News & Views

Next Era Family Travel

Family travel used to be so simple, but when basic survival and health are now part of the equation, these experiences are more complicated than before. Contracting or spreading a deadly virus makes leaving Kevin McCallister Home Alone for the holidays look like an innocent little flub.

Still, families have precious little time together before teens rebel and move from the nest, so it’s important to continue catering to their need to travel and crate shared experiences, even while the pandemic challenges us.

Let’s follow the research that’s out there and understand a bit better what families are looking for and what they need.

‘Tis the Season…to Travel?

It might sound like a surprise, but airlines, hotels, and travel agencies are gearing up for the holidays this year due to customer demand, despite the pandemic. Although travel is expected to be significantly less than last year’s holiday season, this will be the first time for many to embark on a flight journey. While people want to travel, the main inspiration is to see family members in far-away destinations for the holidays. Having a specific reason to travel is helping people release their pent-up travel energy.

According to Travel & Leisure, although American holiday travelers will use all means of transportation this season, 52% will fly for Thanksgiving and 74% will fly for the December holidays, compared to only 10% who will drive their own vehicles. This is a major shift from the long-lived year of the road-trip, but will it stick after the holiday season?

With spring right around the corner, there is an opportunity for families to fly away to beach escapes this spring as well. Thinking now about how destinations can position themselves will help capture these travelers once they start booking.

The Rise of Family Pod Travel

According to DCI’s new Insights into the Path to Purchase for Canadian Travelers study, Canadians continue to prioritize family time, and even being quarantined at home for several months has not lessened their enthusiasm for family vacations. At 56%, family vacations are clearly their most-popular type of international leisure vacation, followed by beach and romantic-themed getaways. It will be nice to see swaying palm trees beyond a Zoom background, right?

In fact, the role of family pod travel and the need for human connectivity is stronger than ever in both the U.S. and Canada. Family pod travel is expected to grow even more in 2021, allowing families, multi-families, and small groups of friends to travel together and reunite safely through renting a private accommodation, such as a suite, cottage, or short-term rental unit. There’s no reason to think these trends won’t continue throughout 2021 and beyond.

Purposeful travel

Although domestic travel will continue to be a trend across the globe going into 2021, people will gravitate towards creative travel inspirations to fuel their souls. Travelers are looking for one-of-a kind experiences to create new memories in the near term.

It’s all about mindfulness and transformation – something that’s difficult to achieve cooped up in the same house for months on end. Adventure travel, spa and wellness, beauty treatment, fitness packages, retreats, voluntourism, animal welfare, spiritual/transformative missions, and even energy-efficient accommodations will prove popular add-ons in the leisure tourism industry, according to Travel Market Report’s Wellness Travel Outlook 2020-21, based on the voice of the Travel Advisor. As travelers are now more conscientious of health and safety, it has reminded them to be mindful on how their travel habits influence their personal mental health and the overall wellbeing of the environment.

Staycation Redefined

Since the onset of the pandemic, we have all probably had enough of hearing about workcations and staycations in the media. Many of us have likely even tried one already – whether a success with screaming and crying children is another story!

The concept of a staycation, or working and schooling from home remotely, is evolving as people are stuck home for a longer time than expected. In fact, Airbnb recently released 2021 travel trends, highlighting how the staycation will be redefined as relocation enters the mix:

  • 83% of remote workers are interested in relocating.
  • 20% of remote workers have already temporarily or permanently relocated during the pandemic so they can live where they want.
  • 85% of remote workers favor relocation to live closer to family members.
  • 60% of parents are considering working remotely if schools continue to operate remotely.
  • Of those who have relocated since the pandemic, a greater percentage has moved to a rural or suburban area compared to a city.
  • Gen Z’s and Millennials are the most likely to move to a new location to work or study remotely.

With offices and schools likely not reopening consistently until sometime in 2021 after a vaccine is generally available to the public, people are more open-minded to relocating to enjoy an improved quality of living and lower costs of living. Remote working has changed people’s routines, making it more possible than ever to engage in long-term travel that’s more than a quick jaunt into a destination.

It may be tough for families with many kids, but for those without children, the options abound! People can become part of a community for a while, with programs like Tulsa Remote inviting – and even paying – out of towners to live in the city for a year. The Barbados Welcome Stamp invites remote workers and their families to live on the Caribbean island for up to a year. Sold yet?

The bottom line is that family travel will be one of the safest and easiest to trust as we head towards the light at the end of this tunnel. Keeping together in pods – whether it’s locally or in a more remote destination – is a surefire way to help keep everyone safe while also creating experiences and memories together.

These family travel trends are just the start! Destinations worldwide are rethinking how they attract and cater to families during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, and there’s no time to waste. Get in touch with Robyn Domber at [email protected] to learn more about how DCI can put its 60 years of placemaking experience to good use and put your recovery plan into action.

Written By

Robyn Domber

Robyn is DCI’s Vice President of Research. In this role, she spearheads all of the firm’s primary and secondary research efforts, including surveys, focus groups, data analysis and result compilation. She joined DCI with 15 years of experience in the site selection and economic development consulting field.

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