Written By: Heather Mikesell
After a year of social distancing from loved ones, family travel is making a comeback. While 2020 saw immediate family, those who live together, traveling by car to destinations somewhat close to home, 2021 looks to be much more promising for those who want to reunite with extended family members and venture farther afield. The pent-up demand for travel is evident in studies, such as Expedia’s 2021 Vacation Deprivation Study. Launched more than two decades ago, it was designed to highlight the benefits of vacation and unplugging from work.
Out of the 16 countries surveyed, the U.S. reported the fewest number of vacation days taken in 2020. It’s not surprising when you consider the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on domestic and international travel. As a result, 64 percent of U.S. respondents said they felt vacation deprived. Seeking to remedy that, many are now planning to make up for lost time and intend to take 13 vacation days this year, up from eight in 2020. The Expedia study also found that people want to reunite with loved ones. In fact, 64 percent consider their vacation time more valuable when spending quality time with family.
That is certainly the case for Kara Magliaro, a freelance art director in Westfield, NJ. Although 2020 had her and her family foregoing any travel plans, 2021 is an entirely different story. Now that she and her husband are fully vaccinated along with the two sets of grandparents, family travel is once again a priority. An increase in multigenerational travel is just one of the trends expected to emerge this year.
“Every year, and nearly every trip, we travel with both my parents and my husband’s parents,” says Magliaro. “They live nearby so they are always helping with childcare when needed, so we often treat them on a trip as a thank you for the help. Especially while the kids are young and our parents are still able to travel, it’s important to go together because I know in future years it won’t be possible.”
New York Times best-selling author Lisa Unger is also a fan of multigenerational travel. “It’s always been important to us, but maybe more so now that my parents are getting older, and the pandemic has kept us from seeing each other as often,” says Unger. “Family vacations are a good way to spend quality time together, building fun memories for my daughter, niece, and nephew. It’s one thing to visit each other at home—those visits all tend to run together in your mind, but sharing new experiences has such a high-energy vibration. Traveling to new places together as a family has created this mosaic of fun, active memories for my family.”
For Julie Keller Callaghan, co-founder of Well Defined, a wellness-related website, the year isn’t complete without at least one trip involving her parents and siblings. “Normally, we take a few trips as a family each year, hopping on a plane to visit family in Arizona or visit the beach,” says Keller Callaghan. “But last summer, when we were not yet vaccinated and didn’t feel comfortable flying, we drove from our home in Kansas City to Breckenridge, CO. My kids are young—seven and five—and had never been on a road trip or to the mountains.”
With her brother, his family, and their parents along for the ride, it turned out to be their best trip yet. “The kids loved being together in a new place and getting to bunk up with their cousins, and we did so many fun outdoor activities—hiking, kayaking, biking, feeding chipmunks, and more,” says Keller Callaghan. “I’ve never been a huge fan of driving vacations—I prefer the speed and convenience of flying—and I thought my high-energy kids would make it tough, but they were awesome, and we loved it. It was a trip we will never forget, and we definitely plan to do it again this summer.”
Because road trips are proving to be so popular among families, Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa, located in California’s San Bernardino National Forest, is offering a special Road Trip Package that highlights the “must-see” experiences en route to Lake Arrowhead, such as Red Rock Lookout, which features stunning views of Southern California; the March Air Museum; the Beer Bottle Chapel; and the Cabazon Dinosaurs, an iconic roadside attraction. Upon arrival at Lake Arrowhead, families can focus on reconnecting with nature and each other.
Destinations that involve plenty of outdoor activities are also appealing to families who are looking to reunite for a long overdue getaway. In Colorado, the Tivoli Lodge in Vail Village provides the perfect home base to take advantage of rafting, kayaking, fishing, hiking, biking, horseback riding, and more. Fun for the entire family can be found at Epic Discovery, which offers a host of summer activities, such as the Forest Flying Mountain Coaster, Game Creek Zipline Tour, Paramount Peak Climbing Wall, Gore Range Adventure Course, and Bungee Trampoline.
“One of the things I want to carry with me after this year-long pause is the knowledge that the moment is all we have,” says Unger. “We can plan our trips, of course, make the reservations, find the best excursions, restaurants, spas, etc. But ultimately, until your feet are on the ground in the destination, there’s no way to know how the trip will unfold.” This summer, Unger and her family, including her parents, her brother, and his two children, are planning a trip out West with stops in Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico. According to her, spending time in nature has become more important since the pandemic.
While the mountains certainly call to some, for others, it’s all about the beach. Turtle Bay, located on Oahu’s North Shore, is one of those bucket-list destinations that families are flocking to for the beautiful scenery and family friendly activities, such as surfing, horseback riding, whale watching, and more.
At Hawks Cay Resort on the secluded island of Duck Key in Florida, families can soak up the sunshine and make new memories. From swimming with dolphins and snorkeling to paddle boarding and enjoying a group sunset cruise, there is no shortage of activities to appeal to every family member, even if it means lounging by the pool for some. The resort also offers vacation rentals, which is another great option for families vacationing together. Hawks Cay’s private villas, available with two, three, or four-bedrooms, feature all the comforts of home. They also offer families the option to cook meals in a full kitchen, a much more economical option than eating every meal out. Some villas even come with their own plunge pool.
Fully furnished resort homes are also available at The Equinox Golf Resort & Spa in Manchester Village, VT and Snow King Resort in Jackson, WY. These four-season resorts provide the perfect playground for adventure-seeking families to unwind and recharge. A home away from home, they’re ideal for families who want or need more room than a typical hotel room or suite provides.
“Traveling with family, and children especially, means that flexibility is the key to enjoyment,” says Unger. “Rigid agendas and high expectations are a recipe for misery. We know what we hope to do in each of the places we visit—hiking, yoga, rafting, visiting national parks—but whatever we wind up doing will be more than enough.”
Making up for lost time, families are rediscovering the joy that comes from spending time exploring the world and connecting with each other in person. “Prior to the pandemic, I took for granted that I could see my parents whenever I wanted,” says Unger. “I don’t take as many things for granted any longer—not my family or our ability to all travel together.”