THE GANG’S ALL HERE! A guide to multi-generational travel
How to make extended family vacations work
After two years of limited contact with extended family and friends, you’re probably overdue for a visit. If a beach vacation or mountain getaway is in your plans, consider these four destinations for a big group.
Bald Head Island, North Carolina
Leave your car on the mainland and take a 20-minute ferry or private boat to this 5-mile wide island. Bicycles and golf carts are the only transportation here, making it a safe haven for families to explore. Rent a beach house through AirBnB or Vrbo, or stay at The Marsh Harbour Inn, which has five rooms and six suites, and serves hot breakfast each morning.
Rent a beach cruiser from Riverside Adventure Company and traverse the island. Kids bikes, trailer attachments, and toddler’s bike seats are available to rent as well. Book an excursion with Coastal Surge to see the island from a kayak or paddleboard, or stop by Jailhouse Provisions to play trivia and bingo. Visit Southport by ferry and take a self-guided walking tour to spot filming locations from Dawson’s Creek, Matlock, Safe Haven, Weekend at Bernie’s, and dozens more. Then explore Old Baldy Lighthouse and the Smith Island Museum.
The Maritime Market has everything you need to stock a kitchen for family meals. When the group wants to eat out, Jules’ Salty Grub & Island Pub has a wide selection of seafood and a separate kid’s menu. Copper’s Wood-Fired Kitchen, Jailhouse Provisions, and Horizons all have family-friendly options, too.
More information: NC’s Brunswick Islands
Burnsville, North Carolina
Mt. Mitchell Eco Retreat, which sits on 28 acres of fields and creeks, has one- and two-bedroom cabins with views of the Black Mountains. Some units have bunk-beds to accommodate multiple families, and cabins are all within walking distance of each other. Cook family dinners in the community kitchen and eat in the dining area in the Main Lodge. Play cards and board games by the fireplace, relax in a hammock, roast marshmallows by the fire pit, or challenge grandpa to a game of ping-pong.
Visit Westside Quilt Block Trail in western Yancey County and take photos of all 17 quilt squares on barns and buildings. Purchase a guidebook at One of a Kind Art Gallery and Studios in Micaville or find an interactive map online. (Don’t forget to bring crayons or colored pencils to color in the sketches of each quilt block in the guidebook.) See constellations, galaxies, satellites, and meteors at the Mayland Earth to Sky Park’s & Bare Dark Sky Observatory. Hike to Crabtree Falls, a 70-foot waterfall, in Pisgah National Forest along the Blue Ridge Parkway; just be aware the loop trail is more than two hours and includes three flights of stairs.
The lunch and dinner menus at Pig & Grits in downtown Burnsville include burgers, barbecue, chicken tenders, fish, and a variety of sides. A full breakfast menu is also available until 11 a.m.
Homeplace Beer Company and Hog Hollow Wood-Fired Pizza have plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. Wood-fired pizzas are the specialty, but small plates and sandwiches are also on the menu. The brewery specializes in malts and dark and sour beers. In the summer months, the outdoor area has cornhole, a firepit, tabletop games, and live music on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
More information: Explore Burnsville
Edgewater Beach Hotel gives you beach access and a range of on-site activities. Enjoy two outdoor pools, the Reflections Pool Bar, and Coast, the hotel’s famed restaurant. Rent paddleboards, kayaks, and bikes for family outings, and treat yourself to milk and cookies each afternoon at the hotel.
Visit Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, a 43-acre plot with black bears, cheetahs, lions, panthers, and pythons. Stroll the boardwalks and paths of the Naples Botanical Garden to see ponds, sculptures, and plants from all over the world. Spot a feathered friend at the birding tower, near Lake Tupke, which has an enabling garden with raised beds for visitors in wheelchairs. Book a boat ride with Pure Florida to learn about dolphins, manatees, and local birds, then stop at Keewaydin Island to search for shells. Thrill seekers can see the Everglades from an airboat.
Coast at Edgewater serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and provides in-room service and meal delivery to the beach and pool area. Venture into downtown Naples for some pizza, pasta, and seafood at Osteria Tuleria. For a large group with a variety of tastes, try the food trucks at Celebration Park along Halderman Creek. For a casual meal, head to Riverwalk at Tin City for burgers, fish, salads, sandwiches, tacos, and a raw bar. Save room for ice cream at M&M’s Café.
More information: Paradise Coast
Upstate, South Carolina
Put the family up in a cabin, lodge, or yurt at Wildwater in Oconee County. The Corkscrew Cabin sleeps 12 and the Jawbone accommodates 20. Each unit has a full kitchen and large dining and outdoor areas to gather. Book your rafting and zipline adventures through Wildwater when you reserve your rooms.
Visit Stumphouse Park to see Stumphouse Tunnel, Issaqueena Falls, and walk along the Blue Ridge Railroad Historical Trail, an easy-to-moderate 2.5 mile hike through the forest. The nearby Yellow Branch Falls is a 45-minute moderate hike to a 50-foot fall. Book a pontoon boat with Jocassee Lake Tours and see Lake Jocassee, or head to Devils Fork State Park for camping, fishing, scuba diving, swimming, and a 1.5-mile nature trail. Rent canoes and kayaks through Eclectic Sun.
Restaurants are sparse in the mountains, so stock up on snacks at Long Creek General Store. Near Wildwater, Humble Pie serves pizza, sandwiches, wraps, and quesadillas. Brasstown Creek Gathering Place BBQ is only open on Fridays and Saturdays from 4 to 9 p.m.
More information: Visit Oconee, SC
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO…
Shanell Varner, CEO and chief travel advisor at Moonglade Travel, LLC in Charlotte, shares some tips for planning a vacation with multiple family members:
- Review types of accommodations. Check with family members about their vacation budget and style of vacation before booking a place to stay. Members in your group may prefer camping to a four-star resort. Discussions ahead of time will prepare everyone for what to expect.
- Stay flexible. Make reservations for excursions with the entire group, but leave time for relaxing and enjoying each other.
- Split up. You don’t have to do every activity together, but use a buddy system for safety and inclusion. This way, everyone gets to do things that they enjoy.
- Share the cooking duties. Ask everyone to pitch in to create menus, purchase groceries, and prepare meals. Consider food allergies and dietary restrictions for everyone in the group.
- Enjoy the moment. Consider journaling about your getaway, and take a moment to reflect on the reason that you took this trip and the people who are along for the ride.