I believe that travel holds at least some of the keys to better personal relationships, better health, stronger families, well-educated and independent children, and clarity of your worldview. If these are the reasons you travel as well, multigenerational is something to consider.
Definition of multigenerational travel
What exactly are we talking about? It’s really a fancy name for traveling with kids, parents, grandparents, and/or extended family or friends. Most often we are referring to more than two generations traveling together, but even two counts. So every time you have traveled with someone of another generation, it was multi-gen traveling. That could mean you and your kids, you and your grandkids, you and your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or just friends born in a different generation.
It gets quite a bit of media attention as if it’s something new when the reality is that it is the predominant form of travel for travel’s sake across the globe, and has been for centuries.
Why travel this way
Other than the fact that it’s a natural choice to want to take loved ones of various generations with you on a trip, there are benefits you may not have thought about.
Taking your kids on a trip is an obvious decision, but have you considered how everyone benefits if you also take along your parents? You get help with entertainment, help with security, and someone to commiserate with at the end of a frenetic day spent chasing your offspring.
We used to take at least one trip per year with my mother-in-law so that our daughter got to spend one-on-one time with grandma because visits to her house always included a passel of cousins vying for her attention. Plus, we had the bonus of a built-in babysitter if we wanted to venture out on our own.
You and your parents can benefit from traveling together because it eliminates the “home field” advantage that can sometimes make visiting one another’s homes stressful.
And traveling with family members (think aunts, uncles, and cousins) you don’t often see might be a brilliant way to connect around a common passion.
There’s also a definite benefit in the fact that we tend to relax some rules when we travel. It works as a stress reliever for areas of conflict that crop up between generations.
Possibly one of the best benefits of traveling with people of different ages is the different perspectives they each bring to the experience. Older travelers might see a historical landmark in a completely different light. (Think about war memorials or even ancient historical sites that they may know more about than your generation.) And it’s difficult to capture the joy of a six-year-old visiting a Disney park unless you take one with you.
The first thing to know is that you aren’t limited to your own relatives.
You can reap the advantages of multigenerational travel with other people’s kids or parents or grandkids as well.
No kids or grandkids available? Consider nieces and nephews. There really aren’t any limits as to who you might consider sharing your travel with.
The key is to find some common ground that allows you to build your group around. It might be anything from sports to history to music or theater. Possibly just hanging at the beach. Think of things that the older gens you are planning the trip around might not have ever done — the Statue of Liberty, swimming in the Pacific Ocean, or standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon.
The joy they share at seeing something they have longed for all their lives is quite infectious for everyone else in the group, especially the children. It has the potential to turn what might be just another boring outing to them into a travel memory.
What to watch out for
Multigenerational travel is not without pitfalls. With both older and younger travelers you have to consider the best modes of transportation, what gear will be needed to make the trip easier, and even scheduled rest breaks. (Which is kind of a side benefit for everyone in the group, because all travel should be restful, shouldn’t it?)
The best accommodations for multi-gen travel are often those with multiple rooms, kitchens, and space for everyone to spread out a little. Vacation rentals are ideal but don’t overlook lodges, executive-style hotels with kitchenettes, and even RV parks.
The primary focus of a good multi-gen trip should always be on spending time together, so it’s best to avoid an itinerary that is too overloaded. Running here and there can put stress on any travel group. That doesn’t mean, of course, that a little time apart shouldn’t be included. Aim for lots of time centered around meals together, perhaps with one major scheduled group activity each day, with free time before and after.
Keep in mind that multi-gen travelers often require extra time getting ready for almost anything. Plan accordingly. There’s no need to increase the stress level with unrealistic timing expectations that have you tapping your toes and jingling your keys while everyone else is still tying shoes and putting on jackets.
Ideas that work
Here are a handful of travel ideas that are well suited for group travel with an age spread:
Short cruises allow everyone to have private accommodations, meals together without any work, and plenty of individual activities.
All-inclusive family resorts offer the same benefits as cruises, but at land-based properties.
Beach house, mountain cabin, or farmhouse rentals, with multiple bedrooms, are great for multi-gen travel, as long as the cooking duties can be shared.
A good travel agent is always a resource to consider, especially if you are aiming for overseas travel or a cruise. It’s better to turn to the experts than to struggle with all the aspects of a complicated trip all on your own. And if you can find one that specializes in multigenerational travel, so much the better.
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