Children, parents, and grandparents traveling together is far from a new concept. But “multigenerational” travel in the past has mostly been limited to things such as a family beach trip, where everyone goes to a relatively nearby and familiar location.
Often these days, three generations of family members are getting together and going to places more far flung, exotic, and life-changing. As you can imagine, planning these multigenerational trips is challenging in more ways than one! To get you dreaming and hopefully planning your own once-in-a-lifetime, upscale multigenerational trip, here are some tips and things to consider.
When to Start Planning
If the grandparents are still relatively active and the children are school-age and up, there’s really no time like the present to start planning. In most cases, start the ball rolling a year to 18 months ahead of time to ensure that everyone can participate. Send out an exploratory email to all the major parties to gauge interest or perhaps do as Anne Chamblee of Greensboro, NC and her extended family did and start discussing things when together over the holidays or for another family gathering. “My parents had brought the Thomson Family Adventures catalogue and the adults looked through it and tossed around ideas.”
On a practical note for planning trips to foreign countries, be sure to plan far enough ahead that everyone can obtain or update their passports. “It’s good to start planning at least six months in advance, as some countries require visas,” says Chamblee. Her family would ultimately decide to visit Tanzania and Egypt together in July 2010.
Choosing Where to Go
For Chamblee’s family, Egypt wasn’t brought up as an option during that initial discussion among the two older generations while sitting around the porch. Later, unbeknownst to the adults, the younger generation started looking through the catalogue, she explains. “They asked if we could go to Egypt. They had all either studied Egypt or were about to study Egypt in school, so they could really relate to the sites.”
At that time in 2009, the three generations would range in age from 10 to their 70s at the time of travel. The biggest concern about Tanzania and Egypt was the desert heat. “July was a time all of us could go. Although it was hot, we read in USA Today when we were there that it was even hotter on the east coast of the US!”
Depending on everyone’s ages and relative health, other things besides individual whims and weather to consider when weighing the options obviously need to include safety. Chamblee explains that working with a company like Thomson was invaluable when planning a trip to these destinations, where it was important to know that safety was going to be addressed and that all logistics were going to be taken care of. The company provided the group with a plain clothes guard to travel with them. For groups traveling with younger children, where there inevitably will be concerns that arise ahead of time, Thomson Family Adventures provides a mentor.
Other things to consider when picking a destination are logistics and proximity to a major airport. For instance, if thinking about Caribbean locations, perhaps choose to stay put on the island you fly into, instead of one that requires a puddle jumper and a boat ride to reach.
All inclusive resorts are a particularly good choice for families with young children. Among Caribbean islands with direct flights from the US with all inclusive family resorts are the Turks and Caicos, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic.
Proximity to good emergency healthcare is often very important to aging parents, as well as to parents of young children. It’s more likely everyone will jump on the idea if you’ve taken some time to address these concerns ahead of presenting the options. For help in picking out the perfect destination to suit your multigenerational trip, consult with the Plum Deluxe travel concierge.
Working With a Budget
Be sure to discuss finances up front. Even if you are among the lucky few where Grandma and Granddad are going to be footing a good chunk of the bill, be specific and forthcoming with cost estimates and budgets. Will everyone be paying their own transportation costs? How about meal expenses?
Villa rentals are often a good value for large groups, and are a particularly good bet for visiting European locations such as France, Spain, or Italy. Whether considering a villa, hotel, or a group tour, be sure to inquire about group discounts for lodging and various services.
Enlisting professionals such as travel planners and tour guides to various degrees along the way may be advisable for optimizing both time and dollars. When planning far flung trips, consider custom and group travel planners such as the one Chamblee and her family worked with for their multigenerational trips to Tanzania/Egypt and most recently to Ecuador and the Galapagos. Besides Thomsen, a company that specializes in these kind of family and multigenerational trips is Tauck, with its Tauck Bridges.
If planning your trip more independently, consider hiring a tour guide for a day or two who can best address everyone’s unique needs, and be sure you take full advantage of a given location. Cruises and villas that offer concierge services are excellent options for multigenerational travel.
Un-Cruise Adventures, which offers small ship adventure cruises in Alaska, Hawaii, and the Sea of Cortez, are designed to meet the needs of a wide age range, including sometimes challenging-to-please teenagers. For villa rentals in Europe, it is popular to arrange for a private chef to come to the home to prepare dinner and/or conduct cooking classes.
Whatever direction planning takes, be sure to keep everyone in the family informed and involved every step of the way.
The Daily Itinerary
Emphasize teamwork and participation throughout the process, setting a tone for the trip as being a time of familial celebration.The goal is for no one to feel as if they are just along for the ride. A child wanting everyone to go on the tourist boat is just as important as Grandma wanting to take a cooking class or Uncle Jim wanting to lounge by the pool. Last, but definitely not least, be sure to include plenty of down time into the schedule.
Perhaps start a planning committee with members from each participating family and generation on board. “My mother was the point person for Egypt with Thomson and my sister and me. The company has pre-set itineraries and you are able to work with them and change any of the activities that don’t suit your family,” says Chamblee. “For our recent trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos, I was the point person.”
Among the Chamblee group’s favorite memories are riding up Mount Sinai on camelback and celebrating the grandparents’ 50th anniversary on a river boat on the Nile. “They had a belly dancer, and later a special wedding/anniversary dance for my parents and we (the rest of the family) all joined them on the dance floor. Unforgettable!” says Chamblee.
Upon the return home, don’t forget to keep the family bonding going over sharing the memories. Ahead of your trip, perhaps set up a Flickr group or a Facebook page.
“Mom is Facebook friends with all the grandchildren, which means for better or worse, she gets to see the college party pictures too,” says Chamblee. Following the trip, her mother made each family a hardback book of favorite pictures with Shutterfly.
Once on the scene of this great multigenerational trip you’ve been planning, let go! Remember that as with all things travel and family, things won’t go exactly as planned. Be flexible and set a tone of knowing that your time together is a true gift, and everyone will undoubtedly return home with memories that will last a lifetime.
Photo Credits: Anne Chamblee, mixikids, fredcamino, fredcamino, and Darnok.