We spoke with three travel advisors who specialize in a trio of specialties that look beyond traditional family vacations.
Families with Special Needs
According to a survey conducted by Autismtravel.com, only 11 percent of families with autism currently take family vacations. “The survey,” says travel advisor Nicole Thibault, owner of Magical Storybook Travels, “indicates that there are many families with special needs that are not taking vacations with their children. Most think that because of the disability in their family, it’s too difficult and are too afraid to try.” Enter a travel agency such as Magical Storybook Travels, whose mission it is to get families with special needs vacationing. Thibault says “the biggest hurdle I’ve had when booking travel for families with special needs is getting the family to feel comfortable enough to take the leap to travel as a family in the first place. So many families come to me and say, ‘We want to try and take a vacation as a family, but we just don’t think it’s possible due to our family member’s disability. Do you think we can do it?’ And for most families, the answer is YES!” She adds that for travel advisors interested in getting into this niche, it’s important that they understand that it can take more time to qualify clients with a family member with special needs than typical clients. “During your consultation with a client with special needs, you’ll need to ask additional qualifying questions like ‘Does your family member have any mobility issues? How can I assist you and your family member with a cognitive disability?’” Thibault commends suppliers in the industry who are stepping up in a big way to make sure that their destinations are as accommodating as possible to families with special needs. “Knowing that a destination has trained their staff in autism training really makes a difference to families and gives them the confidence to travel to that destination,” she notes.
LGBT Family Travel
Although travel advisor Kelli Carpenter, co-founder of R Family Vacations (its co-founder is Gregg Kaminsky), says that the travel industry as a whole “lacks the education to provide an LGBT family with an experience that will be just as comfortable and fulfilling as a traditional family vacation,” travel agencies such as hers are changing the game. She states that agencies who are thinking of delving into this market need to “know the family market and which brands truly cater to them. It’s important to understand that most LGBT families build families through adoption, surrogacy, foster care and many other ways, so the last names may be different on travel documents, etc.” And she says that travel advisors “must educate themselves on LGBT-friendly destinations where their client will feel accepted and not fearful of who they are.”
Single Family Vacations
Travel advisor Quiana L. Thomas, owner & operator of Girls Getaway 360 Vacations, says that one of the most important things to keep in mind when selling single family vacations is that “these families are on a budget; they need an itinerary; and they need your expertise.” Thomas says that “a single family is already on a tight budget because there is only one income coming into the household. When they say their budget is no more than $3k, as the agent, you really need to stick to that. They aren’t like other clients that can maybe go a little bit over.” She also notes that some single parents want a break while on a family vacation, so travel advisors need to do their homework and find out which “resorts can accommodate them for a reasonable price to watch their child.” On that point, she says that as a whole the travel industry “lacks the need for child care while on property. That single mom or dad that needs a night alone should be able to have that…the travel industry caters to the traditional mom and dad vacation.”
For more intel on LGBT family travel, click here.