Last year, my brother and I discussed how we traveled together as kids. We also lamented how we rarely see one another as adults, and that our kids were growing up not knowing their cousins. My brother lives in Connecticut and I live in Pennsylvania. We’re not that far apart! Yet our busy lives have made us feel like we are across the globe from one another.
So we decided to take a trip together to Niagara Falls. My brother packed up his three kids while I brought my two, and we booked a cabin at a KOA campground near the falls for a Memorial Day weekend together as an extended family. We and the kids had so much fun, we have made it an annual tradition to gather the brood for a family trip.
The Rise of Multigenerational Travel
If your family is like mine, your kids are booked on weekends with sports, clubs, friends’ birthday parties and more. In between shuttling kids around and struggling to maintain a home and work balance, we oftentimes feel we are missing out on quality time together. It’s not just our immediate families, though, but our extended families.
When I was a child, my family spent every Sunday with my grandparents. These days, organizing time to see grandparents (in Florida!) and extended family who are as busy as we are can feel like herding cattle. Think how tough it can be just to see family nearby, and then consider how more and more Americans live away from their extended families, choosing colleges and jobs in other states. As a result, most Americans use valuable vacation time to visit family living in other states. In fact, 33 percent of leisure travel is spent visiting friends and family.
Enter the rise of multigenerational travel.
According to recent research conducted by DK Shifflet (see more here), 27 percent of all leisure travel in the U.S. is multigenerational. While the number one reason families travel for leisure is to visit friends and relatives, when the travel is multigenerational, the number one reason for travel becomes a general vacation (28 percent). The research also found that multigenerational travelers participate in a more active pursuits compared to the average general leisure traveler, meaning family groups with multiple generations are more likely to share in physical activities than those traveling without family.
Considering the health benefits of taking a vacation include a reduced incidence of depression, cardiovascular disease, blood pressure and some forms of cancer, not to mention an increase in productivity and creativity at work and school, traveling as a family unit can actually be beneficial to all involved. Kids especially remember vacations with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, while building stronger family bonds.
Planning Your Own Multigenerational Trip
Planning multigenerational vacations may sound like a logistical nightmare, especially when families live in different cities and states, but as industry insiders take note of the constant increase in families traveling together as large units, service providers are making it easier for groups to come together. Some of the best at targeting multigenerational travelers are:
- All-inclusive resorts and dude ranches. All-inclusive resorts, particularly in the Caribbean and Mexico, and dude ranch locations in the Western U.S. have been great at coordinating travel for multiple generations. Families can find accommodation styles and activities to suit everyone’s interests and budgets. Grandparents may elect to stay in a quieter, adult-only wing and meet up with grandkids and children for meals and activities, while adults with young kids can enjoy the benefits of kids’ clubs and of programs that free them to pursue adult time with their own parents and siblings, while kids enjoy the company of their cousins and new friends.
- Cruise ships. More and more cruise lines are welcoming multigenerational family groups. Norwegian Cruise Line, for example, created new ships with oversized kids’ clubs and play areas, and created family suites that provide more space and comfort to larger families. Rooms in the Family Haven can even connect, allowing for the creation of larger spaces for big family groups.
- Vacation rentals. Large family groups can find some of the best accommodation in rentals, with some homes able to comfortably sleep 20 or so people in top destinations that families enjoy: beaches, mountain getaways, and near theme parks. Rentals also provide fully equipped kitchens and dining spaces in which families can save money by cooking at “home” instead of dining out and worrying about finding restaurants that can seat a large party at peak dining times.
- Theme parks. Of course, theme parks rank high on the list of destinations that suit families with multiple age groups. With parks offering rides and activities for toddlers to teens and programs that can suit grandparents as well as kids, the Orlando area theme parks are particularly appealing to multigenerational travelers. Accommodations in the area are increasingly sensitive to larger families’ needs with suites for up to six people, free shuttle services to parks, and relaxing non-park leisure amenities like water park pools, spas, golf and more.
As multigenerational travel continues to trend, travel will favor this audience. Perhaps soon we’ll see more city hotels offering accommodation with guaranteed adjoining rooms or suites for larger families. Trains and planes may also do a better job at helping families sit together.
My family and I are excited to see more opportunities for our group to travel together. In fact, next year, my brother and I are planning our first international excursion: taking our kids, as well as our parents, to Ireland and England. It should be quite the adventure!
Lissa Poirot, editor-in-chief of Family Vacation Critic, has covered the travel industry extensively for over a decade, becoming focused on family travel through her own first-hand experiences traveling with her two children. Lissa’s family travel advice has been featured in dozens of news outlets including CNN, ABC News and The New York Times, and her travels are chronicled on Family Vacation Critic – a comprehensive online travel resource for families, offering hotel and attraction reviews, destination guides and travel tips and deals.
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