Multigenerational travel, fueled by the demographics and psychographics of today’s baby boomers and societal trends, is a major growth market. Family members are traveling together to destinations throughout the country and around the globe.

Consider these statistics from MMGY Global’s 2012 Portrait of American Travelers study:

  • 40% of all active leisure travelers have taken at least one multigenerational trip over the last year.
  •  25% of all leisure travelers are grandparents and 37% traveled with their grandchildren.
  • Grandparents travel almost 25% more than the average leisure traveler, taking four or more trips yearly.
  • 22% of grandparents traveled with their grandchildren alone.
Nancy Schretter

Nancy Schretter

These figures portray a market size of substantial proportions. More than 20.8 million travelers in the United States alone traveled on a multigenerational trip of three or more generations in 2011, according to the Preferred Hotel Group. Those numbers will continue to climb, as 77 million Americans are expected to turn 65 years of age over the next 18 years.

In today’s fast-paced world, travel is increasingly seen as the best way for extended family members to bond. Families are living farther apart geographically than any time in history, so a multigenerational trip can often be the only option for families to gather in one place. In addition, researchers say the “togethering” trend reflecting an increased commitment to spending time with loved ones has been an important factor since 9/11.

Today’s grandparents are more active, living longer and want to share memories – rather than things – with their children and grandchildren. In addition, many grandparents are financially able to travel and are willing to underwrite some or all of the vacation costs, with 67% saying that children are never too old to be treated to a family vacation.

Many tour companies are benefiting from this trend. Todd Smith, director of AdventureSmith Explorations, says multigenerational bookings have grown at a rate of 35% per year over the past three years. Norwegian Cruise Line reports that multigenerational groups comprise approximately 15-20% of guests on many of their cruises.

 So how can leisure travel group organizers harness this trend? Here are a few tips:

Know your customers’ needs. Take the time to understand the specific needs of the multigenerational travel market and get an accurate profile of the interests, abilities, preferences and dynamics of those going on the trip.

Work with family travel specialists. Organizers who don’t want to handle their own intricate trip details can work with companies that focus on the family and multigenerational travel market. Austin-Lehman Adventures and Wildland Adventures, established leaders in family travel tours, are experiencing significant, steady growth in multigenerational trip bookings. Other companies specializing in family travel include Thomson Family Adventures, Adventures by Disney and Tauck Bridges.

Choose the right destinations and great guides. Dan Austin, director of Austin-Lehman Adventures, says, “Picking the perfect destination, led by perfect guides” is particularly important for multigenerational travel. Austin-Lehman maintains at least a 6-1 guest-to-guide ratio with guides who can relate to “both the young and the young at heart.”

Create itineraries offering opportunities for all ages. The best multigenerational itineraries offer something for everyone. Monika Sundem of  Adventure Life notes that multigenerational travelers require options, “so while younger ones in the family are off doing a zipline, less agile members are free to go on a short guided rainforest hike.”

Offer customized private itineraries. Kurt Kutay, president of Wildland Adventures, says that while some of their family adventures work well for multigenerational travelers, many groups request customized itineraries since most are large enough to meet the minimum size requirements for favorable group size tier pricing.

Nancy Schretter is managing editor of the Family Travel Network (www.familytravelnetwork.com) and an industry consultant in family and multigenerational travel.