In Alaska’s Glacier Bay, a humpback whale jumps out of the water and a seven-year-old girl squeals with delight. “Look, Grandma,” she says, clutching the baby boomer’s hand. Dad stands in the background recording the scene with a digital camera as they all gasp when the behemoth mammal slams back into the sea. Although the photograph will be nice, it won’t replace the experience that’s etched into their minds, a memory that will withstand time and loss.
Multigenerational travel no longer means a beach house on the coast where Grandma and Grandpa look after the kids as parents take a much-needed break. Today’s families are introducing adventure, culture and exploration into the mix. Before deciding where to go, families should ask themselves a few questions. What are our interests? How active do we want to be? What are our physical capabilities? How much down time do we need? Is there a family member who requires special consideration?
Family bonding, perhaps the greatest benefit of multigenerational travel, begins in the planning stages so involve every family member. This is the perfect time to ask older children with web-savvy skills to participate in researching that trip to China. Of course the key is to find something that appeals to each family member while remembering that everyone will not like everything all of the time.
One way to keep the rest and relaxation option while gaining a bit of international experience is to take the tribe to a family-friendly destination like Costa Rica. Here families combine fun on the beach with rainforest and eco-tours that are suitable even for younger members of the clan.
For families traveling with a senior member, or a wide range of ages, cruises work well. On an Alaskan expedition cruise active family members pursue interests such as kayaking and hiking then meet up at night to re-live the adventure with the family over dinner. Nature-loving seniors, who might not be able to negotiate zodiac excursions, will still enjoy the scenic view from the ship’s deck and nature lectures from the staff.
For a more exotic family experience, consider a combined Nile River cruise and tour of Egypt. Young archaeologists will marvel at the Great Pyramids of Giza before riding a camel across the dessert sand to investigate the Sphinx. Then, hop on a Nile cruise for an opportunity to visit Luxor and the majestic Valley of the Kings. Planning for this type of trip might be better left to professionals so consider a travel agent or tour operator.
No rule says that all family members must be included on multi-generational trips. Many grandparents enjoy taking one child at a time for the ultimate bonding experience. Inviting a wildlife crazy middle-schooler on a South African safari will change his view of the world. Listening to his thoughts during down time may change Grandpa’s.
The benefits of multigenerational trips last long after the bags have been unpacked. Family members will share pictures, stories and memories for years to come, not to mention a closer relationship.