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Sioux Falls has free multilingual sightseeing trolleys, which is a good idea since millions more tourists who don't speak English are coming to the US this year.Sioux Falls has free multilingual sightseeing trolleys, which is a good idea since millions more tourists who don't speak English are coming to the US this year.

Family Travel Trends for 2014 

A Family Travel expert weighs in on trends she thinks will continue 

It’s still early winter and 2014 is shaping up to be an interesting year for the family vacationer. From the yearning for unique experiences to small ship cruising, gluten-free cuisine and simpler technological tools, your family and mine are close behind luxury travelers in their vacation demands.

No longer disdained as being “Low budget,” today’s active family vacationer is being sought after by the travel industry as a “group travel booker,” bringing many benefits with it. Here’s a look at what our team from Family Travel Consulting are seeing as the 12 major factors that will make family vacation planners happy in 2014.

Collecting experiences is every traveler’s dream.

With free time in short supply, vacationers want to interact with local attractions, not just look at them. Zip lines, kayaking, nature hikes or Segway tours are already a must on any itinerary, but nothing beats a unique learning activity for families.

Even grandparents say they want to share experiences with their grandchildren while they are able, rather than leave them money, so expect to see – and budget for -- many exciting, unusual (and pricey) activities at your next destination.

Childcare will be more readily available and better.

Parents expect hotels to provide childcare while they’re spending money at the spa or the golf course, but they don’t want their kids parked in front of a video all day, even if it’s free. The top family resorts get that: we’re seeing more cooking classes, language lessons, gardening, and games to help children learn on-site, as well as family-together volunteer opportunities. Expect to see free kid-minding rooms and really engaging programs on offer for a fee.

Fitness is the reason some families travel.

even-at-disneyland-always-in-touchEven at Disneyland, parents are always in touch.It used to be that travelers wanted to work out on vacation so they could go off their diets guilt-free. Not so with young families – they are more fit and health conscious for themselves and their kids than ever before.

Families are opting for vacations based on what they can do at a destination, whether it’s hiking or mountain biking, joining a holiday 5K stroll, or learning how to stand-up paddleboard. Expect to see more creative recreation programs, family yoga and other active vacation options at all-inclusive resorts and use the opportunity to learn a new sport.

Foodies are getting younger and younger

Thanks to the First Lady, public campaigns against childhood obesity, and the Food Channel, the food-obsessed traveler is getting younger and younger. Today, many restaurant chains and hotels have added healthier choices to their children’s menus, and others have turned family dining into a creative and fun activity where kids can mix and match healthy foods, cook their own and their parents’ meals, and in some places, harvest their own produce. This is a great improvement over chicken fingers and PB&J.

Cruise vacations will become more varied.

Cruise vacations will continue to grow in popularity for family travelers because of their cost, ease, and understanding of the needs of different age travelers. Major lines are expanding their onshore activities and onboard entertainment options to appeal to young parents, teens and grandparents. And repeat family cruisers are starting to spend more on small ship adventures or new river cruise sailings specifically targeting families.

Families are seeking better trip planning tools.

A few major hotel chains are testing the newest Google applications available to the travel industry to make searching for, comparing and even paying for hotels easier. New tools like Google Hotel Finder offers hotel rooms in comparison with competitors based on a geographic search and other parameters the traveler can choose. Google Business Photos is a commercial version of the popular Street View, which takes travelers into hotels to show them public spaces as well as rooms. Together with Google Indoor Maps, families can select rooms nearest the elevator or those with more floor space for a crib. Take advantage of these tools when they come online; we will.

Mommy and kids on a Carnival cruise ship. More and more inter-generational travel will take place in 2014.Mommy and kids on a Carnival cruise ship. More and more inter-generational travel will take place in 2014. Photo by Kate Cosme/GoNOMAD.No one really wants to be unplugged.

In our time-pressed and geographically challenged society, travelers often have to stay in touch with family even when they’re traveling with family. WiFi is also a necessity for young parents who rely on the Internet to plan vacations, store their itineraries and download entertainment; as well as for teens who have homework and need to update their status. The travel industry gets it, and this should be the year that free broadband in public spaces becomes widely available.

Family life is all about collaboration.

Camping, picnics, family reunions, house swaps and timeshares are only a few of the ways families have taken their sharing lifestyle with them when they travel. But in a year marked by the takeover of the car-sharing service ZipCar and the huge growth at at the room-for-rent company AirBnB, the term “collaborative consumption” took on new meaning. Look for innovative tools that will allow families to share precious resources like childcare on vacation.
Visual education is critical to appreciating our travels.

With the growing popularity of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course), video-based homeschooling, and curriculum enrichment software to supplement children’s experiences, destinations have had to reimagine how they tell their story.

Today’s families are going online and buying apps to research their destination’s attractions, and augmented reality is extending to more and more museums and monuments. The good news is that all this innovation is making families better educated travelers than ever before. Take advantage of it.

Kids are very influential in the vacation planning process.

The TMS Family Travel Conference shared the news that 54% of parents admitted that their children were a major influence in selecting the family vacation. And just half a year later, another survey found that almost nine-in-ten parents said their kids' preferences are influential when choosing a vacation destination.

The travel industry is catching on to what parents and grandparents have long known: If the kids are happy, the adults are happy. Make sure your kids are stakeholders in the next vacation.

Multigenerational travel will get even bigger.

More than 30% of grandparents who travel say they’ve taken grandchildren on a trip in the past year, often one they’ve hosted. Combine this strong trend with research indicating that the Millennials (born between 1977 and 1997) are closer to their parents than past generations, and it’s easy to see the trend growing as Millennials host their own parents and children, then become grandparents themselves. Look to resorts and cruises to develop more age-appropriate activities for their older guests.

Foreign visitors will improve the learning at U.S. destinations.

The top U.S. travel companies are rushing to greet millions of visitors coming from China (the Chinese outspent every other nation on travel in 2013), Russia, India and Brazil among many other nations. These travelers often come on guided tours with multigenerational families, and don’t even speak English. Yet, as the industry rushes to meet their needs, destinations will become less provincial, more multicultural, interactive and engaging in visual ways.
And there’s no better gift to our own next generation of global travelers.

Kyle McCarthy, editor of Family Travel Forum.

Kyle McCarthy, editor at Family Travel Forum, the trusted vacation planning resource helping grandparents and parents roam the world with kids, travels frequently with one, two, three, and even four generations.

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