The aim of this study is to introduce a novel generalized distance measure for interval valued intuitionistic fuzzy sets and to illustrate the applicability of the proposed distance measure to group decision making problems. Firstly, a generalized distance measure is proposed along with proofs satisfying its axioms. Then, a comparison between the proposed distance measure and well-known distance measures is performed in terms of counter-intuitive cases. Subsequently, the extension of TOPSIS method, in which the proposed distance measure is used to calculate separation measures, to an interval valued intuitionistic fuzzy (IVIF) environment is demonstrated to solve multi-criteria group decision making (MCGDM) problems using optimal criteria weights determined with linear programming model based on the concept of maximizing relative closeness coefficient. Finally, two illustrative examples are provided for proof-of concept purposes and to demonstrate benefits of using the proposed distance measure over the existing ones in IVIF TOPSIS method for MCGDM problems. (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.