Family Travel Trends Interview with Nancy Schretter

What’s popular right now in family travel?

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Family travel has been the one bright spot for a lot of destinations, but where are families headed and how have the rules changed? This interview with noted family travel expert Nancy Schretter articulates some of the finer points of family travel.

“Families are heading on to beaches, lakes, mountain getaways and enjoying the great outdoors at state and national parks,” states Schretter. “People want to be outdoors enjoying each other. Those are the places that are really king right now.”

Destinations like the Outer Banks (buoyed somewhat by the recent Netflix series), scenic byways and coastal destinations like Destin, Florida are doing incredibly well. A lot of the national parks are also doing well.

Families are looking at the safest possible way to travel. They want to take camping trips, glamping. “RVs are having a field day, both rental and purchase,” comments Schretter. “Vacation rentals via Airbnb and VRBO are doing well this year,” comparatively speaking. Schretter adds that hotels and resorts that are focusing on safety are winning business as well.

As far as lasting trends, Schretter points out multiple families with kids around the same age are getting together and planning a vacation. With two or three families doing their quarantining and safety precautions, they are able to plan a group trip or book a vacation home together. It’s important to recognize how they are going to keep each other safe. “Right now it’s not just about how we are going to split the food cost, we want to travel with people that have the same approach as to how to stay safe,” says Schretter.

Consumers are also tightening the geographic radius of where they are traveling, planning trips where they can they can drive straight through with no bathroom stops.

When asked how cities and big attractions can win families back, Schretter comments, “Realistically it’s one of those things that are going to take a bit of time.” At the same time, she says that hotel chains are doing an incredible job of showcasing what they are doing to sanitize. But she adds that consumers are not just concerned about what the hotel or attraction is doing, but what fellow guests are doing.

“Transparency is very important,” Schretter says. “People want to visually see what the hotel and resort are doing to keep them safe. Very apparent hand-sanitizing stations. Hotels that put a seal outside of room doors once it’s been cleaned. Items encased in plastic, like TV remotes. Schretter also points out that flexibility is key, and just knowing that if something happens, a trip can be cancelled or rescheduled easily.

“One of the things I would commend hotels on doing is that some have put a welcome back area on their website showcasing what they are doing to welcome families back,” Schretter adds.

To lure families back, major cities focusing on that drive market can partner with local media or influencers who could visit and showcase on social media what people are doing. Schretter says, “It’s all about trust.”

As we get into the school season, this is very challenging for parents because many school systems are learning remotely. Parents are looking at what they can do with their children that’s going to be interesting, challenging and a great learning experience. Schretter points out that certain cities offer that by creating an environment that’s a great remote learning destination. She sites examples like Airbnb experiences and resorts that are hiring teachers to create learning experiences onsite.

While many destinations are hoping for a bounce back this holiday season, “that’s going to be one of those things that is going to be last minute. More are taking a wait-and-see approach,” states Schretter. She stresses that there’s an opportunity to re-imagine the holidays, and look to create private, custom, exclusive experiences for guests.