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Published May 27, 2013, 11:35 PM

Multigenerational vacations a growing travel trend

FARGO – The family vacation has taken on a whole new meaning for several Fargo-Moorhead area families. They not only travel with the members of their own household, but with parents, siblings and their families as well.

By: Tracy Frank, INFORUM

FARGO – The family vacation has taken on a whole new meaning for several Fargo-Moorhead area families.

They not only travel with the members of their own household, but with parents, siblings and their families as well.

More families are taking multigenerational vacations by bringing grandma and grandpa along. Preferred Hotel Group, which represents independent luxury hotels and resorts, calls it one of the hottest trends in travel and hospitality.

A few months ago, Shauna Vistad of West Fargo took a weeklong Caribbean cruise with her husband, kids, brother and parents.

She said it was an important trip because her dad had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer the previous March and given three to six months to live.

“To give him something to look forward to, we planned this cruise outside of that six-month time period,” Vistad said. “It was an opportunity for him to take his grandkids on a special trip. He wanted to take his grandkids swimming with dolphins.”

Vistad said it was essential for her kids to have that time with their grandpa, who is still fighting his disease. One of her favorite memories is of her dad swimming with dolphins. When he flew out of the water, perched on the dolphins’ noses, he had the same joyful expression on his face that her children had, she said.

“You have the opportunity to create memories together,” Vistad said. “Rather than just coming back and telling people about that experience, you get to share it with the ones you love the most.”

According to a Preferred Hotel Group poll, 40 percent of families went on a multigenerational vacation in the past year. About 77 percent planned it around a milestone event like a birthday, anniversary, family reunion or wedding.

Michael Gustafson of Moorhead went to Disney World with his family of five, his sister’s family of four and his parents for his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary in the fall of 2011.

“It’s just something we’ve done for years,” he said. “We find it’s a very nice way to do things. My parents might not go on some of these trips if they wouldn’t do it with us to help them get around.”

Taking a multigenerational trip also gave Gustafson, his wife, his sister and her husband a chance to go out on their own while their kids stayed with their grandparents, Gustafson said.

Holly Leistikow of Fargo said almost all of their family vacations include at least one set of their kids’ grandparents.

“We all love to travel and it’s sometimes a little easier to have a set of grandparents along to help entertain or let them watch the kids for a night while we go out,” Leistikow said.

Planning is more difficult with more people, but Grandma and Grandpa can help alleviate children’s tantrums and help parents put the situation into perspective, Leistikow said.

“It’s good for our kids to have those extra sets of influences in their lives,” she said.

There are several reasons multigenerational vacations have become so popular in recent years, according to the study:

• Evenings and weekends are no longer untouchable family time, creating a greater need for escape through travel.

• Baby boomers are “trading briefcases for roller bags” and want to take their kids and grandkids with them.

• Families are living farther apart than at any time in history and a multigenerational trip is often the best way for them to gather in one place.

Heather Johnson of Fargo and her brother don’t talk frequently, but a recent multigenerational family vacation gave them bonding time and helped her get to know his kids better, she said.

They took a trip to Mount Rushmore with their families and their parents last summer for their parents’ 45th wedding anniversary. All 13 people shared a large log house for a week, she said.

“This was the best vacation we had been on as a family and I would absolutely want to do it again,” Johnson said.

Though the trip included things like waterslides, goldmine tours, museums, and of course, visiting Mount Rushmore, Johnson said the best part was bonding over family games at the rental house.

“It really builds a relationship,” she said.

With seven children, ages 8 to 16, they worried there would be bickering and drama, but it went much better than expected, she said.

“That was our biggest worry,” she said.

She said the key was planning days where families could go do their own thing in between the days where everyone stayed together.

“It gave us and the kids a break,” Johnson said. “That really cut down on the frustration level that could happen.”

Communication is key to making multigenerational vacations work.

Family members need to be clear about their expectations, both scheduling and financial, Vistad said. It’s also crucial to understand you can’t please everyone and you’re going to have to make compromises, she said.

Vistad recommends letting one person organize the trip.

“I’m like a cowboy trying to heard water,” she said. “It gets to be a bit of a challenge.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526

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