Intergenerational Travel Results in Lifelong Learning
By Victor Block
Barbara and Robert Kline kept their eyes peeled for elephants while their son, Tom, and his wife, Betty, scanned streams for glimpses of crocodiles. It was the antics of monkeys that made 12-year-old Nancy and John, 10, squeal with delight. Scenes like this are repeated around the world as family members of various ages share the enjoyment and education that traveling together offers.
Whether it's called intergenerational or multigenerational travel, the concept is the same. Members of a family travel to destinations near and far and return home with shared memories, new insights and a sense of increased bonding with their relatives.
With the number of new coronavirus cases dropping, more people being vaccinated and health security protocols in place, many people are planning trips with generations of kinfolk as a good way to reconnect.
According to a survey by the Society of American Travel Writers, the foremost organization of journalists in the field, family and intergenerational travel are among industry sectors expected to recover most quickly and gain in importance this year -- and for good reason. The benefits are varied and valued.
Spending quality time with children and grandchildren can bring generations closer together. When busy parents and distracted teens put aside their cellphones and share memorable experiences, they're open to connecting in a new way. Some groups include great-grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins and other extended family members who build new bonds that will last lifetimes.
Perspectives change by looking at the world in new ways. Seeing things through the eyes of a different generation, for example, might highlight new kinds of attractions and activities. And everyone is likely to make new friends. Adults often stay in touch with other parents or grandparents they meet on a trip, and grandkids usually end up enjoying others in their age group and, in some cases, forming lasting friendships.
Even adult children who travel with their parents report the advantages of doing so. A new level of closeness grows between the generations by sharing enjoyable experiences that take a different tone as children become adults. Kid-friendly is no longer the go-to as upscale becomes a possibility. Conversation and humor, too, evolve and create lasting memories in adult families who tour together.
As with any travel, however, advance planning is important to make sure an intergenerational trip will be successful and enjoyable for all participants. A few guidelines can make the difference between the best possible experience and a bust.
Have a pre-trip talk. Discuss what each person would like to do and seek a balance between group activities and spending time alone. Block out some quiet time when both young children and older adults can rest and relax. Let family members skip an activity that doesn't interest them or that is out of their comfort or budget zone without being judged.