Agents who know what the trends in family travel are, as well as what their clients are seeking, can make the perfect match when it comes to planning the ideal family vacation.

“Families are increasingly looking for experiences that empower their children and draw their families closer together,” says Ricard D’Ambrosio, communications director for the Family Travel Association. “For example, in the 2018 Family Travel Survey, 22 percent of respondents said the number one reason for traveling as a family was, ‘To have my children discover new places and have new experiences.’ Agents who understand their clients’ intimately, and can match their families’ interests with destinations and experiences can really drive client satisfaction and retention,” he adds.

Trending Destinations
According to Jared Alster v.p. of marketing for Cox & Kings, The Americas, the company has “recently seen an uptick in family requests for Latin America, specifically Peru and Argentina (Patagonia), and Galapagos. Peru, specifically Machu Picchu, has always been a ‘bucket list’ destination, however, more and more families are looking to experience this ‘wonder of the world’ together. Patagonia requests are from families with older/grown children seeking more of an adventurous vacation involving hiking/trekking, complimented by fine dining and boutique hotels.” Adding that, “The Galapagos has always been a strong destination for Cox & Kings, and we’ve seen a continued interest in the unique flora/fauna from families with younger children. The Galapagos is a relatively easy destination for families to travel to especially if they choose a ship-based program (vs. land based) as it provides similar benefits of a river cruise (unpack once, and done).”

Heather Killingbeck director of trip and program development for Adventures by Disney, says, “We’re seeing a lot of interest in destinations known for their natural beauty and outdoor recreation, where families can unplug and reconnect with nature—and each other. Many families are interested in experiencing our incredible national parks, which are the perfect places to discover natural wonders without traveling beyond their own backyard. Other hot destinations include Alaska, Costa Rica, Iceland and the Canadian Rockies—we even recently reimagined our Canada itinerary, which now includes all-new adventures in Calgary before traveling to the breathtaking Banff National Park and Lake Louise areas of the Canadian Rockies.”

“River cruising also continues to be very popular with our guests. Like our land-based trips, Adventures by Disney river cruises are purposefully designed with families in mind, and this unique vacation option seems to check all the right boxes for our guests,” says Killingbeck.

trends in family
Adventures by Disney vacationers will be fully immersed in the ancient customs and storied traditions deeply rooted within the cultural wonderland of Japan in 2019. (Photo courtesy of Chloe Rice/Adventures by Disney.)

Immersive Experiences Top List
Killingbeck notes that, “Authenticity and immersion have become increasingly important to families when planning vacations. They are seeking real, local experiences and opportunities to engage with the local community as they experience their customs, culture and stories first-hand. And while they still want to check off all the ‘must-see’ and ‘must-do’ items, they also want to go beyond traditional tourist highlights and get to the true heart of the destination.”

Adventures by Disney offers your clients excursions with plenty of authentic and interactive activities that help bring the destination to life for guests. Killingback notes that these experiences make travelers feel as if they’ve become part of the place, rather than simply observed it.

D’Ambrosio also notes immersion experiences as a top trend, “We see a number of experiences, including immersion in a culture, and exposing their children to more types of food than what they typically eat at home. Family entertainment also is very big with parents, which is why cruises are such a popular choice for many families,” he adds.

Alster notes that families are also looking for, “Good balance of food, wine, outdoor, cultural experiences. It’s less about decadent prix fixe meals at Michelin starred restaurants and more about eating at locally owned restaurants with delicious food, friendly service, and plenty of room for everyone.” And, said that Cox & Kings is “booking lots of hands-on cooking classes, which are always popular and well received by both parents and kids alike as it is an experience they can have together while learning about local traditions and cuisine.”

Traveling can be a learning experience for many families. “For those who can afford to travel abroad, having their children learn even a few words and phrases of a new language is important as well,” says D’Ambrosio. Killingbeck adds that, “In Europe, a longtime favorite region for family travelers, our guests continue to seek more hands-on, active experiences as they explore these iconic destinations. Families are booking vacations that allow them to interact with the world around them, whether it’s an archery lesson in the English countryside, an artisanal mask-making workshop in Venice or traditional Greek cooking class in Crete.”

Traveling with Adult Children
Killingbeck says that they’ve seen an increase in travel for families with older children. “We’re also seeing an increasing demand for adult-only vacations with Adventures by Disney, as adult guests traveling without young children seek fun and adventure without compromising on service or quality…more often this includes parents traveling with adult children and looking for a more tailored experience that is still family friendly.” Adding that, there are adult-exclusive departures for many of their itineraries, including river cruises and Short Escapes. “We also have select specialty cruises focused on culinary or food and wine activities, which is especially on-trend with adult guests,” she adds.

For more on family travel, don’t miss these agent tips from the tour operators on “Booking Family Vacations,” from our March issue.