Multigenerational Vacations and Baby Boomer Travel

Multigenerational Vacations and Travel (ie, grandparents traveling with grandkids and their parents.) are quickly becoming a trend enjoyed by both young and old alike and are the focus of today’s installment in our ongoing series on Baby Boomer Travel.

In our first article, we showcased Senior Tours and How you’re never too old for an adventure. In our follow-up to that article, we covered The 15 Benefits of Hiking.

Today’s post comes from a guest author and frequent Southwest Discoveries contributor, Clark Norton. Clark is a freelance journalist who specializes in travel-related copywriting assignments. A voracious traveler, Clark has roamed the globe bringing his unique perspective on Multigenerational Vacations.

It could be anything from a weekend walking or hiking trip to a 10-day African safari, a day of whitewater rafting on a local river to a weeklong cruise in the Caribbean.

It creates bonds between multiple generations within a family — making memories by journeying together to new destinations or by returning to old favorites.

It’s a fast-growing phenomenon called “multi-generational travel” — trips that grandparents, parents, and grandchildren can enjoy as a family — and it’s become one of the hottest trends in the travel industry.
According to travel industry statistics, the number of multi-generational trips has jumped by a third each of the past four years.

And seniors — especially the generation of baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 — are the main force driving the trend.

Leading-edge baby boomers — now reaching age 65 at the rate of 10,000 a day, with many entering retirement — are finding themselves with more time to travel.

And they’re not only ready to spend quality time traveling with their grown children and young grandchildren, they’re willing to spend the money necessary to make sure everyone has a memorable trip.

Estimates are that one-third of all baby boomers will take a ‘multi-generational vacation within the next year. And those that do travel with other generations tend to be ardent travelers, averaging four such trips per year.

That’s a good deal more trips of any kind taken by the typical U.S. traveler.

Baby boomer grandparents frequently take the lead in initiating the trips themselves as a way to spend more time with their offspring — “seizing the moment” to travel together before their grandchildren are grown.

Here are some eye-opening statistics and trends compiled from government and travel industry sources:

50 million U.S. households are now led by grandparents, forecasting a continued travel boom by this large group of baby boomers.
Today’s grandparents are far more active than their parents were, spending lots of time planning trips around specific activities.
22 percent of all grandparents traveled with just their grandchildren in the past year – a trend also known as GranTravel.
70 percent of multi-generational traveler's report that children participate in travel planning; 66 percent say kids help decide where to travel and 50 percent where to stay.
Multi-generational trips are often triggered by a special occasion, with 66 percent traveling to celebrate life milestones.

Times Are Changing

Today’s multi-generational travel is quite different from the stereotypical family travel of old, which might have been limited to gatherings in one relative’s backyard or an outing at a local lake.

“These boomer grandparents don’t just go along to babysit the grandkids,” says James McKenna, branding manager of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, which has made a special effort to attract multi-generational tourists. “They’re more active (than their parents),” and — with more financial resources — often end up paying for the trip costs themselves.

An owner of American Cruise Lines, which courts senior travelers, agrees with McKenna’s assessment of the baby boomer mentality.

“They’re much more engaged than previous generations,” says ACL’s Charles B. Robertson, “They’re active, they’re diligent, and they’ve done their homework. They know exactly what they want to do.”

Tours Provide Structure and Certainty
While many baby boomers grew up backpacking on their own in Europe or setting off across country in VW vans, when they travel now with grandkids in tow they look for more structure and certainty. (There’s nothing worse than arriving at a destination with young kids and finding your hotel reservation has fallen through or having to wait in long lines for a rental car.)

Safety, efficiency, and being well organized – as well as understanding what will keep very different generations happy and occupied — are the watchwords.

It’s vital to meet the needs and wishes of all generations — grandchildren, grandparents, and the “sandwich generation” parents – if a family vacation is to be successful.
That’s why professionally guided tours and other structured trips are prized by multi-generational travelers.

It’s a simple equation: Trips that run smoothly allow more time for fun.

And for senior travelers, having fun with their children and grandchildren – creating shared experiences to savor for a lifetime — is what multi-generational travel is all about.