Giving back, genealogy, and “gramping” – oh my!
According to the 2019 Virtuoso Luxe Report – a survey of more than 1,000 Virtuoso travel advisors – multigenerational travel is this year’s top vacation trend. Road trips and beach getaways are still beloved, but broods of all ages and abilities are looking for new and exciting ways to spend time together. We tapped into Virtuoso’s network of travel advisors, tour operators, hotels, destinations, and cruise lines that specialize in family travel to find out how families plan to get away in the new year. Here, six of this year’s notable trends:
“Voluntourism” may be the buzzword you’re most familiar with, but “service-oriented travel” tends to emphasize human connection over project management. Several Virtuoso tour operators specialize in volunteering trips, where families can immerse themselves directly with a local community to help with daily activities and other projects – all while bonding as a unit. These trips can also help older generations pass on core values to younger ones: Calgary, Canada-based Virtuoso travel advisor Natasha Rhodes recently arranged a private Galápagos Islands cruise with additional time on mainland Ecuador for a multigenerational family looking to connect with the local culture. “The grandfather had been deeply involved in philanthropy in the area,” she says. “On Christmas morning, his grandchildren joined villagers for the Pase del Niño, a live presentation of the Nativity. It was a highlight for this family and meant so much to the grandfather.”
Today’s boomers are active, healthy, and looking to spend time with their loved ones. “There’s a shifting trend in giving, where parents and grandparents want to spend their money on their family and enjoy experiences with them,” says Camille Jocsak, a Toronto-based Virtuoso travel advisor. Milestone birthdays and anniversaries are a chance for bring-the-whole-gang celebrations, and many grandparents yearn to share a place that’s special to them, such as a national park or a hidden corner of Italy. “Gramping” is even the new glamping – when three generations take a camping or outdoors-oriented trip together.
Genealogy trips are a natural for multigenerational groups, and today’s influx of easily accessible genetics-testing services such as 23andMe are making these adventures even more popular. “A top trend for me has been the increase in family-history travel,” says Leesburg, Virginia-based travel advisor Nora Nowaczyk, who recently helped a traveler track down her family’s origins in a remote Austrian town. “It ended up being completely worth it, as she found her father’s childhood home and a cousin she didn’t know existed.”
“It seems that more and more families are taking children abroad at an even younger age,” says Memphis-based Virtuoso travel advisor Samantha Ripper. “They want them to be immersed in new cultures.” Parents want to include kids on the decision-making process too, including them in itinerary-planning meetings and brainstorming group activities together. Several Virtuoso tour operators have a cache of family-themed departures, with kid-centric activities, logistics such as daily travel times considered, and dedicated guides who help interpret the natural world through storytelling and crafts. In formerly buttoned-up cultural venues, children’s programs continue to evolve: Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, for example, offers digital tours, drawing lessons, and escape games.
Snapping selfies is ubiquitous, but families are also using vacations as an opportunity to get some new quality portraits. Travel advisors, tour operators, and hotels can arrange for a professional photographer to tag along on a day’s adventure. “I planned a trip to Paris for a family with two teenage daughters, and we arranged a city tour that doubled as a photo shoot,” Ripper says. “They learned about the city while getting some awesome photos.”
Cruise lines continue to add boatloads of new activities and amenities for families. New tricked-out suites come furnished with karaoke machines and board games; ship-wide scavenger hunts send groups on mystery-solving quests; and even river cruising, which has traditionally attracted an older demographic, is welcoming little ones. Several river-cruise lines now offer family-themed sailings, often during school holidays and summer breaks, which include onboard kids’ clubs, all-ages shore excursions, and more.