Few organizations are as savvy as Disney when it comes to anticipating travel trends. So when its tour arm, Adventures By Disney, announced that it would be offering its first tours geared specifically to multiple generations, many in the travel industry realized that traveling with the grandparents had finally, well, come of age.
Multi-generational travel is nothing new, it’s true, but Disney’s move minted it as a top trend. And in the past few years, the numbers of people traveling with both their parents and their children seems to have grown exponentially. In a recent Associated Press Story, Norwegian Cruise Lines reported that about 20% of its staterooms were being booked by multi-generational family groups; in that same piece, an official of Carnival Cruise Lines stated that 50% of its bookings are for multiple cabins, many of which go to large family groups. And in 2012, Y Partnership, a major travel marketing firm, conducted a poll that showed that 37% of all grandparents had vacationed with their grandchildren in the previous year.
The trend is based on the changing reality of what it means to age today, says Dr. Margaret King, director of the Center for Cultural Studies and Analysis, a think tank that analyzes consumer behavior. “The median age rises every year! You have millions of people in senior categories but they’re still vital and still traveling. So there are a lot more generations to travel with!” she states.
She goes on to note that it’s often the senior members of the family who initiate multi-generational travel. “The grandparents tend to push for the family vacations,” she says. “For them it’s about the search for meaning that takes hold in our sixties. Being primates, we’re intensely social, so we derive a lot of meaning from our interpersonal relationships, especially immediate family. People take intergenerational vacations to squeeze as much meaning as they can out of life and to develop their most important relationships in places other than home”.
What kind of trip one takes is also rooted in primal needs, according to Doctor King. “For family vacations, families prefer confined environments. It helps them feel safer, as they know the younger (and older) members of the group won’t wander too far”. These can include theme parks, cruise ships, train trips and all-inclusive resorts.
Sally Black, founder of the family travel agency VacationKids.com posits another reason for the popularity of the types of trips mentioned above: “You know your entire budget up front,” notes Black. “That helps a lot when you’re dealing with families, because often different members will have different amounts they can spend. Having a solid ballpark figure at the start can really help with the decision-making process.”
So what are some of the best deals around for multi-generational travel? Here’s some to look at:
-Cruises: Though it hasn’t happened yet, historically when a well-publicized travel debacle occurs (as did recently with the ill-fated Carnival Triumph sailing), it depresses demand for that sort of travel, and prices drop. Be on the lookout for fire sales on upcoming cruises, and remember that groups carry even more clout with travel agents, as they make a bigger commission when they book several cabins at once. Try such cruise specialists as VacationsToGo.com, CruisesOnly and CruiseStar to book, and ask them to work for your group to get such perks as a free cocktail party, upgrades or other gimmes. These are regularly gifted to groups.
-All-Inclusive Resorts: At the highly kid-friendly Palace Resorts of Mexico (think water slides, elaborate kids clubs and more), kids will be allowed to stay free from June 1 through August 31. That could make a multi-generational vacation that’s tot heavy that much more affordable. Another good chain for groups? The AMResorts (which encompasses Dreams, Secrets, Now and Sunscape Resorts). While most chains offer a free room for every 10 booked, with AM properties the freebie is for every sixth room. For all warm weather destinations, I recommend using a company that can arrange for air/hotel packages to save. So look at RedTag.ca, VacMart.com and Expedia.ca
-House Rental: For the family that can make its own fun, gathering everyone in one big house is usually a great saver over hotel rooms. In fact, TJ Mahoney of FlipKey.com says studies have shown that travelers save an average of 30% off hotel stays, when the savings that come from cooking some meals are factored in. Because there are fewer big houses than two bedrooms on the market, be sure to start your search at least 6-months in advance if you’re looking for this type of vacation. Beside FlipKey, HomeAway.com, VRBO.com and Zonder.com are all terrific sources for rentals across the glob