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.
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.
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.
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.