Family travel takes a lot of planning in the first place. Multigeneration travel takes that planning up a level. Then there’s the ‘new normal’ in which sanitizing and social distancing are only the first steps to a successful vacation. From fellow travelers who joined us on tour and their guides who led them, here are the steps to planning a multigenerational trip where everyone feels safe.
Adopt a local guide
A great local guide is like having a first or second cousin who lives in the area you are about to visit. They know the local area better than you, a guidebook or a Airbnb host ever will. And they can make sure you are up to date and compliant with the county, state or region’s social-distancing regulations, even as they know the best visits, activities and more for visitors. And if the local guide is with you the whole vacation, they can lead you on an itinerary suited to the needs and aspirations of the whole brood.
… who has kids of their own
On top of being locals, who know their region inside out, and are friends and family with the best restauranteurs, outfitters, artisans, craftsmen and more—guides with their own children know what makes a multigenerational trip magnificent. They create unforgettable experiences suited from everyone from 8 to 18, 48 to 80, communicating with children, parents and grandparents on their level.
“In the same afternoon, all together, my wife and I are in our element, watching out for local bird life, my kids are chatting about the geological make-up of the Yellowstone landscape, and the grandkids have totally forgotten Fortnite exists, they’re tracking wolf packs with our naturalist guide, also their new hero because he is a big kid himself as well as knowing anything and everything about our surroundings.”
Get everyone in the great outdoors…
As much as we love Michelangelo and some kids (and adults) love Mickey Mouse, maybe this isn’t the year for a museum tour, or Disneyland theme park vacation. Instead, go somewhere where the attractions come in the form of open, outdoor spaces, just like the CDC recommends for activities.
“I love watching how travel enrichens my grandchildren’s understanding of history, and it occurred to me that doesn’t mean I have to take them to a museum, or historic city. So, I took them to Denali National Park, and as we stood surrounded by mountains, our guide explained how dinosaurs lived there millions of years ago. After months spent learning through a computer screen, this was perfect. I’ll never forget their faces.”
…on a getaway that gets you away from the crowds
We didn’t think we could appreciate our extended family of local guides around the world any more than we already did. But now we’re finding their local insight more invaluable than ever. Because while Old Faithful at Yellowstone checks the box for being outside, it doesn’t necessarily mean crowd-free. Only a local can come up with a thoughtful, creative way and time it to get you to stunning vantage points so you don’t have to navigate the masses to enjoy.
“Reviews I had read on the Grand Canyon suggested it was quieter than a usual year, but I was still wary about there being too many people at the popular lookout spots. I didn’t need to worry! Our guide knew a trail and the exact time to take it so that it would be just us. Just my family and the Grand Canyon! Nothing else. Spectacular.”
Safe + spectacular activities
The internet is bursting with recommended hiking routes and vendors. But with everyone reading the same suggestions, it can be hard to stay socially distant. Experienced, vetted providers are the way forward. They’ve been in the region for decades and can take you on a private tour, far from the madding crowd.
“Our guide introduced us to a family-run company, who took us on a private kayak tour of Puget Sound. Glorious sunshine, wide open water all around us. Not another human in sight—except for some orcas and dolphins!”
Restrictions, opinions and comfort zones differ among individuals, households and states. So making sure everyone’s on the same page before you set off will help everything run smoothly. Go over the top on communications, which might feel strange at first but will ensure you are all prepared for everything from mask wearing, to sanitizing, to physical contact.
“We had a zoom call with the extended family and all agreed to step-up our social distancing for the two weeks before we traveled. It didn’t feel daunting for me at all, actually it was nice! I got contactless delivery for groceries and the kids were doing remote learning anyway. It probably made us appreciate the vacation even more too.”
“Our destination (Joshua Tree) didn’t require COVID testing, but we decided to get tested anyway. So I ordered a testing kit for everyone, taken 3 days before we departed. We got the all-clear, which meant I could hug my Mom for the first time in months!”
“My sister lives in the same neighborhood, and we had already formed a “bubble” to make remote learning and childcare more bearable. We added Mom/Grandma and formed a vacation bubble where we all felt safe traveling to Bryce Canyon and spending time together in a totally different environment.”
Hotels: boutique over big
The view from the 20th floor is spectacular, but this is the year of the ground floor. Hotels have adapted admirably to social distancing, including implementing rules on sharing elevators. Skip having to queue by staying somewhere with one or two floors, so you won’t have to worry about the line for the elevator, and you’ll often have more options when it comes to windows and outdoor access.
Balconies are brilliant, patios are priceless. A hotel room that gives you outdoor space and allows for maximum airflow.
Extra space helps. Usually you would look at rooms to exactly match the number of people, but having an extra bed, or opting for suite style set up can give the family more room to spread out.
“Our room on our private Napa tour had a small patio/garden, where the adults could sit out in the evening. Each couple bought a bottle of wine and glasses from their room, we sat at a distance and relaxed. It was perfect.”
“We’re a big family. We asked Classic Journeys to arrange for our trip to stay all week at in a small lodge style hotel in the San Juan Islands and effectively had it to ourselves! Our own luxury lodge, with all the perks of hotel hospitality. It was exquisitely clean!”
Check in invisibly
Classic Journeys pioneered the concept of ‘Invisible Check-In’ a couple of years ago to remove the waiting time and standing in line when guests arrive at a new hotel on tour. Simply put, when your group arrives, you are already checked in. You and your bags are whisked to your room immediately. No waiting. No tipping. And no getting funneled into a line with other people.
Rethink the restaurant experience
Food is, and should always be, a big part of travel. It’s an incredibly important portal into understanding and appreciating the place you are exploring. And with the help of local guides who have personal relationships with the restaurant owners and chefs, and creative thinking, travel in the new normal needs to be no less delicious. Look for restaurants with patios or private dining rooms, or opt for contactless take out or delivery, to enjoy on your hotel patio or a scenic picnic spot.
“Wyoming has wonderful cuisine, but that doesn’t have to be restricted to the inside of a restaurant. On tour, we take the guests for a rafting float along the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park, to where a riverside barbeque is waiting for us for dinner. On another day, we do a horseback or wagon ride to a cowboy cookout, by the campfire under the stars. It tastes even better in the open air!” Rob, Yellowstone & Grand Tetons Guide
“Restaurants are different this year. But our dining experiences have been more memorable and intimate than ever! We have bonded over amazing food in amazing places. Our guide set up a gourmet picnic, and we didn’t have to worry about where to eat or what to eat because they had picked the best of everything! The Montana scenery was something no restaurant could replicate. And the children could run about outdoors without us having to worry about them disturbing the peace.”
“Classic Journeys picnics have always been one of my favorite parts of the tour, and as soon as all the restaurant limitations were put in place I thought, these guys are ahead of the times!”
“Every restaurant where we ate we had the best seat in the house. On the veranda for sunset; in a private room for just our party. I thought we were incredibly lucky, then I realized that our Costa Rica guide is friends with the restaurant owners and had gotten us the best set up.”
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