I am frequently asked the question, where to next? Where are people going? What’s the next “it” destination?
My response? Look at where high school and college kids are going, where they are studying abroad. Why? Because their parents will follow. Increasingly, students are jetting off to countries that are a bit further afield, including South Africa, Romania and Japan, providing you with more family booking opportunities beyond traditional destinations.
When I was a college student, the standard study-abroad destinations were London, Paris and Florence. Some of us traveled a bit further, motivated by our academic focus or other reasons. As a Classics major, it made sense for me to spend my junior year in Greece. So off I went thinking I was leaving the U.S. and everything American behind for a year. It didn’t take long to see many of my classmates’ parents come over to visit their college students. It was the perfect excuse to travel to Greece. Some of them paired Athens and the Peloponnese region with the Greek Islands, others continued (with or without their student) on to Egypt or Israel.
Not only did it make for a great travel break from classes, but with mom and dad footing the bill, it meant a few nights in a hotel, a luxurious break from most dorms. It also made for great memories and years of story telling to come.
Today, study abroad is sewn into the fabric of many a child’s education. It’s not just about where a student is studying abroad, it is how many times they go abroad and to how many different places. What does that mean for their parents…who are (or should be) your clients?
Simply put: There are new opportunities and potential destinations that were previously not on their radar.
Recently, we’ve arranged trips for families meeting up with their students in South Africa, Vietnam, the Czech Republic and Romania. Students are going to Japan, to Central and South America, India, the Middle East. Basically, throw a dart at the map and you’ll find study abroad programs.
Of course, Western Europe continues to hold its appeals for students and their visiting folks. We routinely design trips in Italy and Spain. The UK remains very popular as do the Scandinavian countries.
So how do you work with parents planning to visit their children studying abroad?
Here are some basic tips to share with your clients:
- Their student knows best. While you may have a favorite hotel in Barcelona or Copenhagen, it makes more sense for visiting parents to stay close to the campus. Early on, have your clients discuss details and preferences with their kid. Make sure you know exactly where the student lives.
- Let the student be the tour guide. While you may pride yourself on your top-notch guides, most students love to show their parents around, having already established their favorite markets, cafes, sights to see and views.
- Suggest new experiences for parents and their “kids.” Keep in mind that the students may be “legal” in some countries and adding wine experiences to an itinerary can be a wonderful option.
- Allow plenty of downtime. When parents visit their kids studying abroad, you need to allow plenty of time for all-out relaxing and more time for shopping. Mom and Dad make great sherpas for hauling home purchases they’ll get to see six months down the road when they get home.
Susan Farewell is the owner of Farewell Travels LLC (FarewellTravels.com), a travel design firm based in Connecticut. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @FarewellTravels.