Grandparents are always looking for ways to draw their families together and deepen their relationships with their grandchildren. Email and phone calls help, of course, but nothing can take the place of personal contact and shared experiences.
That’s why more seniors are planning vacations that include their grandchildren. And it’s becoming so common that it has a name: grand travel.
Grand Travel Answers an Important Need
According to Helena Koenig, a grandmother of three who founded Grandtravel, a Washington, D.C.-based company that organizes trips for grandparents and grandchildren, seniors today want to leave their grandchildren a lasting inheritance.
“Travel is unforgettable,” Koenig says. “Grandparents want to make their money talk. They want their grandchildren to inherit memories. What good does money do once you are gone?”
According to the Travel Industry Association of America, 30 percent of U.S. leisure travelers who are grandparents have taken at least one vacation with their grandchildren.
Grandchildren Like the Idea of Grand Travel
It’s not just the adults who want more intergenerational travel experiences. A 2003 survey conducted by Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell, a marketing agency in Orlando, Florida, revealed that 56 percent of kids aged 6 to 17 would "really like to" vacation with their grandparents.
Cari Gray, marketing director for Toronto-based Butterfield & Robinson, says her company saw the growing trend in grand travel a few years ago and started creating programs specifically for families, including grandparents who want to travel with their grandchildren.
"The money that generation has, and the way they want to spend it, is geared toward sharing experiences instead of buying a bigger house,” Gray says. “They want spiritual bonding."
How to Get Started with Grand Travel
If you would like to try traveling with your grandchildren, but feel uneasy about trying to plan a trip that will match the abilities and interests of everyone involved, there are a number of different organizations that offer packages and tours designed for grandparents and grandchildren. Here are three of the best:
Elderhostel, which provides outstanding educational travel experiences for seniors 55 and older, also offers hundreds of intergenerational tours to domestic and international locations throughout the year. Packages range from short trips in the U.S. that cost less than $500 per person to costly multi-week international vacations.
Packages include accommodations; most meals; transportation during the program; field trips, cultural events, and lectures; and gratuities and taxes. International programs also include airfare.
Grandparents and grandkids can retrace the path of Lewis and Clark, explore the Everglades by canoe, learn about Irish mythology firsthand, bicycle through Germany and Austria, or choose from many other options. Rates are the same for all ages.
For seniors who want a deluxe travel experience, Grandtravel offers first-class vacations to destinations around the world, all designed specifically for grandparents traveling with their grandchildren.
Most tours cost more than $5,000 per person, but feature deluxe lodgings, extraordinary menus, and many unique tours and activities such as a backstage tour of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in England or an opportunity to feed giraffes in Kenya.