Forget Mother’s Day dinner with the family: how about a long weekend in the Bahamas instead? Sound a little fantastical? Not really.
According to research conducted by the Preferred Hotel Group (a referral organization for independent hotels, resorts, and residences internationally), 40 per cent of all American leisure travellers have taken at least one multi-generational trip (grandma and grandpa, mom and dad, and little Caitlin and Zachary), and three-quarters of these trips have been to celebrate some significant life event—like a birthday, anniversary, or wedding.
Though the survey was done in the US among active American travellers, the demographics of the surveyed group are quite similar to Canadian baby boomers in that 4 out of 10 were grandparents who considered a vacation not a luxury, but a “must have.” They also had household incomes of $50,000 or more, were wealthier than their predecessors and willing and able to be the “financiers” of their family trips.
If you’re planning a multi-gen trip this summer, you should have started your planning weeks ago. But since you didn’t, start now, keeping these key points in mind:
Travel insurance is essential for all members of your group, no matter what their ages. Preteen kids are just as likely to bang their heads on a rock submerged just below the waterline as granddad is to have a gall bladder or kidney stone attack. And once you get them into an ER, whether the patient is a preteen or a granddad, your hospital and doctor bills will be the same: breathtaking. There are no kids’ rates, holiday specials, or “buy one get one free” deals in the ER.
Check out the health of your co-travellers. If you’ve made some non-refundable resort or hotel deposits, event payments, or airline tickets, and you’re forced to cancel because one of your group has been stricken with illness, or worse, you could lose all of the money you’ve already paid out if you have no trip cancellation insurance. Remember, we’re talking about non-refundable deposits. And even if you do have insurance, make sure you know its limitations because many policies will not reimburse your non-refundables if you cancel because your travel companion was stricken with a pre-existing condition. That’s right: If Uncle George calls you the day before your scheduled departure and says he is in hospital because a persistent pain in the belly that has been bothering him for weeks turned out to be a heart attack, you and your group can either go without him, or you will lose all of your prepayments so you can stay home and hold your uncle’s hand while hospital staff wheel him into surgery. Trip cancellation or interruption policies have a quite a few limitations, so know what you are buying.
Document your kids’ pals. If your troupe of travellers includes kids not your own—school pals, distant relatives, or hockey teammates—get written permission from their parents that you are authorized to have them in your care. There are no official government letters or documents you must carry, but there are free samples you can use. You can also print out a sample copy we have prepared you. It’s free. Or you can go to the government of Canada’s website.
If you’re going out of country, make sure you know what official documents you will need for your family members. The fact they are travelling with you doesn’t mean your passport covers them too. Your passport covers you, only you. I have only one recommendation to make about which documents you and your travelling partners should have to travel internationally: Passport. It’s the surest proof of who you are when you’re out of your own country. I recommend nothing less. My grandkids have had their own passports since they were 8 and 5 respectively. And they will continue to do so.
Here’s a statistic you need to know if anyone tries to belittle your state of decrepitude when they see the brood you have produced. According to the Conference Board of Canada (CBoC), between 2014 and 2019 the proportion of Canadians aged 55 to 64 will increase 12 per cent, while the share of people aged 65 and older will increase by 20 per cent. That means that for the first time in history there will be more seniors in Canada than children, and Canadians 55-plus are about 40 per cent more likely to travel overseas for leisure purposes than their younger counterparts.