“Your Auntie Mame is going to open doors for you, Patrick. Doors you never even dreamed existed. Oh, what times we’re going to have! What vistas we’re going to explore together!”
Worldly Auntie Mame and her sensible nephew, Patrick, may be fictitious characters of books, stage, and screen but they embody an increasingly popular form of travel. Whether “skip-generation” travel means grandparents traveling with grandchildren, aunts and uncles on tour with nieces and nephews, or godparents who take a promised milestone trip with godchildren, skip-gen travel benefits both age groups. It’s a bonding experience without the distraction of parental intervention, friends, sports, or jobs. Done right, skip-gen trips help everyone experience the destination via another age perspective, and it can create a travel memory to outlast any material gift.
A skip-gen trip needs to fit the interests, energy, and abilities of both age groups. Those who don’t want to organize the journey can call on a growing number of travel companies who take generational differences into account.
Road Scholar, the travel university for lifelong learners ages 50+, also specializes in intergenerational travel. Their current catalogue offers 28 vacations designed for skip-gen experiences ranging from rafting Idaho’s Salmon River and jewelry making in Massachusetts to exploring Lyon and Provence in France. Each trip has a recommended age for the younger generation and a full range of activities for both age groups.
Smithsonian Journeys, the travel program affiliated with the venerable Smithsonian Institution, offers a range of all-inclusive, educational, intergenerational travel experiences. Their Yellowstone and Tetons trip features a stay at a working ranch with optional activities. One generation can learn to fly fish while the other takes off on a trail ride tailored to their ability.
Tauck Bridges also tailors trips to multiage interests. Its Castles and Kings: London and Paris trip includes opportunities to see the iconic Tower of London and Eiffel Tower, along with the chance to ride bikes through the Royal Parks of London, play a spy game in a London hotel formerly frequented by the British Secret Service, travel by speedboat along the Thames, and take the high-speed Eurostar train through the Channel Tunnel.
Owned by a family who grew up traveling together, Journeys International advertises their multigenerational trips as “not simplified or watered-down versions of our general trips. They are very full, very active, and very flexible.” Senior and junior travelers looking for immersion travel can expect to meet local families, visit schools, and try out cultural crafts and games.
Cruise lines offering children’s programs, teen activities, and varied choices for local tours are another option for a packaged travel experience that caters to two generations.
Prefer independent travel? Make sure both age groups are involved in planning the itinerary. This provides an opportunity for you to bond before the trip, and jointly brainstorming and researching what to see, where to stay, and how to travel within a budget can be as valuable a learning experience as the trip itself.
Exploring new vistas Auntie Mame-style doesn’t have to be an expensive once-in-a-lifetime trip abroad. Seasoned travelers offer a variety of lower-cost suggestions that focus on bridging the generations and building memories:
- Choose a state or large city neither generation has visited. Research together what to see, where to stay, and how to include the preferences of both age groups during your stay.
- Plan a nearby themed trip based on a common interest of both generations. Are you both interested in fashion? Music? History of the wild west? Flamenco dancing? Baseball? Train travel? Dinosaur fossils?
- Include joint adventure experiences in your joint trip. Here’s an opportunity to show your 16-year old nephew that you’re an enthuisiastic lifelong learner who’s willing to zipline, whitewater raft, ride the extreme rollercoaster, or swim with the dolphins.
- Form your own mini book club to read and discuss age-appropriate books and travel guides about your destination before leaving. Once you’re there, take turns being the tour guide.
- Include shared activities that aren’t joint interests to expand each other’s horizons. You may be surprised at how much you learn about your granddaughter by listening to her roadtrip music playlist, and she may find that she shares your taste in ethnic foods.
Successful skip-generation trips require flexibility and open-mindedness, and they can generate excitement that you, too, will be experiencing something new. Be Auntie Mame-like in attitude. “Paris mon coeur!” she exclaimed to her nephew on his first day in Paris. “To see this fabulous, civilized city again through your young, blue eyes. Heaven!”
Ann Randall is an independent traveler and writer who loves venturing to out-of-the-way locales from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe. A former educator, she now observes international elections and does volunteer work in India. Her articles have appeared in online and print publications and she maintains a blog, PeregrineWoman.com.