Plenty of families are deciding that lasting memories matter more than the latest gadget, jewelry or fashion accessory. They’re opting to give the gift of a great adventure instead of a pile of presents. With family often scattered across the country, or the world, gathering your gang for a vacation can seem daunting. Here are five ideas for a multi-generational trip that will please everyone from little ones to teens to grandparents (possibly even your high-maintenance aunt!).
1. Try heritage travel.
Have you dreamed of traveling with the whole clan to the old country, the land your parents or great great grandparents emigrated from? You’re not alone. “We’ve seen a big increase in guests eager to explore their cultural roots,” says Amanda Adler, public relations manager for Disney’s group tour operator, Adventures by Disney. Tour groups are an attractive option for families looking to travel together on a heritage tour without the time-consuming hassle of making their own arrangements and trying to accommodate differing needs. Choose a tour operator specializing in families, like Adventures by Disney or Austin Adventures.
2. Take a road trip.
A convenient and budget-friendly way to organize a larger family gathering is to pick a central destination, with a variety of activities to please all ages. A surprising Midwest charmer is Branson, Missouri. Branson’s central location makes it easy for Midwestern clans to gather. Known as a wholesome version of Las Vegas, it also has the scenic beauty of the Ozark Mountains and surrounding lakes. You can fish in the morning, and enjoy family-friendly Broadway caliber entertainment at night. Kids will enjoy spending a day at Silver Dollar City amusement park or zip-lining through the forest. Lodging ranges from rustic cabins to upscale lakefront resorts.
3. Sign up for family camp.
Revisit your youth with the kids at a family camp. YMCA of the Rockies runs resorts at Estes Park, just outside the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, and Snow Mountain Ranch, which is 10 minutes from the world-class slopes of Winter Park Ski Resort. There are no TVs in the lodge rooms and cabins, so get ready to disconnect from the digital world and enjoy quality time with family—hiking, horseback riding, doing crafts and roller or ice skating await you.
4. Rent a home or villa.
Looking for privacy and convenience? You can save money renting a spacious vacation home where you can cook some meals for the whole gang and throw in a load of laundry on the way to the beach or pool. Websites like VRBO.com and homeaway.com make renting a vacation home easier than ever.
A growing number of resorts also offer the option of renting privately-owned villas, combining the amenities of a resort—pools, spa, fitness facility— with the privacy of your own home. Dreaming of vacationing at a villa in a tropical paradise this winter? The Villas at Scrub Island Resort in the British Virgin Islands can make that dream a reality. Families can bond while preparing meals in the gourmet kitchen or relax on the terrace overlooking the Caribbean Sea as the kids play in the private pool. Don’t want to cook? For an additional fee, they’ll provide a butler who’ll prepare and serve meals.
5. Cruise together.
Don’t want to play social director during your family vacation? Avoid those rough waters by setting sail on a cruise. No need to argue about what to do or where to eat. From dance lessons to cooking demos, the piano bar to the disco, whatever floats your boat is the only rule on a cruise. Jodi Ornstein, editorial director of Porthole Cruise Magazine, sums up the benefits in one word: logistics. “The best thing about a group cruise is that so much planning is taken care of for you, from meals to activities to entertainment,” Ornstein says. “Everyone—and every age—can do their own thing when they want to, but still have plenty of quality together time.”
Plus, high-quality children’s programs give adults a break from childcare. Younger kids will love traveling with Mickey and his gang aboard a Disney Cruise, while parents will find it magical for their own reasons. Unlike most cruise lines, Disney has a nursery, where babies as young as three months can be dropped off.
Got teens and tweens too cool to get goofy with Donald Duck? Consider a larger cruise ship like Norwegian, with its teens-only club, Entourage, climbing wall and adrenaline-charged water slides.
And don’t forget to grab those group discounts. Whether it’s a beach condo, Caribbean villa or cruise ship, ask if there are any special family promotions. A second room for half price? Free breakfast? As you ponder whether to gather the whole gang for a vacation, remember the family that plays together, stays together!