Trips with relatives can open up relaxed time to visit, celebrate milestones like anniversaries, and carry home memories.
“Multigenerational travel is one of the fastest-growing trends in the travel industry,” said Lynn O’Rourke Hayes, editor of Familytravel.com. In 2014, 34 million multigenerational trips were taken in the U.S. and Canada, according to Roger Brooks International, a tourism consulting firm.
“It’s partly driven by the fact so many families have two-career couples. Families live in four corners of the country, and sometimes in four corners of the world,” O’Rourke Hayes said. “They’re planning these destination trips not only to visit with family, but oftentimes, research shows it’s also driven by milestone moments, maybe a 50th wedding anniversary or a 70th birthday.”
Betty Quayle, 78, is another Spokane resident who has gone with relatives on a Mexico cruise, and more recently to Sweden, Denmark and Norway. A daughter, sister, and cousin have traveled with her.
For an upcoming trip, her sister from Auburn will join her in Spokane and they’ll fly together to South Dakota, then catch a tour bus. Their stops will include Yellowstone, Teton, Bryce, Zion, and Grand Canyon national parks, ending in Nevada for a flight back.
“Going with family means you’re with somebody you know and you can depend on, and they can depend on you,” Quayle said. “And it’s just more fun.”
Linda Crump, 76, has rafted the Spokane River twice with a 13-year-old grandson. A 22-year-old grandson went with her and family to Hawaii, and Crump is planning a river cruise soon with a granddaughter, nearly 20.
“It’s important to do things with my grandchildren and the rest of my family; how much longer do I have?” said Crump, who will go to Ireland this fall with her 48-year-old daughter. Crump has traveled separately with two daughter-in-laws, one going with her to Costa Rica, and the other to Cancun.
“With each of my daughter-in-laws, I got to know them better on the trips. We really enjoyed each other’s company, sitting on our deck, having a glass of wine, and just visiting.”
Molly Gruse and Gala Payne, AAA Washington managers with a Tacoma cruise and travel division, have noticed a significant increase in multigenerational travel within the past five years.
“I’ve seen a trend in grandparents wanting to host an entire family on a vacation and really create those memories,” Gruse said. Sometimes, extended family members say they’re marking a celebration, and the trip might be a last chance for the most relatives to pull off such travel together.
Cruises remain a popular choice when the group has a wide range of ages, Payne said.
“With cruises, there are so many activities and entertainment for kids, adults and grandparents,” she said. “They can do the activities together or separately, and then come together for dinner.”
Disneyland and Disney World are popular with boomers traveling with younger generations, Payne said, or they work with Tauck, a tour operator that’s designed multigenerational trips to different destinations. Another AAA partner for such packages is Trafalgar Family Experiences, Gruse said.
“They have great itineraries designed for multigenerational families to all go on vacation together,” Gruse said. “Most of them are pre-designed, but people have a number of options.”
O’Rourke Hayes described bonds built during trips involving her extended family, with her father sharing his passion for fishing with the younger generation at the east end of Long Island and in northern Michigan.
Her top tips include: Families should consider a destination that offers activities for all ages and with separate rooms so members can have adequate rest and some separate quiet times.
“It’s great to come up with a destination or vacation plan where there’s one central thing that is fun for everyone,” she said.
For example, the beach is a stop most ages enjoy. Vacations might include a dude ranch for a common love of horses, or a golf resort if that’s a favorite family activity. Historic and heritage tours are other options, such as taking the clan to Ireland or Sweden if ancestors are from there.
“Family bonds are really important, the shared history, and enabling the next generation to get together,” O’Rourke Hayes said. “Even if it’s playing board games or sitting on the beach and building sand castles, doing simple things; those are the times when the best conversations take place.”
TIPS FOR FAMILY TRAVEL
Make multigenerational family travel go more smoothly, with hints from Lynn O'Rourke Hayes, Familytravel.com editor.
• Unload or divide chores. If a trip involves the group preparing meals, plan a strategy so that chores don’t fall to one or two people. Perhaps go to a resort that’s all inclusive with meals, divide chores, or plan to have easier meals in a kitchenette while going out for dinners.
• Unplug? Families should consider technology boundaries before travel time together. “Sometimes cousins from Des Moines are big on watching R-rated movies, but the California cousins aren’t,” O’Rourke Hayes said. “For cellphone use, have some understanding. The whole idea is to get together for conversation, so maybe at meal time, technology gets tucked away.”
• Balance “down time” and scheduled activities. Considering group size, part of the fun can be in planning. Families can pass out assignments to do research and design itinerary ideas. “If you don’t have some plan, then the first half of everyday is, ‘What do we do?’” added O’Rourke Hayes. Consider ages and activity abilities, so perhaps choose an easier hike.
• Come together, allow apart. Although the purpose is for families to visit, relatives need options for some time apart. Toddlers and seniors have needs for naps, early bedtimes or quiet, O’Rourke Hayes said. More hotels and resorts, recognizing travel trends, offer adjoining rooms or family studios with a common space and separate bedrooms. Grandparents might need a break from noise and toddlers.
“I always suggest accommodations in a location or in a way where everyone can have time to come together, and so that people can go back to a room and have some rest. In that regard, cruise ships and resorts are great.”
• Plan sleep. Offer older travelers the better bed in a beach house rental that’s in a quiet corner. Travelers can inquire about a rental’s mattress quality. Think twice before letting cousins camp on the floor. “If people aren’t sleeping, they’re going to be extra cranky.”
• Who pays for what. Some grandparents pay for vacations as a gift, but families splitting costs should discuss while planning how to do that equitably. “It’s important to be respectful of other people’s budget limitations in planning. Try to get people to agree in advance.”