As families plan their summer activities and vacations, more are packing for multiple generations. More than one third of families surveyed last year by AAA said they were planning to take a multigenerational trip in the next 12 months, and it is easy to see why. Bringing the grandparents and the kids offers a great chance to relax, reminisce and make memories.
Choose a “group leader” from among the family to coordinate the trip, and make good use of everyone’s talents. Let the family accountant handle finances, a relative in sales deal with the phone calls and a social media maven set up a Facebook page or family blog. Because planning travel for a large group can be overwhelming, some resorts lend a helping hand with discounts, planning guides and other useful tools. Here are three destinations to inspire your next family adventure.
Walt Disney World, Florida
When you book 10 or more rooms through Disney Group Getaways (www.disneygroupgetaways.com), Disney World provides group discounts, a free vacation-planning DVD, Save-the-Date fliers and in-depth planning guides. A Disney specialist will assist with dining, recreation, golf tee times and creating special touches for family gatherings. For example, Disney can decorate your hotel room with a princess or pirate theme and gifts, and arrange a private dessert party set against the backdrop of fireworks in Epcot Center. Special events, such as Disney’s Family Magic Tour, take your group on a scavenger hunt through the Magic Kingdom park.
Get the party started by ordering matching T-shirts (and don’t forget to pick up “Family Reunion” buttons upon check-in at the resort or at guest relations). The beauty of visiting Disney World with extended family is built-in help to navigate Disney’s four theme parks, two water parks and bustling Downtown Disney. And since Disney World has group travel down to a science, you get lots of assistance catering to everyone’s interests.
But don’t expect to see everything in one visit. There’s a lot of ground to cover at Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center (showcasing 11 countries), Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon water parks and Downtown Disney.
Best plan of attack? Divide and conquer, says Diana Rowe, a mom of four and grandmother of six who travels frequently with her brood. “Let Grandma and Grandpa take the toddlers to the Magic Carpet of Aladdin ride, while Mom and Dad take the teenagers directly to Space Mountain,” says Rowe.
To cut down on wait times for popular attractions, make good use of the MagicBands that come with your package. These handy devices provide access to your room and Disney parks, and let you reserve timed FastPass tickets for attractions and shows. With MyMagic+ you’re able to make FastPass selections up to 60 days in advance of your visit from your home computer, tablet or smartphone.
While in Disney World, allow travel time between parks, which are connected via complimentary monorails, buses and boats. With summer crowds, it can take 45 minutes to get around.
Snow Mountain Ranch, Colorado
This secluded mountain ranch run by YMCA of the Rockies offers a step-by-step planning guide to families organizing reunions, and a family-reunion specialist to help customize the event to suit the family’s interests and budget.
“We listen to what’s important to them. Our activities are about bringing family together,” says DB Daugherty, family-reunion specialist, who recommends reserving activities prior to arrival to ensure availability.
If you stay in one of the ranch’s three lodges, three buffet-style meals are provided daily in the dining room, and your rate includes a private meeting space where you can set out a family tree and photos, play games, or put on a family talent show.
The ranch’s 62 cabins and nine retreat cabins are equipped with kitchens, dining rooms, family rooms, bedrooms and fireplaces, and some have TVs. The larger cabins have outdoor fire rings. “Families love these because you’re together and there’s great opportunity for bonding,” says Daugherty.
Upon check-in at the ranch, guests receive a program listing activities including fishing, disc golf, team-building challenge courses, climbing walls, swimming and tennis. While most activities are complimentary, there’s a small fee for some, including crafts, archery and two forest zip lines.
Groups of up to 70 can sign up for a free one-hour session on the summer tubing hill. A magic carpet brings you to the top, where you enjoy the mountain views before zipping down the hill on tubes. Outdoor fun also includes hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. The kiva indoor recreational center offers free roller skating, basketball, volleyball and a game room with pool, ping pong and foosball. Learn more at www.snowmountainranch.org.
Princess Cruise, Alaska
Book at least 10 passengers onto a Princess Cruise at double occupancy, and you’ll be eligible for discounted rates. Book 16 passengers double occupancy, and your group leader may be eligible to receive cash back.
All-inclusive rates cover staterooms, most onboard activities, entertainment and meals, but you can use the extra cash at the picturesque ports you’ll visit along the way. Princess offers several adventurous cruises to Alaska’s glaciers, fjords, waterfalls, lush forests and charming frontier-era port towns from May to September. The itinerary for a roundtrip seven-night cruise from Seattle to Alaska’s Inside Passage includes Glacier Bay National Park, Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan and Victoria, British Columbia.
The ship is a convenient home base for all generations, and sea days between ports are a great time to explore the many activities offered. Debuting this year is Discovery at Sea, featuring the Discovery Kids and Teen Program, which includes Animal Planet-related games, and science experiments made popular by “Mythbusters.” The Princess Pelicans (ages 3-7), Shockwaves (8-12) and Remix (13-17) programs entertain kids and teens with scavenger hunts, talent shows, crafts, movies, and pizza and ice cream parties. For the adults, there’s the Lotus Spa, fitness center, adults-only pool area and casino.
Reunite for a family swim, movies, trivia games, karaoke, ping pong and shows. The piazza-inspired atrium is a hub for live music and goofy contests (including balloon juggling). Large groups traveling together can also arrange in advance to have a room for a private party (think karaoke).
Longtime Princess cruisers Joy de Castro and her husband, Rob McCall, of Pasadena, look forward to their Princess Alaskan Cruise this summer with her parents and brother’s family (including two kids ages 5 and 7). “Although this will be our first multi-gen cruise, we have cruised with my parents, aunts and uncles and had fantastic times!” says de Castro, adding that Zumba, crafts and trivia games are more fun with a mix of ages.
There is plenty to eat onboard. The buffet-style Horizon Court is perfect for casual family meals. Or choose traditional dining – with the same table, meal time and server nightly – or anytime dining in the formal restaurants.
Port days offer a broad range of activities. Plan your shore excursions in advance on the Princess website (www.princesscruises.com) to find the best mix for your group. Hiking, rafting, zip lining, train rides and dog sledding are among the many activities available. As part of the Discovery at Sea program, Princess offers Discovery, Animal Planet and Science Channel shore excursions where guests pan for gold, get up-close with each destination’s native animals, and learn how popular foods go from farm to table.
As the ship nears Juneau, bundle up for morning whale watching. In port, ride the Mendenhall Glacier Express, a narrated bus ride to the 12-mile-long Mendenhall Glacier. In Skagway, guided hikes and the White Pass Scenic Railway retrace the steps of 19th-century prospectors seeking Klondike gold.
A cruise highlight is majestic Glacier Bay National Park. Princess visits three tidewater glaciers: Reid, Margerie and Lamplugh. Perhaps one of the most colorful ports is Ketchikan, home to the largest collection of totem poles in the world. The last port is Victoria, British Columbia, where there’s just enough time to visit Butchart Gardens or peruse the pretty town.
Mimi Slawoff is a mom of three, travel writer and frequent contributor to L.A. Parent.