Multigenerational travel has been the buzz for a number of years, but a subset of this trend has grandparents and grandchildren bidding bon voyage to the middle generation and hitting the road for together time on their own.
“Grandparents have so much to teach and so many stories to tell to their grandchildren, and holidays are a privileged moment to share all this and more,” said Magali Déchelette, founder of Family Twist, a one-stop shop for private luxurious family activities and packages in Europe. “When grandchildren spend a holiday with their grandparents, nothing should get in the way of their joy of being together.”
Grand vacation, with a twist
Déchelette believes that many destinations are grandparent/grandchildren-friendly as long as there are adapted activities and services for all. That’s where Family Twist comes in, with a roster of more than 40 different activities designed for all members in the family and a goal to turn travel expectations into unforgettable experiences.
Take a treasure hunt at the Louvre in Paris, discovering 11 masterpieces as you solves clues and puzzles along the way, not to mention seeing art from the Middle Ages, the Italian Renaissance and Ancient Egypt. Bake your own pizza in Rome under the tutelage of a real pizzaiolo (pizza chef). Learn the secrets of Italian pizza and, yes, how to toss the dough. In London, step into the shoes of Sherlock Holmes and help a real life Scotland Yard detective solve a criminal case.
“A holiday is the perfect moment to share bonding experiences together,” said Déchelette.
In addition to arranging fun and educational activities that are related to the culture of the given country, Family Twist handles everything from accommodations to ground services. The company selects family-friendly boutique hotels and guarantees connecting rooms or suites. Transfers are via Mercedes-Benz mini vans equipped with baby and booster seats and experienced baby-sitters can be provided just in case the grown-ups need a time-out.
Growing up with grandchildren
Why would a retired couple travel more than seven hours from Mississippi to North Carolina several times a year with one or more of their five grandchildren in tow?
“High Hampton Inn is a big part of our family,” said Nancy Hargrove of the 1,400-acre resort located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. “It’s hard not to love it — there’s just so much going on.”
Swimming, sailing, canoeing, rowing and pedal boating on Hampton Lake. Golf, tennis, fishing, hiking, climbing a rock wall. Children’s evening and special holiday entertainment and programming. A hands-on falconry program with a chance to feed the birds and have a hawk fly to your glove. All this and more await, along with several dining options, a world-class spa and guestrooms, suites and cottages that are comfy havens overlooking mountains and the lake.
“My husband and I first went to High Hampton Inn about 25 or 30 years ago and fell in love with it,” said Hargrove. “We took our first grandchild, Guy, when he was three years old (he’s now 19) and we’ve been going back ever since. It’s a wonderful family resort.”
A favorite for all? Playing cards by the four-sided stone fireplace in the lobby.
“The things the grandchildren want to do change as they get older and we’ve changed along with them, and still do everything together.”
City of Presidents
With 2016 marking the 75th anniversary of Mount Rushmore’s completion and the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service, timing couldn’t be better for a grandparent/grandchild trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota and true Americana.
Head to Rapid City and the awe-inspiring Mount Rushmore National Memorial to see George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln carved from a sky-skimming granite mountainside. Then head downtown to see life-size bronze sculptures of every past president of the United States.
Life-size dinosaurs hulk along the top of Rapid City’s Dakota Hogback ridge: Five prehistoric creatures, including tyrannosaurus Rex, were constructed in the mid-1930s, a memorial to “acquaint the present generation and others to follow with a fair idea as to the appearance, size and characteristics of these, our earliest known inhabitants.”
See real animals on a wildlife safari to Custer State Park, where free-roaming herds of bison sometimes cause traffic jams along the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road. One of the largest publically-owned herds in the world, the bison are joined by bighorn sheep and burros, pronghorn and prairie dogs, mountain goats and mountain lions and more.
Other area attractions: Bear Country USA, a 250-acre drive-thru wildlife park; Reptile Gardens, home of the world’s largest collection of cold-blooded vertebrates; and enchanting Storybook Island with its interactive fairy tale sets.
‘Have Grandkids, Will Travel’
You’ll feel like you’ve slipped off to summer camp at Lake Naomi Club and its Mountaintop Lodge — but this family-oriented luxury retreat located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania is the very antithesis of roughing it. Cabin Jacuzzi suites and lodge and loft suites, gourmet country breakfast and membership to the facilities at this Five Star Platinum Club Community during your stay combine to create the perfect getaway.
Club activities provide plenty of bonding opportunities: sailing, swimming, hiking, fishing, golfing, indoor tennis and a 277-acre lake with non-motorized boating and two outdoor Olympic-sized pools, including the largest lakeside heated outdoor pool in the state. Additionally, visitors find a fitness center, game room, teen area and plenty of family activities.
Through Dec. 31, 2016, Lake Naomi Club is offering a “Have Grandkids, Will Travel” getaway that includes two nights’ accommodations, complimentary breakfast, two lunches and two dinners for four, access to various child-supervised evening activities and a $60 activities voucher that may be used toward boat rental, golfing, supervised daytime camp activities, etc. Package starts at $775. Details: www.MountaintopLodge.com/specials.html.
(Author and travel and lifestyle writer Kathy Witt feels you should never get to the end of your bucket list; there’s just too much to see and do in the world. Contact her at KathyWitt24@gmail.com, @KathyWitt.)
—You know what they say, “When in Rome” … become a gladiator. Meet your gladiator teacher for a 2-hour private one-on-one family gladiator training session created by Family Twist. It includes an introduction in the gladiator museum and time for everyone to dress up in tunic and gladiator equipment.
—Look for llamas to up the fun factor at High Hampton Inn on Thursdays and Saturdays for Hike-A-Rama with a Llama around Hampton Lake and Llama Olympics with the kids on the lawn.
—For Rapid City, download the “Activity 99” sheet to compete for prizes while completing activities in the Black Hills – like taking a selfie with the Mount Rushmore sculpture. Details here: www.NPS.gov/moru/getinvolved/Activity-99.htm.
Family Twist, www.Family-Twist.com: Choose from 40-plus à la carte” family-bonding activities in Paris, the Loire Valley, London and Rome.
High Hampton Inn, www.HighHamptonInn.com: Open from the first week of May to Thanksgiving weekend. Guest room rates include three meals a day. No tipping policy.
Rapid City, SD, www.VisitRapidCity.com: Click “Plan your trip” then “Coupons” to purchase the 2016 Black Hills Coupon book ($20) for over $2,900 in savings on food, entertainment and more.