All Ages Welcome
AAA Minneapolis member and Edina resident Beth Patten is passionate about travel. She researches the history and culture of a destination long before she arrives, embracing more than a must-see checklist. She gets the feel of a place, the subtle nuances that make it worth visiting. Her curiosity stems from decades of independent global adventures and the easy confidence one develops from discovering that when things don’t go our way, something better is around the corner.
As it turns out, her flexible style is serving another purpose. At age 72, Beth’s self-described “joyride of multigenerational travel” began when she became a grandmother for the first time. These days, 4-year-old Millie joins her mother, Jane, and Beth on their various adventures.
And, oh, what fun they’re having. Last year, on Millie’s first trip to New York, Jane and Beth decided to show her the famous FAO Schwartz toy store before it closed forever. As can happen in Manhattan, everyone else had the same idea, and before they knew it, Millie dashed into the crowd out of sight. Fortunately, their panic was short-lived; they found her moments later, calmly filling candy bags in the lower level, blissfully enjoying every child’s dream.
That’s how it can be when you travel with kids. “Big cities like New York can be daunting, even for adults,” Beth noted. “I’m learning that multigenerational travel can be rewarding for everyone, but it’s easier and more fun if we fill Millie’s days with simple routines rather than an exhaustive, overly busy agenda. Carefree play in Central Park, splashing around in the motel pool near Disneyland—these are her early travel memories we are building on. We can spend afternoons in museums when she’s a little older.”
Making the Pieces Fit
Travel agents understand that keeping everyone engaged on a family trip can be tricky, especially when combining large groups across a broad age range. Starr Ward, manager of our St. Louis Park office, recommends cruising as an excellent way to meet this challenge. “Each cruise line speaks to a different type of traveler, so we focus on finding the right fit,” she said. “We discuss itinerary and activity options before selecting a cruise, and once they’ve made their decision, we help with shore excursions and dining so the group’s “together time” is as customized as they’d like it to be.”
If you’re considering a domestic road trip but have too many people for a minivan, consider rail travel. According to Jim Marini, director of sales for Amtrak Vacations, Americans are looking for a new, easier way to see the national parks and historic cities such as Boston, Washington and Philadelphia. When a destination is packed with scenery and history, grandparents, parents and kids can explore and learn together.
“It’s almost like education on the road but way more fun,” he said. “Multigenerational travel now accounts for 17 percent of our bookings, and we think this is because rail travel is unique, convenient for larger groups and a more relaxing way to experience this vast, magnificent country of ours.”
Exploring, relaxing and learning together are recurring themes among multigenerational travel arrangers looking for the perfect formula that makes everyone happy. Seasoned travelers such as Beth know this doesn’t really exist. But, she offered, “We can sure have fun trying. Travel is giving Millie wonderful gifts: confidence when confronting new situations and meeting others, the anticipation of new discoveries and a curiosity about this amazing world we live in, all useful tools for later, when she embarks on journeys of her own.”
Planning an upcoming family vacation? Reach out to one of AAA's Family Vacation Travel Specialists!