With loved ones often scattered across the globe, more families are meeting up on vacations. In fact, multi-generational travel with family members was the top travel trend for 2018, according to luxury travel network Virtuoso. How can you plan a trip that every age can enjoy? Here are five travel itineraries that will please everyone from tantrum-prone toddlers to tough-to-please teens.
1. 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 Dan Austin, founder of group tour operator Austin Adventures. Tour groups are an attractive option for families looking to travel together without the time-consuming hassle of making their own arrangements.
Maybe you want to map out your own heritage travel adventure. While driving around an unfamiliar country involves more planning, it’s also an opportunity to experience a country just the way you want. Established companies like Hertz rent cars throughout the world. Imagine meeting long lost relatives, learning firsthand about your family’s history with your kids and grandchildren. Having a car means you’ve got the freedom to overnight in anything from Germany’s rural gasthauses to Ireland’s B & B’s.
Interested in seeing Spain from the driver’s seat? The Spanish government has made it easy to plan through their network of paradores— government-owned fortresses, monasteries and mountain lodges that have been transformed into boutique hotels. Some offer tours of the property, which serve as incredible history lessons. Look for ones with pools to keep the kids happy!
2. Tropical Island
Dreaming of a trip to a tropical island, but don’t want to deal with the hassles of making sure everyone in the family has a valid passport? No shoes, no shirt, no problem, sums up the easy-going island vibe of the Florida Keys, just over an hour south of Miami’s airport.
The Florida Keys are a 100-mile-long string of islands. Skip the lengthy drive to southernmost Key West, and make the Middle Keys home base. Though adults may embrace the idea of getting away from it all, kids still need something to do. One place with plenty for every age is Hawks Cay Resort. Hop on one of the complimentary bikes to explore the tiny island of Duck Key. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the Caribbean as you ride down Bimini Road and Bahamas Drive. The resort’s tiki hut bar helps set the tropical tone as well. Hawks Cay has its own marina where you can charter a fishing boat or head out to the world famous reefs to snorkel. Little ones will love the pirate-themed water playground and daily activities at Camp Hawk. Teens will enjoy the complimentary standup paddleboards and kayaks in the resort’s saltwater lagoon, while older family members will appreciate the adults-only pool. Everyone will enjoy the nightly beach bonfire.
3. Classic Lake Resort
Live life at a slower pace at an old-school lake resort in Minnesota, land of 10,000-plus lakes. Grand View Lodge, 130 miles north of the Twin Cities, will take you back to an era before Snapchat, when being social meant talking to your friends and family, face to face.
Although a stuffed moose, antler chandeliers and vintage photos greet you in the lobby, Grand View, owned by the same family since 1937, is far from a rustic retreat. Modern amenities include wi-fi, cable, and high thread count sheets. Stay in the main lodge, a classic cabin (1-4 bedrooms), or the resort’s newest addition, the upscale boutique hotel, North. A daily events calendar offers something for everyone. Play golf, ride the resort’s inflatable banana boat, or get treatments at the Glacial Waters Spa. Of course, you can also just relax in the Adirondack chairs with breathtaking views of the lake and stately lawn below.
4. Happy Trails
Another way to enjoy the great outdoors is by rounding up the family and saddling up at a dude ranch. Imagine riding alongside the Grand Tetons at Wyoming’s Lost Creek Ranch, hiking or fishing in the Colorado mountains at Vista Verde Ranch in Steamboat Springs, or mountain biking through the desert landscape at Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson.
No longer just about horseback riding, many of today’s ranches provide all the comforts of a resort — pools, spas and creative cuisine. Gone are the days of franks-n-beans. Some ranches cater to serious riders, others to families with plenty of kids’ activities. Representing more than 100 of the best dude ranches, duderanch.org will steer you in the right direction.
5. Cruising Together
Don’t want to play social director during your family vacation? Avoid those rough waters on a cruise. No need to argue about what to do or where to eat. From dance lessons to cooking demos, whatever floats your boat is the only rule on a cruise.
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. Another way Norwegian caters to families traveling together? It’s one of the few lines offering both connecting staterooms and single cabins, so there are plenty of lodging options for the whole group.
Of course mega ships aren’t your only option. River cruises and offbeat experiences aboard smaller expedition ships can make for a great vacation where you really learn about a place. CroisiEurope is one of the few river cruise lines allowing kids aboard. They even offer family-themed cruises where children under twelve sail for free. Or get up close with wildlife in Galapagos or Alaska with Uncruise Adventures. These smaller lines won’t have drop-off kids’ clubs like the big cruise ships, but they do offer kid-friendly excursions and onboard activities.
Wondering whether to gather the gang for a vacation? Remember the family that plays together, stays together!
- Plan early
- Let each traveler pick an activity
- Ask about any special promotions, such as group discounts, a second room for half price, free airport transportation, or complimentary breakfast
Featured image: Overnight like royalty in a 14th century castle turned into a hotel, in one of Spain’s more than 90 paradores. (Photo courtesy Parador de Oropesa)
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