Family Reunion Vacations
When you get together not to impress one another but simply to share love and memories, you enjoy the finest rewards of travel
Grandma and grandpa haven't seen the kids in months. You haven't seen your siblings in nearly a year. The cousins hardly know each other anymore. It's high time to get the gang together. But grandma doesn't want to cook and clean for everyone. And the kids don't want to spend a week sitting around grandma's condo with not much to do. That's why millions of American families--some 16 million a year, according to the Travel Industry Association--are taking off on vacation with three generations and sometimes four.
Families are meeting for a long weekend or a week, gathering at beach and ski resorts Thanksgiving and Christmas, sometimes taking their holiday turkey along. They're crowding cruise ships and Disney World, even heading overseas to rental villas.
These post-millennium-style family reunions are a lot different than those afternoon barbeques in a park, so popular a generation ago. In fact, organized reunions are getting so popular that growing numbers of resorts now offer well-priced family reunion packages. When there's a big group and everyone's splitting the tab, reunions can even turn out to be a bargain.
One thing's for sure: the memories will be worth every dollar spent and all the (sometimes burdensome) planning--if only for the chance for grandpa to teach his five-year-old grandson to fish, for grandma to tell her granddaughters all about her wedding, for brothers and sisters to trade career tips and to reminisce about childhood vacations. Here are ten reunion ideas that are affordable to almost everyone and will embarrass the purse of no one.
A reunion cruise
Whatever time of year, cruises are great hits for multigenerational families because there are plenty of activities for all ages--even the preschoolers. Just as important, no one has to worry about organizing a single meal or washing a dish. Cruises are a good vacation value, too, when you figure your bed, your food, and all of your on-board activities are included.
Today, there are more cruise reunion options than ever, as most major cruise lines offer well-run children's programs and a greater number of short cruises. Cruise Line Inc., one of the largest cruise discount agencies in the country, handles many such family groups. (Call 800/466-9150 or visit cruiseline.com.) Among the cruise lines themselves, Carnival Cruise Line expects to carry 250,000 kids this year, more than any other cruise line, and half of its fleet offers itineraries of five days or fewer. That means a family can cruise for four days for roughly $450 per person or for a week over Thanksgiving for under $600 a person, including port charges. Third and fourth passengers in a cabin are just over $300 on either trip. For every 15 adults, you get a free berth. (800/CARNIVAL or carnival.com)
Disney Cruise Lines has an entire deck devoted to kids, including a nursery for infant cruisers, as well as adult-only areas. Disney offers seven-day trips to the Caribbean as well as three- and four-day options combined with a stay at Disney World. Forty percent of the passengers are multigenerational groups. Both trips are a good deal, starting at (for a small number of cabins, true) $829 per adult, $399 per child; expect to pay at least $200 more for a larger number of cabins. (800/WDW-CRUISE or disneycruise.com).
Whether or not you're a family of snow-lovers, mountain resorts are good choices for family gatherings whatever the season. In fall, there are hiking and mountain-bike trails to explore, golf, fishing, gondola rides to mountaintops, and more. In winter, besides skiing, there's snowshoeing, ice-skating, spas, and the chance to read the kids story after story by the fire. There are plenty of organized children's programs to choose from.
Examples? At Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado, kids 6 and under ski free and there's a Club Med there for folks who want an all-inclusive vacation. The savings on condo and house rentals are best early and late ski season, even cheaper in fall and spring when the kids can mountain bike and the adults can hike amid the wildflowers. (Crested Butte: 800/544-8448 or crestedbutteresort.com. Snowbird: 800/232-9542 or snowbird.com).
For all these western destinations, Rocky Mountain Tours can arrange bargain-priced ski packages including air (800/525-SKIS or sskithewest.com).
In the East, Smugglers' Notch Resort in northern Vermont offers AutumnFest packages starting at $780 for a family of four for seven nights, including golf, fishing, and canoeing. Opt for a long-weekend winter package and let the kids try snowboarding while mom and dad work on their skiing and grandma takes an art workshop. Everyone can join the karaoke and bingo parties (800/451-8752 or smuggs.com).