There’s a pivotal moment in life when you make the decision to take your parents or grandparents on holiday for the first time. It’s your chance to take the driving seat and plan a perfect trip for the people who first set you on the path to becoming a traveler – think of it as thank you in holiday form.
But it has to be done right. Sure, you want a trip that shows off your love of travel and your world-class knowledge of the globe, but the destination has to work for everyone – a trekking holiday in the Alps might work for you and the kids, but will it work for mom, dad, and grandad?
Going long-haul with the next generation can be particularly challenging – air travel loses some of its sheen with advancing years, and the cost of travel insurance soars. If anyone in the group has limited mobility, consider the ease of getting around – at street level, as well as by public transport – and the general levels of convenience and comfort in your chosen destination.
The ideal multigenerational trip will involve less zipping around to see the sights and a more gentle appreciation of the destination. Consider hiring a car instead of relying on public transport and pause for several days whenever you stop to make the most of your time together. To get you on the move, here are some of our favorite destinations for multigenerational travel.
1. Florida, USA
It’s almost a cliché that Florida is a haven for seniors, but with warm year-round weather and impressive infrastructure for seniors and people with limited mobility, this is one of the easiest destinations for different generations to travel together. With kids in tow as well as grandparents, combine theme park days or a trip to Cape Canaveral with urban beaches and walkable hubs such as the Miami shorefront and Key West.
With just older travelers in your party, consider lower-key seaside resorts such as Clearwater Beach, bird-thronged Marco Island, and Cocoa Beach. There are museums and golf courses aplenty but come outside of the summer peak to avoid crowds and uncomfortable temperatures.
2. Utah, USA
The southwest is classic Winnebago country, and a recreational vehicle is an ideal way to explore Utah’s outdoor attractions as an extended family group, with maximum control over your immediate environment. Book well in advance to secure camping space at national parks such as Arches, Zion, and Canyonlands, and plan your route around viewpoints, gentle strolls, and history, rather than thrill-seeking adventures. Don’t overlook Utah’s state parks – they’re often calmer and more peaceful than Utah’s ‘Mighty 5’ national parks.
3. New England, USA
New England is the gentler side of the US, with buoy-dotted harbors and historic townships that are perfect for exploring at a slower pace. Fly into Boston, for a city stop with maximum history, then plot a route north along the coast through New Hampshire to Portland, Maine, stopping in at photogenic lighthouses, cute town squares, and scenic bays with gentle coastal walks. Even dramatic Acadia National Park can be easily explored by car or park service bus. Look out for senior discounts – they’re easy to find in this part of the country – and plan at least one lobster dinner to remember.
4. Budapest, Hungary
For a spa break that will appeal to all ages, it’s hard to beat cultured Budapest. A city break where you can pause to soak in therapeutic spa waters has obvious advantages, and EU citizens over 65 can avail of all sorts of discounts including free public transport, from trams and trains to buses and boats along the Danube. Essential spa stops include the Palatinus Pools on Margaret Island (ideal for groups with kids in tow) and the Gellért and Széchenyi baths for a grown-up soak surrounded by architectural grandeur.
5. London, UK
Few places can compete with London when it comes to culture for free. For a museum-hopping trip that will get parents and grandparents as excited as the kids, stay central and plot days out around South Kensington, for the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and V&A, the West End, for the British Museum and Wallace Collection, and the banks of the Thames, for the Tate Modern, Tate Britain, and the National Gallery.
Having spent zero English pounds (excluding voluntary donations) on culture, you can spend a similar sum on green spaces in the city’s famous Royal Parks – Hyde Park and Regents’ Park are standout spots to stroll. For a US equivalent, consider Washington DC, which has free museums to appeal to every generation, from the Smithsonian museums to the National Gallery of Art.
6. Porto, Portugal
Seniors and Spain go together like Serrano ham and Manchego, but we’d sing the praises of neighboring Portugal, where the pace of life is just that little bit slower and easier. Porto’s steep streets might seem off-putting, but senior discounts on the city’s Metro, trams, and buses (and Andante Card discounts for everyone else) make it easy to reach the hilltops for river views, or you can jump onto the city’s historic Elevador da Ribeira. Plan days around museums, historic cathedrals and churches, refreshment stops to sample the local port (of course) and walks around the backstreets snapping photos of azulejos tiles.
7. Tuscany, Italy
Multigenerational travel is all about family time, and you can’t get much more family-focused than a long, lingering Italian lunchtime. Tuscany serves up the best of Italy, from fine food and cinematic scenery to some of the world’s greatest art and architecture, in one easily-navigable package – Florence is just an hour from Pisa and two hours from Siena, which in turn is just 50 minutes from San Gimignano. Rent a villa for the whole group (ideally with a pool) and use a hire car to potter from village to vineyard to trattoria.
8. Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan
More than 20% of Japanese people are over 70, so the country is extremely well-organized for older travelers. Efficient public transport can whisk your group from timeless temples to Zen gardens in whistlestop time, but the sightseeing focus is on slow appreciation, whether that means wandering under the cherry blossoms in Tokyo’s Ueno Park or paying your respects at a Shinto shrine with a view of Mt Fuji.
Linked by Shinkansen bullet train in just 2 hours, Tokyo and Kyoto are easy hubs for exploring, with historic Nara and Osaka just half an hour further west. Make full use of discounts for seniors, charter a taxi or private car for local sightseeing and plan stops at onsen baths and historic ryokan (inns) to appreciate Japan at a slower pace.
9. Melbourne, Australia
The main obstacle to family travel to Australia is the cost and time it takes to get here, but once you arrive, things are well set up for multigenerational travel. We say skip Sydney for the calmer vibe of the Victoria capital – travelers of all generations will appreciate Melbourne’s gentle nature, abundant sights, and almost European café culture.
After you’ve sampled the city’s much-touted coffee, admired the bathing boxes at Brighton Beach, and strolled in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Australia’s remarkable wildlife is just a short drive away at Phillip Island or Wilson’s Promontory, with the added bonus of handy surf beaches to keep younger members of the group onside.
10. Central Thailand
Thailand is the perfect destination for tropical multigenerational travel – hassles are limited, history spills from every street corner, it’s easy to find a hotel with a pool, the food is familiar (and there’s plenty that isn’t too spicy), taxis and hotels have icy air-conditioning and you can travel from A to B in calm comfort by 1st and 2nd class train without having to fight for a seat.
Don’t be too ambitious about what you plan to see. Life gets easier once you leave busy Bangkok, so devote a couple of days to strolls around the palaces and temples of compact Ratanakosin island, then drift north towards foodie Chiang Mai, stopping by temple-strewn townships such as Ayutthaya and Sukhothai. Riverside Kanchanaburi, the setting for the WWII-era Death Railway, is another stop with maximum history appeal.
11. Rajasthan, India
India might not leap out as an easy destination for older travelers, but that depends on where and how you travel. Rajasthan has history to spare – and some of India’s best infrastructure for older travelers. You can take the hassle out of getting from forts to national parks to historic-colored cities by hiring a car and driver.
Rajasthan is also close enough to the capital that you won’t have to spend your whole trip in motion – and if older members of your group get tired while exploring, taxis, rickshaws, and autorickshaws can whisk them back to the hotel air-conditioning in double-quick time. Visit in winter (October to March) to avoid the soggy monsoon and the sticky heat that precedes it.