Reunited: 5 Best Trip Ideas for Multi-Family Celebrations
Over the past year, too many milestones went uncelebrated. We cannot wait to move beyond family get-togethers in gallery view or singing “Happy Birthday” over Zoom. We’re looking forward to reunions — real, meet-you-at-Arrivals, laughing, loud reunions. Hugs will be involved.
And we’re not alone. We surveyed our Canadian members and found that 50% of them missed a milestone during lockdown that they want to mark with a vacation, and 70% plan to spend their next trip with dearly missed family or friends.
But whether you’re flying to reunite with family or flying somewhere new together, it’s challenging to plan a vacation that appeals to multiple households (and multiple generations).
So we partnered with KLM to put together our five top trip ideas that maximize multi-family fun, with some of our best tips to make the planning process easier. (Like making sure your flights are flexible; KLM 2021 flights are fully changeable and refundable, and 2022 fares are changeable without fees.)
Imagine waking up in a spacious villa in Tuscany. You sip your morning coffee while staring out at rolling green hills; the kids run around outside and the teens in the group sleep in, so they’ll be ready for the day trip ahead.
Italy is an obvious choice for a romantic getaway, but secretly it’s our favourite choice for a multi-family reunion spot. We like to make a Tuscan villa our home base, then take occasional day trips to Florence’s museums or Pisa’s leaning tower.
Staying in a villa gives you more space than a city hotel. With the downturn in tourism demand last year, we’ve been seeing incredible deals for rustic villas and apartments that dot the countryside. Many include free parking for your rental car (a necessity for this sort of trip) and some even have a seasonal pool, for the kids.
Ask the villa manager for recommendations for local cooks. Often, they’ll come right to your villa with food and whip it up for you on site. Our Head of Publishing and Production, Susan Catto, did this on a multigenerational trip to Cilento. “It was the most memorable meal of our whole trip,” she said. “This can be cheaper than eating out, anyway, and it works for people who might have different attention spans or families where kids have early bedtimes.”
Sometimes you can hire a chef to come to your villa for a private cooking class, or use the kitchen to cook for yourself. Catherine Guillemart-Dias, the General Manager for Air France-KLM Canada, did the latter on her multi-family trip to Tuscany. “What a treat to go to the local markets or straight to the farm for meals, tastings and buying fresh produce,” she said. “Being so close to the source, you really get the feeling that you are contributing to the local economy.” Pick up staples like fresh pasta, ripe summer tomatoes and local olive oil to cook up a quick meal back at your villa kitchen, paired with a bottle of Italian wine. Guillemart-Dias spent several years living abroad, so she had experience keeping in touch with loved ones virtually before the pandemic. “Nothing replaces being able to see your family and friends,” she said.
Travelzoo Tip: To have a successful group vacation to Italy or anywhere, everyone needs to buy into the planning process. Ultimately one person, that consummate planner in your group, will take over to iron out the details, but before that happens, everyone needs to feel like they have had a say in the trip itinerary.
Have a group call with everyone in attendance (even the kiddos) and go around the screen, asking each person to say what local activity they most want to do, and why they're looking forward to this trip.
This important call will help the planner draft up an itinerary that includes something for everyone (easy to do with Italy!). Plus, it will make everyone feel more bonded before the trip even begins.
2. South Africa
Safely within a 4x4 jeep, you and your family stare out at the African savannah to see two lions napping under baobab trees. That’s the sort of visceral experience that cements people together.
We love safaris for multigenerational travel. Many safari lodges offer complete tour packages that include all on-site meals, twice-daily safari drives and spacious accommodations, so trip planners don’t have to worry about the day’s itinerary. It’s set. Pick a lodge that’s unfenced — you may wake up to a giraffe munching leaves outside your bedroom window or have your lunch conversation interrupted by a trumpeting elephant.
South Africa offers tons of choices for safari areas. To see the Big Five (leopards, lions, rhinos, elephants and buffalo), Kruger National Park is your best shot. But the country offers so many more parks apart from Kruger; we also love the family-friendly Tswalu Kalahari or luxurious Shamwari. Both are in malaria-free zones (so you can skip the pills), and offer insanely starry skies that are sure to wow kids and adults alike. “Whatever the age, safaris are a big hit,” Guillemart-Dias said. "My son was 4 when we did one. He is now 10 and he still talks about the safari experience.”
Travelzoo Tip: For group travel, it’s crucial to slow down your pace, and schedule in down time where factions can break off. If just you and your partner were travelling, maybe you would fly into Johannesburg and journey directly to a national park. With group travel, add in a night in Johannesburg to adjust after your long flight. The high-speed adventurers in your group can still go out and tour Joburg's Apartheid Museum or Nelson Mandela's Soweto district while the others sleep off the jet lag.
3. The Netherlands
City trips are a quintessential option for multigenerational reunions. We love Amsterdam for sights like the Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House or the gardens of Keukenhof, where 7 million flower bulbs bloom in spring.
And kids (of all ages!) will delight in the city’s famous waterways. “We rented a boat and operated it ourselves to wander through the canals at cocktail hour when the light was at its best,” said Guillemart-Dias, who has been to Amsterdam several times with family and friends. For years, your group will be talking about how the narrow canal houses, snug like books on a shelf, reflected off the water. Especially if you go during the Amsterdam Lights Festival, when the canals burst into colour (this year’s is Dec. 2, 2021 - Jan. 23, 2022).
Active families can take kid- and senior-friendly bike tours to see Holland’s countryside, studded with windmills and wooden bridges. Or if just a few of your brood are cyclists, they can rent bikes for a day in the city while the rest of you go museum-hopping or sneak off for some stroopwafels.
Travelzoo Tip: Be prepared for some compromises and loosen some family rules. This will keep the group mood light, especially during busy city itineraries. “Don’t hassle kids for using electronics or adults for needing alone time,” Catto said. “Make it okay for everyone to spend at least some time doing what they like … for the short time you are away.”
We know — Tanzania may not have been on your travel radar, especially for a big family trip. But at Travelzoo we’re newly obsessed. One trip to this East African country will cross a ton off your bucket list. Groups with teenaged kids can climb Mount Kilimanjaro, animal-loving clans can go on safari in the Serengeti and culture-minded families can stay in Maasai lodges, where guests experience Maasai tribal life and all proceeds directly fund local hospitals and schools. (We love Original Maasai Lodge — you can try your hand at traditional spear-throwing in between nature walks or days by the infinity pool.)
And then there’s Zanzibar. Even saying the archipelago’s name aloud conjures up the swish of palm trees, warm waves meeting white sand, and the aroma of clove and cinnamon in the air. Explore the islands’ spice-trade mix of African, Indian and Arabic cultures from the convenience of an all-inclusive resort (the islands have tons, for all budgets). All-inclusives are a staple of multigenerational trips for good reason. “Kids can be given some freedom to go eat on their own, so you’re not having every single meal together,” Catto said. “Plus, you sidestep the constant awkwardness about who is going to pay for that day’s lunch or dinner.”
Travelzoo Tip: When shopping for your flights, especially flights to long-haul destinations like Africa, it’s crucial to check the carrier’s most recent cancellation policy. KLM, for example, offers changes without fees and full refundability for any flight departing by Dec. 31, 2021. With group trips, it’s even more important to make sure your booking is flexible.
Greece’s combination of straight-from-your-history-book sites and beachy islands will play well with every member of your clan. We recommend flying into Athens for a few nights, with some guided tours during the day so someone else does the detailed planning.
Then spend the majority of your time island hopping (or just pick one island and stay put). Coveted destinations like Santorini offer tons of holiday apartments with full kitchens and multiple bedrooms, mostly converted from one of the iconic whitewashed buildings. Look for one with a balcony so you can view the cascade of white walls and blue domes from your room.
To see some lesser-known islands like Milos or Zakynthos, try a cruise after your Athens stay. Cruising allows kids some independence and relieves the group planner from dealing with a lot of the nitty-gritty. Also, a Greece cruise unlocks off-the-beaten-path destinations that are sure to enchant the group, like Rhodes’ Valley of the Butterflies and Zakynthos’ Shipwreck Beach.
Travelzoo Tip: Splurge for a private guide when you're touring a city’s main sights, like Athens’ Acropolis. “It may not end up costing much more than all the individual admissions, and you will usually get to skip the lineups that make everyone cranky before the sightseeing has even started,” Catto said. “Plus, you have someone to take your group picture.” Holiday card sorted.