How to please everyone. That was our dilemma. And it wasn’t an easy crowd. Far flung and always busy, our crazy, diverse, opinionated family is committed to traveling together at least once a year. In the mix: Four adventurers craving the outdoors, two sophisticates wanting culture, an infant needing quiet space and time, a grandpa who needs his nap, two teens with shopping at the top of their list, and a young couple who would like someplace “cool.” We had ages eight months to 87 years old, and while everyone was worried about the budget, some less so than others. After the grueling task of narrowing down a travel time that worked for everyone, we came up with the destination.
“Salt Lake City? Really?” Several in the group were skeptical. But “Ski City” (www.visitsaltlake.com/skicity) turned out to be our best family getaway yet, a city mouse/country mouse vacation that had something for everyone: outdoor activities, cultural sites, a wide range of accommodations, and close proximity to a major airport. Despite some expected ups and downs, and a little drama here and there, our extended family vacation was a big success, and worthy of a repeat.
We’re not alone in seeking multigenerational travel experiences. In fact, in a recent survey by Virtuoso, a leading international network of luxury travel agencies, multigenerational travel was the number one top travel trend for 2016.
“Multigenerational travel continues to be a strong trend, and what’s interesting is that several years ago, it began eclipsing travel with immediate family,” says Misty Ewing Belles, director of Global Public Relations for Virtuoso.
“Multigenerational family travel is becoming the new trend in family vacations,” said Stephanie Miles, a vice president at AARP. “Our multigenerational travel research found 98 percent of travelers who took a multigenerational trip were highly satisfied, and 85 percent are planning to take another one in the next 12 months.”
But satisfaction doesn’t come easy. Here’s what we learned on this year’s trip to Salt Lake City.
Plan way ahead
Trying to juggle everyone’s schedules was like nailing Jell-O to a tree. We started a full year in advance, crossing out conflicting times: weddings, school and work calendars, summer programs, prior commitments. We settled on a winter holiday — perfect for the skiers in our group — and a convenient fly-in location. Once we determined a specific week and location, everyone booked their own flights. Some stayed the week or longer; others made it a long weekend, but everyone overlapped some days to be together. This took into account varying budgets, temperaments (four days of togetherness was plenty for some), and allowed flexibility when booking flights.
Variety is a necessity
“There is no such thing as fun for the whole family,” Jerry Seinfeld once quipped. In other words, you want to ski but your sister wants to shop. Picking a destination with a range of activities was key to our harmony. We based ourselves in downtown Salt Lake City, with outdoor activities and cultural interests right at our doorstep. The skiers in our group had easy access to several world-class ski resorts, all within 45 minutes or less. (There was also public transportation to and from several resorts, if someone else in the group needed the car.) While half of the crew headed to the mountains, others hung around town. Grandpa and his granddaughter enjoyed learning more about their ancestors at the renowned Salt Lake City Family History Library, while others visited the Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum, and toured Temple Square.
One bed does not fit all
We’ve shared big vacation homes in the past but separate hotels worked best for us this time around. Salt Lake City has a variety of accommodations all within easy walking distance, satisfying the “I don’t need anything fancy” folks and the “does it have a spa?” clan. Separate hotels also meant that sis had her luxury, the baby had peace and quiet, and we all had privacy when we needed it. We still gathered: One evening we shared a homemade pasta dinner and played games in the suite at the Residence Inn, and several nights we met in the lobby of the chic Hotel Monaco for drinks before heading out for evening activities.
Keep a degree of separation
No matter how close your family is, too much togetherness can cause conflict, or at least annoyance. It’s essential to allow time for everyone to do their own thing, away from the group. Many days, our family scattered. Some headed to nearby resorts to ski, snowshoe or do other outdoor activities. But the city mice were content to stay near town: visiting the Clark Planetarium and IMAX Theater and Utah Olympic Park, watching performances at the Capitol Theatre and Abravanel Hall and recitals in the Temple Square Tabernacle, and shopping at ultra-modern City Creek Center. We met up at the end of the day with plenty of stories and good cheer, ready to plan the evening and next day’s outings.
“Where are we going next year?” Grandpa asked at dinner on our last night in Salt Lake City. The planning is already underway.Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at email@example.com.