Multi generational family travel guide

Adventure has no age limits, something perfectly evidenced by the rise of multi generational family travel. This kind of holiday has never been more popular, especially following the prolonged separations of Covid. We all want to spend quality time with our families, but on holiday time somehow feels different to the occasional weekend get together at home. It doesn’t just move slowly, but more significantly, often more happily. Family travel experts understand this, creating tailor made holidays ideally matched to your needs. Or you can join a small group tour, to make friends easily with like-minded families doing the same activities.
And we know there are a lot of intrepid families out there willing to consider exciting, far-flung destinations rather than just a week in a countryside cottage.
The best multi generational family trips offer a mix of culture, thrilling activities, comfortable accommodation and plenty of free time to relax. In fact that last bit might be the most important ingredient. Sometimes it’s those little moments of peace and quiet, or sitting around the table sharing a joke, that you remember most clearly of all.

What is multi generational travel?

Sometimes known as intergenerational travel, or 3G holidays (because there are three or more generations), multi generational family travel is when you have grandparents, sometimes even great-grandparents too, accompanying parents and kids on holiday. Most, if not all, family holidays are suitable for or can be adapted to accommodate extra generations.

However, although everyone might still feel young at heart, with a wider span of ages comes a need to ensure the holiday arrangements are suitable for all. Some family members would no doubt love the thought of pizza and chips for every meal, or spending the entire holiday watching films on their tablets around the hotel pool. Others might prefer to have the occasional dinner out at a local restaurant and perhaps crack open their guidebook. So while there are plenty of advantages to a multi generational family holiday, the best ones are those where everyone agrees it would be a good idea to do it again.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Multi generational family or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

What are the benefits of multi generational family travel?

Sharing the costs

Holidays are one of the most expensive purchases we make, and unlike cars and property, we tend to buy them every year. So splitting the costs between the whole family can mean potentially large savings, leaving more money to spend on far-flung destinations, accommodation upgrades, and wine.

Sharing the responsibilities

Shared responsibility (or irresponsibility) is another cornerstone of the multi generational family holiday. As parents, many of us can point to lines on our faces or strands of grey in our hair and say “a souvenir from the Algarve in 2018” or “picked that up skiing in Austria the winter that James turned 12.” I’m bald at 40, and I’ve only got one child – you do the maths.

It can be difficult to fully relax and enjoy yourself when you have to spend the entire holiday serving as entertainer, caterer, diplomat, chauffeur, cleaner, personal organiser. Dividing up the childcare means that everyone has opportunities to put their feet up for a bit, while grandparents get to spend time getting to know the kids. You’re sharing the responsibility, but also the fun and the memories.

Quality family time

Many families have had to endure forced separations for months on end, so it’s no surprise that interest in multi generational family travel is on the rise. We’ve come to appreciate the importance of spending time together, but even so, work, school, distances and busy lives can still make it difficult.

A family holiday, arranged months in advance, is something to really look forward to. You can use it to celebrate milestones like graduations, retirements and birthdays, and, with holidays usually at least a week in length, the time away together will take on much more significance than regular family festive occasions or the odd Sunday lunch.

A more enjoyable way to travel

With at least a few activities to suit everyone, balanced with time apart to unwind, and comfortable accommodation, a multi generational family holiday will likely prove much more enjoyable and memorable than it would have been as a couple, or parents with kids. The multiple combinations available from several generations travelling together allows for unique perspectives, and kids and grandparents can delight each other with their different takes on what’s going on around them.

What does multi generational family travel involve?

Compromise

Flexibility is key when it comes to holidaying with several generations, especially if your family is new to travelling as a group. Grandparents won’t appreciate it if they feel as though they’re there just to babysit, while a morning wandering a market or set of ancient ruins will be more readily accepted by teenagers if they know they get to have their idea of fun in the afternoon.

If you’re on a self-drive holiday, then a democratic system to determine who’s in charge of the music each day and who gets to drink wine at lunch, will dodge a lot of arguments. And in fact, getting together on neutral territory you may well find that any old tensions and common flare-ups are forgotten about in a way that they wouldn’t be over the table at Christmas lunch. Who wants to argue about who broke a family heirloom twenty years ago, when you’re sipping cocktails around the pool?

Balance

A mix of culture vulture grandparents, young-at-heart parents, teenagers reluctant to give up their phones and younger children bouncing off the walls with energy, it’s naturally going to be hard to please everyone. So you need to find the right balance of activities, rest, and start-times to the day, to keep things on an even keel.

For this reason, many multi generational family holidays tend to be tailor made. You have greater scope in everything from your travel dates to the type of accommodation, and you can shape your itineraries to your own wishes. In some destinations such as Cuba or Peru, you’ll find that it’s perfectly easy for the family to do different things on some days, but regroup in the afternoons to share tales of their adventures.
You may also find that basing yourselves in one place, such as you can in Greece or Andalucía, makes it easy for those wanting a quieter day to take a time-out.

Responsible Travel’s own Krissy Pentland is an aficionado of just such a style of holiday: “It’s a great way to have a chilled out holiday but also for the grandparents to spend time with our kids. We tend to go to very basic, rustic, rural houses, where we can all unwind together.

“In Portugal we took turns cooking, playing with the kids in the pool or taking the children for little walks, meaning the other adults not 'on duty' could read and relax. We took day trips to nearby towns, rivers and local markets – it was insightful sharing different perspectives on a place.

“My parents were able to excite the kids about the local architecture and history and in turn, the kids' curiosity and universal ability to engage with people from different nationalities offered my parents a different view of the markets from that which they'd have had travelling alone.”

Expertise

Our multi generation family holiday ideas have been dreamed up and developed by experts, fully aware of what different generations are looking for, and what family groups need in terms of organisation, information and support.

Marcel Breedveld, from our partner Latin America Journeys, is hugely experienced in guiding families through their first time travelling together as a group. “Early in the process we always discuss what each family is looking for, in terms of weather, beaches or mountains, level of activity and exertion, budget.”

Just as important as the itinerary, however, is choosing the right type of accommodation, so that when it’s time to relax, you really can relax properly. Our family travel experts can advise you which trips are suitable for you as a group.

When you’re planning a trip of this kind, you’ve got enough to do in sorting out travel arrangements, coordinating the luggage, checking passports are in date and booking vaccines, if required. You don’t also want to be working out all the nitty-gritty like getting from A to B, talking to hotels about dietary requests and ensuring that instructors on activities are all qualified – all from your side of the world to another.

Book a fully organised holiday, whether joining other families on a small group trip or taking a tailor made tour, and all the tricky details are ironed out on your behalf while you get on with enjoying each other’s company.

Memories

Without wanting to get too mushy about it, it’s not so much the convenience and the cost-sharing that make multi generation family travel so appealing a prospect to many. It’s also the chance to create memories. A few hours of grandparents and toddlers combing the beach hand-in-hand for seashells will be just as treasured as the sight of a breaching whale off the bow in the Azores. Everyone cosying up around mugs of hot chocolate in a wilderness cabin, waiting for the Northern Lights to appear in Finnish Lapland, will prompt just as many giggles as watching monkeys steal Dad’s hat in Angkor Wat.

Responsible Travel’s Krissy Pentland has holidayed with kids and grandparents in tow on many occasions: “I’d say the main thing we all get from these holidays is really precious moments to spend quality, unpressured time together, sharing meals and laughter.

There's also a lot to be said for travelling and discovering new places together. Children can learn from grandparents and I think vice versa too – there is so much to be said for a child's confident curiosity when travelling… seeing a place through a child's eyes can lead to even more serendipitous moments than usual and that's got to be a good thing.”

Best time for multi generational family travel

The long summer holidays lend themselves ideally to family trips, though Easter is also popular. Having a larger window of time is crucial in getting the schedules of kids in school to match up with working parents, and grandparents either still working themselves, or retired but a long way from being couch potatoes. Ceri Jones from our partner Rickshaw Travel agrees, “Costa Rica, Borneo and Sri Lanka are good most of the year but summer holidays tend to be busiest of course as you have the widest time frame, also Easter. Christmas not so much, as it’s natural that families want to get together at home around then.”

Summer is also ideal for multi generation family holidays in Sri Lanka, as Helene Cooper, from our partner Stubborn Mule, affirms: “I would say summer is best for Sri Lanka, from an ease point of view because you just go up to the north-east coast. Christmas, the hotels get very booked up in advance and also they have enforced Christmas Eve and New Years Eve gala dinner supplements, so the price bumps up. October half term is not great, as it is on the cusp between the monsoons. But the summer holidays are an easy blanket, a two month period of lovely weather in the north.”

That being said, if you want a winter getaway then destinations such as Iceland and Finnish Lapland offer up a host of memorable, magical activities that will appeal to kids, parents and grandparents alike. If you’re not too keen on snowmobile safaris or husky sledding, you’ll still love building snowmen with the children, soaking in thermal hot springs, petting reindeer or watching for the Northern Lights during an evening in a wilderness cabin.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Alexandra Koch] [Intro: Mael BALLAND] [Quality family time: Marissa Price] [Beach time: Vidar Nordli-Mathisen] [Best time for multi generational family travel: Daniel Klein]