“Multigenerational travel” has been a buzzword for a few years now. Who can argue with the brochure-ready images of grandparents, adult children, and grandkids all sharing in the joys a family adventure can bring?
Well, take it from one who knows – multigenerational travel is not for sissies. Even though the pros certainly outweigh the cons, the experience can also be fraught with frayed nerves, arguments, and out-and-out war.
While traveling with family will always carry some degree of tension (it’s not easy herding around a pack of kids and their often-harried parents), the choice of destination can be the determining factor between the trip-of-a-lifetime and a nightmare of pouting and tantrums (and that’s just the adults).
A safari might seem like a crazy idea for a family vacation – there’s the long plane trip, early mornings once you get there, and let’s not forget the wild animals.
But while there’s no denying any plane trip can be a trial with kids, even with today’s plethora of in-seat movie options and a steady stream of snacks from the cabin crew, once you step foot on African soil the frustrations related to getting there magically disappear.
The reason for this is simple: Even though Africa might seem wild and overwhelming, in reality, a safari is one of the most organized vacations a family can take.
Because the destination is so complex, to be viable for leisure travelers, the safari industry long ago created a network of guiding standards, lodges, and internal transport that work together seamlessly behind the scenes, along with a daily safari schedule that frankly doesn’t vary too much from lodge-to-lodge.
The net effect of the flow of a safari is pretty much the same every day, but what happens while in that flow is always different.
There is a daily routine which allows kids and adults to relax because there are no big decisions to make, but there’s also enough diversity, wonder, and down time each day to keep everyone excited for the adventure ahead. Who needs tantrums when there’s a lion cub frolicking in your viewfinder?
While there are many countries on the African continent that offer an incredible safari experience, when traveling with a family group that includes seniors and children, South Africa is a superb choice. The country has some of the most game-rich regions in the world, thus the wildlife viewing is phenomenal.
Many people see the “Big Five” (lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, rhino, and leopard) on their very first day. Plus, its infrastructure is extremely well-developed, with medical systems, roads, and services that are comparable to anything one would expect to find in a First World country.
This affords a level of security and peace of mind to multigenerational family travelers that some other countries simply cannot provide.
South Africa was also ahead of the multigenerational curve and began efforts to attract family travelers years ago, thus there is an abundance of lodges with family rooms and configurations designed to accommodate multiple adults and children traveling together.
Many lodges also offer child-oriented programs and specially trained guides to help kids learn about the environment and the animals they are seeing, providing educational opportunities disguised as downright fun.
South Africa is home to Cape Town, one of the world’s most beautiful cities and chock-full of family-friendly activities that appeal to all ages, including riding to the top of Table Mountain in a funicular, visiting Boulders Beach (home to a colony of African penguins that settled there in 1982), and driving to the Cape of Good Hope.
From an historical perspective, South Africa also has much to offer, including Soweto, the largest township in Africa and the home of Nelson Mandela, the Apartheid Museum, and Robben Island, where Mandela spent 18 of the 27 years he was imprisoned.
Also, here is the Cradle of Humankind, one of the country’s eight World Heritage Sites and the greatest source of hominid fossils on earth.
Keep in mind that many lodges in South Africa book up months to a year in advance, so give yourself plenty of time to plan. Once you’ve settled on the time frame, reach out to friends and colleagues who may have been on safari in South Africa or know someone who has.
Find a reputable safari operator and schedule a safari planning call. Be sure to state your preferences and your budget parameters upfront – a solid firm will help you winnow down your choices and find the best lodges to fit within your goals. (South Africa actively targets multigenerational families and many lodges offer kids’ rates up to 50% off.)
Finally, enjoy yourself! Half the fun of a safari is the anticipation, so once you’ve made all your choices and your itinerary is set, you can spend the next few months or more having a blast with your family, talking and dreaming about all the fun you’ll have once you’re there.
Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to one of the most life-affirming and life-changing adventures you and your family will ever share. Guaranteed.
When was the last time you traveled with your adult children and grandkids? Do you have suggestions for great multigenerational family vacations? Join the conversation and share what you learned from the experience!