To understand what group travel is all about, we need to go back to the heyday of group tours.
Some of us may remember the '70s and '80s, when the Golden Agers evolved.
These original Golden Agers were joiners, and many went to senior centers, AARP meetings and other social clubs that began running trips.
In the Northeast, groups went to such places as the Poconos, Catskills, Montreal and Atlantic City. The winter escape was a 14-day motor coach trip to Florida. This meant three days down on a bus and three days back with eight days in between in the Sunshine State.
As their tastes evolved and the Golden Agers continued to travel, jet tours throughout North America and abroad came into the picture. But the trips were "one-size-fits- all."
Groups were happy to be away, everyone stayed together, participated in the same activities and ate meals together.
But as the '90s progressed, a new group of mature travelers arrived on the scene. They looked similar to the Golden Agers, but were a bit more sophisticated. These folks, part of the "silver set," were already experienced travelers.
Many had traveled for work and were more independent. Their tastes were also more sophisticated. They were used to traveling independently as well as in groups and were not lining up in formation like the Golden Agers.
In the mid-80s, many different types of groups started to sprout up and form travel clubs. Traveling with people in the same economic group was the affinity that provided a meaningful connection point.
Other types of groups were religious, which brought people together who shared a common belief system.
Alumni travel clubs are another type of group that offers not just trips, but an opportunity to relive and strengthen the bonds of a common educational experience.
Enter the Red Hatters .
In 1998, Sue Ellen Cooper and a group of five friends dressed in red hats in the spirit of the poem, "Warning," by artist/author Jenny Joseph, for afternoon tea.
This gathering in California was the first official group of Red Hats.
Since then, the Red Hat Society has created a worldwide sisterhood by forming thousands of chapters around the United States and in 30 countries.
Red Hatter groups average between 20 to 30 members and most chapters do some form of travel as a group.
Women are also traveling on escorted trips with other women. Gutsy Women, founded in 2002 by April Merenda, tapped into a growing market of independent women travelers.
Limited to smaller groups of approximately 20, the trips specialize in unique experiences for women.
We are family
Multigenerational family travel has been another emerging trend for both independent as well as escorted tours.
This style of travel, called "togethering," identifies a growing trend in which friends and extended family travel together.
The Walt Disney Company offers a package targeting family groups called Disney's Magical Gatherings. The trips are for small groups of eight or more travelers.
Another offshoot of the increase in family vacations is the family reunion.
While the family may not all arrive in a motor coach together, the desire to share travel experiences with family and friends is a hot trend.
Ready to participate in group travel? Whatever your likes or passions, there is certainly a special group tour for you.
Until the actual trip, happy travel dreams.
Geraldine Blanchard is vice president of Global Tours and Travel, at 559 W. Eau Gallie Blvd., Melbourne. She can be reached at (321) 676-6040 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information visit, www.globaltours.com.