Guided tours and all-inclusive vacations are popular among multigenerational groups. // © 2014 Thinkstock
Feature image (above): Family travel is among the fastest-growing market sectors in the industry, according to a recent poll conducted by Signature Travel Network. // © 2014 Thinkstock
I’m a newish parent, so balancing work, play and raising a child is still an everyday challenge. On a recurring basis, my partner and I complain about living so far away from our own parents, who might lend a hand here and there and take some of the pressure off of us if they were in the same city.
Besides wishing my parents and in-laws could help more with daily tasks, I even want them to go on vacation with me — something I would neverhave said pre-baby. As relaxing as a condo vacation on Oahu may seem, it looks even better when I imagine more hands on deck: with grandma and grandpa around to babysit at night or to drive the rental car from point A to point B. This kind of travel is also on the rise as an increasing number of people are thinking differently about the importance of travel and its impact on younger generations.
“More and more of our clients — who are grandparents — are telling us that traveling is about leaving their children and their children’s children with values, family memories and education beyond the classroom, versus a sum of money in their will,” says Julie O’Brien, brand manager for Tauck Bridges.
O’Brien reports that about 25 percent of Tauck Bridges’ business comes from groups of eight or more travelers and that the majority of those groups are multigenerational families.
In June, an AAA study found that 36 percent of all travelers will take a multigenerational trip this year, up from 32 percent in 2013. As research continues to show how quickly the multigenerational niche is growing, more travel agents have their eye on the prize. The following is an overview of what multigenerational travelers look for in a vacation, according to top agents and tour operators who sell this lucrative segment.
Lesley Egbert, owner of Live Longitude in Helena, Mont., an independent agency of Avoya Travel, says that clients booking multigenerational trips often request all-inclusive vacations. Reasons range from the number of on-site entertainment and accommodation options to pricing that is to-the-point.
Egbert is particularly fond of Club Med products, which she says have a high rate of satisfaction among her clients. Programming for younger children and teens, art classes, water sports, exercise classes and cultural activities are common value-added offerings at such properties, and the fact that they are easily accessible makes for a more hassle-free vacation.
“All-inclusive resorts are a fantastic option for multigenerational family trips,” Egbert says. “Grandparents and parents love them because the kids have tons of activities to do, but then they can also have good family bonding time. Food is available whenever they want it, the kids can have as many milkshakes as they like and they’re not going to have a tab to worry about at the end.”
Last year, Travel + Leisure named all-inclusive properties by Beaches, Melia Hotels International, Paradisus Resorts, Dreams Resorts & Spas and Club Med to its Best All-Inclusive Family Resorts list, in addition to a number of boutique properties.
For some multigenerational groups, spending time together in a beautiful location away from home is the ideal vacation — no excursions, tour guides or admission tickets required. Svetlana Stein, president of L & B Travel in Los Angeles, has booked a number of multigenerational trips in this simple style.
“Some travelers are more independent and prefer to do their own thing,” Stein says. “They want me to book air tickets, a condo and a rental car, but they take the lead from there.”
Stein’s clients who are interested in condo vacations are most often heading to Hawaii, where condos are plentiful. Here, multigenerational groups are looking to spend multiple days at the beach and to do some easy sightseeing. Because condos come in many configurations and offer kitchens, they are a favorite option for larger groups who want multiple rooms and the flexibility to prepare their own snacks and meals.
For families traveling with fit grandparents and slightly older children, guided tours are a popular choice, especially for groups seeking more opportunities for active adventure and education. Escorted tours also provide more support in the way of entertainment, with additional guides present to help lead activities and excursions. Plus, children get to meet new friends, as multiple families are often on the same trip.
Tauck Bridges, the Tauck brand tailored for the family travel market, is one tour operator that designs trips to suit multiple age groups, interests and fitness levels. The company also takes pride in eliminating the amount of stress that often comes with planning a more involved vacation. Once a family shares the general travel preferences of group members and names the destination they would like to visit, Tauck takes it from there.
“Our tours have tons of unique, hands-on activities built in, such as making pizzas in Italy or panning gold in Alaska,” says O’Brien of Tauck Bridges. “We focus on immersive activities that allow all three generations to share special moments together. Additionally, our experienced tour directors lead memorable adventures, during which the kids have the benefit of playing with other kids — that adds an element of fun that you wouldn’t get on an independent multigenerational trip.”
O’Brien recommends that children be between the ages of 8 and 16 for many of Tauck Bridges tours to ensure that they can get the most out of the trip. The brand’s vacations in Europe sell particularly well with multigenerational families, especially the Italia Bella tour, which travels from Rome to Venice, and the Castles and Kings trip, which travels from London to Paris.
“These two itineraries are exceptionally well-tailored for the family unit,” O’Brien says. “For example, when we go to the Louvre, we do a fantastic scavenger hunt for the kids so that they’re not overwhelmed with the massive size of the museum. We’re not just adding a kids’ menu or a game room — we develop these trips from the ground up with families in mind.”
Ski Vacations and National Parks
While many of her clients lean toward beach destinations, Egbert does get some requests for ski vacations. This is another time when condos are a good accommodation option, as multigenerational groups can come back from a day on the slopes to a full kitchen, a fireplace and lots of lounge space.
“Ski vacations are great for more active families,” Egbert says. “The kids often go to ski school or take a terrain park class, so the group might break up and then get together again for meals. But people don’t really think about this type of trip right away — they think of warm, tropical places.”
National parks are another small but present area of interest for multigenerational families. Egbert often meets with grandparents who have been to a particular park before and now want to experience it with their children and grandchildren. Yellowstone is a particularly great trip for multigenerational groups, she says.
“Ultimately, agents working with multigenerational groups have to look for activities that everyone will enjoy,” Egbert says. “Get to the heart of the reason why the group is traveling together and then match a destination with that group. You also need to make sure that you have a trip that can accommodate everyone’s needs, while striking that balance of downtime and togetherness.”