in the past. Many Colorado ski resorts elevated the “70s ski free” policy to 80 years old. The best bargains are off-season travel, and most retirees have that option. School-age children may be unable to accompany them, but younger children and graduates can often join in anytime. Grandparents are known to indulge grandkids. Wherever you plan to go, make sure you prepare yourself and the children. Research and explain to your family what to expect. Read about your destination or search the Internet. Putting a camera/cell phone in hand quiets just about any child. Make sure you’re carrying the needed items, such as water, snacks, books, and pencil and paper for restaurant waits. Fortunately, grandchildren usually behave better with you than their own parents. For more advice on organizing a family cruise check out my article in The Boston Globe.