2018 promises to be another good year over for the travel industry but the future look particularly bright for the the $150 billion dollar family travel market. Research done by the Family Travel Association predicts about an 8% growth for 2018. Their research also confirms affordability is always a key motivating factor when it comes to making family vacation decisions. With the passing of President Trump’s "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" that was signed into law on Dec. 22, average American families can expect significant tax refunds this spring. My travel agency has already started receiving calls from hard working parents looking to spend this new found tax refund money on a memorable travel experience with their family.
So with that bit of back story and stats, what are some the family vacation trends for 2018....
Europe - We've seen a large uptick in European bookings and reservations. In addition to general market factors, new low cost airlines like Norwegian Air and WOW airlines can cut the price of an airline ticket to Europe in half. We've had families driving great distances to departure airports in order to take advantage of these savings. Even if they purchase a connecting flight into one of these low cost carrier departure cities, they are still seeing significant savings. Once they arrive, they are more opening minded to apartment stays or self catering accommodations. These options can also offer significant savings and more space for families verses a typical hotel stay. Often these combined savings are spent on additional sightseeing or hiring private local guides for a more immersive experiences while they are in destination.
E.A.T Travel - No, these are not culinary trips. The three buzz words my staff been hearing from over and over lately from parents in initial consultations are...
- We value EXPRIENCES over buying material things for our kids
- We're looking for a new ADVENTURE that we can share and remember as a family
- We want our vacation to be TRANSFORMATIVE, something that will impact our kids
We see this translating into more and more"Epic Family Adventures"...what some may call bucket list trips. Hunting the Northern Lights, hiking the Inca Trail, African Safaris or expeditions to the Galapagos are some of the requests we're receiving. My client Karen recently summed it up best "I can buy my son yet another stuffed Kangaroo that will be quickly forgotten at the bottom of the toy box or we can go to Australia and see real kangaroos in the wild. He will never forgot that".
Grandparent Holidays - Multi-gen vacations, where grandparents, parents and kids all vacation together continues to be a very strong trend in family travel. A new trend we see emerging from this phenomenon is Grandparents traveling with Grandkids and parents stay home. It's called "skip-gen" vacations. Grandparents may take one grandchild or children from one family. They tend to travel to those previously mentioned epic adventure destinations. Often these experiences are ones that might be considered destinations for a more mature market like a river cruise or expedition to Antarctica. Grandparents are free to travel at any time during the year. Parents and Schools will consider letting children miss school for the educational and emotional value of these trips. Once again, "experiences and memories" are important assets for families. Grandparents are deciding to invest in legacy travel moments over leaving inheritance dollars.
Back to the Future - At the opposite end of the family travel market are the millennials. Most have grown up traveling with their parents and have fond family vacation memories. They tend to be the most sentimental. The goal for many is to give their children the happy memories they now cherish. Travel planning conversations with millennial parents often begin with "Back when I was a kid, my parents took me to _________and it was the best vacation ever. I want to take my kids there now too." For younger parents the destinations tend to be closer to home that are obviously easy to reach with young children. Caribbean, Mexico, Theme parks, Hawaii, Alaska and U.S. city stays top the list of preferred destinations. Once travel plans are booked we'll hear something along the lines like, "I can't wait till our kids are a bit older so I can take them to (farther destination). I went there when I was ___years old and loved it"
Travel Agent Popularity - As you can see from all the different travel options mentioned just in this article, planning family travel is complicated. Instead of spending hours frustrated on line, busy parents are re-discovering travel agents. Once parents fully understand the convenience and value of working with a travel agent, this trend will undoubtedly grow.