You heard it here first. The best person to take away on holiday with you is not the husband, nor the kids, nor the nanny. Grandparents are the latest travel accessory. I've written before about taking my mum away with the kids, including in a motorhome around New Zealand even though she's in her 70s. Now, it's officially cool to be encumbered with the older generation. The lavish and refreshingly old-fashioned Luton Hoo hotel, in Bedfordshire, England is one of many upmarket hotels beginning to offer families free places for grandparents (www.elitehotels.co.uk).
And the larger the age range, the better. Von Essen hotels promises a complimentary champagne reception and private dining room for any family with a minimum of three generations, as long as there are 10 of you (www.vonessenhotels.com). Even if a hotel doesn't mention any special promotion, it's worth asking if granny can fit in the family suite for free, just as kids once did. Classic Cottages (www.classic.co.uk) has made a list of properties it thinks will appeal, such as the Oak Leaf cottage in Devon.
Taking granny is the trend. This kind of break is now marketed as a "cross-generational holiday", which sounds more like something you catch while away than the sort of thing you'd want to go on. But in fact, we do want to indulge in this newly branded activity, as holidays are a rare chance for many different generations to have a good old natter. You can even take your granny to the Alps for free, as Ski Famille (www.skifamille.co.uk) is offering a bed in the alpine chalet for a grandparent with every ski party of two adults and at least one child.
"Cross-generational holidays" are always awash with nostalgia, giving grandparents the chance to tell stories to their grandchildren about what it was like when they were young, times were hard, but life was good. And life is never quite so good as when you're on vacation. But sharing time together is only one model of this new sort of extended family holiday. Classic also recommends properties where three generations can stay together but not necessarily play together. At the Grade II-listed Georgian Poole House in the pretty Somerset village of Nether Stowey, kids can make believe in the Wendy House while their parents throw darts in the Games Room and Grandma and Grandpa relax in the Book Room, where Wordsworth and Coleridge once worked.
Do you have family travel tips that you'd like to share? E-mail Dea at email@example.com