Family travel is a $160 billion industry. However, the number of parents intending to travel with children is down for the third year in a row due to rising costs. That’s according to the 2019 Family Travel Survey—a collaboration between the NYU School of Professional Studies Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality and the Family Travel Association (FTA) that is now in its fifth year of publication. This year’s survey polled a total of 1,580 parents and 1,168 grandparents. Below are five family travel trends highlighted in this year’s survey.
1Family Travel Intent Declines
When the survey was first conducted in 2015, 93 percent of parents indicated that they were planning to travel with their family in the coming years. Since 2017, that percentage has decreased. Seventy-seven percent of respondents have traveled with their children in the past three years. This year, only 70 percent of parent respondents reported intentions to travel with their children in the next few years.
2Affordability Remains an Issue
The average annual spending on family travel across parent respondents was $3,835. The median amount was $2,435. Eighty-two percent of parents surveyed agreed that the cost of travel is the main reason they forego taking family vacations. Affordability is also a major reason why parents with access to paid vacation days do not use more of them for family travel.
“Parents know family vacations are very important, but the strain of paying for travel weighs heavily on the American household budget,” said Lynn Minnaert, academic director and clinical associate professor at the Tisch Center of Hospitality, who served as the lead researcher for the survey.
3Multigenerational Travel Is on the Rise
On a more positive note, according to the survey, “Gramping” or skip-generational travel is a growing travel option for families. The survey examined two types of travel with grandparents: skip-generational travel (grandparents traveling with their grandchildren, without the parents present), and multigenerational travel (travel with grandparents, parents, and grandchildren). One of the key findings is that skip-generational travel is more common and often takes the form of shorter trips. In contrast, multigenerational travel occurs less frequently, but the average spending on these types of vacations is usually higher because of their longer duration.
More than half (53 percent) of the parents surveyed have taken a multigenerational trip in the past and 65 percent of them plan to take or would consider taking a multigenerational trip in the future. These vacations are usually organized by the parents and grandparents together, and the costs are typically shared.
Participants in multigenerational travel also are less likely to use online booking tools than participants in skip-generational travel (20 percent vs. 33 percent). Sixteen percent of parent respondents have used a travel agent to plan and book a trip in the past three years. Of the grandparent respondents, 8 percent have used a travel agent to plan and book a skip-generational trip in the past three years.
Grandparents, on average, value amenities for children more on skip-generational trips than parents do on family vacations (72 percent vs. 65 percent). Grandparents on skip-generational trips are twice as likely to worry about keeping the children safe and healthy while traveling compared to parents (42 percent vs. 21 percent).
“In the instance of skip-generational travel, there is a stronger focus on activities and attractions, and grandparents tend to worry more about keeping the children safe and healthy during their time away,” Minnaert explained. “Multigenerational travel is more about enjoying quality time as a family—beach and lake/mountain vacations are more common with accommodations that include kitchen facilities for families to prepare and eat meals together.”
Rainer Jenss, founder of the Family Travel Association, added, “Today’s grandparents are taking advantage of the fact that they are living healthier, longer lives, and are vacationing with their grandkids, either traveling with their children and grandchildren, or giving parents time off by taking their grandkids away themselves.”
4Parents and Grandparents Mostly Use Facebook
For parents, Facebook is the most commonly used social media platform (79 percent), followed by Instagram (60 percent) and Pinterest (52 percent). Only 9 percent of parent respondents are not active on any social media. For grandparent respondents, Facebook also is the most commonly used social media platform (78 percent), followed by Instagram (42 percent) and Pinterest (32 percent). Seventeen percent of grandparent respondents are not active on any social media.
5Asian-American Families Tend to Spend More on Travel
The survey also indicated that Asian-American families are emerging as a strong segment for family travel. These families tend to spend more on family travel, and are more likely to increase their spending on both domestic and international travel.