The wedding was barely over when our new Brazilian in-laws invited our American family to a wedding reception outside of Sao Paolo the following spring. By the time we boarded our planes, convening from around the country to meet in Brazil, there were 10 of us ranging from a pair of baby boomers to Millennials on the trip.
We knew that this was going to be special and a different way to travel than our independent, take one day at a time way of blundering about the world. In Brazil, our mantra became “we can only go as fast as our slowest.” What we could never have anticipated was how much fun it would be to travel slowly together in a foreign country. Based on what I learned, here are some multigenerational travel tips to help you out when planning your own family adventures.
Have patience and then enjoy the experience
That seems to be the key to multi-generational travel – have patience and then enjoy the experience. Rae Ann Wright, an experienced travel specialist, has been putting together trips like this for years and watching as more people are taking on the tasks. Sometimes the conversations start more than a year before departure with grannie mentioning to her agent what she’s considering. Rae Ann has seen the trend steadily increase since 9/11. I remember that period well. Americans were scared of leaving the country, but it also meant that there were some incredible travel opportunities.
In November of that year my immediate family decided to meet in Paris. My father jokingly asked, “Want to do some Christmas shopping in Paris?” Dad was a coupon cutter and had found a bargain that included a great hotel in the delightful Opera district and airfare. What unfolded was one of my most cherished family adventures, all the more so as I haven’t traveled with my siblings since and my parents, soon after returning home, were no longer able to travel.
Choose a destination that has abundant choices
What makes many of these trips successful is choosing a destination that has abundant choices. In Brazil it was staying at an all-inclusive beach resort where we could meet for meals and loosely arrange our days around activities for every taste and ability.
Rae Ann has seen this scenario work well on cruises that feature a multitude of options. Parents can enjoy the adult only pools, for example, while the little ones are entertained in the kiddie area. Making memories is simpler too when wheelchair-friendly dining rooms can be accessed easily and interlocking suites are available.
Begin planning early
Rae Ann suggests that you begin planning early to get not only the best airfares but also the best rooms and secure your preferred dates. It doesn’t have to break the bank either. Consider a re-positioning cruise (when a ship needs to return to a certain port for the beginning of prime season,) or traveling at off-peak times. Taking kids out of school doesn’t have to be a burden. Set up the trip with teachers in advance with alternative study projects that can also transform your child’s experience of the places you visit.
Many hotel chains are offering family options with babysitters and kid times for adults who want to enjoy happy hour without worry about careening toddlers. Scottsdale’s Club Hyatt and Hawaii’s Ritz-Carlton Kapalua have similar programs. Milestone event packages and more luxury choices are trends. International trips are more popular with major brands like Disney, who began with their cartoon character cruises, expanding into family land-based adventures from the Galapagos Islands to Cambodia.
Whatever your budget allows, family travel is here to stay and if grandpa can’t make the trip, you might consider doing what scuba diver Cindy Lipathay did to celebrate her father’s birthday. She was at Hotel Cozumel in Mexico’s Riviera Maya and using WiFi at the pool logged onto Skype with her iPad, then ‘walked’ dad through the area with friends splashing birthday greetings, toasting to him and well, you get the picture. Her dad, landlocked in Canada, participated too. He was able to ask questions and see everything making it one of their favorite trips ‘together.’
Have you taken any special multi-generational trips?