Multigenerational travel keeps on growing as a segment of the family market and if you don't believe us, let the numbers speak. And while you're at it, here are some great organized tours for two or three or, increasingly, four generations traveling together. Plus some useful services to help everyone get together.
For more than a decade, the poll-takers have been predicting a trend: multigenerational travel is Big and getting Bigger.
- In 1997 – More than 5.5% of American households are headed by grandparents. Roper Starch Worldwide, 1999
- In 1998 – More than 34% of all US travelers travel to attend a family reunion. Telenation, 2000
- In 1999 – More than 21% of all family trips involve grandparents. TIAA, 2000
- 16% of travel by grandparents includes grandchildren. Roper Starch Worldwide, 1999
- In 2000 – More than 33% of the US population over age 50 will control 70% of America's wealth.
- 46% of all grandparents pick Orlando among their top three choices for travel with grandchildren. Telenation, 2000
- In 2005 – More than 32% of American grandparents take at least one or more trips with grandchildren. YPB&R National Leisure Travel Monitor, 2005
- By 2009 – The U.S. Travel Association estimates that 34% of all U.S. leisure travelers have taken at least one vacation with their grandchildren at some point in their lives.U.S.T.A.
- In 2011 – 37% of all grandparents who travel had traveled with their grandchildren. Y Partnership National Leisure Travel Monitor, 2012,/LI.
What do the numbers all mean for society?
- Grandparents are raising kids in extended families.
- Limited funds makes seeing relatives the most common reason for a summer trip.
- The time-pressed boomer generation must see both their parents and their children during limited vacation periods.
- Grandparents are healthier and more active than ever before, and eager to experience the world with their children and grandchildren.
Fortunately, the ever-increasing affluence of America's senior generation means many grandparents can afford to host an exciting multigenerational journey over these vacation periods.
Escort Services for Safe, Trusted Grandparent or Grandchild Travel
Fortunately, the increasing numbers mean that more attention is being paid to this type of travel and its special needs. A good thing. As many members of the "Sandwich Generation" (pressed between the needs of parents and children) have learned, even planning a simple family reunion event with elder relatives — especially those who live far away — can be challenging.
Happily, there are "meet-and-greet" escort services like those designed for unaccompanied minors who fly, that work with anyone who needs a helping hand and extra attention to deal with air travel. These services sound expensive: typically about $150 to escort someone from a car service at the curb and into an airport, to baggage check, through security very quickly, then wait with them at the gate — but it's cheaper than buying a ticket for another relative to escort them to a destination. One reputable firm is Airport Assistance Worldwide who will meet and assist your family almost anywhere. A few airlines like American Airlines also have this type of service for their VIP and celebrity travelers who are just too important to deal with standard airport hassles, and it can be well worth taking advantage of for your VIP elders too.
Of course working with a good travel agent, and signing up everyone for an organized tour, will take the pressure off the sandwich filling generation for being responsible for travel plans.
Escorted Grandparent – Grandchild Adventures
A variety of tour companies are offering their services to this growing family travel niche. Here are some of our favorite organized tours for grandparents who are able to take lucky grandchildren along with them on world adventures.
Generations Touring Company is all about multigenerational travel. Their KinTrips emphasize family destinations and activities, and can be organized so they do the planning and you travel independently. Alternatively, they design custom "one-on-one" trips for grandparents traveling just with grandchildren at a more leisurely pace, and recommend these for single parents too. Or, join one of their fully escorted tours. They pride themselves on inter-generational tour leaders who understand the needs of participants, no matter their age or physical abilities. Plus, they focus on culture, volunteering and satisfying the curiosity of all guests. Generations takes travelers in small groups to destinations such as Costa Rica, Peru and even on tours of the great US baseball stadiums. GTC Journeys and Adventures include both cultural and physical activities such as hiking, kayaking and nature walks.
Travelers over 50 are probably familiar with Elderhostel; this company has become Road Scholar and is still committed to excellent educational trips. But few are aware that this organization runs many inter-generational trips — well-priced and well-guided journeys to destinations around the world that often use university dorms or youth hostels for low-cost housing. Their four-night Boxcar Children tour held during the summer is one of our favorites. It's for seniors with ages 6-8 and focuses on the fun, can-do attitude of the "Boxcar Children" series of books by Gertrude Chandler Warner.
Another leader in the field of educational travel programs, Smithsonian Journeys have included upscale and fully guided Family Adventures in the US, Europe, Africa and South America.
Since multigenerational travel has proven to be relatively recession-proof, even high-end adventure tour operators, such as Trusted Adventures, are reaching out with "soft" multigenerational adventure opportunities. The Trusted Adventures travel members are ranked by National Geographic as being among the "Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth" whether you want to hike, go on safari, whitewater raft, or hike, and have tours that accommodate a range of physical abilities.
Young adults will feel welcome on the diverse, moderately-priced large group tours arranged by Vantage Deluxe World Travel. Their escorted itineraries range from river cruises in Europe or small ship expeditions to Antarctica, to trips in Africa and Australia. Though geared to seniors, all are welcome. Be sure to request for grammy the free, fact-filled guide: "151 Tips for Women"
For ideas on more tours and travel suitable with mobility-impaired relatives, visit the site of Emerging Horizons, a publication and online resource for the handicapped and slow walkers.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.