Give the Gift of Memories With Multigenerational Travel

This holiday season, skip the matching pajamas and plan a trip for the whole family that will create lifelong memories.

Samantha Brown and her extended family exploring a Norway fjord Sharon Tolley

The act of planning a family vacation can feel like piecing together a complicated puzzle, especially when you’re trying to please everyone, from grandparents to young grandchildren. But if you keep one goal as the cornerstone of the trip—say, cultural enrichment, adventure or family bonding—it makes choosing your destination and activities a lot easier. 

“It’s not about having the vacation of our lives; it’s about connection,” says renowned travel expert Samantha Brown. “It’s really important to have that big conversation with everybody, and it starts with [asking questions like], ‘What do you want to do?’”  

Interested in planning a multigenerational trip? Here are three options to choose from—each will let your family enjoy an assortment of shared experiences and togetherness while far from home.

Samantha Brown and her extended family view the scenery from a cruise ship Dustin Rapp

Cruise Control

Samantha loves cruising with groups because it takes pressure off the trip’s planner.

“Cruising makes it really easy in that it creates all of that infrastructure that you would [otherwise have to build yourself], as the planner. You have to put so much planning into making sure everyone’s happy and answering questions like, ‘When are we going to eat?’ and ‘What should we do for excursions?’ A cruise does all of that for you,” Samantha says. “It creates more time to enjoy each other’s company and have those softer moments that really enable you to connect.”

The versatility in cruising options is an advantage, allowing you to pick the right type of trip depending on your group’s ages, budget and desired destinations. And with a variety of ports from which you can depart, the first step of your family’s international adventure can be as easy as driving to a cruise port such as Cape Canaveral, Fort Lauderdale or Charleston. Or introduce the kids to France on a river cruise along the Seine, hopping off the ship for museum scavenger hunts and bike rides around the Palace of Versailles. 

If you want to introduce younger children to other cultures but are worried about a long-haul flight, cruises can be a great option. And with a cruise, you can customize aspects of your itinerary, selecting the excursions, classes and cultural experiences that appeal to your family. In addition, you can spend time exploring the sites at your own pace. Season 6 of Samantha Brown’s Places to Love, Samantha’s Emmy Award–winning travel show on PBS, features a cruise she took with her children, husband and in-laws to the inside passage of Alaska

While Samantha, her husband and children wanted to experience everything that Juneau had to offer, her in-laws went to sip champagne and eat oysters. “Everyone got to do what they wanted to do,” Samantha explains. 

Cruises let everyone decide how active they want their trip to be, and they provide a hub the group can then return to for family connection. Another plus: Cruise ships are made to accommodate larger groups, so no need to scramble for a dinner reservation. And while adjoining staterooms and suites are favorites for group accommodations, today’s ships have been updated to provide even more family-friendly options. 

  • TIP: Certified AAA Travel Advisors like Henry Muñoz are ready to help.
    “Our advisors have a range of knowledge from traveling the world. We can help save money in certin areas or even suggest trips the Member never knew existed. ”  —Henry Muñoz, Certified AAA Travel Advisor
A family relaxes at a poolside cabana surrounded by palm trees Provided by Pleasant Holidays

All-inclusive Solution 

All-inclusive resorts are another fantastic option for multigenerational vacations. Samantha recommends taking the new generation along when you revisit places you’ve been before. 

“I always love it when you go back to destinations that, as parents, you took your kids and now you’ve got your grandkids. It’s a great way to remind yourself of the purpose of family travel. There’s this overarching theme of what we’re here for, and it’s to keep these memories of our families going,” Samantha says.

A multi-generational family on a hike on a sunny day iStock

While many all-inclusive vacations are in beach-centric locations in Mexico and the Caribbean, there are other wonderful stateside options to consider, including mountain escapes and dude ranches. A highlight of an all-inclusive resort is that everyone has options that fit how active they want—or don’t want—to be. “I find that the older generation and the younger generation, especially if they’re young kids, actually have a lot more in common than you may think,” says Samantha. 

A group of tourists horseback riding on path surrounded by trees Ed Freeman/Getty Images

Some family members may enjoy activities like snorkeling, horseback riding or hiking, while others might prefer a top-notch spa or a large deck for sunbathing. Regardless of how active everyone decides to be, Samantha has a simple rule: “We make sure we build in those breaks. At 2 p.m., we do nothing for two hours.”

All-inclusive resorts offer the same home base aspect as cruise ships do, where family members can set off on their own adventures and meet up for a shared meal or travel experience.

  • TIP: Your local AAA branch office has travel advisors ready to meet with you in person or, if you prefer, work with you by phone. 
    “AAA is backed by the support of a strongly vetted network. We work with partners to make sure your trip is going to be as smooth as possible.” —Joy Haizel, Certified AAA Travel Advisor
Quote from Samantha Brown that states “I love it when you go back to destinations that, as parents, you took your kids and now you’ve got your grandkids. It’s a great way to remind yourself of the purpose of family travel. There’s this overarching theme of what we’re here for, and it’s to keep these memories of our families going.”
A family of visitors in a safari vehicle with a guide Mint Images/Getty Images

Guided Vacations

Are you looking for a standout trip where all the details are left to the experts? A guided vacation will take a huge weight from the trip organizer’s shoulders and leave more room for fun and family bonding. You can choose from options that offer group or privately guided itineraries led by knowledgeable guides, and you’ll get a great education in the history and culture of your destination. 

Perhaps your group wants to go overseas to a destination like Africa or Europe. Guided trips are a hassle-free way to have firsthand experiences of other cultures, discover historic sites and travel with kids—especially if you’re taking them abroad. Imagine taking the family to Iceland and hiking on a glacier or riding gentle Icelandic horses. Guided vacations also make it easy to explore national parks like the Grand Canyon, with stays in hard-to-get hotels inside the parks.

A group of people in backpacks hiking the Grand Canyon Mikaela Ducote/Stocksy

“One of the reasons child psychologists feel it’s important to travel with your children or your grandchildren is it allows your kids to see you being a kid,” says Samantha. She emphasizes that when selecting a guided vacation, the itinerary should include excursions with a focus on good old-fashioned fun. “What that does for a child’s sense of love and security is off the charts in terms of creating that foundation of what makes a family a family.”

  • TIP: Use the AAA Mobile app to search for offers and book hotels, flights, cars, vacation packages and more.
    “With AAA Mobile, you’ve got aaa with you every step of your travel journey.” —Jennifer L. Smith, travel specialist, AAA

Whether you choose a cruise, an all-inclusive resort or a guided vacation for your group, the gift of travel this holiday season will build lasting memories you’ll share for years to come. 

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