Billings, MT – Award-winning tour operator Austin-Lehman Adventures (ALA – http://www.austinlehman.com/), the active travel company setting adventure tours standards in The Americas, Europe, Africa and beyond, reports an explosion in multi-generational or “3G” (three generations of same family) travel.
For the fourth consecutive year, ALA reports mid-double digit growth in 3G trips both in pre-set, small-group and custom departures. Seventy-five percent of its custom exclusives are 3G bookings, mostly requesting national park trips, an ALA specialty.
“Our Yellowstone National Park family adventures are sold out for 2011 and we’re now taking bookings for 2012,” said Dan Austin, founder and owner. He added that family programs to other national parks such as Yosemite, Glacier, Bryce & Zion and Grand Teton still offer good space this season.
Austin suggests that 3G families and their travel consultants explore together the various options and ask the following questions of the tour operator “to assure that meeting the complex needs of three generations surpasses all expectations.”
-Are the accommodations family-friendly (i.e. meeting needs of both adults and kids)?
-Are there children’s menus and safe places where children can roam when parents are socializing, reading on the porch, or sipping wine by the fire?
-Is there a place to swim?
-Does the itinerary allow parents to enjoy their own quiet meal if desired knowing children are being cared for, fed and entertained? (ALA ends its Yellowstone programs at Chico Hot Springs Resort where adults dine by candlelight while their kids have pizza by the pool.)
Pre-set Departures, Group Size and Guides
-Will the group be big enough to allow interaction between multiple families with kids the same age, yet small enough to allow intimate and personalized attention and service from the staff and guides? (ALA says that a maximum of 18 on a family trip is the preferred number.)
-Are guest rosters on pre-set family departures arranged insofar as possible with families who have children of similar ages? (Austin said his company does its best to match up three or four like-minded families with children of similar ages on the same departure.)
-What is the guest to guide ratio? (ALA recommends a maximum of six guests per one guide so that everyone gets individualized attention.)
-What are the guides’ qualifications? Summer break teachers experienced in working with young children can be the best, says Austin.
Equipment and Transportation
-What kinds of equipment are used for activities and how is the equipment adapted for 3G use? For example, Austin’s team offers kid-size mountain bikes and even tag-along kiddy carriers on all trips and new high tech electric bikes on all European trips.
-What kind of transportation is used from Point A to Point B on a trip?
-How is luggage stored and moved?
-Do the guides offer any ongoing dialog and/or fun games to help pass time en route?
Flexibility and Age-Appropriate Activities
-How flexible is the itinerary if someone wishes to veer from the day’s planned events?
-Are there age-appropriate activities? Ask if the itinerary is flexible to accommodate, if necessary, individual programs for a range of guests 7 to 70 years old. Austin cites a Montana trip where guides spontaneously set up an easy half-day horseback ride for grandparents who otherwise would have sat on the porch as younger family members did an intensive hike.
ALA’s 3G experience is in line with industry-wide statistics, said Austin, noting that 3G trips have recently been identified as top trends by mainstream travel companies such as Virtuoso and American Express Travel. Austin cites U.S. Travel Association research that notes that 30 percent of U.S. adult leisure travelers vacation with children or grandchildren along. TripAdvisor reported this year that 92 percent of families with children surveyed last year planned to travel in 2011, up from 88 percent who did so last year. There’s also more international travel by families (predicted to be up 5% from 2010) because so many of today’s parents are becoming more and more world travel savvy and operators such as Austin-Lehman are developing family-focused programs abroad.
Austin said that in addition to national park trips the 2011 season is beginning to fill up and that people who want to travel with one of Travel + Leisure’s Best Tour Operators in the World should consider booking their plans now.