Travelling with multiple generations can definitely be a challenge, but it’s also a wonderful way for extended families to bond and experience the world together.

It’s also a growing trend.

According to a recent study by the U.S.-based marketing group, MMGY Global, 40 per cent of leisure travelers have taken at least one multi-generational trip in the past year. Increasingly, grandparents are traveling with adult children and/or their grandkids, bridging the age gap through shared adventures.

Just ask Alison Gardner, the Victoria, B.C.-based wife, mother and grandmother with an insatiable hunger for globetrotting – including with her adult kids and young grandchildren. Fourteen years ago she launched a website geared to mature travellers,, which now attracts more than 1.7 million readers worldwide.

In addition to planning her own adventures – and writing about them – she and her husband currently spend two months of the year travelling to Ice Age caves in Europe with their paleoanthropologist daughter, her husband and their three year-old – affectionately nicknamed ‘the cave baby’.

“Multi-generational travel is all about creating shared family memories in a much bigger, more stimulating world where experience-driven vacationing is more the goal than ever before,” says Gardner. “We’re no longer satisfied to sit on a dock at the lake listening to the loons, drinking a beer and thinking ‘this is the life’.”

Having said that, scroll through for important things to keep in mind when planning a family trip if you want it to be successful.

Here’s what Gardner suggests:

1) Put on your most realistic glasses: “Don’t ignore anything that could derail the trip,” she advises. In other words, put it all out on the table. For example, “adult kids are often in need of a rest, since for them holidays are in short supply, whereas the Boomer grandparents have more time, are generally more refreshed and ready for action.”

And remember, you’re going to be together the entire trip so if you haven’t spent much time as a family since the kids were living at home, you better know each other really well. Bottom line is everybody needs to be honest about what they expect to get from the vacation. “Some grandparents, for example, may not want to babysit the whole time, while their kids to out to dinner,” says Gardner.

2) Be clear about who’s paying: Often it’s the Boomer grandparents who foot the bill, since they normally have more discretionary income – but that, says Gardner, also gives more weight to their preferences for the type of vacation. And if the younger generation is expected to pay their own way, there may need to be more cost considerations and discussion. Either way, be up front about who is expected to pay for what.

3) Realize the youngest will always set the pace: “If you have very young children don’t try and do too much,” cautions Gardner. “The best vacations for them include a beach or a lake where you don’t have to be on the go all day, otherwise it can get frustrating for everyone.”

4) Plan for some alone time: Having three generations along also means there can be private time for everyone, which is important. Grandparents can babysit one night while, say, the parents go out to dinner, then they can take over another day so grandma and grandpa can do something that interests them. “It’s nice to be able to spot each other off,” Gardner points out. “It can be frustrating to be in a nice destination with interesting things to do and not be able to get to them.”

multi-gen-1Photo: David Lees/Getty Images

The good news is there are more travel companies offering family-friendly options than ever before, says Gardner, so there’s lots of choice. Here are a few of her recommendations, both budget-conscious and on the higher end.


Vacation volunteering, known as ‘voluntourism’ is very hot these days, says Gardner. It can be fun and rewarding to do something useful, plus kids feel like they’re making a difference. U.S.-based Global Volunteers offers a number of family-oriented options. (Note there are some age restrictions.)

Believe it or not, cruises can be quite affordable, as low as $1,000 per person for a 7-day cruise, says Gardner. And they’re well suited to multi-generational holidays since there’s something on board for everyone to do, both apart and together.

Higher end

European barging vacations, where you rent or charter a whole vessel and travel the waterways, are very popular. ROW Adventures also offers European barging with full service. Gardner says 40 per cent of their clientele is multi-generational families.

Ecoventura can take you and your family cruising the Galapagos Islands and offers several family departures a year.