ANGELA SAURINE reveals the family travel trends you need to know about over the coming year
With more and more families seeking meaningful, immersive, off-the-beaten track experiences, travel companies are responding with a range of exciting new trips. G Adventures has partnered with National Geographic to offer 12 new family journeys in 2020 to destinations including Vietnam, Costa Rica, Alaska, Iceland and Italy. Activities are designed around four guiding Nat Geo themes: photography and storytelling, history and culture, wildlife and conservation, and exploration. After recently launching family cycling adventures, Intrepid Travel is also introducing five new family trips to destinations including Morocco, Peru and Egypt in 2020.
Got a teen or tween who won’t get off their phone? An Instagram tour may be the perfect way to engage them in the family holiday. Led by ‘influencers’, the tours are now being offered in places including Bali, London and Amsterdam. The Bali Bible Instagram Tour takes social media fanatics to the island’s most Instagrammed locations, including the lush rice paddies of Ubud, the iconic ‘Gates of Heaven’ overlooking Mount Agung and the Royal Water Palace in Eastern Bali. Instatours.uk visits London’s most famous landmarks, as well as hidden gems, highlighting them from the best viewpoints and angles.
As phrases such as ‘flight shaming’, ‘overtourism’ and ‘undertourism’ become part of the vernacular, parents who care about their kids’ future are helping drive a trend towards sustainable, responsible travel. That means carbon-offsetting flights, travelling by train where possible and choosing lesser-visited destinations over those they know are going to be packed with tourists. The industry is responding in kind, with hotel groups including Marriott International getting rid of tiny plastic toiletries bottles and dozens of travel companies banning elephant rides, as well as giving back through philanthropic programs. Hawai‘i is outlawing the sale of sunscreen containing chemicals that harm coral, while New Zealand plans to become the first carbon-neutral country in the world with the launch of the Tiaki Promise – a Maori-based pledge to help visitors ‘care for people and place’.
What kid doesn’t want to stay in a room where they can pretend to be a princess or astronaut, or be immersed in their favourite animated film? More and more hotels are granting their wishes. Shangri-La Hotel Singapore, for example, has five themed family suites, including safari, treetop, castle, underwater and space. And in the era of private home rentals, the trend is expanding to include houses as well. Fans of The Addams Family can even book to stay in a house in New York, inspired by the recently-released movie, through Booking.com.
Multigenerational holidays have been popular for years, but grandparents are now taking their grandkids away without their parents too. While cashed up baby boomers love hanging out with their grandchildren and have the time to travel, parents are busy paying off mortgages and can find it hard to get away from work. The American Association of Retired Person’s 2019 Boomer Travel Trends report found that about 15 per cent of baby boomers were planning such trips. Companies like Road Scholar are catering to the market, offering educational trips for grandparents and their grandchildren to learn about history in Iceland, art in Amsterdam or search for dinosaur fossils in Utah, USA. In some instances, the parents tag along – but stay in a hotel next door, so they are still close by if needed. The MarBella Collection is one hotel company noticing the trend since opening the adults-only MarBella Nido beside the family-friendly MarBella Corfu on the Greek Island last year.
Forget the buffet – breakfast in the pool is the new way to go! Asian hotels such as Sofitel Nusa Dua, Banyan Tree Samui and The Sanctoo Villas & Spa, Ubud, next to Bali Zoo, are now offering ‘floating breakfasts’, in which your bacon and eggs and a bounty of other enticing offerings are served on a tray in the water.
Business and leisure are increasingly combining with digital nomads, who use technology to work remotely, now taking their families with them on work trips. “We’ve stopped talking about work-life balance and now talk about work-life integration,” futurist Carolyn Childs, from My Travel Research, says. Data from home booking website Airbnb shows a quarter of all work bookings made in Australia in the past financial year included stays with children. Airbnb for work APAC regional head Alvan Aiau Yong says listings popular for such trips feature all the essential amenities business travellers need to be productive and comfortable, such as designated desk and study areas, laundry facilities and Wi-Fi. “There’s also the added benefit of listings with fully-equipped kitchens, family rooms and big backyards to cater for family members, so that a business trip can easily transition into a leisure stay,” he says.
With its long stretches of road and outdoor lifestyle, Australia is the ideal destination for a caravan or camping holiday, and the number of families choosing such getaways has been steadily rising for the past few years. The 2019 Tourism Research Australia National Visitor Survey shows a 19 per cent increase since 2012, with a whopping 3.76 million overnight caravan or camping trips taken by family groups with children in the last financial year. BIG4 holiday parks is among the companies evolving to attract the market, offering a range of kid-friendly attractions, such as water parks, pump tracks for bikes and scooters and jumping cushions.
Seeing where your favourite movies are filmed in real life is always exciting, and that goes double for kids! On Location Tours’ The Super Tour of NYC: Heroes! Comics! More! is a hit with families, taking you to see the NY Daily News building from Superman, the Flatiron building from the Spiderman films and the site where the ‘battle of New York’ took place in The Avengers. Brit Movie Tours also offers a Kids’ Movie Tour of London where you can visit famous landmarks seen in films such as Harry Potter, Paddington, The BFG, 101 Dalmatians, The Mummy Returns and Nanny McPhee.
First came hotels then home booking websites such as Airbnb – now a combination of the two has emerged. Luxury villas with concierges can be booked through companies such as Airbnb Luxe and Villa Finder, with the trend particularly popular for Australians in places such as Bali. The concierge team is on-call to book anything you need during your stay, such as airport transfers, day tours and those all-important massages.
Just before the kids head off to university, families are embarking on one last hurrah, such as going on a big trip to Europe or a US ski holiday. Carolyn Childs, from My Travel Research, says that Millennials and Generation Z are the first generations to like their parents for as long as they have loved them, and it was a great way to reconnect and transition from being a family unit at home as children enter into adulthood. “It’s a moment where you are creating precious memories, and navigating the new normal in relationships,” she says.
‘Flop and drop’ resort holidays are all well and good, but taking the kids on a trip that embraces the great outdoors is on the up. UTracks, which offers self-guided walking and cycling holidays in Europe, has seen a 12 per cent rise in the number of under 18s travelling in the past year. It has introduced new family tours in Sweden and Greece for 2020. “Now more than ever, families are seeking those immersive experiences you can only get if you are active and engaged,” UTracks general manager Kate Baker says. While trips to Finland during winter continue to be popular, Nordic travel specialist 50 Degrees North is also finding more families heading to Norway and Iceland in summer to take part in activities such as hiking, cycling and rafting. 50 Degrees North Nordic manager Satu Vänskä-Westgarth says both destinations offered a variety of activities for different family members, making them ideal for multi-generational holidays. “While the grandkids might be enjoying rafting, grandparents can visit an open-air museum or a local historic cider farm,” she says. “This, coupled with stunning scenery and short driving distances, have made them increasingly popular destinations for family travel.”