You’ve heard the stories of folks grabbing the whole family and going on an adventure. If you’re thinking about your own next trip and want to bring the kids and maybe grandma and uncle, too, you likely have family travel on the brain.
So, what is family travel?
It’s all about planning a vacation with family members.
Family travel entices those who want to experience the world alongside their loved ones. Whether you’re sailing off on a family cruise or making your way to an amusement park, family travel will allow you to share these amazing experiences with your favorite people.
It’s not just about trips with your partner or kids, either. Yes, that kind of travel is at the core of what people think about when looking into family tourism, but that’s not the only part. Family travel includes grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, family friends. A lot of my family travel will cover my travel with my partner and our daughter.
Keep in mind, though, family travel can have its challenges, as well. When you’re traveling with a diverse group of people covering many age ranges and interests, travel can become a bit more complicated. There will be times where you’ll all need to accommodate for everyone’s needs. For instance, if you want to do a 10 mile hike but you have a 1 year old, that could present challenges you need to consider. Or if you want to go scuba diving, but your family isn’t certified. With family travel, it’s important to set clear boundaries and expectations upfront to avoid any disappointment or confusion.
What’s happening to the family travel industry?
U.S. Family Travel Survey showed that nearly 9 out of 10 parents planned to travel with their family in 2022. 88% of families. Tourism, as a whole, is hitting a growth spurt after the pandemic, but family travel especially is growing. Analysts say that over 75% of travelers are saying they expect to travel even more with family in 2022 and 2023.
We’re also seeing a huge growth trend in multigenerational travel, which started an uptick in 2018 and then experienced huge growth in 2022. Quality time can be harder to make time for than we’d like, especially with the retirement age continuing to creep up and up. Multigenerational travel is an opportunity to disconnect to reconnect, but also a chance to share the costs of the trip across multiple adults, which can help make travel more affordable.
Additionally, family travel really aligns with the more socially conscious tourism of today. As socially conscious travel is becoming more important to tourists, we’re seeing more growth in those same tourists wanting to expand their kids’ worlds, making them more empathetic to new cultures and excited for new experiences.
Since family travel can require quite a bit of pre and during trip coordination, it can feel very overwhelming to a beginner, so let’s chat basics.
Figure Out Who Is Invited
When I’m thinking of family travel, my first question is always “who?”. For us, our most common family travel involves myself, my husband, and our daughter (as of 2022). That being said, we’ve done travel with grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings, nephews, and cousins, as well as family friends. There are so many ways to family travel and they’ll all lead to unique and exciting experiences.
Determine Your Budget
Once you know who is going, it’s time to figure out what your budget looks like. This will help inform all of the below decisions.
While the average vacation can cost thousands of dollars, it doesn’t have to cost that much. It really needs to be what you believe you can afford combined with the non-negotiables that matter most to you.
Start with determining your total budget, as well as the budget of any other adults traveling with you. That total number will then be the total amount you have to spend on your trip, including transportation, accommodations, food, souvenirs, activities, and any paperwork required.
Choose Your Destination
Now that you have an idea of how much you can spend, you need to determine where you want to spend it! If you have a bucket list this is where you comb through it and decide which bucket list item fits your current budget travel goals.
Ask yourself a few questions:
- Why are you traveling?
- What time of year works best for you?
- What is everyone’s preferred activity level?
- Are there any age-based considerations to be made?
- Are you celebrating anything on this trip?
Once you determine the answers to the above questions, it’ll help you narrow down what you want to do and see. Family trips can require quite a bit of coordination, since you’re dealing with multiple people and potentially multiple ages, comfort levels, and interests.
You’ve figured out where you’re going. Now you need to determine how you’re getting there. Plane, train, automobile. Local or international. It’ll all need to be planned out and coordinated so everyone is on the same page and all accommodations are considered.
Truth be told, if I’m traveling long distances with kids or larger groups, direct flights are my preference. Flights will layovers can be challenging as they mean more chances for flights to be canceled or delayed, plus the added exhaustion of more travel time. If you have a small child with you, see if the airlines you’re spending time in have kid zones, breastfeeding hubs, or any other amenities you can take advantage of while traveling.
If I’m traveling shorter distances, I tend to prioritize road tripping with younger kids so we have the flexibility needed to accommodate their needs while still making our way to our destination. Road tripping can often feel a little less stressful than flying when you have small kids.
Don’t forget transportation while at your destination, too. If you’re traveling with a larger group, you can look into options of all-inclusive transportation as part of your accommodations or travel package, renting a larger vehicle, or hiring a driver if your budget allows.
Pick Your Accommodations
Accommodations will often be a fairly large part of the budget, so definitely think of the needs of everyone while narrowing down your choices. You might be used to staying off the beaten path when you adventure travel, but your family members on this trip might not have that same comfort level. Family travel is often about figuring out how to make everyone feel safe and comfortable so that you can all enjoy your trip.
If you’re traveling with kids, make sure your accommodations are kid friendly. Do they have pack-n-plays or kid bedding? Do the local restaurants have kid-friendly food? How much transportation will be required to and from the attractions near your accommodations? All of this will need to be considered.
Similarly, check in with all travel party members to find out if any other accommodations will be needed? Down allergies? Accessible bathrooms? Microwave? Laundry services. Compiling all of these needs will help you pick the best possible accommodations for everyone coming along for the adventure.
Plan Your Activities
Now is the fun part. Activities and excursions. Make sure you determine these early, as well, to ensure you have a planned itinerary that works for everyone and really accounts for the interests of everyone involved.
If you’re traveling with kids or the elderly, there may need to be accommodations made for mobility or age-appropriateness. If you are traveling with a large group, you might be able to find private activities or discounted excursions based on the size of your group, as well.
You will spend the majority of your trip sleeping and partaking in these activities. It’s important that everyone has a say in what you’re doing so that everyone buys in. Especially the kids. Get them involved in the process and make sure to account for their input. The more excited they are for the trip, the better for everyone involved. At the end of the day, though, it’s important to get kids acclimated to your lifestyle and not the other way around. Within reason, of course.
Confirm All Documents Are In Order
This is a quick one, but I didn’t want to forget to mention it. Make sure everyone has their required IDs, like your driver’s license or passport, vaccination info as needed (as of 2022), or your TSA Pre or Global Entry, if you’re flying somewhere.
If you’re traveling internationally and are renting a car, confirm if you need an international driver’s license. If you need a travel visa or any other documentation to get into the destination country, get that handled as soon as possible. Same with travel based vaccinations.
Make sure you look at expiration dates on IDs, as well. Most places require that you have at least 6 months remaining on your passport before expiry when traveling into another country. Small issues like that can quickly become bigger issues that could’ve been avoided.
If you are traveling with a child and both parents are not present, make sure you have any required documentation just in case. Some places require a birth certificate for that child or a notarized letter from the absent parent giving consent of travel.