Family Travel and Reunions

Trends in Travel Making Family Friendly Travel all the Rage

Times have changed a lot since my first few trips as a little girl. Today, the travel industry is making it easier and more friendly for the family heading out on an adventure together. And I, for one, am very happy about that!

I remember the first time I ever got to fly in an airplane. Things were very different back then. The cost of a flight in many cases was as expensive today as it was then. There was one tiny screen above the heads of everyone to watch the one movie the airline was choosing to show that month. If you wanted to actually hear the movie, you were required to buy ear buds that were very uncomfortable, had extremely poor audio quality, and often broke about 10 minutes into the movie.

Traveling on an airplane has become more family friendly.
Picture from Pexels

Whether you are traveling by air, land, or sea, the suppliers of travel are making the effort to become more kid friendly. They recognize that the current generation prefers experiences over things…and that means creating memories with your families while traveling.

When I was a kid, there wasn’t much thought given to making travel kid-friendly. Hotels, restaurants, cruise ships and airlines did very little little to entice adults to bring along the kiddos. In fact, I think in many cases they preferred that the kids stay home with Grandma and Grandpa while Mom and Dad had some time away.

For the record, I am all for Mom and Dad taking a vacation by themselves. However, I am also all for families taking vacations together and creating memories that last a lifetime.

Any day spent with you is my favorite day. So, today is my new favorite day.

— Winnie-the-Pooh

When I was growing up, eating out was mostly for mom and dad…and when you did get to eat at a sit-down restaurant, you usually dressed up. Going to a museum? All I remembering hearing was, “Shhh!” and “Don’t touch!” and “Don’t Get too Close!”

Family Friendly Travel is Becoming the Newest Trend

It used to be that in the travel industry kids were just a second thought…if they thought about them at all. Nowadays, there are many travel suppliers that cater specifically to families of all sizes. Cruises have kids clubs that are not just a babysitting service, but engage the kids on whole new levels…think escape rooms, zip lines, and a 10-story slide down the back of a cruise ship. Pool parties for kids and movies under the stars are offered at some hotels. Some all-inclusive resorts even have water parks attached to them.

When you visit a museum with your kids, museum curators no longer shush a cranky toddler. Many museums offer interactive exhibits where the kids can try on clothes that were worn during a certain time period…or ride an airplane simulator at an airplane museum. Many museums now offer tours geared specifically towards a younger crowd.

Options abound for every taste bud in the family, including a sweet dessert.
Photo From Pexels

Restaurants offer paper kid menus to color and do puzzles…and, yes, I’ve been known to do a crossword or word search on a kid’s menu. Options for food abound at many restaurants…while still offering the obligatory pizza and chicken nuggets for the most stubborn eaters. But beyond the menus and food, there are restaurants these days that offer experiences just for kids.

Family-Friendly Eating Experiences

Disney Cruise Line ships have three different restaurants…and your family will get to experience all three through an assigned rotation schedule. One night you might be eating a meal straight out of New Orleans in Tiana’s Place while listening to Tiana (from Princess and the Frog) and her jazz band perform. The next night you will find yourself in Animator’s Palate and watch the black-and-white artwork on the walls slowly transform with beautiful color…and the artwork literally comes to life.

Visit a Rainforest Cafe restaurant with your kids, and you’ll find yourself sitting in the middle of a rainforest with jungle animals surrounding you. A simulated rain storm happens along approximately 20 minutes, and the the whole restaurant and animals awaken and come to life.

Today, you can find a dozen different airlines that can cater to just about every budget. If your budget is low, you can fly a low-budget airline and bring your own food and entertainment. However, if you want to spend a little more and pre-reserve your seat assignments, order your food ahead of time to meet any dietary needs, and have a pre-loaded entertainment tablet, then you are welcome to do so…at a higher price, of course. No right or wrong here, just what meets your family’s needs or budget.

Family Friendly Sleeping Choices Galore

The options for accommodations has grown exponentially over the past 10+ years. Being a travel advisor, it has been a lot of fun to watch the options evolve.

Hotels have begun to offer many different options. Gone are the days where you got either a room with one bed or two beds…and had a cot brought in or sleep in sleeping bags on the floor if you needed more places for kids to sleep. Many hotels now offer adjoining rooms (must request in advance). Now, some hotels such as Marriott’s Residence Inn and Hyatt House offer options that include kitchenettes…and even full kitchens and one or two bedrooms.

Rooms that are decorated and themed to please a kid (or in my hubby’s case a kid at heart) are popping up at hotels everywhere. You can sleep surrounded by Minions or dinosaurs at the resorts at Universal Orlando. And Disney has some fun themed rooms including a Pirates of the Caribbean room at their Caribbean Beach Resort or a Little Mermaid room at their Art of Animation Resort.

Family friendly rooms such as a Pirates of the Caribbean room can be a lot of fun for the family.
Pirates of the Caribbean Room at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

All-inclusive resorts used to be marketed to newlyweds and as a romantic getaway. Now some all-inclusive resorts offer kids clubs, play areas, kid-friendly menus at restaurants…and some even have water parks attached to them. They offer areas exclusive to families, while other areas are exclusively for the adult-only crowed.

Easier to Search for Just the Right Accommodations

And thanks to websites like AirBnB and VRBO, it’s easier than ever to rent a 2- to 5- bedroom house for a family reunion…or a 1-bedroom condo on the beach for mommy, daddy, and their little toddler. You can make all your own meals with ease, get take-out or eat out.

For those who want to spend a little more money, there are more options available for families than ever before. Cruises now offer quite a variety of cabins and suites for families of all sizes. African safaris offer glamping. How about a sleeper car on a train? Yep, you can do that, too.

There are endless options today for the family who wants to travel.

Today’s Technology Makes Traveling Easier for the Family

Family travel has adapted to all of the new technology that we have available today. That has, in turn, changed how families experience and engage with a vacation.

Sure, a child’s backpack might still be filled with non-techy activities. You will find snacks, coloring books, activity books, a favorite stuffed animal, etc. But now you’ll find also find it containing a hand-held video device game or portable DVD player.

Smart phones today have a wealth of handy-dandy apps that make traveling with a family much easier. I remember the days of carrying a handful of paper boarding passes with me throughout the airport. It was a miracle if I still had them all when it came time to boarding the plane. Now, I’ve got everyone’s boarding pass right on my phone…along with my hotel reservation and car rental.

Our smart phones (and tablets) can also provide a lot of entertainment for bored kids who are sitting on an airplane or waiting in line. They can contain an arsenal of books, movies, games, and apps for just about anything. There are apps that can translate a foreign language…or find a Pokemon just about anywhere in the world.

Apps to Simplify the Travel Experience

Disney has perfected the travel app with their My Disney Experience app which becomes your transfer to take the Magical Express bus from the airport to your hotel, functions as your room key, and also contains your pass to get into the theme park. Want to order lunch to pick up at your convenience? Yep, you can do that too. It’s a seriously tech friendly way for your family use as you travel.

Smart phones and tablets are the perfect cure for the bored child or adult. They can help you through a meltdown. Put headphones on or ear buds in, and they magically become a way to digitally separate your kids when they’ve had too much together time. Just remember to pack the charger!

What is Next for Families in the Travel Industry?

Honestly, I can’t even imagine all that the future holds for family friendly travel. It has come such a long ways in my lifetime. During my childhood, many of the options and technologies we see in play today weren’t even imaginable.

I think my favorite trend has been the explosion of choices in accommodations. My hubby and I tend to stay places now where we can get a room with a separate living room area. I often suffer bouts of insomnia and have trouble sleeping at night. I head out to the other room and grab a snack and do some reading and maybe even get a little work done like writing a blog post. And I don’t have to worry about waking up my family.

What’s one of your favorite trends that has made travel more family friendly for you? What would you love to see in the future? Feel free to leave a comment below because I’d love to know.

Related Articles You Might Enjoy

Family Travel and Reunions

Secrets to Overcoming Challenges of Family Travel

I know that at times taking the time to travel with family can have its challenges. But I have learned how to deal with those challenges. The result has been many fun family vacations and memories.

I have had the pleasure of planning family trips for over three decades now. It’s the reason I became a travel advisor and travel blogger. Whether it is just my hubby and me or a group of 27 extended family members, the joy that comes from being with my family is pretty awesome.

Sand shovel poking out of the sand.  Travel with the family to the beach may have its unique set of challenges like sand everywhere afterwards.
Photo Credit: Pexels

But let me take a moment to tell you that I have suffered in the past (and still occasionally do) from anxiety. And the idea of traveling with family can sometimes bring on a panic attack or bout of fear that things won’t be perfect. But I have learned a few secrets over the years to removing the anxiety mindset and replacing that with a happy anticipation mindset when it comes to traveling with family.

Does the idea of traveling with kids feel like getting a root canal without getting numb? It feels like it’s way too complicated to even consider planning? While I can’t promise you things will go perfectly and stress-free, I can say that traveling with your family can bring huge benefits. It is knowing and recognizing these benefits that make it all worthwhile.

Here are some of the secrets that I’ve learned to keep in mind over the years that have helped me during overcome the challenges of both the planning and travel with my family:

Recognize That Travel Enriches Kids…and Adults

Travel has many benefits for family…especially children. It can broaden the minds of everyone. As you travel to new places and learn the unfamiliar customs and ways of life, your kids (and even you) can learn to experience a new empathy and understanding for people of other cultures.

Kids learn new social skills. They learn how to say please and thank you in another language. Learning about and experiencing new cultures helps kids have a more global mindset and think about life outside their tiny bubble at home.

As an added bonus, travel is good for the development of the brain of a child. In an article for The Telegraph, Dr. Margot Sunderland said:

Think: family together in the pool, walking together through forest, touching long tall grasses waving in the wind, toasting marshmallows on campfire, hanging out together under warm sun, feeling sand between the toes…The brain fertilizers triggered in enriched environments are also associated with higher IQ in children. So spend some time exploring together in a new space, and you’re making your child smarter.

– Dr. Margot Sunderland

Traveling With Kids Can Be A Lot of Fun

I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it a million more times in my lifetime. Traveling with kids can be fun!

Gray whale breaching.  Vacation and whale watching can enrich a child's experience.
Photo Credit: Pexels

The opportunity to see the world together can be amazing. Maybe you take your kids for a day trip to go whale watching. The look on their face when they see the actual size of a gray whale up close and personal is priceless. Your child has probably never seen something living that is so large and their view of the world changes ever so slightly.

Or maybe it’s a day at the beach and your hubby puts together an impromptu “beach Olympics.” Using items he finds at the beach, he creates small competitions. Thirty years later, the “kids” still talk about this. I know. Because our nieces and nephews still talk about this and digging hot tubs in the sand. They would dig a hole in the sand and as the tide slowly came in, it filled with water and created a hot tub to sit in for a few minutes.

As families remember all these shared experiences…good and bad…it creates a bond and memories that stay with them for a lifetime.

Appreciate the Fact That Traveling with Kids Slows You Down

There is no way around it. Traveling with kids will slow you down. That is NOT a bad thing. Kids have a way of asking questions you’ve never thought about…but maybe you should. Having kids around means you’re making a lot more pit stops. The more kids, the more pit stops are needed. But sometimes looking for that next pit stop takes you someplace you never would have stopped at, and you find a hidden gem.

Kids have a way of making friends wherever they go. Sometimes, they may not even notice that their new friend doesn’t even speak their own language. This particular lesson is one my hubby and I have learned and tried to emulate when we try to make new friends wherever we travel. We have met so many amazing people on our travels and enjoy staying in touch with them.

We can learn a lot from watching our kids and applying their way of thinking.

Anticipate the Unique Challenges of Travel with YOUR Family

You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.

Michelle Obama

Let me be honest here. Traveling with kids or a large family group is not always easy. There will be challenges in both planning and execution. But by understanding the possible challenges and preparing for them, you can turn those challenges around and make them an advantage.

Every time you travel with family, the challenges will change. I remember the first time I flew on an airplane with my then 1-year-old. He did not have a seat of his own because of his age. He had a blowout in his diaper. It was pretty nasty and the woman in the seat next to us was not appreciative of the situation. But you know what? These things happen. We had plenty of diapers, wipes, and change of clothes…and if you have ever had to change a diaper in an airplane bathroom, you can imagine out fun this was. We’ve learned not to judge other parents on an airplane.

Then there was that time we took a road trip from Seattle to Salt Lake City. We had our nephew with us. Our family has a nice rhythm when on a long road trip. We try to stop every two to three hours. Our stops are usually a 5-minute opportunity to stretch the legs and hit the bathroom. Everyone uses the bathroom whether they think they need it or not.

When we would stop for a bathroom break on this particular trip, our family would use the bathroom and get back to the car only to find my nephew still sitting in the car playing a video game. He needed to get to a “stopping point” in the game before he could use the bathroom. We made the mistake of allowing him to take his video game with him into the bathroom…approximately 25 minutes later he emerged. But because we had to wait for him, I discovered I had dropped my sunglasses car when I got out. If we had taken the quick stop, I would have lost my sunglasses.

Favorite Family Folklore is Created Out of Unique Experiences

Each time the family takes the time to travel, it will have its own unique set of challenges. The fact is, each family members has different needs, personalities and wants. As children get older, their needs, personalities and wants will change and evolve. Believe it or not, when you can recognize this and keep in mind where everyone is at when you are planning your trip, you might just have an incredible time.

That’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it? To have an fun time together and create happy travel memories.

At the end of your trip, everything may not have gone as planned. In fact, I’ve never had a trip where everything went as planned. But if everyone is feeling good about the trip and full of new stories to tell…and best of all asking when you’re going to do it again, consider it a success.

There are lots of reasons people travel. Some of us travel because of the nostalgia we feel from experiences of past trips. Some of us travel because we excited about the idea of exploring new places. The idea of sharing with these adventures with our kids can get us pretty pumped up.

There is No One “Right” Way to Plan a Family Vacation

Planning a vacation using a map.  Proper planning helps to have a happy family vacation.
Photo Credit: Pexels

No two kids are alike. As a parent, we often see their personality traits come to life even before they can walk and talk. Their personalities to continue to evolve over time.

The same can be said for planning a family vacation. No two vacations will be exactly the same, so don’t fall into the trap of believing there is a “right” way to plan a family vacation. Each vacation should be planned in a way that is best both for their family and for the intended destination. A trip to the beach with toddlers should be planned in a very different manner than a trip to Disney World with tweens.

If you are like me and like routine and lists, recognizing this may cause a little personal internal discomfort. Your packing lists will be different. Your activities will be different. You may mistakes in your planning along the way. It’s okay. Learn from the experience and keep on planning for that next vacation.

The “travel fails” that we experience are what family legends are made of. We have a Disney timeshare in Orlando. It seems that one of us almost always ends up at the walk-in clinic right outside of Disney property on every single trip. We have a running joke that our medical files there are larger than the ones at our doctor’s office back home. It’s okay. We don’t stress about a trip to the clinic any more. Whenever our friends see us at Disney on our Facebook posts, they now ask “whose turn is it to go to the hospital?”

Pick and Choose What You Learn From Other People’s Travel Experiences

When you tell your friends and family you are going someplace like Sea World, every friend and family member who has been there will come out of the woodwork to give you advice.

You can learn a lot of good things from other people’s experiences. But I add a word of caution. It goes back to what I said about no two vacations being alike. When you take in the advice people give you, decide for yourself if their advice makes sense for what you are planning.

If they traveled five years ago…or maybe even one year ago…things may have changed. A hotel that is recommended may have changed management and now may be run down. Always check online reviews and do some homework for yourself…keeping in mind that they very well may have some great suggestions.

The Agony, Ecstasy and Challenges of Family Travel

The truth is, family travel can feel agonizing at times. But changing how you think about the challenges you will experience can help you prepare to create some pretty fantastic memories for your family and loved ones.

Never put off spending time with your kids…whether it’s a day trip to to the beach or two weeks in Italy. You’ll never get that time and opportunity back. Just be sure to keep your individual situation in mind when planning so that your family remembers all the awesome times you had and laughs at those not-so-awesome times.

I sincerely hope this site provides you with tips and insight to planning many happy family vacations and memories that will last for generations.

Additional Article(s) You May Find Helpful

Trends in Travel Making Family Friendly Travel All the Rage

The travel industry continues to make changes to entice families to travel together more often.

Six Steps to Planning a Vacation

Here are the six basic steps to planning a family vacation. After all, the family that plays together, stays together.