As more and more families find themselves spread across the country, multigenerational vacations have become a popular way to spend time together while also enjoying some of the world's most beautiful destinations. Here's how to pull it off without disrupting family harmony.
This summer create family bonds the easy way: take a multigenerational trip. Vacations that bring together grandparents, their adult children, as well as the grandkids rank among 2015’s hottest travel trends. Some 36% of American families said they planned to take a 3-generation trip by mid-2015, according to a 2014 AAA poll.
Typically it’s the grandparents, whether working Baby Boomers or retirees, who gather their clan, often choosing guided adventures. On these you and your brood enjoy activities as diverse as hiking rainforests in Costa Rica, horseback riding across fields in Canada, seeing geysers and fumaroles at Yellowstone National Park, or exploring castles in Austria and ice caves in Germany.
“Families are learning together, trying something new and the adults don’t have to make any decisions about lodging, restaurants, transportation, and activities. That eliminates the stress,” says Dan Austin, Austin Adventures’ president, who notes that the company’s multigenerational trips have increased 10-15% every year for the last 5 years. “When being active, kids and parents put down their iPhones and engage with each other because they are out of their comfort zone.”
“With families spread out across the country, vacations are the prime time to get together,” says Kathy Stewart, spokesperson for adventure tour operator Butterfield & Robinson. “Our private trips are seeing a massive increase in multigenerational groups.”
Here are some great multigenerational adventures for you and your family.
Yellowstone National Park: Austin Adventures
Spot elk, bison, and bighorn sheep, soak in a natural hot spring, hike through pine forests, and watch Old Faithful shoot spray into the starry night on Austin’s popular Yellowstone Family Adventure.
“Often the grandkids and the grandparents are at the same level of activity so the trip provides a good bonding experience. A 4-mile hike might be perfect for the 70-year-olds and the 7-year-old while the 12-year-old and his parents will do the 8-mile hike,” says Dan Austin, Austin Adventures’ president. Family departures typically close out at 18 people, but for families of 12 or more, Austin prefers to create a private trip. Austin’s guide to guest ratio is 1:6.
The 6 day/5 night trip, with departures in June, July, and August starts at $2,298 for adults. The first child sharing lodging with an adult receives a 10% discount, and the second child sharing receives a 20% discount.
Austin Adventures offers family trips and custom departures in North America, Europe, Central America, South America, and Africa. (800) 575-1540; www.austinadventures.com
Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic: Adventures by Disney
Stroll centuries old castles and gardens, tour an ice cave, visit The Sound of Music film locations, and go backstage to see the horses at the famous Spanish Riding School. Adventures by Disney packs in hands-on activities, including creating marionettes in Prague; pretzel-making in Berchtesgaden, Germany; and waltz lessons in Vienna. The trip maximum group size ranges from 36-44 with a guide/guest ratio of about 1:18 guests.
The 9 day/8 night trip specifically for multigenerational families runs August 14-22 and September 18-26. Rates start at $4,999 per adult and $4,749 per child. Although 4 years old is the minimum age, the suggested minimum age is 6 years old. Extended families are welcome on the regular family departures in June, July, and August.
Adventures by Disney schedules trips in Asia, Africa and Australia, Central and South America, Europe and North America. (888) 272-0571; www.adventuresbydisney.com
Costa Rica: Butterfield & Robinson
Explore volcanoes and coffee plantations, kayak rivers, horseback ride to waterfalls, glide through treetops on a zipline, and relax in a hammock with views of the Pacific. Along the way see monkeys, toucans, wild parakeets, and maybe even sloths.
Butterfield & Robinson spokesperson Kathy Stewart says “Many multigenerational groups go on private departures because they can find dates that suit everyone in the family. We tailor the activities to the group.” The trip ratio is typically 1:6.
The custom 9 day/8 night trip starts at $5,995 per person. Ecuador and the Galapagos is another popular custom trip. B&R offers family vacations and custom departures, often biking or multi-sport trips in many destinations, including Morocco, Vietnam and Cambodia, Iceland, Normandy and the Loire Valley. (866) 551-9090; www.butterfield.com
Grand Canyon National Park: REI Adventures
See crystal formations in underground caverns, search for fossils in the canyon’s walls, swim in waterfalls, and splash in the turquoise streams at the base of Grand Canyon. REI’s Grand Canyon--Havasu Falls Family Adventure leads you on a carefully orchestrated hike to the Grand Canyon’s base to explore its jewel, Havasu Falls. The maximum group size is 16 and the guide/guest ratio is usually 1:8.
“Our guided trips provide an opportunity for all the details to be taken care of so the adults can relax stress free,” says Cynthia Dunbar, REI spokesperson.
The 6 day/5 night trip, with departures in March, April, June, July and August, starts at $2,699 per person. $400 discount possible for children.
REI offers family adventures in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America. (800) 622-2236. www.rei.com
Additional Great Multigenerational Trips
Villas and condominiums: Choose a high-end Caribbean villa, and savor breakfast prepared by your private cook and served to you poolside by your butler. While you and your family dine and discuss the day’s plans, the maid tidies up and does your laundry. Such services take the work out of your multigenerational vacation.
While not all villas and condos come staffed, most offer more space and privacy for the money than do hotel rooms. Even simple rentals come with home comforts such as kitchens and living areas, important for snacks, meals, and simply hanging out together. Some budget condominiums require a drive to the beach, offer just a 2-burner stove and only have air conditioning in the bedroom. (Always ask).
Not only do rental prices and the quality of the accommodations vary widely depending on the location and amenities, but rental companies may operate differently. FlipKey and HomeAway, mega-rental sites, typically do not inspect their listings. Instead, their sites function as marketplaces where owners and renters meet. Smaller rental agencies such as WIMCO Villas, inspect their properties and can book day trips and restaurant meals and perform other concierge services. A representative meets you at your villa, acquaints you with the property, and goes over your pre-arranged itinerary. WIMCO focuses on luxury properties, many of which are in the Caribbean, and some in Europe.
Cruises: Select the right ship and the right sailing and no family member will be bored. Child-friendly vessels feature day-long supervised activities for kids, hip-hop parties for teens, late-night discos for millennials, and sports bars, spas, and special shore tours for seniors. Forget about arguing over lodging or drink fees. Relatives with deep pockets can book suites while those on a budget can select interior cabins.
Royal Caribbean International wows multigenerational families with its variety of activities. Zip lines, Broadway musicals, FlowRiders (surf simulators), rock walls, and ice skating rinks keep gradeschoolers through grandparents engaged and the DreamWorks characters dazzle little kids on Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, and the newly refurbished Freedom of the Seas. Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, to launch in April, add simulated skydiving, and bumper cars.
Dude ranches: Whether you are trotting along a woodsy path listening to the crackle of horses' hooves on the fallen pine needles or savoring the meadow’s edged by snow-capped mountain peaks on a scenic ride, a dude ranch offers ample extended-family fun both in and out of the saddle, as long as you pick the right place.
Three Bars Ranch owns their own horses (that means wranglers know the steads’ personalities). Rated one of the top 10 dude ranches in North America, Three Bars offers guided trail rides and lessons for adults as well as for kids 6 years and older.
Ride twice a day, once a day, or not at all. There’s no pressure. Off-the-horse activities included in the fee are whitewater rafting, fly fishing, trap shooting, mountain biking, swimming, and playing tennis.
The ranch accommodates about 40 guests in 21 log cabins. Sprawled on 1200-acres in the spectacular Canadian Rocky Mountains with access to 60,000 more acres, Three Bars Ranch is 2 hours south of Banff National Park and one hour north of Glacier National Park, known as Waterton on the Canadian side.
Tips for Planning a Multigenerational Trip
5 Questions to Ask Before Booking a Villa or Condo
5 Items to Consider Before Sharing a Villa or Condo
Don’t assume that blood is thicker than family feuds. To avoid arguments, discuss the following ahead of time: