Family Travel and Reunions

Secrets to Overcoming Challenges of Family Travel

Anyone who has known me for very long, knows that my best memories come from traveling with my family. 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.  Creating happy family memories during a beach vacation.
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 both the planning and travel:

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 Challenges of Traveling 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.

Each trip has 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

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 may 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 and Ecstasy 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

Vacation Planning

Tips to Enjoying (Not Just Surviving) a Group Family Vacation

I have been pretty lucky to get to do so many group family vacations over the years with both my family and my husband’s family. We share so many fun memories…and a few that maybe weren’t so fun at the time but we can laugh about now.

Photo Credit: Disney Destinations

Tip 1: Be Willing to Break Rank Sometimes

There is no hard and fast rule that says when you’re traveling as a group that says you must start and finish your day together. You do not have to be together all of the time.

We’ve traveled to Disneyland several times with my grown nephews. We have always have a blast together. But we rarely start the day at the park together. My hubby and I are early risers and like to be there when the parks open. The nephews are just the opposite. They text us when they get in the parks, and we get together then. It’s no big deal. Everyone is enjoying the trip the way they that makes them happy.

I had a client who recently returned from Walt Disney World. It was a couple with their two elementary-aged children. They had gotten up early one morning try to get on the new Rise of the Resistance ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The system for getting on the ride was crazy when it first opened. Despite their much too early morning, they were unable to obtain the elusive “Boarding Group” that would allow them to get on the ride.

The dad really, really, really wanted to ride Rise of the Resistance (and who could blame him). The rest of the family wanted to sleep in (and who could blame them). This could have been a huge battle or a situation that required some personal sacrifice. Instead they chose to let Dad get up early one morning while the rest of the family chose to sleep in and explore their resort. Everyone was happy and Dad got to share how awesome the new ride was…and I enjoyed reading about it.

Tip 2: Don’t Try to Do Too Much

One lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way over and over through the years is that the larger group, the slower it moves. So don’t try to schedule too much into your days.

Even in small groups, you’re always moving at the pace of the slowest traveler. It might not be you on Monday, but it might be you on Thursday when your feet are knee is acting up and slowing you down. Don’t let people get frustrated when someone seems to be slowing the group down.

Allowing your group to set up a schedule that is too rigorous will make you look like a group of military recruits out on a long march. The looks on your group’s faces will say it all. Take the time to look at people’s faces and see if it’s time to take a break and sit for a moment…or maybe reassess your schedule for the day…or maybe even split up for a little while (see Tip 1).

Tip 3: Have a Back-Up Plan Ready

There are a number of reasons you may want to have a back-up plan ready to go. Sometimes you realize that you have too many things to do in too short a time. If this is the case, knowing ahead of time which activities are easiest to drop is a life saver. There is no need to sit and waste valuable time trying to decide what to drop in the heat of the moment.

Other times, you can look around at your group and know that no one’s enjoying whatever the group is doing. Maybe it sounded fun during the planning, but the reality is that no one is enjoying it. Cut your losses and move on to the next activity…or stop for an ice cream to get the group back in a happy frame of mind before moving on. Yes, we do use ice cream to readjust moods in our family.

Maybe you’ve planned an outdoor activity, but it begins pouring down rain. It’s okay to have a back-up plan in place to make sure everyone stays safe and dry…and most likely happier…when the weather doesn’t cooperate with your plans.

In the end, you have the ability to change things up to make sure everyone is enjoying their time together. If needed, it’s okay to split up into smaller groups (see Tip 1).

Tip 4: Know What People’s Must-Do or Want-to-See Lists Are

For most group family vacations, people are putting out a lot of money on accommodations, activities and hotels. While it is nearly impossible to do everything everyone wants to do, trying to work in at least one thing that each person wants to do can go a long ways in having a happy group. Ask everyone ahead of time what things they want to do on the trip and use that information to create an itinerary.

When planning a family vacation, that is one of the first questions I ask each individual. I work hard to try to fit in something for everyone.

Tip 5: Assign Everyone a Task That They Do Well

Do you have someone in the group that enjoys taking photos, go ahead and ask them to be in charge of taking photos on the trip. Are you headed to Mexico and someone likes to show off their Spanish-speaking skills, let them be the interpreter when needed. Do you notice Cousin Freddie fancies himself a foodie…he posts dozens of pictures daily on his social media from the restaurants he goes to. Let him pick out some places to eat during the trip.

When someone agrees take on a role for the group, they begin to feel like they have a stake in making sure this trip goes well. Thank them profusely and give them encouragement. It can be hard work trying to figure out a place eat that will appeal to almost everyone. Gratitude goes a long way in getting people to offer their services in the future.

Caution: Occasionally when I’m planning a trip for a larger family group I come across someone who is a “control freak.” They want to make all the decisions for everyone. Listen to what they say to express their opinions and implement one or two of the suggestions where appropriate…but don’t let them take control over the entire trip. Believe me, everyone will be happier that way.

Tip 6: Shop Around for Group Discounts

Group discounts can be found many places. The thing to remember is some places offer group discounts for groups of eight or more, and other discounts require you to have a significantly larger group. When checking out the prices of where you want to go, there is usually a link and/or phone number to call to discuss group discounts. And who doesn’t like to save a few dollars?

Some discounts require you to purchase them in advance. Still other discounts may require you to visit on certain days of the week or during certain times of the day. This is all important information to know when planning your family’s itinerary. It never hurts to ask if your group can get an exception if the restrictions don’t work…but don’t count on an exception.

Tip 7: Share the Knowledge

When I have taken the time to plan a trip for a larger group, I like to have an initial conversations with the group. If a destination has been decided on, there is a good chance that many in the group have already done some research on their own which is a good representation of their own interests and motivators.

You can gather everyone’s ideas together and assemble them and send the ideas out to the group. I find that in some ways this can become almost like a personalized guidebook for the group. Like in Tip 5, it allows everyone to share their strengths to come out with an itinerary that’s works for just about everyone.

Tip 8: Know When to Speak and When to Listen

It is important that everyone feels like they have had some say in the planning. Once you get deeper into the planning stages, it’s important that people continue to feel heard. You need to be sure you understand any special needs that people have.

It is perfectly okay to have a pre-published agenda and stick to it when having a planning meeting with the family. It is essential to share any information people may need to be aware of such as deposit or final due dates of payments.

It is also a good idea to share your initial itinerary with the group. Give them a few days to look it over and make suggestions for adjustments. It is also important to make sure people are aware of any special medical needs such as food allergies or mobility issues family members may have.

For example, maybe Aunt Susan expresses her concern that she can’t hike the required five miles to ride every ride at Disney’s Magic Kingdom. It’s a great opportunity to see if she would prefer you locate areas where she can rest within the park or prefer to rent a wheelchair or mobility scooter. If she wants a wheelchair, who will be pushing her around? Are there volunteers? It is much better to have solutions in place before you leave than to deal with these issues once you get there.

Tip 9: Talk Things Out

This is one of the most important tips I can give. It is so important to have open conversations when planning a trip. To resolve most of the issues ahead of time by talking through them allows for a much more amicable trip. I encourage you to keep planning meetings to 45 minutes and stick to an agenda. This ensures that conversation doesn’t go too far off the rails. You can always follow up where needed when you’ve been able to step away from the problem and look at it from fresh eyes and do some research.

It is crucial that everyone feels like they’ve had the opportunity to have their say – or at least a few minutes to express themselves. Despite the fact people may not agree, they all can feel like they have been able to contribute to the conversation. Even quiet Cousin Callie might have a hidden obsession with Disney trivia and might be able to come up with a game the kids can play when they are getting restless during an hour-long wait for Space Mountain.

Tip 10: Try Using a Trip Planning Service

For larger groups, I recommend using a trip planning service. There are some great online tools and resources as well as travel advisors that specialize in group travel. If you decide to use a specialty travel advisor, I recommend you interview them to before signing any documents. It is important to understand what, if any, documentation you will need to sign or fees that will need to be paid. These fees can be worth their weight in gold.

If you don’t want to use a travel advisor, check around to see what online tools you can find to help you in your planning and booking. I continue to add resources to my website on a continuous basis to help people plan for their family vacations. I encourage you to do a search or contact me using the “Contact” page if you have any specific questions. I really enjoy helping families put together trips that will create memories that last a lifetime.

And remember: The family that plays together, stays together.

Family Affinity Travel, Types of Groups

Quick Guide to Affinity Family Group Travel

So what exactly is an affinity group? Stay with me here because I think when you understand this concept, you’re going to want to start implementing some family affinity group travel into your travel bucket list. I get excited just thinking about the possibilities!

According to Merriam-Webster.com, an affinity group is:

What is Family Affinity Group Travel?

So what is family affinity group travel?

Have you ever attended a family reunion or a family wedding or funeral or graduation or…well, you get the picture. It’s a time that we use to reconnect with family members you haven’t seen in a while. And sometimes you even meet someone new you get along with because you’ve got a common interest. Sometimes, maybe it’s even more than an interest; it’s a passion.

My husband and my nephew both enjoy trains…especially steam trains…and can talk for hours on the subject. I connect with my mother-in-law over the Anne of Green Gables book series. My hubby and I both connect with any family member who loves Disney theme parks. We share an affinity with them.

With family affinity group travel, you take common interests of some of your family members and create activity around that interest. It may just require a day, a weekend, or maybe even a whole week. With today’s Millennials, Gen X’s, as well as Baby Boomers, you might be surprised at who is able to connect over a common interest.

How Does an Family Affinity Group Trip Differ from a Family Reunion?

Typically, in a family reunion a large gathering of family takes place with dozens to hundreds of extended family members coming together. It may happen one afternoon at a park or over a weekend at a campground or a rented facility. Many family reunions are steeped in traditions of how they are organized and what activities take place, where they take place, and when they take place. They have been doing things the same way for 40 years or more

Often, we see a family reunion as an opportunity to meet aunts, uncles, and cousins that maybe you’ve never met before…and reconnect with ones that you have.

With a family affinity group activity, you take the connection a little further. As you discover aunts, uncles, and cousins that have the same interests as you, you plan something special to strengthen those family relationships and build deeper friendships. It’s a win-win.

Often, that means that instead of doing the same traditional “reunion.” You choose a specific activity that people are interested in and plan an activity around it. It may require more flexibility in dates and where you will meet up than a regular reunion. The point is, after all, to enjoy an activity together that the group enjoys.

That doesn’t mean you need to exclude everyone else from the activity. If you like, invite everyone on your reunion list and let them know this particular activity is especially for people who enjoy an interest in “X”, but everyone is welcome to join.

Examples of Family Affinity Group Activities:

Here are some examples of special activities we’ve done with members of our family who shared a common interest. Although everyone was invited, no one felt obligated to come, and those who participated had a great time.

STP (Seattle to Portland) Bike Ride

My hubby is the bike rider in this group and has organized several group family rides. This particular one included riders from both my side of the family and his. A special Facebook group was created to organize the event.

Because the STP is an organized two-day event held every July, the dates weren’t flexible. Those who were available and wanted to came. Even though I’m not a big bike rider, I was able to participate by organizing a carb loading meal at Olive Garden the night before as well as ride along in the sag wagon to meet up with the riders along the route.

There were a number of training rides throughout the spring and summer, so even people weren’t able to go on the big ride, they were still able to train along with the group. At the end, there were lots of fun and funny stories to tell. I was so excited to cheer everyone on as they crossed the finish line.

Mount Rainier Steam Train Ride

Since my nephew and hubby are both big steam train enthusiasts, several summers ago we decided to meet up for a day trip to ride the Mount Rainier Steam Train. It was a fun afternoon riding the train and visiting the little museum.

The whimsical sound of a steam whistle from a steam train was distinct. Those who are the real train aficionados got downright giddy when they heard the train pulling up to the station. Again, lots of fantastic memories from that afternoon and family bonds were strengthened.

Anne of Green Gables Cruise

My mother-in-law and I both have a love of the Anne of Green Gables book series by Lucy Maud Montgomery. They hold a tender place in my heart for a number of very personal reasons dating back to my childhood.

My mother-in-law had made an attempt to take a cruise that stopped there several years ago. Due to mechanical issues, her cruise was cancelled. We were talking one Christmas and she had mentioned that this was one of the few items left unchecked on her bucket list. I was determined to make that happen. As a travel agent, I did a deep dive into the different cruise lines to find one that stopped there…and we booked.

Why a cruise? Because I knew a cruise would interest other family members who might not necessarily be interested in visiting Green Gables. We let other members of the family know about our plans and soon had a small group going. The cruise has been booked and we are anxiously awaiting the date for next fall. Those of us who want to visit Green Gables will experience it, and those that don’t should be able to find an excursion that suits their interests. It’s a win-win.

How to Organize a Family Affinity Group Trip

Organizing a family affinity group trip isn’t all that different from organizing any other group vacation or activity. It just takes a little extra finesse to make this work.

1. Clarify what it is you’re trying to do

What is the affinity you’re all interested in? Is there a way to tweak the idea to interest more people if you want to include more or would you rather it be a little more intimate? Do you want it to be just a short afternoon activity? Or are you more interested in making it a long weekend trip?

2. Select the activity you’re interested in

For example:

If your group is interested in jazz, is there a jazz festival where you can meet up at? Or maybe just a jazz club to meet at one evening enjoy a dinner or snacks? How about a themed cruise that brings famous jazz players on board (yes, cruise lines actually have themed cruises)?

Do you have a group interested in quilting? How about a weekend trip to the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show in Sisters, Oregon? Visit the show and do some shopping…or maybe volunteer as a group to help out during the day. How about renting a large house to share and sewing some quilts after a visit to the show?

3. Begin publicizing your activity

Now that you know what you want to do and when, it’s time to let people know that it’s happening. You can let your group know through email or a Facebook group. Both my family and my husband’s family have private Facebook groups with fun names where we can organize activities.

Facebook groups are a great way to stay connected with your extended family. It offers people the opportunity to share what’s going on in their lives. As people share, you’ll be surprised what you can find out about people…as well as those who share your interests.

Put a date or set of possible dates out there and see what the response is. Maybe people will share alternative ideas that are even better than what you came up with.

4. Create an estimated budget or cost for the trip

Most people will want an estimate for how much the trip will cost. If you’re working with a travel advisor, this is a great opportunity to get them involved in creating an itinerary for your trip with different options and costs for each option. I know I try to give my clients several options so they can compare the costs and what they getting for their money.

5. Get a head count and begin making reservations

Once you have an estimated cost, now is the time to get people to commit to your trip. You need a head count so you can begin making reservations. To obtain group rates, you often need to meet a minimum number of people in your group. See if you have enough people attending to meet that minimum.

After you’ve got commitments from people, go ahead and make reservations. If nonrefundable deposits are required, be sure that your group knows that up front.

6. Guidebooks, documentation, and registration procedures

Communication is key to making sure everything goes smoothly. Be sure everyone has a copy of the documentation they need such as reservation numbers, times the group is meeting up, where the group is meeting up, etc.

If you have people visiting from out of town for the activity, recommend some guidebooks to get them acquainted with the area. I also like to have a list of local restaurants recommendations.

7. Hold your activity or take that trip

Now is the time to sit back and enjoy the company of your family and your shared interests. Bond with your family. Enjoy that activity you’ve been wanting to do. If there are a few bumps in the road (and there almost always are) then take note of them because these are the things that makes these trips even more endearing and gives us stories to talk about in the future.

8. Gather Feedback

Gathering feedback from those who went on the trip is so essential if you want to keep doing them. Find out what people liked and didn’t like. What went well and didn’t go so well? This is how you learn and make things better. And for those times when someone says something that hurts your feelings, just let it go.

Begin thinking about other trips or activities that people might enjoy. Do you want to do them yearly, quarterly…you are only limited by your imagination (and your checkbook depending on what you like to do).

Why Do a Family Affinity Group Trip?

So you’re asking yourself: Why do I want to do a family affinity trip? After having coordinated quite a few of them myself, I will tell you why I keep organizing them. I love being able to bond with family on a different level than at a traditional family reunion. We have stories to share about our shared interests and activities.

Please note that I am NOT anti-family reunions. They have their place and are great at keeping contacts up and reliving memories from the past. But I never feel like I come away from them as having deepened those family relationships the same way I do with a family affinity trip. I even know a few families that have begun to switch up their family reunions to add a few affinity activities either before, during or after their regular reunions.

The blunt truth is that Millennials and Gen Z’s as well as even some Gen X’s, really don’t have an interest in the old traditional family reunions. They value experiences over things. Providing them with opportunities to share experiences helps build those generational bonds that people are seeking.

If you want help planning or coordinating a family affinity group trip, please feel free to use the “Contact” page to let me know. I’d love to talk to you and see how I can help.

Uncategorized

The 6 Top Travel Trends for Families

I’ll never forget my first family vacations. We were two adults and five kids trapped in an car traveling cross country…no air conditioning, no seat belt laws, kids piled everywhere and poking each other in the ribs when we thought Mom and Dad couldn’t see us. My favorite spot was in the very back of the station wagon where I could lay down and sneak cookies my had baked and hidden back there for the trip. And I will never forget the smell of melted crayon from the sun blasting through the back window and melting into the piece of carpet my dad had used to line the back.

Now that these experiences are decades removed from when they happened, I have lots of great memories, laughs, and stories to tell. That’s one of the best things about family trips, right? The stories of the shared experiences we’ve had with our family…even when they didn’t seem so funny at the time.

This year is a fantastic one for families to get out and spend time together. There are more ways to travel than ever before. From a good old-fashioned road trip to reliving the stories of your family roots to vacations now include multiple generations…and even if they live half a continent away, grandparents are able to plan vacations alongside their kids and grandkids through the magic of the internet.

And thanks to social media like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, the younger generations are able to see destinations near and far, look up accommodations for every budget, and are often eager to help in the planning (even when their wallets aren’t as full as grandma’s).

It is no secret in the travel industry that the past 10 years have seen the baby boomers as the most active generation of senior travelers in history. They are eager to pass their passion for traveling to the next generation. They have found that skip-gen travel provides a way to enjoy special experiences and reconnect with other family members who don’t live nearby.

Baby boomers are starting to realize that the “family reunions” of their days don’t interest their millennial grandkids. They are adjust and adapting and redefining what family travel looks like.

We are starting to see new trends emerge. Here are the top six trends in family travel:

Trend 1 – Cruise Vacations

Cruising is currently the fastest-growing segment in the travel industry. It’s popular because it offers something for everyone in the group – zip lines, escape rooms, music and live entertainment, family pools and adults-only pools. And the room choices…something for every budget from inside staterooms to two-bedroom suites with a grand piano.

Cruises are simple to coordinate and do not involve a lot of decision making. Our family has been lucky enough to do family cruises to the Bahamas, Panama Canal, Alaska, and the Pacific Coast with our extended family. This year we’ll be checking something off Grandma’s bucket list and taking a cruise that stops at the Anne of Green Gables house at Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island.

Trend 2: Genealogical/DNA Tourism

One of the most recent trends to grab hold in family travel is what is being called DNA or Genealogical Tourism. This type of vacation allows you to trace and experience your family’s ancestry and heritage by visiting the land(s) of your ancestors. Shows such as Finding Your Roots and Who Do You Think You Are? have made families eager to know more about how their ancestors lived. DNA tests along with websites such as Ancestry.com have made it easy to identify out where your in the world your family came from.

Your great-grandfather came from the Sicily area? Why not go experience Sicily and see what life would have been like there and make Sicilian pizza with a local chef…just the way Great-Grandpa would have made it.

This type of family has been growing so rapidly that in 2019 Lonely Planet named it the Top Travel Trend for 2019. Many tour companies have jumped on the bandwagon and are offering offering heritage-themed vacations for DNA/Genealogical travelers.

Trend 3: Educational Trips

In today’s family, many parents are eager to have their children enjoy educational experiences while on vacation. An educational trip does not have to be dragging your kids through museums after museum…although it could be if your kids enjoy that.

You can go visit Colonial Williamsburg and experience what life would have been like in colonial days. Maybe take a while watching day cruise with a naturalist and learn about the magnificent sea life they’ll be watching in its native habitat. Go climb through some historic forts…the possibilities are endless. Shhh…don’t tell the kids they’re learning something; they’ll never know.

These trips and immersive experiences are not difficult to find. Many cruises and all-inclusive vacations even offer excursions that lets you and your kids experience the local history and culture of the places they visit.

Trend 4: The Great American Road Trip

I love watching old home movies and looking at old family photos of our family piling into the car as we set out on the road for a good family road trip. A road trip is the American classic of all family vacations. It conjures up scenes that we can relate to from National Lampoon’s Vacation with Chevy Chase.

For a long time, families were moving towards flying to destinations, but we are seeing a huge trend moving back towards the road trip as family are rediscovering the combination of benefits of the bonding on the open road.

A road trip allows for quality time with your family. And while some of you may be thinking it’s no fun listening to your kids tattle on each other…”he breathed on me”…believe me that in 15 years your kids will be laughing about spending seven hours a day in the car with their brother or sister.

A road trip has more opportunities for spontaneity. Road signs often indicate opportunities to stop at a lookout for a spectacular view or driving by an historical landmark that you didn’t know existed. And with spontaneity comes increased chances for unplanned adventures.

The most often visited places on a road trip are the U.S. National Parks. The Grand Canyon and the Smoky Mountain National Park have recorded record visitors the past few years. Lots of people know about the beauty and majesty of the National Parks, but it’s the the special programs offered by the National Parks Service like the Junior Ranger Program that makes these destinations even more fun for families.

A few years back we did an family road trip with my brother and his family. After a long drive from Moab to Seattle (with a stopover in Salt Lake City), we spent five days hiking through Arches National Park…including a permitted hike through Fiery Furnace for which we were inadequately prepared for. We can laugh now, but it was NOT funny at the time as we were climbing through rocks like Spider Man in regular tennis shoes, t-shirts and shorts (one of us was even in flip flops).

We enjoyed the Visitor’s Center and learning the fascinating details of how the rock arches were formed by nature. One afternoon we took a ride in a high-speed boat along the river and enjoyed a good dutch oven cookout for dinner. The boys rode bikes one afternoon while the girls went to the local quilt shop and went shopping. There was something for everyone.

Trend 5: Skip-Gen Trips

The term “Skip-Gen vacations” is fairly new and trending in the travel industry right now…although I’ve been planning for skip-gen trips my whole adult life. I have 22 nieces and nephews and have taken skip-gen trips with every single one of them. A skip-gen trip will speaks to those who want to take vacations with close their family members…think grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins…and allows them to bond through travel while giving their parents a little break in having to constantly hover over their kids while on vacation.

I went into the travel planning business because I really enjoyed planning these skip-gen vacations. Years of planning and education helped me prepare to take this on professionally.

Cruises and theme parks have always welcomed skip-gen groups, but recently we have seen many tour companies willing to work with family groups to explore a new destination without having the hassle of having to plan all the details on their own. Families are looking more and more for experiential travel experiences. There are so many of choices becoming available in this growing segment, tour companies are coming up with new tours and excursions all the time. They strive to offer something for everyone in the group.

Trend 6: Volunteer Tourism

One of my favorite travel trend to see emerge the past few years has been that of travel tourism. Often, when someone thinks of volunteer tourism, they imagine taking their family on a volunteer trip to a third-world country. That’s simply not the case any more.

You can take one day or one week of vacation and go do something small that can have a huge impact. You can go help build a home with Habitat for Humanity or go clean up a beach.

If your family enjoys visiting the Disney theme parks in Orlando, take the opportunity to go volunteer for an afternoon at Give Kids the World giving Make a Wish kids ice cream or helping with a craft project. It’s a fantastic organization that provides kids with life-threatening illnesses a to experience the Orlando theme parks at little to no cost.

Families That Play Together, Stay Together

I know that if you visit my website very often, you’ll hear me say this…a lot…but I believe this to be one of the truest statements of my life: The families that play together, stay together.

Family that plays together, stays together

Whether it’s taking a cruise through the Panama Canal, hiking through Arches National Park, or heading off to Leavenworth (a little Bavarian village nestled in the Cascade Mountains) to devour some wienerschnitzel and shop among the local artisans…all of these opportunities have allowed me to bond and form happy memories with different family members. I treasure each and every opportunity I’ve had to go play with my parents, husband, son, siblings, nieces, and nephews…and now great-nieces and -nephews.

Planning a family vacation can be overwhelming. A knowledgeable travel advisor that specializes in family trips can be very helpful in crafting a vacation that fits your family and is unique to your needs. Use the “Contact Me” form if you’d like to set up a time for a free consultation on how I can help you plan your family’s vacation.