t is hot, at least 100 degrees, and my wife begins to melt. We are walking a true Via Doloroso -- it must be a 25-degree grade uphill, and we're passing mosaic representations of the Stations of the Cross, but we're not in a mood to stop and admire.

On my back is an 8-month-old, a gallon of water, diapers, baby food, cameras, film. My wife is pushing our 2-year-old up a path of Roman-era paving stones wide enough for a wheelbarrow, but just too narrow for an umbrella stroller.

My mother holds back to walk with us, but she's going strong. We've walked about a mile uphill, and she's barely broken a sweat. We're at a festival inspired by the book "Under the Tuscan Sun," and the Tuscan sun is inspiring less-than-sunny thoughts in me. But she's smiling.

At the end of the path is the Church of Santa Margherita. We finally reach it, but rather than heading into the dark, cool interior, my mother buys us refreshment from the little cafe next door. A gelato for the 2-year-old, panini sandwiches for herself and my wife, and a beer for me to sip while I feed the baby.

Mother knows best. We enter the church with spirits renewed. And the church is a wonder. Santa Margherita herself is lying in front of the altar, looking remarkably well-preserved. Still, we decide that the 2-year-old, who was scared silly by a cartoon featuring Yurtle the Turtle, need not get too close a look.

It is my first time traveling with three generations, but I'm part of a trend: Suppliers from Disney to Tauck are developing programs to enable children, grandparents and parents to see the world together.

I don't know if our trip was typical, but it encompassed many of the benefits of this niche. My mother lives half a continent away, and would be happy in any environment that brings her in contact with her grandchildren (during the sales process, grandparents are no doubt the first to see the benefits of family travel).

But I think it would be a mistake to assume that time spent with grandchildren is reward enough. In my mother's case, the trip's content had strong appeal. She saw four classical concerts. She took a Tuscan cooking class. She relaxed for a day in a thermal spa, and went on wine-tasting tours.

Equally important, our hotel was near a park where the 2-year-old could burn off some energy, and we chose other activities accordingly. After he endured a multi-hour visit to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, we let him loose to climb the 463 stairs to the top of the city's Duomo. Upon encountering the last -- and steepest -- flight, he muttered something in Italian we hadn't realized he had picked up. He took in the task ahead of him, shook his head slowly and said, "Mama mia."

As a family, we also benefited from expanding our collective memory. For the past 30 or so years, our interactions centered around holiday gatherings, birthday parties, weddings and funerals. We've now got a new reference point that refreshes the family dynamic.

During the trip, I ran into a number of other multigenerational travelers whose experiences, combined with ours, provided some insight into how to qualify clients. My conclusion: The amount of a structure to recommend should be linked to the number of stress factors you observe when meeting with clients.

If you pick up on family tensions, it's probably best to steer the family to a trip that is either highly structured or offers individuals lots of options -- you'll want to keep on-the-road group decisions to a minimum. A cruise that includes children's programs would be ideal, as would a packaged tour with a strong family-themed itinerary.

On the other hand, when harmony prevails, the decision-making process can create closer bonds and a very flexible itinerary would be more appropriate.

For an agent or supplier, helping create a successful travel experience forges as strong a bond as you could hope to have with a client: You're part of the family now.


From Our Partners

2021 Family Expo
Family Travel Expo
Register Now
Air Astana 1366
Air Astana
Read More
2021 Caesars Webinar
Watch Now

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI