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Taking the Kids

Bringing the Generations Together

April 07, 2002|EILEEN OGINTZ

When Elizabeth Schmidt wanted her three kids to spend some time with their elderly grandmother, they flew from their home in Vermont to Las Vegas--even though their grandmother lives in Wisconsin. Grandma flew to Vegas too.

"It was a break from reality for a few days, all of us together," said Schmidt, whose physician husband stayed home to work.

Schmidt, a teacher, didn't want to wait for the family's annual summer trip to Wisconsin to see her 82-year-old mom. And because her mom didn't want to travel to Vermont in winter, they chose to go somewhere "fun"--Las Vegas, with a side trip to the Grand Canyon.

"Taking rural Vermont kids to Las Vegas was amazing," Schmidt said. "Even the revolving doors were exciting [to them], and my mom was the most wonderful travel companion."

Many families in this post-Sept. 11 travel climate, eager to spend more time with far-flung siblings and parents, are discovering that multigenerational getaways--even if they last only a few days and even if they're only a few hours away from home--make sense.

"I think 9/11 was a jolt to a lot of Americans and made us realize how important it is to be with family," said Dallas executive William Ross. He and his wife and daughters, his parents and his siblings and their children spent Christmas at the Cloister, a historic Sea Island, Ga., resort. The family has been vacationing at the Cloister since Ross' parents honeymooned there in the early 1950s.

"It's not just about the golf or the beach," Ross said. "It's comfortable and reassuring. It's about going out and watching the kids do the same things you did at the same place."

That's why old-fashioned resorts like the Cloister, (800) 732-4752, www.seaisland.com; the YMCA's Snow Mountain Ranch in Colorado, (970) 887-2152, www.ymcarockies.org; and Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, N.Y., (800) 772-6646, www.mohonk.com--places that have catered to families for generations--are doing fine at a time when other tourist destinations continue to struggle. "We sold out our children-stay-free program this past Presidents Week," said Kimberly Troudt, a spokeswoman for Mohonk Mountain House.

I routinely hear from parents and grandparents looking for a place where they can gather their gang--a place that's easy to get to and will offer plenty of activity for a range of ages.

The trend started even before last fall. One of every four family vacation trips last year included grandparents, according to the newly released Meredith Family Vacation Study. Families are going on cruises to Alaska and the Caribbean, on trips to Disney World and various national parks.

The travel club Hideaways International books these family groups in villas that are surprisingly affordable, in places ranging from North Carolina to Mexico. Call (800) 843-4433, www.hideaways.com, and ask about a trial membership.

Family reunion business is up 150% at Smugglers' Notch Resort in Vermont, (800) 451-8752, www.smuggs.com, in the last couple of years. Elderhostel, (877) 426-8056, www.elderhostel.org, received so many requests from veterans of its seniors' learning vacations that a three-generation trip was offered for the first time this year. It promptly sold out.

Loews Hotels, (800) 23-LOEWS (235-6397), www.loewshotels.com, offers "Generation G" packages at some properties, designed to make intergenerational travel easier for grandparents and grandkids.

The trips won't be perfect. Families aren't, after all. They can be annoying and frustrating, but also more fun and rewarding than you ever remembered.

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Taking the Kids appears twice a month.

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