All in the Family: The opportunities and delights of multigenerational travel

By Suzanne johnson

Multigenerational travel adds a whole new dimension to a vacation, said Dee Dutoit of Wilsonville, Oregon. As an avid global traveler and a grandmother, Dutoit looks forward to planning an annual vacation with her daughters and their families, including her three grandchildren. For Dutoit, getting away together allows different generations to connect and get to know each other in a whole new way.

“Anytime we get out of day-to-day norms, we are happier and more relaxed. Add in the benefits of sharing new experiences, like seeing that joy the first time a grandkid goes snorkeling. Those are special memories,” said Dutoit.

In past years, the Dutoit family has explored Utah’s national parks, Disney theme parks, beaches in Hawaii and areas of Texas. This year they’re taking it to the next level with a Caribbean cruise. “Some of the kids are ready to travel abroad, but we still have a wide age range to consider. This trip has something for everyone. We’re all looking forward to traveling together again,” she said.

GETTING AWAY TO BRING FAMILY TOGETHER

Young girl smiles at women of different ages

Dutoit is not alone in her quest to travel with multiple generations. After almost two years of restricted travel guidelines and pandemic quarantines, many families are itching to pack their bags. They’ve got vacations to reschedule, road trips to plan and milestones to celebrate. Combine that pent up travel bug with the desire to connect grandparents with grandkids, and it’s no wonder that multigenerational travel planning is a leading trend in 2022.

“We’re seeing a tremendous desire among extended family groups who want to come together and create meaningful memories,” said Doreen Loofburrow, Senior Vice President at AAA Oregon/Idaho. Cruise ships and theme parks offer top-notch fun for all ages, but many families don’t need to look far for scenic, memorable destinations. All the amenities and endless adventures can be found in closer-to-home options like Sun Valley and Sandpoint in Idaho, or Bend and coastal towns in Oregon. Whatever the destination, near or far, the goal is always to discover more of life with loved ones, said Loofburrow.

Multigenerational travel doesn’t necessarily mean a large group—sometimes it’s just two. For example, Dutoit plans a one-on-one trip with each of her grandchildren for their thirteenth birthday, to their destination of choice. Her oldest granddaughter chose Hawaii, where she’d fallen in love with the ocean on a previous family trip; the next granddaughter has her eye on an Alaskan Disney cruise. “Just the two of us—it’s so much fun to do everything together. A little exhausting, I’ll admit! But really special,” said Dutoit.

Whether the group is small or large, multigenerational travel tightens family bonds. Some trips revolve around events like significant birthdays or anniversaries—with the double bonus of celebrating family while exploring a bucket-list destination. Other families focus on their heritage and genealogy; returning to their country of origin allows older generations to pass on stories, music, traditions and foods, connecting the younger generations to family roots.

MAKE PLANNING PART OF THE FUN

Blending abilities and interests is part of the challenge in planning a trip for several generations. Will the focus be golf or zip lines? Museums or fishing? How can families balance it all to craft an experience that the whole crew enjoys? Engaging everyone in the planning is the key, according to Loofburrow. “Each person can list their must-do activity, then those top priorities are sure to get scheduled in,” she said.

For kids, planning is not only part of the fun, it can be educational, too. Allison Villasenor, Managing Director at Club Adventures, a AAA preferred tour company, suggests ways to build anticipation. “Find movies filmed in the destination or try a few recipes for local dishes. On the logistics side, kids like to make packing lists, study maps and learn some phrases in the local language,” said Villasenor.

Creative travelers can gather their ideas on travel vision boards—collections
of photos, maps and recipes that capture a preview of the trip. Vision boards can be old-school, with images cut from magazines. Online virtual boards, created with apps such as Pinterest, can be a family project, with everyone contributing to the board. During and after the travels, that vision board style can continue through journals, sketchbooks and photo books (which also make fun post-travel gifts!)

EXPERT TIPS TO PLAN YOUR BEST TRIP

The most important strategy for a successful multigenerational travel getaway, according to both Loofburrow and Villasenor, is to leave plenty of unscheduled time. Save room for spontaneity, and for just relaxing together, they advise. “Some of the best memories come from unplanned moments. Maybe your family needs downtime or a new opportunity comes up. Flexibility lets the trip flow and unfold naturally,” advised Villasenor.

Scheduled activities can be flexible, but lodging reservations should be confirmed as early as possible. With a larger number of travelers, finding the right size rental or group of hotel rooms can be tricky. Purchase tickets ahead of time for high-priority activities, too. As Loofburrow explained, “If a grandparent’s dream is to stand atop the Eiffel Tower with all the grandkids, you don’t want to spend hours standing in line. Lock in important activities with reservations and advance tickets.”

And if making those reservations feels overwhelming, help is easy to find. Travel agents can assist with finding the right destination and lodging for your group. Or leave all the planning to the professionals and join a group tour. Travel companies often tailor tours for multigenerational families, with activities designed to keep all ages engaged. For example, Club Adventures offers a Costa Rica family tour that goes beyond the beaches into the jungle and local culture; or check out Trafalgar Tours where families can relive the history of Great Britain and Scotland in their Castles and Kilts tour.

Even with the best planning, the unexpected can happen. For that reason, travel insurance reduces worries about a family member falling ill or an emergency that might interrupt the vacation. Yet adapting to the unexpected is part of what makes travel an adventure, according to Villasenor. “One of the best lessons kids gain on multigenerational trips is learning to deal with new situations, and seeing how the parents and grandparents shift their perspectives to take change in stride. That’s a huge asset for life-long traveling and for everyday life, too,” she said.

Explore Family Packages with Club Adventures

For help planning your next adventure, find a local AAA Travel Agent or call AAA Travel at 800-529-3222. Download the AAA Mobile app for maps, discounts, restaurants, and lodging at AAA.com/mobile.