For the fourth consecutive year, Austin-Lehman Adventures (ALA) is seeing mid-double-digit growth in 3G (three generations of same family) trips, both in preset, small-group and custom departures. Seventy-five percent of its custom exclusives are 3G bookings, most requesting national park trips, an ALA specialty.
“Our Yellowstone National Park family adventures are sold out for 2011 and we’re now taking bookings for 2012,” said Dan Austin, founder and owner. He added that family programs to other national parks such as Yosemite, Glacier, Bryce & Zion and Grand Teton still offer good space this season.
ALA believes 18 people (with six guests per one guide) is preferred maximum for a family trip—big enough to allow interaction between multiple families, yet small enough for personalized attention. They try to match up three or four like-minded families with children of similar ages on the same departure.
Flexibility is key. Austin cites a Montana trip where guides spontaneously set up an easy half-day horseback ride for grandparents who otherwise would have sat on the porch as younger family members did an intensive hike.
Summer break teachers experienced in working with young children make excellent guides, says Austin. Their team offers kid-size mountain bikes and even tag-along kiddy carriers on all trips and new high tech electric bikes on all European trips.
The itinerary should allow parents quiet time for dining or socializing if desired, knowing children are cared for, fed and entertained. ALA’s Yellowstone programs end at Chico Hot Springs Resort where adults dine by candlelight while kids have pizza by the pool.
3G trips have recently been identified as top trends by mainstream companies like Virtuoso and American Express Travel. U.S. Travel Association finds 30 percent of US adult leisure travelers vacation with children or grandchildren along. TripAdvisor reported 92 percent of families with children surveyed last year planned to travel in 2011, up from 88 percent last year.
With a five-percent increase predicted in international travel by families this year, Austin-Lehman is also developing family-focused programs abroad.