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Family Travel Continues To Grow Despite The Recession

It's official - families still want to make great vacation memories through travel and vacations. Even in the midst of the economic downturn, more parents and grandparents are still finding ways to make family travel happen.

According to a new national survey by Ypartnership in conjunction with Meredith Travel Marketing, four out of ten (44%) U.S. leisure travelers took at least one vacation that included children last year, a percentage that continues to grow despite the impact of the current recession. Not surprisingly, these "family travelers" display a unique set of preferences when planning, purchasing and taking vacations.

Who are family travelers?
The majority of family travelers (adults traveling with children) are married (85%) and nearly four in ten (39%) have a college degree. They are most likely to be GenXers between 31-44 years of age (42%) and Boomers between 45-63 years of age (41%). Four out of ten (43%) who have an annual household income over $50,000 enjoy an annual household income in excess of $100,000. One out of five (20%) is a grandparent, of which two-thirds (67%) took at least one vacation with their grandchildren last year. Beach/lake (33%), general sightseeing (26%) and theme park (26%) vacations top the list in terms of popularity. Almost one-third (32%) took a cruise during the past five years. And, on average, family travelers spent almost $4,000 on leisure travel last year.

What sources of information do family travelers use to plan vacations?
Almost all (99%) family travelers have access to the Internet at home, and nine out of ten (89%) used the Internet to obtain information about a travel service supplier last year. The same proportion (87%) used the Internet to make a reservation. Among those who have used the Internet to obtain travel information for one or more leisure trips during the past 12 months, fully one out of four (23%) visited a blog to obtain information about a destination or travel service supplier, of which half (53%) visited TripAdvisor and one-third (32%) visited YouTube. Among those who maintain a profile on social networking site, fully 90% now have a personal page posted on Facebook.

When planning vacations, family travelers have the greatest confidence in the information and/or referrals they receive from a friend or family member (82%), travel guidebooks (57%), online travel agencies (57%) and reviews read on advisory sites like TripAdvisor (55%).

What are the media habits of family travelers?
Family travelers spend almost four hours (3.8) daily watching television, just over three hours (3.4) online, and one hour reading magazines and newspapers.

Do family travelers plan vacations around special events?
Absolutely. Seven out of ten (69%) family travelers took a leisure trip/vacation to celebrate one of their own or someone else's "life events" (a "Celebration Vacation") last year, with milestone birthdays (43%), milestone anniversaries (40%) and weddings (35%) topping the list. Not surprisingly, family travelers are also more likely to have traveled to attend a family reunion (34%).

Where would family travelers like to travel?
Domestically, family travelers are most interested in vacationing in Florida (53%), California (50%), Hawaii (44%), New York (31%), and Washington D.C. (28%). More specifically, they are interested in visiting the Hawaiian Neighbor Islands (73%) and national parks (71%) during the next two years, followed by Honolulu (69%) and Orlando (59%). Two-thirds (64%) of family travelers are also interested in taking a cruise during the next two years.

Fully one-third (32%) of family travelers took at least one international leisure trip last year. The foreign destinations they would like to visit most during the next two years include the Caribbean (31%), Europe (30%) and Mexico (21%).

Do family travelers take last-minute vacations?
Three out of ten (31%) family travelers took a "last minute" trip last year, departing an average of just 6 days after deciding to take the trip! Nearly two in ten (19%) purchased a travel service as a result of receiving an unexpected email from a travel service supplier that required an immediate response in order to book the featured price or promotional offer (a "flash sale"). More than four in ten (42%) of those who made such a purchase booked a complete vacation package.

What type of lodging accommodations do family travelers prefer?
Family travelers prefer a chain-affiliated (80%) than independent (20%) hotels/motels/resorts. Over one-quarter (27%) have stayed in a condominium resort as an alternative to a traditional hotel or resort while on vacation during the past two years. Slightly fewer (24%) stayed in a vacation home rental. Approximately half are interested in staying in a condominium resort (54%) or vacation home rental (51%) during the next two years.

What role do kids play in planning family vacations?
Children in family travel households play a very influential role in every aspect of family life, including planning vacations. Specifically, they plan what the family will do for fun in six out of ten (62%), and help plan vacations (48%) and plan when and where to dine out (46%) in almost half.

What are the social values of family travelers?
Family travelers tend to be the ones who organize social gatherings and bring everyone together in their circle of friends (60%). They are also more likely to agree that, despite the recession, they have grown closer to their families (84%). Fully nine out of ten (90%) family travelers describe themselves as "middle class" at heart and more than eight in ten (86%) feel they have done a good job making their household more fiscally responsible during the past two years.

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