Connecting To The Modern Family

Summer’s almost here, and with the season comes the onslaught of family travel. And, just like about everything else in our industry, this market segment is evolving in ways that marketers need to acknowledge.

Family time has become more valuable than ever, as time-starved parents increasingly look to travel as a way to stay connected. It’s making the family vacation a highly considered purchase and a significant investment of time and money that creates pressure to find and experience the perfect trip.

As travel marketers target families, here are some things worth considering: 

The New Tradition of Untraditional Families

The reality is that families today are more varied in composition than ever before, and our marketing needs to better reflect this reality. A recent report from the Pew Foundation found that fewer than half (46%) of U.S. kids younger than 18 are living in a home with two heterosexual parents in their first marriage. Contrast that to 1960 when 73% fit that description, and 61% in 1980. 



This same report found that 34% of children are living in a single-parent household (up from 19% in 1980). On top of this, layer in the fact that some 115,000 same-sex couples have children, and that almost 10% of all families are interracial, and you can begin to understand why we need to start looking at our marketing to families with a renewed emphasis on diversity. Let’s be sure we reflect the true face of society in how we depict families in our language, imagery, videos and media buys.

Fewer Households With Children Doesn’t Mean Fewer Opportunities

A recent report from Mintel stated that people with kids are more likely to travel for vacation (85% vs. 74% of adults without kids), but it also reported that the number of U.S. households with kids age 18 and under is actually declining, from 36.6 million HH in 2003 to 34.6 million in 2014. For travel marketers, it’s a signal that we need to further position travel as an extended family activity, well-suited to linking multiple generations of travelers and all sides of one’s family (aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces and cousins).

Fueling this opportunity is the fact that 2 in 10 travelers are grandparents, with 4 in 10 taking at least one trip with their grandchildren. Just as significant, 8 in 10 trips with grandparents are multigenerational trips, including their grandchildren’s parents. 

Moms Are Key But Don’t Forget Dad

Moms continue to be the most involved and price-conscious family member in the vacation planning process, but the Mintel report suggests that travel marketers should consider focusing in on younger dads. Dads typically don’t play by the same rules and are more likely to go on cultural/educational trips, cruises and all-inclusive vacations. By getting dads more involved, there’s an opportunity to potentially drive up average spend. 

Don’t Underestimate The Influence Of Kids

A Mintel study of “Kids as Influencers” found that kids aged 6 - 11 have a very strong influence on vacation planning, with 32% of the kids themselves reporting that they decide on the final destination “most” or “some of the time.” And if you’re afraid that kids might have an inflated sense of their influence, the same study found 28% of parents say that their vacation planning was very much a joint decision. This collaborative process was also highlighted in a 2016 YouGov/Time Inc. study of affluent travelers which found that 49% of decisions were done jointly by what they called the “Family Parliament” with teenage kids not surprisingly proving very influential. As marketers, it means we need to think about how our websites, materials and communications talk to the kids as much as the parents, making a case for what each member of the family will find enjoyable at your property or destination. 

Travel Creates Happy Families

Arguably, most important to anyone marketing to families is that travel contributes to happiness. In the Project Time Off study, “The Work Martyr’s Children,” just 19% of parent travelers say their children are in a good mood in their regular lives, but that number jumps to 60% when parents take time off from work to travel with their kids. And with the majority of Millennials (52%) saying that “being a good parent” is one of the most important things in life, our industry has a chance to not only promote travel as a way for families to reconnect but to establish that travel contributes mightily to being a good parent and creating happiness amongst families overall.

Put all these things together and it reveals a great opportunity for our industry to leverage the evolving family composition, attitudes and importance of travel so that we can more successfully connect with the ultimate audience — the modern family.

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