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.
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.