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2017 "Cousins Camp" on safari in Africa. Emma (20), Morgan (21), Joey (18) Miles (19) and Jo Ann and Don Vodegel

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Silver Linings & Gratitude

Minnetonka Travel’s Multi-Generational Family Vacation offers a unique way for families to create unforgettable moments

An optimist always endeavors to find something positive in all situations. Three years ago, any optimist would have been hard-pressed to find anything positive about experiencing Covid. For hundreds of thousands of families, being quarantined in their homes and kept from their extended families was more than difficult; in fact, to many grandparents, it felt like a punishment! Finding a silver lining for Covid might indeed challenge even the most positive optimist.

Although the travel business, in general, suffered greatly, Minnetonka Travel, located in Wayzata, survived “Covid 2020” by listening to their clientele. Many explained how their priorities had changed because of Covid and that as soon as travel was permitted, they knew they wanted to travel somewhere with their grandchildren. Alas, a new program called “Multi-Generational Family Vacation” was developed. This program was all about grandparents traveling with their grandchildren. “It’s not just our affluent travelers, but families of all means have reprioritized their lives by booking a 7-day trip with their grandchildren. It’s a “win-win” for all,” says Minnetonka Travel agent Lori Bednark.

“Having an opportunity to take their grandchildren to places where they themselves have been provides an opportunity for grandparents to relive their fondest memories, and as a bonus, see these places again for the first time through the eyes of their grandchildren,” says Lenore Miller, another agent at Minnetonka Travel. Jennifer Yokiel, president of Minnetonka Travel, adds, “Depending on the ages of the grandchildren and their interests, we can customize the most incredible vacation package guaranteed to please each member of the family! Whether it’s cooking at the home of an Italian family in Italy, making pottery in Portugal, or just about anything else, we can and do make it happen. From start to finish, we’ll take care of every detail, freeing up each family to simply enjoy creating fantastic memories with their grandchildren and making up for lost time.”

Sixteen years ago, Don and Jo Ann Vodegel, originally from the Wayzata area, began taking their four grandchildren on vacation. Jo Ann told me, “Initially, it began with just one overnight and a day full of things to do together. At that time, the kids were six, five, four, and three years old: three grandsons and one granddaughter. Our two kids had two kids, and since they were each other’s cousins, we began calling it the annual “Cousins Camp.” We had one main rule: NO PARENTS ALLOWED! The grandkids seemed to like that rule, and so did we. In 2008, when the kids were 12, 11, 10, and nine, and with Minnetonka Travel’s help, we began taking cruises to a different destination each year. We’d found the perfect venue for our forever-hungry grandsons, and we’d found a travel agency that we could count on.”

Jo Ann continues, “In 2017, we took the kids who were then 18, 19, 20, and 21 on a Safari in Africa for our last “Cousins Camp” trip. Throughout the years, people we’d meet would say to our grandkids, ‘You’re very lucky to have such wonderful grandparents to take you on such great trips!’ But in truth, Don and I were the fortunate ones. Each year, it felt like a gift we had given each other. Over the years, thoughts shared together of our many trips reminded us then, as they do even now, how grateful we were and still are to have taken those trips with our grandchildren.”  

As a result of the 2020 Covid quarantine, Minnetonka Travel may have found a silver lining after all by initiating the Multi-Generational Family Vacation package. For many others, time spent at home rather than in the office brought families closer by providing an opportunity to reconnect with one another, another silver lining. This past August, I finally took my first family vacation with my two kids, now 38 and 32 years old. Together, we reprioritized our schedules, packed our bags, and headed to Belize for an entire week of “whatever we wanted to do.” We don’t yet know where we will go next year, but we know it will be together as a family, and it just might include Minnetonka Travel.  

Oh, and one more thing, “I can’t wait!” Learn more:

  • Lenore Miller, Jennifer Yokiel and Lori Bednark
  • 2008 "Cousins Camp”. Joey (9), Miles (10), Emma (11), Morgan (12) with grandparents Jo Ann and Don Vodegel
  • 2017 "Cousins Camp" on safari in Africa. Emma (20), Morgan (21), Joey (18) Miles (19) and Jo Ann and Don Vodegel
  • On safari in Africa. Miles (19), Morgan (21), Emma (20), Joey (18) with grandparents Jo Ann and Don Vodegel