Finding a Family’s Happy Place
There’s no denying that the Internet has streamlined travel research and booking. Despite the amount of information at our fingertips, many leisure travelers desire a chance to unplug, decompress and reconnect with nature. They are eyeing a return to more meaningful experiences, slower paces and home-away-from-home style family vacations. Both Virtuoso and AARP have reported for the past three years that multi-generational travel is the biggest trend in the travel industry.
At The Ranch at Rock Creek, we’re hosting more groups of three or more generations than ever before. The term “family-friendly” doesn’t really encompass what it means to be an ideal destination for multi-generational travel. (To many people it just implies that children are welcome.) But, in reality each generation must be able to find their “happy place” during these vacations. Grandparents don’t want to sacrifice a first-class tasting menu for an extensive children’s menu and an uncle may not want to sit by the pool watching the kids when he could be out fishing on a Blue Ribbon trout stream.
For families who are spread across the country, the “multi-gen” trip allows relatives to make the most out of holidays, mid-term breaks and summer vacations. At The Ranch, this type of travel experience serves as a family reunion and takes away the stress of hosting and coming up with activities for all ages.
We regularly welcome far-flung families during Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter holidays, because they enjoy the holiday festivities while relying on a Ranch Ambassador to handle the advanced planning and set up. (Each family at The Ranch has a dedicated Ranch Ambassador that helps answer questions, customize itineraries and offer on-site support). There’s more valuable time spent together rather than on the hunt for the perfect feast or fireworks. In fact, our ambassadors regularly orchestrate plans (sometimes secret plans) for birthday cakes, creekside champagne lunches and celebratory special events, while the Mercantile assists with ordering customized merchandise, like hats, jackets, shirts and bandanas.
Multi-Generational Travel Planning
With 47% of AARP respondents saying they had multi-generational travel plans in the works, The Wall Street Journal published an article that included advice for booking these types of trips. Their top tips were:
- Take Charge (Mostly) – Take on a leadership role, but make sure those who are investing in the trip have a hand in picking the destination.
- Plan Ahead, Way Ahead – The only way to ensure open schedules and a large number of rooms is to book well in advance.
- Pick Your Happy Place – Make sure there’s something for everyone.
- Make Accommodations – Expand your search to more than just hotel rooms. Consider a house, and consider the amenities it offers.
- Avert Food Fights – Choose a place with good dining options for picky eaters AND a kitchen on site.
- Get Creative with Kids – Ensure there are activities for each age group and factor in their cost.
Barn dances were the original “multi-gen” country experiences. Read more about this Ranch tradition.
Family trips are often planned in celebration of a milestone. This year alone, our guests have celebrated high school graduations, college graduations, anniversaries, birthdays, weddings, engagements and babymoons. The ultimate goal of these group trips is to have meaningful experiences with your family without sacrificing comfort. And, Montana is a stunning backdrop.
After receiving the 2016 American Express FH&R Award for the “Most Fun for the Whole Family,” we’ve taken an in-depth look at the comforts that are required for each generation to find their happy place at The Ranch.
Older generations are avid travelers who are usually more fit (and perhaps even more adventurous) than generations past. Baby boomers might prefer to avoid long, uncomfortable road trips—preferring to fly to a destination and stay there for the duration of the trip. Most often, grandparents present the idea of multi-generational travel to their families as a way to have quality time with their children and grandchildren.
Grandparents can serve as cultural guides for their grandchildren, introducing them to new corners of the world. This means that a grandparent’s bucket list trip to the Wild West can be a photography expedition for their son and an introduction to horseback riding for their granddaughter.
A family trip to the right location can also include a well-timed spa treatment, a five-course dinner and an exceptionally comfy bed. The diversity of accommodations at The Ranch caters to large families and groups of families vacationing together. Luxury cabins like Bear House or Ponderosa boast several spacious suites, a kitchen, while others, like Eagle’s Perch and Stables have bunk beds so that cousins can have a sleepover atmosphere to make the most out of their limited time together.
The Stables accommodation in the Historic Barn.
Family groups want flexible accommodations and a customized itinerary. One-size-fits-all doesn’t work when you’re taking into account ability levels and comfort zones for people aged 2 to 82.
Thanks to the personnel involved, the Spa pedicure, the ride on ‘Cimarron,’ the fly fishing lesson, the rodeo, the Saturday night barn dance, the drive to Philipsburg are unforgettable. The cozy cabin, the bicycles and the table service made us very comfortable. Special thanks to the patient young men and women who graciously drove us back and forth all day and made life easier for my husband.
~ C.B., traveler, and grandmother, Mill Valley, NY
Parents also relish flexibility. Traveling with kids means being ready for anything, so they love properties that are willing to customize an experience for adults and kids. These trips are a multi-tasking parent’s dream – quality family time with individual and couples pursuits tied in.
While all-inclusive resorts have long been the go-to choice for families, it’s the included activities that allow everyone in the family to get the most out of their trip. (For years the term “all-inclusive” has implied that drinks and meals are included). Our all-inclusive label extends far beyond that to include twice-daily activities, weekly traditions, such as stagecoach, sleigh rides and barn dances, bowling, social hour, snacks, phone calls, twice-daily housekeeping, guides, gear, on-Ranch transportation – including a bike for each guest – laundry facilities, ambassador services and more.
Experiential travel allows you to make lasting memories, develop lifelong hobbies and try things that you might never have had the chance to do in the comfort of your own neighborhood. This is especially true during the winter, when family members can skate, cross country ski, sled, snowshoe, shoot and horseback ride right outside their accommodation.
Aunts & Uncles
Extended families often include aunts and uncles and even family friends with or without kids. Some travelers may use their travel opportunities to brush up on their skills or enjoy time-intensive adventures that they can’t always pursue at home, like horseback riding, skiing, cycling or fly fishing. These travelers can devote their twice-daily activities to their favorite pursuits, while joining the family for dinners, a Barn Dance or a few hours mining sapphires.
Each person is in control of their own itinerary, deciding whether they’ll make time for a facial or join the family at the pool. They can choose to stay with the family in a luxury home or book their own glamping cabin on the banks of Rock Creek.
On the Wall Street Journal‘s list of tips, “Avert Food Fights” stands out for families who have dietary restrictions or picky eaters. As a Relais & Châteaux property, despite our kitchen’s healthy and hearty approach, we know there is no guarantee that a child will want to dine on line-caught Alaskan King Salmon or locally sourced kale and apple salad. Executive Chef Josh Drage tailors his cuisine for dietary restrictions, preferences and customs such as gluten-free and vegan requirements as well as arrangements for kosher meals. All of these needs are noted and planned for in detail before guests arrive.
He also offers Flint’s Forest Rangers Kids Club meals on certain days. While parents are enjoying a pairing menu in the Granite Lodge, kids dine with Forest Ranger counselors in the Silver Dollar Saloon. These meals are specially tailored to younger palates, while incorporating fresh vegetables and kid favorites. Kids might even help put the finishing touches on homemade pizzas or tortilla soup. Just like all other dining experiences at The Ranch, the menu changes every night.
Flint’s Forest Rangers Kids Club is so much more than just a dining experience. This twice-daily kids adventure program is available daily for morning and afternoon activity sessions. Parents can gallop off on an extended trail ride to Mary Beth’s Peak while kids adopt a horse, learn to care for it and take a ride around the arena.
Each day has a different theme, so that kids are learning about our rich environment, like forests, streams and wildlife habitats. They learn survival skills, like using a GPS device and safely building a fire. The Flint’s Forest Rangers program recently made the Kiwi Collection’s list of “10 Hotels with Amazing Kids Clubs.” Babysitting is also available.
Babies & Parents-To-Be
Babymoons are another rising trend in the travel industry. The pre-baby vacation allows a couple to connect before they are thrown into the hectic days of early parenthood.
You’ve got a growing baby bump, a fully loaded nursery and a mob of friends who swear you’ll never sleep through the night again. What now? Time to take a ‘babymoon’ – one final trip before your bundle of joy arrives.
~ Austin Monthly recent article, “Pregnant Pause”
Relaxation is paramount. Mothers-to-be can enjoy prenatal massage and prenatal yoga at the The Spa at Rock Creek. They can find a relaxing seat for wildlife viewing or take a more active approach with nature hikes, archery, fly fishing and biking excursions.
Once the baby arrives, The Ranch is equipped to make any of our accommodations into a routine-friendly baby oasis. New parents can take advantage of babysitting services or take the baby along for an adventure in a baby carrier – that is, if you can tear them away from doting grandparents and cousins.
Without distractions, multi-generational travel can develop deeper relationships. The Ranch’s natural beauty inspires everyone to look up from their phones and share a view, a story and a feeling of togetherness. After a week on The Ranch, family members of every generation appear relaxed, having eased into the Montana lifestyle. We feel lucky to witness new traditions being born in our happy place.