3 generations, 1 vacation
Extended families forge closer ties on shared vacations.
When it's time to pack suitcases and head off on vacation, Alicia Rockmore and her family think big. They take a more-the-merrier approach, joining as many as 20 relatives for what she calls "our annual family getaway." One year the group enjoyed skiing in Park City, Utah. This year they'll relax at a resort in Scottsdale, Ariz.Skip to next paragraph
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"My husband, daughter, and I love these vacations," says Ms. Rockmore, CEO of Buttoned Up, an organizational firm in Los Angeles. "It's a time for deeper interaction and conversation than just a dinner here and there."
Extended-family vacations such as hers are growing in popularity, travel specialists say. Although no statistics quantify the trend, the travel industry has a name for it: "togethering." Such trips offer a way for time-short, far-flung families to connect and forge new bonds. Groups can include everyone from grandparents, parents, and children to stepparents, in-laws, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Some families vote for cruises or resorts. Others prefer tours or adventure travel. Still others keep trips low-key and low-budget by heading for state parks or lakeside cabins. Many avoid cities, where logistics can be daunting.
Whatever the destination, careful planning is essential. Rockmore's family begins by soliciting e-mail suggestions from everyone about preferred destinations. After they agree on a place, one person makes the reservations.
In other groups, each family books its own reservations.
Occasionally grandparents foot the entire bill. Martha and Ed Monaco of San Antonio just returned from an Alaskan cruise with 17 relatives, paid for by Mr. Monaco's parents to celebrate their 60th anniversary. His parents also hosted trips to mark their 40th, 50th, and 55th anniversaries. They choose the cruise line and destination. Each family pays for its own shore excursions and gratuities.
"My darling mother-in-law said, 'We decided we'd like to enjoy some of your inheritance with you,' " Mrs. Monaco says. "Cruises work out nicely because you don't have to worry about food. Everyone can do different activities. Teenagers can sleep late, and parents can stay up late."
For some families, adventure is the lure. "Over the last two to three years we have seen a noticeable increase in large family groups," says Steve Markle, marketing director for O.A.R.S. in Angels Camp, Calif., which offers river rafting.
His family groups average 16 to 20 people. "About 40 percent have never done anything like this," he says.
Tips for your trip
• Make plans and reservations early. This gives you more options for flights, accommodations, and activities. One family always books in February for a December trip.
• Be mindful of budgets, and be sure each family knows the general costs in advance.
• Ask for large-group discounts. These are often available on cruises and at resorts. Also ask about free upgrades.
• Choose a destination that offers activities for all generations.
• Let each family take part in choosing vacation activities. Giving everyone a voice helps to keep all the group's members satisfied.
• Make a general plan so everyone knows what's on the agenda. At the same time, allow for spontaneity.
• Work out restaurant choices in advance, so there won't be last-minute disagreements about where to eat.
• Allow time for rest and privacy. Too much togetherness can be wearing.
• Be flexible and polite. This helps to avoid conflict and preserve harmony in the group.
• Enjoy one another and take a live-and-let-live approach. Telling people how to raise their children doesn't go over very well.