What could be more wondrous than standing atop a pyramid in the middle of a jungle or dogsledding across a glacier? For many, the answer is experiencing these sites with children and grandchildren.
“The multigenerational travel trend is driven by grandparents who want to develop the world view of their families through travel,” says Jim Bendt, president of Travel Beyond, an international travel consultancy in Wayzata, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis.
Whether to commemorate a milestone or simply reconnect, a family trip can pave the way for intergenerational bonding through shared experiences.
Whether to commemorate a milestone or simply reconnect, a family trip can pave the way for intergenerational bonding through shared experiences. But with varying ages, activity levels and interests, family members often find it difficult to agree on a location.
Before booking your next family getaway, consider these three vacation destinations uniquely suited to multigenerational travel.
An Outdoor Adventure: Belize
More than half of Belize is covered in lush rain forests, but it’s not widely known as a tourist destination. That makes it ideal for large families to discover new frontiers without bustling crowds.
This exotic destination involves a relatively short flight from the United States – two hours from Miami and less than three hours from Houston, for example – an advantage for both young and older travelers who may not be comfortable on longer flights. Also adding to its convenience, Belize’s official language is English and the U.S. dollar is widely accepted. Bendt recommends this trip for active families with children no younger than 10 years old.
A highlight of the region is the ancient Mayan pyramids, such as Caracol, Xunantunich and Lamanai, which are great for families to explore. For families who want to reserve a pyramid all to themselves, Travel Beyond can take them across the nearby border into Guatemala to visit Yaxha. Bendt says visitors can walk through the Yaxha ruins led by an archaeologist who excavated the site. More active family members can ascend Structure 216, the site’s tallest pyramid at 100 feet, to watch the sun set over Lake Yaxha. For dinner, the entire family can gather around a fire pit, feast on authentic Mayan dishes and listen to live Marimba music.
Scuba and snorkeling enthusiasts can swim with colorful fish, reef sharks, barracudas and turtles in Belize’s barrier reef, the largest in the Northern Hemisphere and home to the Blue Hole. A result of an underwater cavern collapse, the Blue Hole is a reef encircled by limestone 400 feet deep with visibility up to 200 feet. Non-divers, meanwhile, can relax on palm-dotted beaches or enjoy water sports like fishing, kayaking and parasailing.
For luxury lodging, Bendt recommends the Ka’ana Boutique Resort & Spa in the Cayo District. The resort offers stylish one- and two-bedroom villas with private pools, gardens and courtyards to accommodate families.
A Cruise for All Ages: Alaska
The arctic landscape of Alaska is home to awe-inspiring glaciers and majestic wildlife, and cruises enable travelers of all ages to experience it.
Disney’s Alaska cruise is especially accommodating for multigenerational families, including small children and those with less mobility. Online cruise reviewer Cruise Critic ranks Disney as one of the top accessible cruise lines: Handicap-accessible staterooms are available, and wheelchairs and mobility scooters are permitted onboard.
Although “Disney” may inspire images of theme parks and childish characters, Bendt says that’s not the case here. “What you can expect is a high level of service that caters to all ages,” he says.
While at sea, numerous entertainment options are available for adults, including adult-only spas, sports bars, lounges and pools. Meanwhile, youth clubs offer a hangout for children and teens to participate in activities, listen to music and play video games. Young children will delight at the chance to meet their favorite Disney characters and watch them perform in concert.
Each port of call offers excursions suitable for various ages and activity levels. For example, the old gold rush town of Skagway hosts the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway, built in 1898 to wind through narrow mountain passes. A vintage train takes passengers to an altitude of nearly 3,000 feet and grants unparalleled views of cliffs, mountain goats and waterfalls.
Active family members can hike trails around the Mendenhall Glacier, one of Alaska’s most accessible glaciers, to behold the mystical blue color and crystalline structure of ice floating on jade waters. A helicopter or dogsledding tour can also be arranged for more daring family members who wish to walk on the glacier.
A European Journey: Italy
Italy’s family-oriented traditions and comforting cuisine make it stand out as the perfect multigenerational vacation. Lauren Goldberg, co-owner of Philadelphia travel agency The Family Traveler, recommends touring the major cities of Rome, Florence and Venice. She suggests this trip for children age 6 and up.
In Rome, families can tour the Colosseum, the amphitheater in which ancient Romans watched gladiators battle. A few select tour operators also now offer exclusive after-hours tours of the Vatican City Museum (home to the Sistine Chapel) for families to experience Michelangelo’s handiwork without the crowds.
In addition to sightseeing, Italy offers a wealth of interactive activities that will capture the imaginations of the young as well as the “young at heart.” For example, in Rome, families can engage in warrior training at the Rome Cavalieri Hotel. The session equips participants with a tunic and wooden sword and teaches battle techniques in the hotel’s park overlooking Roman ruins.
Italy’s family-oriented traditions and comforting cuisine make it stand out as the perfect multigenerational vacation.
In Florence, families can learn to make two quintessentially Italian foods: pizza and gelato. A chef instructs families in choosing ingredients, stretching dough and topping their pizzas. For dessert, participants sample gelato flavors and learn about the special heating and cooling techniques involved in crafting the treat. The hands-on classes culminate in a feast of the final products.
Luxury hotels are plentiful throughout the major cities, and a private driver can chauffeur families and their luggage between locations.
If time affords between cities, Goldberg recommends a stay in a countryside luxury villa, such as those in Tuscany and Umbria. These country estates provide families with a rejuvenating respite from touring. Villas come in all sizes, often have gardens and are close to nearby villages. Other amenities may include a pool and staff.
The Big Picture
With more families scattered across the country, multigenerational trips enable generations to reconnect, away from busy schedules. Plus, Bendt adds, they offer a formative experience that can have a lasting impact on family members’ global perspectives.
That’s why grandparents increasingly give multigenerational voyages to their family in lieu of traditional gifts like cash and material goods. “Why give your family ‘stuff’ when you can give them the world?” he says.
But whatever destination you choose, your journey can reinforce to family members what is important to you. “A trip gives families the opportunity to spend quality time together and have unique experiences that create memories to last a lifetime,” Goldberg says.