With many seniors relocating to retirement destinations and grandchildren often involved in busy family lives, the best present you may be able to give your grandkids is your time. What better way to share that time and get away from the distractions of home than by going on vacation together?
Several companies offer vacation experiences designed especially for grandparents and grandchildren traveling together. While you can always arrange a trip on your own, tours have the advantage of being preplanned and guided by someone who’s already a pro at multigenerational travel. This makes it easier for both you and your grandkids to relax and enjoy one another’s company while discovering (or rediscovering) a destination.
Here’s a look at three travel organizations that operate grandparent/grandchild tours.
Elderhostel Intergenerational tours
The largest educational travel company for travelers ages 55 and up, Elderhostel also runs more grandparent/grandchild tours than any other organization I could find, with more than 100 different domestic and international itineraries currently scheduled. What’s more, its prices are among the most affordable, with rates starting at $353 per person for a four-night trip in the Poconos.
Programs range in length from a few days to two weeks and may focus on a single city or region or include a full-country tour. Like regular Elderhostel trips, intergenerational programs have some kind of educational component, but with decidedly kid-friendly themes. For example, a trip to Oxford, England ($2,516), explores literary sites associated with popular children’s books, such as those in the Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia series. There are also many soft adventure options, including a schooner sailing in Puget Sound ($580) and white-water rafting in the Grand Canyon ($799).
Because trip activities vary in difficulty and interest, programs are tailored for children in specific age groups, with options for kids as young as four and as old as 18. Packages include accommodations, most meals, and transportation during the program, gratuities and taxes, and sightseeing, activities, and educational programming. Rates are based on double occupancy and are the same for all ages. To learn more visit the Elderhostel website.
Grandtravel is notable for its carefully researched itineraries and upscale inclusions. Each Grandtravel tour balances activities that are fun and educational for both generations with private time and some separate happenings just for the kids. The company offers about 14 different itineraries, with most trips scheduled during the summer, although there are a few options for winter and spring break. Tours are available in the U.S., Europe, Australia, and Africa.
Grandtravel vacations aren’t cheap—prices for 2006 trips range from $2,670 per person for a six-day fossil discovery tour in Colorado to $8,990 per person for a 13-day Australia trip (with small discounts for kids under 12)—but the inclusions are high-end and itineraries are packed with top-notch experiences. For example, a five-night New York holiday program ($4,995) features four shows including the Radio City “Christmas Spectacular” and “The Nutcracker” at Lincoln Center, plus fine dining at restaurants like the Tavern on the Green in Central Park.
Trips are geared for grandkids ages seven to 17, with most trips designated for either seven- to nine-year-olds or 10- to 17-year-olds. Prices include airport transfers, accommodations, most meals, group transportation, the services of a trip leader and activities director, sightseeing, activities, and admission fees. Some tours also include airfare. For more information, visit the Grandtravel website.
The grassroots environmental organization Sierra Club runs dozens of adventure trips around the globe every year, but it also offers family outdoors trips in the U.S., including a handful of multigenerational and “Just for Grandparents and Grandkids” tours. Prices are affordable, too, with rates starting at $495 per adult and $395 per child under 18 for the five-night “Just for Grandparents and Grandkids Tahoe National Forest” trip in California.
Some trips, like the Lake Tahoe programs, are laid-back and allow you to participate in organized hikes and other activities or plan some of your own outings. Others are more structured and education-focused. For example, the weeklong “Multigenerational Snorkel and Study in Everglades National Park and Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary” features snorkel trips and lab workshops with the Marine Resources Development Foundation. This trip costs $945 per adult and $845 per child.
Tour inclusions vary, but typically cover accommodations, most meals, activities, and trip leaders. Trips have a minimum-age requirement in order to participate and all trip participants age 18 or older must be Sierra Club members. You can join online for the senior rate of $25. Go to the Sierra Club website to learn more about its family trips.