Travel is one of the most rewarding gifts we can give our children. It’s a window to the world and an introduction to other cultures. As our children become young adults, they grow more curious about what lies beyond their own neighborhood and how people live in other parts of the world. It’s an opportune time to capitalize on their expanding minds and spark an interest in travel with extended family.
The Gift that Keeps on Giving
While school and sports schedules can cause hiccups in trip planning, it’s more than worth the effort to find time to travel together as a family. Instead of gift-giving and only gathering for family events—weddings, graduations, birthdays—consider more vacations together. Start small with something like a cousins trip to France as they study the language back home, or to Athens if they’re mythology buffs. Then, enrich the travel experience with even more extended family (aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandpas) and suddenly, you have a living, breathing, multigenerational classroom on the go.
With ever-widening physical distance between families, most of us have just a cursory idea of what makes our extended family members tick. Travel awakens everyone’s inner passions, leading to priceless bonding moments between generations. Grandpa can regale everyone with tales of WWII as you visit the beaches of Normandy, while Grandma may surprise everyone with her wine knowledge during a tasting in the French countryside. Aunt Jane can share her culinary genius as she leads everyone on a tour of Thailand’s street food, and cousins of all ages could share their encyclopedic knowledge of wildlife in the Galapagos or the vast plains of Kenya. These fun learnings and amazing memories with your family members are some of the greatest gifts of multigenerational travel.
Unplug and Reconnect
Sure, kids can see their grandparents online through Skype and Facetime, and cousins can keep up on Instagram and Facebook. However, nothing beats true face-to-face time and the spontaneous moments that occur when you’re together in a new destination. Multigenerational travel is the perfect time to put away the phones, the tablets, and the laptops and relish the moment. Instead of racing to post a picture-perfect day online, take the time to watch a beautiful sunset together while you relive memorable moments—snorkeling with manta rays, observing a lion cub, or standing in the village your great grandparents are from. Back home, post away—or better yet, share your favorite memories and photos on a family blog that all can enjoy. Your travel memories will become the tales told throughout your family’s generations.
Our Favorite Ideas for Multigenerational Travel
Where and how should one travel for a great multigenerational trip?
One idea is to start on the water, perhaps a river cruise, where you can reach multiple destinations (and only have to unpack and repack once). Family members of all ages will have a choice of activities, depending on interest and physical ability. Plus, being aboard a ship provides a great setting for gathering together to share stories while taking in scenic views.
Prefer to stay on land? A popular multigenerational travel choice is an African safari that will bring out everyone’s wild side. Imagine the delight as a 14-year-old who is usually tied to his phone, as he ventures out at dawn with Mom and Grandpa by his side to witness lions, elephants, zebra, and other exotic animals graze across picturesque landscapes. There’s not a page in any textbook that can rival that awe-inspiring moment.
Heritage trips are a favorite for families of all ages traveling together. Maybe one of the kids is putting together a family tree—what better way to bring it full circle than with several generations standing together in the hometown or country your family is from? With your kin by your side, explore local cultural spots, former residences, and sample favorite foods to get a true feeling for your own heritage!
Whether parents take their teens on school vacation together, Grandma and Grandpa whisk away their grandkids for a college graduation trip, or everyone heads to a special destination to trace the family roots, there are so many ways to embrace multigenerational travel. What matters most, perhaps even more than the destination, is the fact that you are experiencing it together—a brand-new experience for everyone, a journey that one generation wants to share with another, or an exciting adventure that reconnects you all. These real-life moments experienced through travel are what brings loved ones together in the most simple, yet extraordinary way.