Finally, hoteliers have figured out what you always knew: it’s much easier and more enjoyable if the extended family—including your teens and your parents—meet on a trip instead of at your house.
On a road rendezvous, you don’t have to lug junior’s hockey sticks and helmets out of the basement to make way for your parents, and you can forget about cooking, cleaning and enduring cracks about your beloved, but drooling St. Bernard. Away, all of you become “players,” golfing, hiking, horseback riding and relaxing at the destination.
It’s not just convenience that has propelled multigenerational travel into one of the hottest trends in the travel industry. Milestone celebrations such as a 50th wedding anniversary, a sixtieth birthday or a college graduation also fuel the growth.
The Preferred Hotel Group, in a recent study, discovered that 40% of U.S. leisure travelers—nearly 21 million people—took a multigenerational trip in the past year. To capture that burgeoning market, Preferred plans in 2012 to create special packages and to launch a Preferred Family website. Cruise lines and adventure outfitters have also experienced increased multigenerational family travel too and they are fine tuning their products.
But it still takes careful planning to create the vacation that you and your family will remember forever for all the right reasons. Consider these tips, many of which I learned the hard way.
Pick a vacation that works for both the youngest and the oldest family member. That might mean a place that has a children’s program for your 3-year-old grandchild, a dive site nearby for your college-age scuba enthusiast and a golf course for your father-in-law.
Make sure that those who insist on premium lodgings can get what they desire while those who want to save on rooms won’t blow their budget. Cruises and hotels with club floors and suites are good choices as are all-inclusive resorts that offer an upmarket section. Your must-have-the best mother-in-law can opt for the butler accommodations while your newly married son and his wife as well as you and your husband will be fine with standard rooms. In the past few years, Club Med’s family resorts have added up-market two-room family suites.
Consider a guided adventure vacation. These make great bonding experiences. The success of surviving a five mile uphill walk or a day of rafting class III rapids forges friendships among family members, especially since teens, with their typically better stamina, often take the lead in helping parents and grandparents along.
Safaris also rate high. Many companies offer family-friendly departures and accommodations, including And Beyond, Abercrombie & Kent, National Geographic, Smithsonian and Abenteuer Afrika Safari. Safaris are great trips for kids ages eight and older. There’s nothing quite like seeing a lanky giraffe munch from the treetops or an ostrich high-step into the sunset.
Villas are also good options as long as they provide enough space. I once made the mistake of thinking that just because I formerly shared a bedroom and a bathroom with a sister that I could do it again. My take-all-the-towels sibling returned noisily from club hopping at 3 a.m., a few hours before my then five year-old awakened.