Multigenerational travel in all combinations is already enjoyed by 42% of American travelers according to MMGY Global, who are forecasting this trend to rise by 7% for 2016. The appeal is obvious: Grandparents love to spoil grandchildren, working parents like to use limited vacation time to get everyone together, and kids of any age enjoy reconnecting with family they may not see often.
What’s less obvious is how to organize a successful multigenerational getaway.
Key Factors that Affect Multigen Vacations
The budget, activities for all ages, and convenience play a big role in determining the best multigen vacation options. If grandparents pay (and research firm D.K. Shifflet says they do in 33% of trips), they typically look for a structured, more comfortable vacation where everyone can spend time together. Cruises, all-inclusive resorts and guided tours with supervision for children are good options. When parents pay, they may bring along in-laws to babysit so they can go out on their own. City getaways are popular with this group. When participants share the costs, options expand.
Start planning by discussing the budget, and determine who will be responsible for which costs. Remember that toddlers, like grandparents, get grumpy if they have to walk too far or wait to take a nap. Kids thrive on recreation and independence; teens need privacy and extra sleep; college students covet lavish meals, artisanal cocktails and personal luxuries like spa treatments.
With that in mind, here are five top multigen vacations with options for skimpy or splurge budgets.
1. Theme Parks for the Young at Heart
Since 1846, when Lake Compounce opened in Connecticut, amusement parks have been a part of America’s cultural heritage.
The easiest way to stay within a very small budget is a multigen staycation at an amusement park near home. If there are no season pass holders, early and late season tickets are the best value. Regional amusement parks like the 18 Six Flags in North America offer discounted hotel/ticket packages, too. Pick a hotel with a pool and a one-night stay will equal a two day weekend getaway.
With more than 62 million visitors in 2014, Orlando is the undisputed capital of splurge themepark vacations. For the ultimate, book a two-bedroom over-the-water bungalow at the newly redone Disney’s Polynesian with two bathrooms, pulldown bunk beds and a plunge pool to accommodate a family of eight; a three-night stay with park passes runs $9,981 in January. Walt Disney World cast members know how to make Grand Gatherings, as they call them, easy.
2. Cruises to Nowhere and Splurges at Sea
Cruises are a great multigen vacation option because they include meals and entertainment in one price. All have non-stop activities; provide lounges, restaurants and other spaces to be together or apart; and effortlessly transport the family to new ports without packing and unpacking.
Carnival Cruise Lines’ 24 Fun Ships carry more than 10 million passengers a year on one of the best value vacations in the industry. Save on airfare by departing from one of the 14 mainland U.S. homeports. Compact cabins sleeping four (picture two upper berths!) start at $129 per person for a three-night Caribbean cruise packed with fun. Factor in the adorable Seuss at Sea program, a Green Eggs and Ham breakfast, and kids clubs for ages 2+, and it’s cheaper than staying home.
Ready to spend more? The four sleek vessels that belong to Disney Cruise Line are not the most extravagant of ships, but they are the only ones that can transform grandchildren into Pirates or Princesses. While you wait, ages 3-12 will get the makeup, hair and costume of their Disney princess of choice ($194.95 for the Castle Package.) Boys have Knight Packages but the real draw is the Captain’s Package ($99.95) for an “Ahoy Matey!” makeover to be worn on Pirate Night. The newer Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy have large family staterooms sleeping five, and elegant bars and a la carte restaurants that adults will enjoy while kids from newborn up are in supervised play areas.
3. All-Included, Flop n’ Drop Vacations
Like a cruise on land, all-inclusive resorts have price, variety and ease to recommend them, especially for active family members and big eaters and drinkers.
Apple Vacations and online agencies like Cheap Caribbean sell a variety of budget trips to all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean (Cuba trips coming!) Choose the Mexico and Dominican Republic locations of chain resorts if you want the cheapest destinations. The “garden view” rooms set in landscaped grounds away from the waterfront cost less, too; a good deal since you’ll only be there to sleep. However, when everything’s included in one very low price, the quality of food, drink, furnishings and recreation equipment may not be up to your standards.
That’s why there are so many competitive brands. Not the cheapest, but with some of the best children’s programs, instructors and recreational facilities available, the Club Med Sandpiper Bay in Florida is the only real all-inclusive in the U.S. and its golf and tennis academies are world-class.
Want a really upscale choice? Karisma has four luxury family all-inclusives in Mexico, but the one designed for multigen vacations is aptly called Generations. This Caribbean view, all-suite property is fully accessible and every unit has its own butler. The 144 spacious suites, most with swim-up pools, are in one building and across from it, five floors of restaurants and lounges, including a kids club and cooking school. Rates for a three-night, family of eight vacation start at $7,100 in January.
4. City Getaways for Culture, Fashion, Food
Big cities with their entertainment, shopping and multitude of activities have multigen appeal in almost any season, but some months are cheaper than others. Try Washington DC or New Orleans in summer, New York or Chicago in January, Los Angeles or San Francisco in February. Save on lodging at one of the big chain’s suite brands. Rates at Hilton’s Homewood Suites, Embassy Suites and SpringHill Suites by Marriott, for example, include free WiFi, breakfast, the occasional Managers Cocktail Reception, and pullout sofabeds in the living area.
Going over the top? There’s Las Vegas, the ultimate ‘go big or go home’ city for groups including impressionable older kids. The Anthology Suites & Villas collection of Caesar’s Entertainment includes more than 2,000 suites and mega-suites atop some of Vegas’ most posh palaces. The vast duplex penthouse Bay Spa Suite on the 51st floor of Planet Hollywood has one separate level devoted to the spa life with a windowfront whirlpool tub, sauna, steam room, and in-room massages on request. In addition to two bedrooms and pullout sofas, $3,500 per night gets you non-stop hotel amenities, airport limo service and views of The Strip and the next door Eiffel Tower. To thrill tweens, book the 10,300-square-foot, $35,000 a night Nobu Villa which has hosted the likes of Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus.
For some families, that’s what memories are made of.
5. Guided Tours for the Short on Time & Eager to Learn
Using a travel agent who has access to discounted airfares, group hotel rates, ground transportation and guided tours makes vacation planning almost friction-free.
Anxious about introducing the grandkids to Europe? For an escorted tour from Trafalgar, per person per night rates including hotel, meals, motorcoach transportation, guides, and the top sights of Turkey start as low as $99; for $150 each share the imperial highlights of Munich, Prague, Budapest, Vienna and Salzburg. Cosmos is another well regarded operator with similar programs. The non-profit Road Scholars delivers a more senior-focused experience with dozens of guided, low-cost grandparent/grandchild trips each summer.
When it comed to guided tours, over-the-top luxury means customization, exclusivity and service in spades. The Deccan Odyssey, for example, is a posh, custom-outfitted train run by Cox and Kings that traverses India on eight-day itineraries. A staff of 45 full-time valets, conductors, chefs and more attend up to 80 guests who arrive each day at a new station, greeted by a local orchestra and dancers. Superb local historians lead excursions to many of India’s 32 UNESCO World Heritage Sites on a tour that, like a cruise, exposes participants to the next marvelous attraction without any wear and tear.
Other purveyors of luxury small group and custom tours include Abercrombie & Kent, GeoEx and Butterfield & Robinson. Expect to pay from $1,000 per day per person for the trip of a lifetime, one that will be customized so that the needs of the oldest and youngest in the clan will be accommodated.
Then, let the memories begin.
Excerpts of this story first appeared in U.S. News travel section.
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