Apparently, holidays with grandchildren can be good for you. Or at least that’s what biogerontologist Dr. James Brown, a scientist who specializes in the aging process, discovered in a recent report. Three-generation vacations can improve memory, improve physical functioning and reduce loneliness in older adults – all of which contribute to a healthy lifestyle.
The major travel organizations seem to notice it. This week, EasyJet Holidays announced a ‘grans go free’ scheme, allowing one grandparent to travel with a family group – which must include their grandchild – without paying. Proof of “age and relationship” will apparently be taken upon arrival at the destination.
Traveling with three generations is of course not new, but it is becoming increasingly popular. Tour operator Scott Dunn reports that the number of multigenerational family groups traveling with them doubled in 2023 compared to 2021. And in a survey of 2,000 young adults, EasyJet found that 54 percent planned to travel with their grandparents on an upcoming holiday.
Celebrating a milestone
Destinations such as Spain, France and the US are the most popular, largely in line with Britain’s favorite holiday destinations. But some families opt for something unusual and use an anniversary or milestone as a reason for a multi-generational trip.
Alan Thomas, a retired photo librarian from London, had planned a South African safari for his children and grandchildren to celebrate his 80th birthday in 2021. After Covid-induced delays, Alan, his wife, his two daughters, his son-in-law and two grandsons, aged 10 and 12, finally made the trip last Easter.
“You never quite know how things are going to turn out,” he says. “We have had holidays with our children and grandchildren before, but those were typical cottage stays in England, which is quite different.” The nervousness is understandable – feeling responsible for a trip, and therefore the enjoyment of the group, is a rather intimidating prospect.
It’s something Alan acknowledges, saying he wanted his grandchildren to enjoy it and “not just tolerate it for us oldies.” He didn’t have to worry. The group, he says, was blessed with exceptional safari sightings, including elephants, lions, cheetahs, rhinos, giraffes and zebras.
But more exciting than the wild animals was his family’s reaction. “They seemed to really enjoy every moment without any hesitation. Everyone has said – especially the boys – that it was the best holiday they have ever had.”
A need to make compromises
Of course, these types of vacations can highlight uncomfortable generational differences. For grandparents who were used to drinking a glass of wine at sunset, the brutal battle before bedtime could turn into a fierce battle after a fortnight. And the brightly colored hustle and bustle of water parks, compared to, say, a walking tour of a historic city, might be a compromise too far.
Then there is the distribution of childcare. For some parents, having a second group of adults on hand may seem like an additional babysitting option. Grandparents may disagree.
For Phil Dykes, holidays are a time of intimacy – which is why he chooses to travel to adults-only resorts with his wife. “I have a daughter from a previous marriage and a grandson. But we just don’t like traveling with children,” he says. “We don’t like any part of it, whether it’s waiting at the airport, or sitting on a plane, or in a restaurant. We ourselves have busy lives and that is why we have to miss holidays. When we get them, we just want to be alone, not with any irritants. And children will be children.”
The age of the children on a multi-generational trip will undoubtedly lead to compromises. Regardless of one’s normal vacation preferences, diaper-changing requirements or teen-oriented activity sessions will determine everything from the type of accommodation to meal times. Alan says he is now grateful his holiday was postponed because his grandsons were mature enough to fully appreciate a safari – and recommends that on a major holiday everyone contributes to the planning so that every member is happy with the itinerary.
As with all family occasions, such holidays run the risk of psychological decline. There’s a risk of a Christmas Day dynamic, with parents and their adult children suddenly re-enacting arguments from 20 years ago, and sisters bickering over seating arrangements. For some, the pressure is too much.
Pressure on the cost of living
Then there are the financial consequences. Nearly half of EasyJet respondents said the grandparents in their family are the biggest earners, but only 35 percent would expect them to contribute to the holidays.
There is no denying that traveling has become more expensive. A report from the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) shows that last year 72 percent of people said the cost of living would affect their travel plans, while only 10 percent said it would prevent them from going on holiday. . So tourists have to be creative and cut out activities or meals in favor of cheaper options.
Could multi-generational holidays be the solution? There is certainly potential for a large group tour to be an economically viable way to travel: a villa shared by eight, rather than four, often has a cheaper rate per person, and the shared costs for food and outings can lead to savings to lead.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to often be the case. A spokesperson for Scott Dunn noted that among their customers, grandparents were often the ones instigating multi-generational holidays and, crucially, the ones footing the bill.
Graeme Buck, a spokesperson at ABTA, agrees. “Our research shows that cost-of-living pressures are much less likely to impact the travel plans of older people than younger people,” he says. This means that it could be up to the oldest generation to pay for everyone.
However, financial necessity is often not the core of the holiday choice. Alan Thomas’s holiday, for example, was much more about the experience. “It was a gift for them,” he says. “I was watching what our guides were showing the boys, but really I was watching them – observing how they were enjoying it. And that made it special.”
Buck agrees: “A key reason why holidays have remained a spending priority in today’s difficult economic climate is because they provide a very important opportunity to spend quality time with our loved ones.”
EasyJet’s offer could then be the first in a long line of deals aimed at grandparents and helping to cover the costs of big family holidays. They will certainly offer better value than the traditional ‘kids go free’ option. But regardless of the price, the emotional satisfaction they provide will likely always be the reason families choose to travel together.
“We will always remember it,” says Alan. “That was initially my goal when setting up the holiday. It was just a great feeling to see it go so well.”
Holidays for those who want to take the whole family
Stubborn Mule specializes in adventure holidays for families. Their 15-day Kerala Family Holiday includes excursions to tea plantations, nature reserves and a night on a houseboat. Prices start at £2,125 per person, excluding flights.
Responsible Travel offers seven-night whale watching holidays in the Azores, including accommodation in a family-friendly hotel. Prices start at £930 per person, excluding flights.
And vacations for those who don’t
Kuoni offers all-inclusive packages at the Mayia Exclusive Resort & Spa, an adults-only hotel in Rhodes. Prices start at £1,536 per person, including flights and most meals.
Sandals Barbados also offers all-inclusive packages, including flights, meals and gratuities. A trip to the resort in April, flying from London Heathrow, starts at £2,492 per person.