Travel opens our eyes to the world and makes us appreciate home

By Eileen Ogintz
Tribune Content Agency

It was a holiday trip like none other. We were nearing the end of a 17-day, once-in-a-lifetime Abercrombie & Kent family trip that had taken us from Argentina to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island and now Antarctica on a 200-passenger ship.

There were more than 35 extremely well-traveled kids on board with us. For many this had been their seventh continent. The trip offered one eye-popping adventure after another in amazingly good weather, especially with sunny blue skies this New Year’s holiday.

“The Best Christmas ever,” said Sydney Beal, 21, from Minneapolis. She and her sister, Kyndall, 18, she explained, I much “prefer doing something instead of opening a bunch of presents.”

Iceberg in Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctic Peninsula
Iceberg in Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctic Peninsula

“ I’ll always remember this,” declared Olivia, 10, from Melbourne, Australia.

From a Zodiac inflatable boat in the Errera Channel between Ronge Island and the Antarctic Peninsula, we watched Gentoo penguins jump off an ice floe to “shower” in the water, and then jump back on the ice to preen in their formal wear while the crab-eater seals were lounging on ice floes.

We’d observed a big pod of killer whales diving and playing. Then we went for a walk on Wilhelmina Bay– literally — on “fast ice,” three feet thick and covered with snow. Back in a Zodiac, we marveled and frantically snapped photos as dozens of Southern Humpback whales popped up all around us.

Some families were celebrating — a recovery from cancer, a graduation, a retirement. And when it comes to a place like Antarctica, they are anxious to see it before more of it disappears. That includes young adults who increasingly travel with their parents.

“Money well spent,” said Kay Beal, Sydney and Kyndall’s mom. “And much better than a shopping spree.”

Rafting the Grand Canyon with Western River Expeditions in 2020
Rafting the Grand Canyon with Western River Expeditions in 2020

As I’ve traveled the last few years, I’ve met many families who agree. That’s not to say they could afford a trip to Antarctica — it’s obviously for the very well-heeled. According to a new GetYourGuide survey, 92 percent of Americans report they would rather receive experiences over gifts, reinforcing the desire to create lasting memories with those they love most. Americans’ desire to give and receive experiences as gifts has seen remarkable growth, compared to 77 percent last year and 62 percent in 2021.

Besides a trip, those Most Americans also agree that uniqueness makes for the best gifted experience (79 percent), followed by exclusivity (70 percent). If they were to have an experience this holiday season, most people are hoping to be surprised with tickets to a concert or a show, an outdoor activity, perhaps a museum visit.

The Narrow Gauge Railway from Durango to Silverton that runs through the Rocky Mountains by the River Animas In Colorado USA
The Narrow Gauge Railway from Durango to Silverton that runs through the Rocky Mountains by the River Animas In Colorado USA

Consider the kids’ ages before booking expensive activities. I remember one grandmother terribly disappointed that her young grandchildren didn’t appreciate the scenery on a single-gauge railroad trip in Colorado and couldn’t wait for the ride to end.

I’m not saying toss out all of the gifts under the tree. I’m just suggesting giving a trip or an experience for next year, a birthday, anniversary, etc. It needn’t be a holiday trip either. Picking a time that works with everyone’s schedule can take some work. If you are giving a trip, don’t make it a surprise!

Every year, the Angelos who live in the Pacific Northwest gather their kids and grandkids who range in age from 23 to a baby for a trip together — this past summer to the high-end Brush Creek Ranch in Wyoming. “It is important to take time out for each other,” said Linda Angelo. “We want these memories for our grandchildren.”

Other families opt to charter their own boat — it may not be that much more expensive than a typical cruise — in Alaska or Baja, for exa mple. Another family had chartered a boat from AdventureSmith Explorations or Un-Cruise Adventures.

My in-laws generously paid for all six kids and grandkids to attend a family reunion at the YMCA of the Rockies in Colorado — so popular for family reunions that there is special staff to help them organize their trip.

A family reunion at YMCA of the Rockies Estes Park Center
A family reunion at YMCA of the Rockies Estes Park Center

Traditional cruises, however, are overwhelmingly popular for multigenerational groups and I have met many of them on board. According to the Cruise Lines International Association State of the Cruise Industry 2023, c ruising continues to be one of the fastest growing sectors of tourism, according to the report, but today 73 percent of cruise travelers are sailing with family members that represent at least two generations.

It’s easy to see why — activities for all ages, one price for lodging meals, and entertainment, and the ability for family members to go their own way during the day and gather for dinner. Remember, no one wants to be in lockstep the entire time!

If you are thinking about giving a trip in the coming year, it’s wise to work with a travel adviser who not only can get you the best deal but also field everyone’s concerns and questions. Once you have the dates set, consider everyone’s ages, interests and mobility.

Are they outdoors-lovers? Maybe cabins near a national park would be a good fit. How about a spring training trip to Arizona of Florida? Are they beachgoers or snow aficionados? Do they want something familiar or something they have never done? Do they love Disney and all things theme park? Do you want something where no one has to do any heavy lifting – a cruise, an all-inclusive resort, a dude ranch, for example – or does your gang prefer a more hands-on experience where they share the cooking and chores.

Spring Training with the Chicago Cubs in Mesa AZ
Spring Training with the Chicago Cubs in Mesa AZ

If the “gift” is a big rental house at the beach or snow resort, discuss in advance who will be responsible for grocery shopping, cooking and clean-up and most important, who is paying for what.

Often, grandparents spring for the trip but their kids pay for flights and extras. In other cases, the “kids” treat the grandparents. It is key to be upfront about all things money.

Also consider how well everyone gets along. You want to make sure there is sufficient space (and bathrooms) for family members to get away from the group when needed. And no fighting about politics, parenting or lifestyle.

Merry Christmas!

And happy travels in 2024!

(For more Taking the Kids, visit and also follow TakingTheKids on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments. The fourth edition of The Kid’s Guide to New York City and the third edition of The Kid’s Guide to Washington D.C. are the latest in a series of 14 books for kid travelers published by Eileen.)

©2023 Eileen Ogintz. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.