Our executive editor Jeremy Saum attended the Family Travel Association Summit at the end of September. He learned about the newest in—you guessed it!—family travel. Here are the top four trends he spotted there.
1. Great news: More families are trying out multigenerational travel.
Cruise lines, travel agents, and tour operators are all seeing more bookings for family groups that may include grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, kids, and cousins. These big groups bring new challenges, especially when it comes to prices and lodging. Grandma and grandpa often have more to spend than mom and dad, or aunt Susan might have more than uncle Mark.
I sat on a panel with Bonnie Levengood, senior vice president of marketing at MSC Cruises, and she said that her company is making it easier for groups to pick different cabin types on ships—usually it’s the grandparents who are willing to spring for a little more luxury—and then offering an on-ship app that allows families to message each other so they can coordinate meals and activities.
2. Families want to stay in the same space when they travel, too.
Multigen groups are wanting lodging that’s not just a bunch of separate hotel rooms. Some hotels, resorts in particular, are creating compound-like lodgings—shared space that’s separate from the rest of the guests, where each part of the family can still feel like it has its own space and take advantage of the hotel’s services.
That need for space also leads families to the villa rental market and providers like VRBO and HomeAway. An alternative to these is a home exchange. We heard from Jim Pickell, president of HomeExchange, who said that families are not yet as active in this world as travel-loving retired people and childless millennials who have more flexibility. But given that expense is one of the main hindrances to family travel, as more people become comfortable with the sharing economy, home exchanges could become a bigger part of family travel.
3. Kids are decision makers.
A recent survey by HomeAway showed that one-third of millennial parents (that is, parents who are millennials) in the United States allow their children to have the final say in where the family goes on vacation. As a parent myself, I equate this to giving an 8-year-old your car keys, but maybe I’m just old-fashioned. But I do believe that giving kids input on what you do on vacation can lead to them—and thus, everyone—having a better trip. This could have a big impact on the travel industry, especially in how destinations market themselves. Kids may be more likely to find out about destinations via YouTube or social media than more traditional marketing channels. Based on my experience, if they’re really smart, they’ll figure out some way to get their destinations into Minecraft, the online game played by seemingly every child in the world.
4. Vacation is a cure for the overworked American.
Sarah Gavin, head of global communications for Expedia, shared a poignant survey her company had conducted. It asked kids about their attitudes toward travel and vacation. It elicited statements like “My dad is funnier on vacation.” “My parents kiss more on vacation.” “Vacation is the time when I am more important than my mom’s phone.” If statements like that aren’t enough to get you to take a vacation with your kids, you’re dead inside. Then there’s this stat: When they asked adults, 70 percent of them said their favorite memories are vacation memories from childhood. As AFAR co-founder Greg Sullivan said in the most recent issue, “Vacation: It Works.”