Multi-Generational Travel: The Ultimate in Family Bonding

Gather up the grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and second cousins twice removed: Multi-generational trips are the hottest trend in the travel business.


“The fastest growing segment of our business is multi-generational travel,” says Geoffrey Kent, chairman and CEO of Abercrombie & Kent, the Oak Brook-based luxury travel company. “Our clients don’t just want to travel by themselves, they want to share it with their families. Instead of buying something, they’ve suddenly said, let’s go and travel and have an experience.”

Many times, these trips center around a significant birthday, anniversary, graduation or other milestone. And as with any trip, planning is half the fun—and a lot of the work.

“Our clients typically bring the entire family into the planning process,” Kent says, “and many will ask to include a philanthropic experience, such as planting trees with a Conservation Club in Kenya, delivering books or musical instruments to a school in need.”

Planning, paying and managing expectations are key to making a multi-generational trip work. A word to the wise: Don’t expect it to be easy! Pulling off a trip for a large group with diverse interests who are scattered around the country—and then adding in family dynamics like old sibling rivalries—can be a major logistical and diplomatic feat. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

Planning needs to start a year in advance. Between soccer games, basketball camp, work commitments—times ten, or 12, or 20, depending how large the family is—you can see why a multi-generational trip is not a spur-of-the-moment proposition.

Whoever is doing the inviting needs to be clear about who’s picking up the check. Is each branch of the family tree responsible for their own meals? Airplane tickets? Hotel? Tickets at the amusement park? Be specific in order to avoid hurt feelings.

Everyone will arrive with both actual baggage and emotional baggage. So it’s important to make sure your expectations aren’t unrealistic. View your multi-generational trip as an adventure, or a celebration, and not the pinnacle of your life, because the going will get rough (kids will whine; grandparents will want a leisurely meal starting at 5:30 and young adults will want to eat at 8). Prepare for some time apart from each other every day. Consider renting a car for each family. That way, people can slip away for a few hours.

And finally, treasure your time together.
“Our clients tell us that taking their children (and grandchildren) to the Galapagos Islands or on a safari in Africa is an immensely rewarding experience, and they are the company’s most popular family destinations,” Kent says. “They talk about travel as `life lessons’ and emphasize the educational value of travel as an opportunity to have discussions about family values, collaboration, cooperation around the campfire.”

Photography courtesy of Abrecrombie and Kent

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