Multi-generational travel is booming, fueled in part by today’s 70 million grandparents who want to spend more time making memories with their families. Increasingly, grandparents are finding additional ways to bond with their grandchildren through travel. Known as skip-gen trips, these vacations involve just two generations – grandparents and one or more grandchildren traveling without their parents. Skip-gen travel is fast becoming one of the top travel trends for 2020. This hot travel style has become so popular that it even got a new name, “gramping.”
Since grandparents are living farther away from their grandchildren than ever before, distance often makes it difficult for them to spend as much time with their grandchildren as they’d like. Skip-gen travel can help close that gap, allowing grandparents and grandchildren to share experiences and spend extended time together. These types of trips can also offer an added benefit, giving parents a break so they can enjoy time on their own. According to a recent AARP survey, close to a third of grandparents have taken one or more of their grandchildren on a skip-gen trip.
The Family Travel Association (FTA) 2019 U.S. Family Travel Survey took an in-depth look at the rising skip-gen travel trend. Of the grandparents surveyed, 37% stated they were likely to take one or more of their grandchildren on a skip-gen trip during the next three years. Both the AARP and FTA studies found that about three-quarters of grandparents plan and organize their skip-gen getaways and the vast majority pay for the entire trip as well. Most grandparents wait until their grandchildren are over age 5 to take skip-gen trips, with 8-12 years of age being the most popular time to travel and 13-17 years of age receiving the next highest score. Parents and grandparents believe skip-gen trips are a good way for grandparents and grandchildren to spend quality time together, forge closer bonds and make lasting memories. In addition, grandparents like being able to treat their grandchildren to travel experiences and value the educational benefits of skip-gen trips. These types of trips can also be a great way to celebrate key events like birthdays and graduations. A key factor is making sure to find destinations and activities that everyone will enjoy.
FUN FOR EVERYONE
Many sectors of the travel industry are seeing more skip-gen vacation bookings, including theme parks, resorts, cruise lines, dude ranches, and family-friendly tour companies. Major cities, national parks and museums are benefiting from the gramping trend as well. Visiting friends and family, sporting events, and experience-focused attractions such as fairs and music festivals are also popular choices.
In the FTA’s family travel survey, Walt Disney World was the top spot that grandparents planned to visit on skip-gen trips with their grandchildren during the next three years. Disney’s theme parks offer a wide range of memorable activities and magical attractions for all ages and endurance levels of grandparents and grandchildren. Grandparents often choose to stay on-premises at Walt Disney World Resort hotels, making the experience easy and hassle-free as well. With the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, grandparents and grandchildren can share their love of the Star Wars saga spanning multiple generations.
Family-friendly tours and educational programs can be excellent choices for skip-gen travel, since all the planning and logistical details are expertly handled by someone else. Not-for-profit Road Scholar has been offering skip-gen trips since the mid-1980s. The company has seen an increase in bookings over the past few years and now offers over 180 different Grandparent programs in the United States and abroad. These learning-oriented group trips involving children between the ages of 6-18 allow grandparents to discover something new with their grandchildren while making lifelong memories together.
Trafalgar’s tour itineraries also work well for skip-gen travelers, offering a wide variety of activity options for all ages and interests. The national parks are a top destination for grandparents seeking to explore America with their grandchildren and the company’s “Wild West Cowboys and Buffalos” itinerary is popular for those trips. Sharing the family’s heritage is often another reason for skip-gen local experiences plus an inside look at cultures and traditions.
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) named skip-gen cruises as one of its top trends in its 2018 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook. Holland America Line’s premium mid-sized ships are well-suited for skip-gen travelers, providing a wide array of itineraries, programming for all ages, and onboard kids’ and teens’ centers with age-appropriate activities for children ages 3-17. Multi-generational travel and grandparents traveling with their grandchildren is something that Crystal Cruises has seen on its voyages, particularly on its ocean-going ships, since Crystal is the only luxury cruise line that offers dedicated children’s facilities.
Uniworld’s Generations Collection river cruise sailings in Europe are another option for grandparents and grandchildren interested in experiencing different cultures together, offering family-friendly activities and two dedicated Family Hosts to oversee programs for younger guests. Trips to iconic cities such as New York City and Washington D.C. are popular with skip-gen travelers, as are getaways to beach hotels and resorts.
Velas Resorts, with luxury properties located along the coasts of Mexico, is a trend-setter in delivering all-inclusive beach vacation experiences specifically tailored for skip-gen guests. Their luxury properties feature a special Grandparents Package, multi-bedroom Family Suites, family bonding classes and activities, children’s and teens’ programs, and even two skip-gen-themed day-trip “microadventures” at Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Closer to home, California’s Surf & Sand Resort in Laguna Beach offers a gramping package.
Grandparents often wish their grandchildren could spend more time outside connecting with nature. All-inclusive dude ranch vacations give skip-gen travelers the chance to be surrounded by the spectacular beauty of the North American West while enjoying horseback riding and other outdoor experiences. Dude ranches including Idaho’s Red Horse Mountain Ranch and British Columbia’s Three Bars Ranch are reporting more skip-gen bookings. Both offer plenty of activities for both generations to do together plus kids’ programs that can provide grandparents with some alone time, too.
Bucket-list skip-gen trips provide world-class learning opportunities and unforgettable experiences. Award-winning luxury safari outfitter Africa Adventure Consultants has been planning skip-gen Africa safaris for guests since 2004 and has seen these types of trips increasing over the years. Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa are Africa Adventure Consultants’ most popular destinations for these skip-gen trips. Sometimes these safaris are celebration trips to mark a special occasion such as a graduation or milestone birthday, while others may be driven by shared dreams and interests. These unique safari experiences forge deep-rooted connections and family bonds, creating vivid memories that last a lifetime.
PLANNING IS KEY
To get the most out of a skip-gen getaway, advance planning is needed to pick the best dates and activities. It’s important to design a trip that appeals to everyone’s interests and it’s wise to involve the grandchildren in planning the vacation if they’re old enough. It’s also crucial to choose a destination that grandparents can manage without additional parental support. Some grandparents choose to take one child at a time, while others bring the whole crew. Talking with the parents while planning the trip and before departure is also essential.
This will provide insights on such things as sleep schedules, food allergies and preferences, anxieties, and other issues. In addition, it’s important to talk with all parties about family rules and expectations for the trip. While the point of an epic skip-gen vacation is to bond while spending extended time together, many grandparents find it valuable to schedule in some independent time alone to rest and recharge as well.
Skip-gen trips are taking the market by storm, providing grandparents with the chance to get closer with their grandchildren, share their values, and enrich their lives while experiencing new activities and cultures. There are many unique travel opportunities available for grandparents and grandchildren to enjoy while making memories together. As more of today’s healthier and wealthier grandparents continue to retire, this type of travel will increase substantially in the future. Are you ready for your own skip-gen trip?
Nancy Schretter has been a leader in family and multigenerational travel for more than 20 years, covering these topics for her own publications as well as for leading magazines, newspapers, television and radio programs, and online travel sites. She is also a consultant and frequent speaker at travel industry conferences and events.