National parks are some of the best options for multi-gen or Skip-gen travel.
One of my most cherished memories is sitting with my grandparents in the back of a campervan while my parents inched through a traffic jam. This was no ordinary traffic jam—hoards of visitors had stopped to look at the wildlife on the side of the road—and as we moved forward, a black bear and her two cubs appeared near the edge of the woods.
It was the first time I’d ever seen a bear.
This vacation was as much about seeing my grandparents as it was about seeing the park. The memories I have of them in that magical landscape are some of my most treasured.
As “multi-gen” and “skip-gen” travel have become buzz-words, it’s important to point out that, national parks offer a little something more than your average vacation spot.
Here are three reasons national parks make the perfect multi-generational adventures.
National Parks are Places That Folks From Previous Generations Have Already Been
As the bears plunged back into the forest, my grandpa started talking about how, when he was a kid, people used to feed the bears right from their cars. I couldn’t imagine rolling the windows down as a giant bear walks up to the car looking to eat something. Their stories of past experiences in Yellowstone really brought the park to life, and helped me get to know them better than I ever would have otherwise. And I could see the joy in their eyes as they explored a park that they had such fond memories of.
National parks have been many Americans’ first adventures. Whether it’s standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon, watching Old Faithful erupt, or staring down into the blue depths of Crater Lake, coming back to these places that have remained relatively unchanged often brings on heavy doses of nostalgia. My grandparents ended up taking us to all of their favorite places and excitedly showing us the things that had charmed them when they were young. We felt their excitement and it made us more excited to see which geyser would erupt next, or which herd of bison was the biggest.
National Parks Offer Some of the Greatest Access of Any Outdoor Location
My family spent the whole week outside exploring Yellowstone. Fresh air and exercise, along with a drastic change of pace, did us all some good. Since then, science has helped us understand the health benefits of spending time in nature. From improved memory in adults to improved eyesight in kids, as well as reduced in stress and lowered inflammation, getting outside has perks for every generation.
From elevated boardwalks throughout Yellowstone’s Geyser basins to easy to reach observation decks in Grand Canyon, the National Park Service goes out of their way to make spending time outside easy.
National Parks are Affordable for a Whole Family
Not only do national parks go out of their way to make it easy to experience the outdoors, but they’re also some of the most affordable and low-maintenance destinations in the world. We would never have been able to pack up three generations of my family and fly off to Central America, Europe, or anyplace else that required a passport. Yellowstone, on the other hand, was (and continues to be) a place just as exotic as any foreign land, but without the hassles of foreign travel.
Since the parks are more affordable, you can spend a few of those dollars saved on more exciting experiences, or even more family members.
National Parks are Meant to be Preserved for Generations
Much like my grandparents relating their national park experiences to us as kids, when families bring their kids or grandkids to a national park, the stage is set for those kids to come back to the park with their grandchildren. Maybe they’ll recreate the family photo their grandfather took of them in front of the 3,000-year-old giant sequoia tree in Yosemite with their grandkids. Or they may just watch their grandkids experience the same awe at the natural world as when they were a kid. Not only will the next generation learn about the benefits of spending time traveling in the great outdoors, but they will get to explore the world with the people they love most. The passion for adventure passes from one generation to the next. That’s a cycle that bears repeating.