Typically it’s the grandparents, whether working Baby Boomers or retirees, who gather their clan, often choosing guided adventures. On these you and your brood enjoy activities as diverse as hiking rainforests in Costa Rica, horseback riding across fields in Canada, seeing geysers and fumaroles at Yellowstone National Park, or exploring castles in Austria and ice caves in Germany.
“Families are learning together, trying something new and the adults don’t have to make any decisions about lodging, restaurants, transportation, and activities. That eliminates the stress,” says Dan Austin, Austin Adventures’ president, who notes that the company’s multigenerational trips have increased 10-15% every year for the last 5 years. “When being active, kids and parents put down their iPhones and engage with each other because they are out of their comfort zone.”
“With families spread out across the country, vacations are the prime time to get together,” says Kathy Stewart, spokesperson for adventure tour operator Butterfield & Robinson. “Our private trips are seeing a massive increase in multigenerational groups.”
Here are some great multigenerational adventures for you and your family.
Yellowstone National Park: Austin Adventures
Spot elk, bison, and bighorn sheep, soak in a natural hot spring, hike through pine forests, and watch Old Faithful shoot spray into the starry night on Austin’s popular Yellowstone Family Adventure.
“Often the grandkids and the grandparents are at the same level of activity so the trip provides a good bonding experience. A 4-mile hike might be perfect for the 70-year-olds and the 7-year-old while the 12-year-old and his parents will do the 8-mile hike,” says Dan Austin, Austin Adventures’ president. Family departures typically close out at 18 people, but for families of 12 or more, Austin prefers to create a private trip. Austin’s guide to guest ratio is 1:6.
The 6 day/5 night trip, with departures in June, July, and August starts at $2,298 for adults. The first child sharing lodging with an adult receives a 10% discount, and the second child sharing receives a 20% discount.
Austin Adventures offers family trips and custom departures in North America, Europe, Central America, South America, and Africa. (800) 575-1540; www.austinadventures.com
Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic: Adventures by Disney
Stroll centuries old castles and gardens, tour an ice cave, visit The Sound of Music film locations, and go backstage to see the horses at the famous Spanish Riding School. Adventures by Disney packs in hands-on activities, including creating marionettes in Prague; pretzel-making in Berchtesgaden, Germany; and waltz lessons in Vienna. The trip maximum group size ranges from 36-44 with a guide/guest ratio of about 1:18 guests.
The 9 day/8 night trip specifically for multigenerational families runs August 14-22 and September 18-26. Rates start at $4,999 per adult and $4,749 per child. Although 4 years old is the minimum age, the suggested minimum age is 6 years old. Extended families are welcome on the regular family departures in June, July, and August.
Adventures by Disney schedules trips in Asia, Africa and Australia, Central and South America, Europe and North America. (888) 272-0571; www.adventuresbydisney.com
Costa Rica: Butterfield & Robinson
Explore volcanoes and coffee plantations, kayak rivers, horseback ride to waterfalls, glide through treetops on a zipline, and relax in a hammock with views of the Pacific. Along the way see monkeys, toucans, wild parakeets, and maybe even sloths.
Butterfield & Robinson spokesperson Kathy Stewart says “Many multigenerational groups go on private departures because they can find dates that suit everyone in the family. We tailor the activities to the group.” The trip ratio is typically 1:6.
The custom 9 day/8 night trip starts at $5,995 per person. Ecuador and the Galapagos is another popular custom trip. B&R offers family vacations and custom departures, often biking or multi-sport trips in many destinations, including Morocco, Vietnam and Cambodia, Iceland, Normandy and the Loire Valley. (866) 551-9090; www.butterfield.com
Grand Canyon National Park: REI Adventures
See crystal formations in underground caverns, search for fossils in the canyon’s walls, swim in waterfalls, and splash in the turquoise streams at the base of Grand Canyon. REI’s Grand Canyon–Havasu Falls Family Adventure leads you on a carefully orchestrated hike to the Grand Canyon’s base to explore its jewel, Havasu Falls. The maximum group size is 16 and the guide/guest ratio is usually 1:8.
“Our guided trips provide an opportunity for all the details to be taken care of so the adults can relax stress free,” says Cynthia Dunbar, REI spokesperson.
The 6 day/5 night trip, with departures in March, April, June, July and August, starts at $2,699 per person. $400 discount possible for children.
REI offers family adventures in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America. (800) 622-2236. www.rei.com
Additional Great Multigenerational Trips
Villas and condominiums: Choose a high-end Caribbean villa, and savor breakfast prepared by your private cook and served to you poolside by your butler. While you and your family dine and discuss the day’s plans, the maid tidies up and does your laundry. Such services take the work out of your multigenerational vacation.
While not all villas and condos come staffed, most offer more space and privacy for the money than do hotel rooms. Even simple rentals come with home comforts such as kitchens and living areas, important for snacks, meals, and simply hanging out together. Some budget condominiums require a drive to the beach, offer just a 2-burner stove and only have air conditioning in the bedroom. (Always ask).
Not only do rental prices and the quality of the accommodations vary widely depending on the location and amenities, but rental companies may operate differently. FlipKey and HomeAway, mega-rental sites, typically do not inspect their listings. Instead, their sites function as marketplaces where owners and renters meet. Smaller rental agencies such as WIMCO Villas, inspect their properties and can book day trips and restaurant meals and perform other concierge services. A representative meets you at your villa, acquaints you with the property, and goes over your pre-arranged itinerary. WIMCO focuses on luxury properties, many of which are in the Caribbean, and some in Europe.
www.wimco.com, www.homeaway.com www.flipkey.com.
Cruises: Select the right ship and the right sailing and no family member will be bored. Child-friendly vessels feature day-long supervised activities for kids, hip-hop parties for teens, late-night discos for millennials, and sports bars, spas, and special shore tours for seniors. Forget about arguing over lodging or drink fees. Relatives with deep pockets can book suites while those on a budget can select interior cabins.
Royal Caribbean International wows multigenerational families with its variety of activities. Zip lines, Broadway musicals, FlowRiders (surf simulators), rock walls, and ice skating rinks keep gradeschoolers through grandparents engaged and the DreamWorks characters dazzle little kids on Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, and the newly refurbished Freedom of the Seas. Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, to launch in April, add simulated skydiving, and bumper cars. www.royalcaribbean.com
Dude ranches: Whether you are trotting along a woodsy path listening to the crackle of horses’ hooves on the fallen pine needles or savoring the meadow’s edged by snow-capped mountain peaks on a scenic ride, a dude ranch offers ample extended-family fun both in and out of the saddle, as long as you pick the right place.
Three Bars Ranch owns their own horses (that means wranglers know the steads’ personalities). Rated one of the top 10 dude ranches in North America, Three Bars offers guided trail rides and lessons for adults as well as for kids 6 years and older.
Ride twice a day, once a day, or not at all. There’s no pressure. Off-the-horse activities included in the fee are whitewater rafting, fly fishing, trap shooting, mountain biking, swimming, and playing tennis.
The ranch accommodates about 40 guests in 21 log cabins. Sprawled on 1200-acres in the spectacular Canadian Rocky Mountains with access to 60,000 more acres, Three Bars Ranch is 2 hours south of Banff National Park and one hour north of Glacier National Park, known as Waterton on the Canadian side. www.threebarsranch.com
Tips for Planning a Multigenerational Trip
- Make sure that there are activities the family can do together and activities that the grandparents, adults, teens, and gradeschoolers can do on their own.
- Meet the needs of the oldest and the youngest family members. If necessary, choose accommodations that are wheelchair and stroller accessible and select itineraries that allow time for afternoon naps.
- Look for companies offering private departures so you can book a trip that meets your family’s schedule.
- Interview several tour operators to be sure that you’ve selected a company whose style of travel (upmarket or budget), lodgings (chain properties or boutique inns), meals (casual eateries or fine fare), group size (18, 36, 41), and ratio of guides to guests (1:6, 1:10, 1:20) meet your needs.
- Designate one family member as the person to communicate with the tour company so that your guide or outfitter won’t receive conflicting messages.
5 Questions to Ask Before Booking a Villa or Condo
- Has the rental company inspected the villa or does the property’s description and rating come from the owner?
- In addition to the rental rate, does the company charge a booking fee?
- Is there an on-site manager or someone local to call if the electricity doesn’t work, or the toilets get clogged?
- Is insurance included or available for an extra fee if the villa is significantly different from the description?
- What exactly comes with each unit? Ask about air-conditioning, televisions, Internet access, bedding, pots, pans, dishes, utensils, and towels.
5 Items to Consider Before Sharing a Villa or Condo
Don’t assume that blood is thicker than family feuds. To avoid arguments, discuss the following ahead of time:
- Who will sleep in the master bedroom with the private bath and hot tub, who will stay in the queen bedded room with the small en suite, and who will share the bunk beds with the bathroom across the hall?
- How will rental fees be shared? If your parents and your brother each occupy one bedroom, but you and your 3 kids take 2, do you pay one-fourth of the rental fee or one-half?
- How will food costs be split? If you, your husband, and 6-year-old prefer spaghetti-and-meatball dinners, but your parents as well as your brother and his wife want the cook to prepare Caribbean lobster, shellfish stew, and other island delicacies, will you growl at paying one-third of the food bills?
- Who helps with child care? Don’t assume your mother-in-law will be joyful at the prospect of babysitting the grandchildren every night while you and your adult siblings check out the island’s nightlife.
- How will you split fees for and use the rental car? Consider letting each adult group have some exclusive use of the car to pursue individual interests and enjoy time apart from the gang.