Family holidays with or without the grandchildren

Three-generation holidays are all the rage, but what do you do if grandparents want time off too? Katie McGonagle finds out.

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Grandparents are supposed to have the best of both worlds. They get all the baby smiles and toddler hugs, wonky pasta paintings on the fridge, sense of pride at nativity plays or first football matches – but with the all-important ability to hand the little bundles of joy back at the end of the day.

But what if you’re on holiday, and the kids are there 24/7? With multigenerational holidays on the rise, all those grandparents who do the lion’s share of the babysitting have a tough choice to make. Do they fork out for a fun-packed three-generation holiday, giving up their downtime in exchange for special memories? Or do they leave their responsibilities – grandkids included – behind for a relaxed getaway of their own, without a crying child in sight?

To help you steer them through the dilemma, we’ve rounded up some of the best holidays for older travellers, either with or without their grandchildren.

The US

With grandchildren: Imagine the look on a child’s face as they meet Mickey for the first time or step into Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley and watch the magic unfold before their very eyes. If grandparents are desperate to share those special moments too, but with accommodation and activities to suit the older generation as well, recommend Orlando.

Ross Sinclair, US senior product manager at Gold Medal, says: “Choosing to stay in a villa allows all generations of the family to experience as much or as little as they wish. Jam-packed days out can be combined with lazy days by the pool. Grandparents may even wish to seek their own adventure with hot-air ballooning, air boat rides or shopping in Orlando’s famous outlet malls.”


Book it: A week’s self-catering in a four-bedroom home at Champions Gate Platinum Home Resort in Orlando costs from £1,139 per person, based on four adults and two children sharing, with Virgin Atlantic flights from Gatwick and hire of a seven-seat car, departing July 27. Disney’s 14-day Ultimate Ticket starts at £517 per adult and £491 per child, while Universal’s 14-day Three Park Explorer Ticket costs £320 per adult and £312 per child.

Without grandchildren: The US is the most popular long-haul destination for over-55s specialist Riviera Travel, making up just over 5% of the operator’s 2020 bookings. It might be somewhere clients were content to do a self-drive in their younger days, but now, having someone else to do the driving and carry the suitcases should be enough to sway them towards a guided tour instead, particularly if you’re catering to solo travellers.

“Having someone else to do the driving and carry the suitcases should be enough to sway them towards a guided tour instead.”

Suggest ticking off that bucket-list trip to the Deep South with a music-themed break. Many tours link up Graceland, home of rock‘n’roll ‘king’ Elvis, with country music capital Nashville and Sun Studios in Memphis, where BB King, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded some of their biggest hits.

Riviera Travel has a solo traveller option that tags on New Orleans, the Alamo in San Antonio, and Dallas.

Book it: Riviera Travel’s 14-day Deep South USA Plus Texas for Solo Travellers tour starts at £3,449 including flights, transfers, breakfast, sightseeing and porterage.



With grandchildren: Flying all the way to the Caribbean is no mean feat for a big family booking, so you’ve got to be confident clients will have a great time. Enter Beaches, where fun is all but guaranteed, with sports and activities aplenty, dining to suit fussy eaters (and an adult-only restaurant if parents or grandparents need a night off), kids’ clubs with certified nannies, and a pirate-themed water park at each resort.

Karl Thompson, managing director of Beaches’ UK representative Unique Vacations, says: “We are seeing more extended families travelling to our resorts in 2020 and booking ahead for 2021. Beaches Resorts are the perfect choice for multigenerational travel, with plenty for all the family to enjoy. Families also have the option of booking suites with interconnecting rooms or private villas on the resort.”

Book it: Seven nights at Beaches Negril, Jamaica, costs from £16,157. The price is based on four adults and two children staying all-inclusive in a Tropical Beachfront Concierge Two-Bedroom Junior Suite, with Virgin Atlantic flights from Gatwick and transfers on July 9, 2021.

Without grandchildren: The Caribbean is primed for relaxed, romantic stays, so suggest an adult-only resort where couples can sit in the sunshine, cocktail in hand, without worrying whether grandkids are sufficiently slathered in sun cream.

“Beaches Resorts are the perfect choice for multigenerational travel, with plenty for all the family to enjoy.”

Malcolm Davies, product destination manager for Funway Holidays, recommends Secrets The Vine Cancun, an adult-only resort on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. He says: “This resort really appeals to older couples, with its contemporary yet traditional feel, complete with Italian porcelain and teak wood furnishings, and sleek, private terraces overlooking the Caribbean Sea.

“The Vine Bazaar cafe and terrace offers guests a cosy space to relax in, and the resort’s on-site library is another perfect spot to escape to.

“There’s plenty to do here, such as the spa, complimentary green fees at the nearby Playa Mujeres golf course, or sommelier-led wine tastings.”

Book it: Funway Holidays offers seven nights’ all-inclusive at Secrets The Vine Cancun from £1,760 per person, based on two adults sharing, including United Airlines flights from Heathrow, departing September 11.



With grandchildren: If you’ve got very young children or elderly grandparents to contend with, the short hop to the Iberian peninsula is more manageable than flying long-haul. And make sure to pick a villa or accessible apartment so the entire family can stay under one roof. Interhome has seen a 44% rise in multigenerational bookings from the UK in the past three years (despite a decrease from other European source markets), with multigenerational groups generally booking higher‑value properties and longer durations.

Commercial manager Danny Waine says: “In the past, we saw older travellers packing up the car with their dog and driving across Europe. More recently, they’ve moved into more multigenerational bookings, taking parents and grandkids and usually flying to their destination as a large group.”

“Forget family-friendly diners and chips with everything on a gastronomic adventure with Portugal specialist Iberian Escapes.”

Book it: Seven nights in four-bedroom Villa Quinta Verde in Portugal starts at £6,807 in total, arriving on August 15. The property has a private pool and sleeps up to eight people. Flights are not included.

Without grandchildren: When you don’t have to fork out for every experience six times over, travellers can afford to spoil themselves with a few of the finer things in life – and that includes food and drink. Forget family-friendly diners and chips with everything on a gastronomic adventure with Portugal specialist Iberian Escapes, whose Michelin Foodie Experience in the Algarve is ideally suited to mature clients. They can expect three different Michelin-starred dinners over the course of a week, with five, seven and even a nine-course tasting menu accompanied by wine pairings. They’ll also enjoy a cooking class to learn about spherification, foams and how to plate like a chef, plus premium wine tasting, a craft brewery tour and catamaran sailing.

Book it: Iberian Escapes offers a seven-night stay in a five-star hotel with breakfast, two lunches, three Michelin-starred dinners, private guides, activities and transfers from Faro, from £1,657 per person; flights not included.


The UK

With grandkids: Holidays at home are ideal for larger family groups who want to cut down on cost and carbon footprint, and might even give grandparents a chance to regale little ones with tales of their childhood holidays.

Things have changed a bit since then, and the new facilities at Haven parks – including Dragon Lakes Adventure Village at Hafan y Môr in North Wales, indoor activity area Lighthouse Harbour at Craig Tara in Scotland, and a new water park at Seashore in Great Yarmouth – mean youngsters will never be short of something to do.

If parents are more concerned about the practicalities, recommend a park with accommodation for up to six. Options include the three-bedroom Deck Houses at Caister-on-Sea, which have an open-plan kitchen-diner and lounge with private patio – good for granny and granddad’s pre-dinner G&T while the kids watch cartoons – or the Beach Houses at Perran Sands, which come with outdoor seating, private hot tub and barbecue.

Alternatively, if guests prefer to stay in separate (but adjacent) caravans, use the Choose Your Holiday Home tool to pick their exact location up to two weeks before arrival – useful for those with mobility issues who want to be near the entertainment or activity venues.

“Youngsters are unlikely to have the patience for Nordic walking, Zumba, spa treatments or singing along to ‘60s and ‘70s classics.”

Book it: A four-night stay in a three-bedroom Deck House at Caister-on-Sea in Norfolk starts at £279 per family, arriving April 27.

Without grandkids: Youngsters are unlikely to have the patience for Nordic walking, Zumba, spa treatments or singing along to ‘60s and ‘70s classics by Lulu or Leo Sayer – which is exactly why Warner Leisure Hotels are adult-only and well-suited to older guests.

Erman Housein, head of trade sales and marketing for Warner parent company Bourne Leisure, says: “From spa sessions and lazy mornings by the heated indoor pool, to sumptuous afternoon teas and countryside or coastal walks, there’s plenty to choose from.”

Book it: A three-night Warner Leisure Hotels Re-Mixed entertainment break at Bodelwyddan Castle Hotel in Wales starts from £211 per person for an April 24 departure, based on two sharing with a Simply Dine package (breakfast and three-course dinners).


Three of the best multigenerational breaks

Ocean cruise: Royal Caribbean made a big push into the multigenerational market with its peaks campaign ‘One Family, One Holiday’, and no wonder – a large ocean-going ship has all the activities kids want, plus the restaurants and live entertainment adults are after. Try a Med cruise on Anthem of the Seas, ex-Southampton from May, and you might even see granny giving the skydiving simulator a go.

River cruise: A-Rosa has also made great strides in opening up the river cruise sector to kids with attractive family deals and space-saving family cabins sleeping up to five people (with bunk beds, a play area and toy box for kids) planned for new ship E-Motion, which launches on the northern Rhine in 2021.

“A large ocean-going ship has all the activities kids want, plus the restaurants and live entertainment adults are after.”

Easter sun: Sharm el-Sheikh, once the darling of the family package market, is back in play since the lifting of the Foreign Office flight ban and proving as good value as ever. Ashley Secker, senior trade relations manager at Red Sea Holidays, says: “As well as year-round sunshine, there’s a huge choice of resort hotels with activities and entertainment for all ages. Then there’s the amazing corals of the Red Sea – kids can snorkel, mum and dad can learn to dive, and grandparents can get in on the action with a glass-bottom boat trip.”

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