Shopping for family vacations takes on a new level of effort when you’re in the market for travel arrangements and sleeping accommodations for six. Can the rental car fit four car seats along with all our luggage? Did I remember to pack must-have blankies and binkies? Are we ready for inevitable delays and temper tantrums? I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
When I decided to go on a girls trip last month — my first in over a decade — I was surprised to find I had no clue how to plan this kid-free vacation. I am, after all, a stereotypical Type-A planner. VP, Group Account Director of an advertising agency by day and CEO/Boss Lady of a madhouse by night. But it’s true. I didn’t know where to start. And it was a shock to the system. When should we go? And where? What matters when the only person to please is yourself?
In anticipation of Mother’s Day this year, Orbitz.com surveyed moms on the luxuries they miss since becoming a parent. They found nearly 75% of moms feel guilty about taking a kid-free vacation, with two out of three saying the guilt of being away keeps them from ever traveling without their children. (Orbitz.com even compiled a list of “affordable guilt-free getaways” for all the moms who don’t have time to think, let alone plan a fabulous weekend escape to balmy Puerto Rico.)
As a mom of four tiny tots, I totally get that guilty feeling. It sucks being away from my kids. And it’s not just the rare girls trip that makes me miss breakfasts and bedtimes, it’s also my job. Anyone who’s worked in the marketing industry knows that travel comes with the territory.
That said, if the majority of moms are so guilt-ridden that they won’t travel without their kids, there’s clearly an opportunity for travel and tourism brands to help ease this anxiety.
Cue JetBlue. Knowing that moms traveling with babies (including myself) worry about dealing with a dreaded meltdown during a packed flight, the airline just released footage from a special cross-country flight where an attendant announced that for every crying baby, each passenger would receive 25% off their next JetBlue flight, up to a full 100% off if four babies cry.
I hope I’m not spoiling anything when I confirm that, yes, babies wailed, and the passengers on that flight got a free ticket. It got to the point where the sound of a crying baby elicited applause from the passengers instead of dirty looks, like a Pavlovian reaction from a parallel universe.
JetBlue is one of the few brands exploring this pain point, but there’s a lot of room for innovation. Travel and tourism brands can help moms shift from “mom mode” to “me mode” without guilt, either by taking a trip with her spouse, her family or those crazy college girlfriends she hasn’t seen in forever.
Why do I know this is important? Well, if you’re a reader of Condé Nast Traveler or The Washington Post or any of the million mommy blogs out there, you’ll see this is clearly something we obsess about — and yet, American parents spend more time with their kids than any other parents in the world.
Finally, fellow moms, here’s my pitch to you: we should all take guilt-free trips more often, not only because it’s fun and we deserve it but it’s good for the mind and the heart. And it’s good for our families, too, because when we take better care of ourselves, we can take better care of them.
Editor's note: This article originally appeared on June 6, 2016, in Marketing:Travel.