Multi-Generational Travel: An Unforgettable Adventure

by John Kernaghan –

Taking up surfing at 75 is not for the faint of heart, or sane. But it lifted my heart when I looked up from my board to see my granddaughter, six, fly ahead of me on the crest of a wave.

As predicted by our instructor, Harper needed no pointers, no physics lessons. “Don’t listen to me,” the Tofino Paddle Surf guy said to her. “You’ll know what to do.” She had popped up after a wave surged under her, straight to the classic surfing stance, and rode the water till the force waned. In those moments, proud Papa reflected on how rare this would have been to previous generations.

For mine, with multi-generational holidays a big driver of the travel industry, a whole array of experiences shared across three generations is possible. Indeed, a recent New York University survey found 54% of grandparents polled said they were planning holidays with children and grandchildren in the next three years.

The Conference Board of Canada lays the surge at the feet and bank accounts of baby boomers who still have the energy and wealth to finance multi-generational trips. And boomers want to share something different.

“Forget solo travel,” says AFAR Magazine travel editor Jen Murphy. “The big trend now is to bring the entire family along for an unforgettable adventure. Families are forgoing the family vacations of the past, where quality time was spent parked at the beach, and instead are looking for transformative experiences that the whole family can share.” Murphy expects the trend of multi-generational travel to continue to grow in the years to come, particularly with a focus on educational travel experiences.

My first trip with my daughter Kate and granddaughter Harper was to Quebec City when Harper was 18 months old. I will forever remember the little exclamation that rang softly in my ear, though it was emphatic from one so young. “Wow,” she gushed as I held her and she took in the imposing Chateau Frontenac Hotel over my shoulder. It loomed over the old town and the St. Lawrence River. “Wow” was a new feature of her pithy communication skills.

The trip was a combined Mother’s Day gift to Kate and an early Father’s Day present to me. Since then we’ve done winter and summer resort holidays, each one producing memories that will ring sweetly for the rest of my days.

The time on an Ontario lake cemented Harper’s chosen medium – water. At five, she tossed the kids’ paddle aside, picked up a large one and stepped into a medium-sized kayak. By the second day, she tied another kayak to hers and was towing other small children around the little bay.
That illustrated another benefit of travel for kids – a new experience with other children promotes independence and problem-solving. New friends too wary or young to try the kayak? Bring them along for the ride.

Psychologists note children are never too young to learn from travel, from being introduced to new languages and cultures to learning empathy for others.

That Quebec City trip when Harper was less than two exposed her to a taste of Europe just a short flight away and, by staying at Hotel Valcartier, part of a family resort about 30 minutes from the city centre, she was literally immersed in French. Its indoor water paradise, Bora Parc, was running full tilt on the holiday weekend. With 15 waterslides, double surf wave and multi-activity adventure river exploding with shouts and laughter, we slipped into the benign family pool.

Joy has its own universal language, and Harper glowed as it lapped around her.

Photos by Pam Martin and Kate Kernaghan.

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