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VBT Trend Watcher: Travel with Family & Friends 6
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VBT Trend Watcher: Travel with Family & Friends

Posted on Thursday, April 1st, 2021

Story by: Ken Lovering | Travel Writer


It wasn't just vacationing that was put on hold in 2020. For many people, quarantines and travel bans meant that important relationships had to take a backseat to health and safety. While video calls and group chats offered a stop-gap solution, it doesn't change the fact that countless families and friends are eager to get together once again. And when they do, it's a safe bet that a many will choose to do so in the form of a shared trip.

This should come as no surprise. For a few years now, we've been monitoring a burgeoning trend in the travel industry: family and friends using a shared trip to catch up and deepen their relationships. These travelers use everything a great vacation offers–lack of distractions, beautiful setting, stress-free outings, and shared experiences–to reconnect in meaningful ways that are impossible to achieve on a computer screen.

We were curious what’s behind this travel trend. So we asked those who know best: The people who gather family and friends for life-changing active vacations.

It’s About Sharing the World and Sharing Moments

Bob and Lois Deboer of Englewood, Florida are looking forward to reconnecting with their children and grandchildren in Puglia this fall. The family will fly to this stunning coastal region on Italy’s heel from all over the United States–Utah, Washington, Colorado, Michigan–just like they all did when they cycled Ireland together in 2019.

“I remember after a short rainstorm on our Ireland trip,” recalls Lois, “a beautiful rainbow appeared alongside an old Irish castle and we all just paused and marveled at it. What a magical moment we could all share!” To say nothing of all the silly hats the kids tried on in the village shops!

Traveling together gives Bob, 92 years old, and Lois, 88, incentive to stay active year-round so they can continue their cherished family tradition. It also gives them a chance to see their grandkids grow up year to year. Even the little things bring them joy while they’re on the road. “We love watching the kids interact with people outside the family in a polite and mature way and seeing what wonderful young adults they are becoming. We would never be able to see that if we weren’t traveling with them every year.”

It’s About Legacy

For the Delgados of Hermosa Beach, California, an annual cycling trip fits well with the entire family’s active lifestyle and love of the outdoors. It also fits with the family matriarch Ethel’s ideas about her legacy.

“Mom is in her 80s,” her son Greg explains. “Three years ago, she decided to spend our inheritance money on family trips. So every year, she takes us all cycling overseas–her three kids, our spouses, and all our kids.” The clan ranges in age from 21 to 88 and travels from five different U.S states to meet at their destination. During the trip, long rides inevitably lead to in-depth, meaningful conversations, no matter the age difference. “We feel more included and in touch with each other’s lives,” says a grateful Greg.

The way Greg explains it, the annual Delgado biking trip serves as a glue that keeps the family together year-round. “If we didn’t have this trip, we would all have separate lives and only send each other Christmas cards. We’re all much more in tune. Sharing this experience each year opens doors to more opportunities for random phone calls.”

It's a lasting legacy you can’t put a price tag on.

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It’s About the Joy of Old Friends

“We’re blessed to have all these friends and to be healthy,” says Dick Terry of Moraga, California.
When his group of friends got together for their first cycling trip in 2000, it was also a reunion. They all had gone to UC Berkeley in the 1960s and hadn’t seen each other since.

“Talk about reconnecting! It was a terrific way to catch up!”

Their many trips since have become a mainstay for all their lives. “The average age and life experience of the riders in our group contributes to our sense of connection and belonging,” he says. “Plus, no one is out to prove anything to each other, so the whole experience is conducive to bonding.”

Off the bikes, these Berkeley alums relax over wine and meals and share the latest happenings in their lives. “But we leave our political views and our professions behind,” so they can bring their true selves to the experience more fully.


It’s About Being There

Speaking of true selves, the support of traveling companions goes a long way when you set out in search of yours.

Jane Dettloff, the 78-year-old leader of the Minneapolis-based “We Go Now” women’s travel group, tells a story from a recent Poland cycling trip. One woman had been resistant to exploring her Polish ancestry, but nonetheless did some research beforehand. She discovered that, while in Krakow, they would be quite close to where her family had lived for centuries.

She was nervous about reaching out to them, but her cycling posse stepped in to support her. “She got up the nerve to arrange for a driver to take her to the family farm for lunch,” Jane explains. “When she returned to the hotel that evening, she said people came to the farm from miles around to meet her. She learned about her family’s history during and after the war. She told us through her tears that for the first time in her life, she was proud to be Polish.”

It’s About Enhancing Each Other’s Experience

Christy Schlafly of St. Louis, Missouri embraces travel with both family and friends. “I invite friends on family trips,” she says. “I just love traveling with people who I love!”

“Sharing a special experience like travel takes us out of our day-to-day,” she says. “We can reconnect in a more meaningful way.” She finds that the meditative pace of cycling together leads to more in-depth conversations.

Christy especially loves how everyone brings a different perspective to the shared experience. In her group, there’s an historian, an educator, a photographer and a wine lover. Each of these people shares his or her expertise and connects the group with the knowledge they share. This mix of specialties was especially moving when they traveled together to Normandy and visited the American Cemetery and D-Day beaches.

“When you share something that’s so personal, you make emotional connections that become intimate. Sharing an experience with loved ones reinforces your bond.”

It’s About Sharing Life’s Journey

If we had to summarize what’s behind this trend of traveling regularly with family and friends, we would turn to the philosophy of Jane Dettloff, who supported her friend in Poland. “Trips are not about the bike,” she says about her group’s VBT bicycling vacation. “They’re about the shared sense of accomplishment. They’re a constant amid life’s illnesses, divorces and losses. They’re about the bonding that happens during a trip and the support we give each other while we’re waiting for the next one.”


Interested in creating your own trip with loved ones? Our Group Travel Program is here to help. 

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