Vacation for All Ages: Priceless
Bringing grandparents, parents and grandchildren together through travel has become ever more popular. Families recognize that intergenerational trips are priceless, affording the chance for families to explore new places while developing deeper connections with one another. This is a gift that money (or your MasterCard) alone cannot buy.
The American Travel Industry Association estimates that more than 5 million family vacations each year include more than three generations. Rather than meeting at Grandma’s, families are vacationing together during holidays, spring breaks and summer holidays. And, they are exploring new sites to celebrate reunions and special occasions such graduations or wedding anniversaries
My extended family has traveled to faraway places, including Tuscany, using a charming Italian villa as our base to explore an ancient walled city and to visit landmark sights such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Uffizi Museum in Florence. We have also stayed in the Bahamas to bask on the beach and dive down under to find pastel-colored fish among the coral. Most recently, we shared a rental home in the Colorado Rockies to breathe in the fresh mountain air while hiking and biking by day and honing our culinary skills at night. These trips have allowed us to “inherit the earth” together (or at least a part of it) and build invaluable memories.
Rewards, Rewards, Rewards
Debbie Taylor, director of vacation and group services at World Travel Services in Tulsa, shared her insights on this growing trend, speaking to the fact that not only are extended families traveling together but also grandparents are traveling solo with their grandchildren.
She shared a touching story about a local grandfather who made a deal with his grandchildren. He’d reward them each with the gift of travel to their dream destination upon the realization of a pre-set goal such as becoming an Eagle Scout. Ultimately, he took them each on separate trips to Turkey, Japan and China. Clearly, he saw the value in the special bonds that would develop by sharing time together that could never be achieved from a store-bought item.
A Whole New World of Choices
This increased desire among us to teach life lessons and share milestones with extended family has created a whole new world of family travel choices, and tour operators have designed thoughtful programs that span the interests from dads to toddlers. They want to make sure that everyone goes home satisfied.
Here’s a sampling of the some of the industry’s most respected tour companies specializing in cross-generational travel.
Tauck Bridges. A branch of Tauck World Discovery Company, which has been around since 1925, Tauck Bridges is known for its high-quality packages. Their itineraries are designed to provide an adventurous experience blended with a cultural education for all ages. Choices include a London to Paris journey, a riverboat jaunt down the Danube or an eye-opening exploration in Tanzania, to name a few. See www.tauck.com or call 1-800-788-7885 for details.
Adventures by Disney. Disney joined the family adventure bandwagon in 2005 and has been ranked among the best since inception. Disney has over a dozen itineraries including excursions to Costa Rica, the Mediterranean, Italy, and even Egypt. For more information, check out www.abd.disney.go.com or call 1-800-543-0865.
Abercrombie & Kent. For those seeking luxury adventure travel, this may be the best choice. Their Family Holidays for 2010 tours include a Yucatan Adventure, discovering the wonders of Peru and the Galapagos Island, and several African safaris. They also offer tailor-made itineraries, with Destination Specialists available for consultation. Realizing how busy families are, most of their trips coincide with children’s school break schedules. Visit www.abercrombiekent.com or call 1-800-554-7016.
Elderhostel (also named Road Scholar). Inspired by European youth hostels, Elderhostel was founded in the U.S. in 1975 as a non-profit educational institution, providing education-based programs for seniors on university campuses. It has now evolved and offers literally hundreds of domestic and international travel excursions specifically for grandparents and their grandchildren including the option of retracing the path of Lewis and Clark, exploring the Everglades by canoe, or bicycling through Germany and Austria. Check out www.roadscholar.org or call 1-800-454-5768 to see the full spectrum of choices.
Planning for cross-generational excursions can be overwhelming. Of course, you can do it yourself using various websites and guide books or, given some of the complexities, travel agents can relieve some stresses by assessing your family’s interests and coordinating flight arrangements/tour bookings.
Families Coming Together
Experts believe that the events of September 11, 2001 increased a sense of urgency for families to spend more quality time together. There’s been a wake-up call to the hard fact that days turn into weeks, then months and years and if you don’t seize the moment, the opportunities might be lost. With vast distances separating family members, people are learning that one of the most enlightening and enlivening way to create familial bonds is to vacation together.
The expression “It takes a village to raise a child” might need some tweaking to keep up with the times. Perhaps something more fitting like, “It takes travel to keep an extended family connected