Intergenerational-family group travel

By Randy Keck

Attending the ITMI (International Tour Management Institute) annual symposium in January 2007 provided the opportunity to get updates on two emerging group-tour-industry trends. One of these is the dramatic increase in student travel programs, a subject I will address in a future column. Another is the growth of family travel, also now known as and titled in the industry as intergenerational or multigenerational travel. The number of major tour operators now providing group programs for this market is growing and unprecedented.

Intergenerational group travel focuses on the idea of families traveling together utilizing itineraries designed to appeal to family members of all ages, including children. Tour companies seem to have a range of philosophies on how best to accomplish this challenging task, as reflected by their varying programs. There is a definite tendency to have more interactive cultural and wildlife experiences of the type that are of interest to children in family-oriented itineraries.

Comparing intergenerational- travel programs

In my post-symposium Net wanderings, I discovered a travel site that provides an opportunity to easily compare the family travel and intergenerational group tour offerings of many of the major U.S tour companies:

Atlas Travel is an authorized booking representative for all of the tour operators listed on their site. This means you can easily search for and compare a variety of tour operator offerings on a single site.

You then can choose to contact an Atlas representative regarding any questions or choose to contact the particular tour company directly. I might suggest doing both to determine if there are any booking advantages either way. Most travelers today understand that the best pricing, for example, may or may not come from dealing with the end supplier directly.

Exploring the website

The family-travel component of the Atlas website first provides their list of the top-selling providers of intergenerational or family group tour programs. These companies are Globus Family Vacations, Adventures by Disney, Tauck Bridges, Thomson Family Adventures, Butterfield & Robinson (biking vacations), National Geographic Expeditions and Abercrombie & Kent.

Listings by price ranges

The site next lists tour companies by price range, as follows below.

Please note that most but not all of the companies listed offer specific family itineraries but all do allow children on at least some of their group tours.

Also, the companies vary in terms of the minimum-age requirements for children participating in their programs. My investigations revealed minimum-age requirements from age five to 12, with many companies listing their minimum-age requirement as eight. Keep in mind that these requirements are for escorted group programs, and most companies are happy to arrange customized individual itineraries for families with children of any age.

Budget tour operator listings are Cosmos, Trafalgar Cost Saver Tours and Insight High Value Tours.

First-class tour operator listings are; Globus Family Vacations, Trafalgar Tours and Insight Tours.

Deluxe tour operator listings are Adventures by Disney, Tauck Bridges (Family Vacations), Perillo Tours, Maupintour and Collette Tours.

The only company listed in the luxury tour operator category is Abercrombie & Kent.

Clearly, the Atlas website does not list every tour operator in the market providing family-oriented escorted group tours, but because it includes so many of the major players it is an excellent place to begin.

ITN readership application

An idealized model of intergenerational travel is grandparents traveling with both their adult children and grandchildren. Logistics and work realities often render this option unfeasible. Statistically, in terms of age, the majority of ITN readers are in the grandparent category. Therefore, perhaps the greatest overall application is grandparents traveling with their grandchildren, a subject about which I have soapboxed in my column on several occasions.

The growth in the number of intergenerational group tour offerings available for both domestic and international travel means opportunities are greater than ever before.

For many reasons, there is perhaps great wisdom for grandparents considering traveling with 8- to 12-year-olds in undertaking the journey as part of a family-oriented group tour. Tour operators report that children in this age range usually are more interested and involved happy travelers when there are other children to interact with.

This is certainly food for thought for all grandparents considering traveling with their grandchildren, and undoubtedly scores of readers have direct experience with this subject.

Giving the ultimate gift of travel

Certainly, I am very encouraged to see the growth of group tour programs that result in getting children out from behind their computers and away from television to experience their own country and, even more importantly, the world beyond our borders. Hopefully, increased group tour product offerings will encourage many more parents with their children and grandparents with their grandchildren to travel overseas.

We increasingly live in a global society with a global economy, and encouraging and assisting our youth in gaining firsthand experience via travel is one of the best possible types of preparation we can provide for their futures. I encourage all readers to do everything possible to encourage this positive direction in youth travel opportunities by giving the gift of travel with as broad-reaching an application as possible.

This is a subject on which I would like to continue an open dialogue with ITN readers. In that light, I encourage readers to contact me with any unusual, unique, creative and proven ideas for encouraging and enabling our youth in regards to the experience of international travel. If the response warrants, I will share the results with readers in a future column.

Keck's Beyond the Garden Wall

❝Is not the experience of overseas travel
Among the best possible ways to insure
That youth is indeed not wasted on the young? ❞
— Randy reflecting on his conclusions regarding youth and international travel