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Senior Travel

Families Traveling Together

Seniors Take the Whole Gang Along

By Arline Wills

A growing senior travel trend is to include extended family members in trips abroad. That way, grandparents whose earlier vacations were quick getaways now have time to enjoy sights and experiences through younger eyes. However, when a whole 3-generation family goes off together, one group may want to do the museums, another take a cooking class, and still another wants to explore caves. Havoc could reign. Mutually agreed upon plans might prevent later problems.

The first priority is to agree upon the purpose of the trip. Is it just a family vacation in another setting? An introduction to the culture, language, and way of life of other people? Here it's wise to defer to those who are bankrolling the trip, often the grandparents. It might be better to break up the group or take different family age levels at different times. While this may defeat the idea of a family reunion overseas, it may well improve family harmony in the long run.

When parents are not included, how do seniors cope with the demands of little ones on a trip? It depends on the kids' ages and interests, but one easy solution is a cruise. Many cruise lines offer on-board diversions and entertainment for children. Still, it's hard to see how children benefit from days they spend at sea.

Better options include specialty tours with combinations of language or art programs.

One of the best arrangements that we know from experience is to rent a house in an area where there's plenty of activities and attractions for a variety of ages. When we did this the first time, in Brittany, we and our children and grandchildren were about 10 miles apart, each in our own quarters but near enough to enjoy day trips and some meals together. Staying in one location, especially for the first venture abroad, makes children feel comfortable and gives them opportunities to make acquaintances and get a foot in the culture. Agents all over Europe and points beyond are eager to place you in their apartments, farms, private homes, villas, and castles.

Family Travel Guides

Before signing up for a tour with the grandkids, check out the following:

Take Your Kids to Europe by Cynthia Harriman. This immensely popular book, gives practical and sensible advice on travel with all ages.

Family Tours

Just about every tour company now offers some opportunity to take the kids along. Children can easily get bored hanging around with adults, so try to find just the right balance of education, interaction with people and cultures, recreation, and fun. Here are some of my favorites:

Special Expeditions offers a selection of trips that include learning combined with scavenger hunts and educational puzzles for kids. Small company-owned ships go to remote island locations where all generations can study wildlife and nature.

Earthwatch Institute. Join dozens of scientific field research expeditions worldwide for 2-3 week long teams, helping university professors in disciplines from archaeology to zoology, share field costs, field training provided. No special skills required, but any are welcome.

Global Volunteers encourages families to join together in short-term tax-deductible volunteer programs worldwide. Work includes healthcare, teaching, construction, and natural resource preservation. No special skills or foreign language required.

The Parker Company. In addition to finding rental properties for travelers, the Parker Company arranges homestays combined with wine tours, cooking and painting classes, and creative writing programs, all in Italy. This is one of the best agencies for finding villas, cottages, castles, farmhouses, and apartments.

TransitionsAbroad.com Home Rentals is a section of our TransitionsAbroad.com website that covers vacation home rentals and agencies worldwide.

Idyll, Ltd. arranges European apartment rentals for families and provides local contacts for orientation.

Family Cruises

Today virtually every ship includes special facilities for all ages. Investigate before you sign on, though, and be aware that on a few sailings children under a certain age may be excluded. Contacts: www.familycruises.com, www.atlastravelweb.com, www.quinwell.com.

Carnival Cruise Line. “Fun Ships” offer a children’s program divided into four age categories. A trained staff oversees pool and playroom events and takes care of babysitting.

Celebrity Cruise Line. Children’s programs are not available on all sailings and there are no shore excursions specifically for children. Trained counselors take care of 3- to 17-year-olds in four age categories.

Disney Cruise Line. Probably the most child-focused sailing line around, Disney offers programs for five age groups and even a separate deck for kids.

Holland America Line. Youth programs provided on-board and whille in port.

Norwegian Cruise Line. Programs geared to four age groups are led by highly trained counselors. Special kids’ menus are available at every meal.

Princess Cruises. Activities and facilities vary with each Love Boat, depending on the numbers and ages of participants on board. One of the most popular on-board programs, called “Save our Seas,” is designed to help children understand about the oceans and marine life.

ARNIE WILLS is the former Senior Travel Editor for Transitions Abroad. She lives in Lynnfield, MA.

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