Extended Fun for the Extended Family
Heather Bowman of Columbus cannot remember a vacation that didn't include her extended family. Since 1994, yearly vacations to Hilton Head Island, S.C., commandeered a spot on the calendar just like a holiday.
"It's just a given that we're going each year," said Bowman. "It started as a regular family vacation, and then, as spouses and children came along, it expanded."
Now, Bowman, her husband, Shane, and their two children, Luke (age 6) and Lily (age 2), vacation with her sister, brother-in-law and their child along with her parents. Nine people and three generations is a lot to coordinate, but this family wouldn't have it any other way.
Little did Bowman know that her family enjoys what is coined in vacation circles as "multigeneration travel." It is a specific kind of destination or travel experience that caters to children, parents and grandparents all aat one time.
Multigeneration travel is booming in popularity as busy families try to make the most of their limited time together. According to a recent AAA survey on multigenerational travel, more than one-third of travelers (36 percent) plan to take a multigenerational trip in the next 12 months as a way to connect with family. That is a 4 percent increase over last year. More than one quarter of those trips will include at least three generations.
"It's definitely a bonding experience for the kids," Bowman said. "Being able to watch my parents interact with them is great."
The trick is finding a place that can accommodate the large number of people and, more importantly, cater to the interests and needs of several generations.
A place such as Hilton Head Island is perfect because large beach houses that rent by the week have enough room for several families, and there are plenty of activities all in one area. Bowman said there are always children's activities on the beach as well as at local venues. For instance, the Salty Dog Cafe offers an activity where everyone in the family can tie-dye shirts together.
"We have our routine. We go to the pool or the beach, which is fun for all ages, then we go out to dinner," Bowman said.
The payoff is family time that is precious, which is why this kind of travel is so appealing.
"I like the tradition of it," Bowman said. "This is what we've always done and we enjoy it."
Other options that cater to multigeneration travel include:
Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
Pigeon Forge is about a 6-hour drive from Columbus and there are plenty of multifamily cabins available in the area. Family-friendly attractions include miniature golf courses, the Hollywood Wax Museum (hollywoodwaxmuseum.com/pigeon-forge), rides and stage shows at Dollywood (dollywood.com) and outdoor activities in the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park (nps.gov/grsm/index.htm). Condos and cabins have kitchen facilities, but for some good country cooking, there's also Mama's Farmhouse (mamasfarmhouse.com) and The Old Mill Restaurant (old-mill.com) with dining facilities that accommodate groups. There are also several dinner show theaters on the main strip.
Many cruise companies are now catering to the multigeneration travel market, designing itineraries and activities that basically offer one-stop shopping for family time together. Some cruise ships, including Disney Cruise Line's (disneycruise.disney.go.com) Fantasy and Dream ships, Crystal Cruises (crystalcruises.com) and Aqua Expeditions (aquaexpeditions.com) have even reconfigured cabins to create adjoining family suites. Many cruises now offer flexible dining options, and some even help parents with special requests for picky eaters. Cruises offer the perfect blend of unstructured relaxation time, yet enough on-board activities to keep everyone busy.
For the active families, you can hit Adventures on the Gorge (adventuresonthegorge.com) in 4 hours and a half-tank of gas. The resort area has several levels of lodging options, from four-bedroom deluxe cabins to vacation home rentals on secluded property. Packages are available to bundle lodging, food and activities such as whitewater rafting and ziplines.