Virtuoso recently released its 2019 Luxe Report, which details where, why and how families are traveling this summer.

The Influence of Gen Z
Among the trends is a growth in the influence of Gen Z when it comes to planning family vacations. One study puts Gen Z’s buying power at more than $500 billion as they take a more active role in making travel decisions. In addition to being more involved in the planning of trips, Virtuoso’s report also shows that Gen Z is persuading other family members to embrace active experiences, seeking out unusual destinations, and looking for high visual locations and activities to post on social media.

While trends show changes in how the seemingly worldlier-than-previous-generations children of today are impacting family vacations, travel advisor Lauren Goldenberg, founder of The Family Traveler, says not much has changed in her 20 years of booking family travel. “I find that Gen Z children influence their family vacation decisions much like generations past. Maybe there’s just more interest in making the moments more social media worthy,” she explains while also pointing to a rise in popularity of hands-on experiences to really engage the entire family. “I hear many decisions of destinations being made based on favorite school topics, entertainment, sports, hobbies and more.”

Travel Trends
According to this year’s Luxe Report, active and adventure trips have become more popular, rising into first place after settling as the number two trend last year. Multi-generational trips come in at number two as more travelers vacation with extended family members, and beach travel continues to be a favorite choice, coming in at number three on the list. Other trends that made the top 10 list are (in order): celebration travel, touring (guided or private), mother/daughter or father/son trips, cultural immersion, ocean cruising, educations trips, and river cruising.

“U by Uniworld, allowing adventure-seeking travelers ages 21 to 45 to experience Europe completely differently than they are used to…” says Bettridge.
Social media has become a major part of family travel.

Travel advisor Bonnie Clark, owner of Get Your Ears On! has found that her bookings follow similar trends to the findings of the 2019 Luxe Report. “I have seen a huge upswing in multi-generational vacations and extended families since I first started [as an advisor],” says Clark. “I have also booked educational-type family trips all over the world,” she adds also mentioning that many of these trips were booked with Adventures by Disney as the company provides perfect opportunities for both learning and family bonding.

Hottest Family Destinations
Italy has remained the family favorite destination for 10 years in a row, while Europe’s overall appeal is strong for family travel, with England, France, and Spain also appearing on the list.

Although top destinations may fluctuate or completely change throughout the years, Monica Harrington, a Travel Leaders agent with more than 30 years of experience, says, “families are still looking for fun in the sun and theme park-related vacations.” With Mexico and Hawaii ranking as the number two and three destinations for families, while Orlando, Florida comes in at number four, the Luxe Report findings match Harrington’s personal experience as well.

Walt Disney World family travel
Walt Disney World continues to be a popular vacation destination among families.

Clark also agrees that theme parks are a particularly popular choice for family travelers. “As the parent of a 19-year-old myself, I see that Gen Z is more apt to be thrill-seeking so Walt Disney World and Universal Studios are top choices for them. However, they still like to retain part of their childhood by riding attractions like they did when they were younger in Walt Disney World and visiting the Harry Potter attractions in Universal Studios,” she says.

Other destinations on the top 10 list include the Dominican Republic, known for its beaches, and Costa Rica and South Africa, which fall in line with the uptick in adventure travel.

Unconventional Family Destinations
Exploring new destinations is the top travel motivator in the Luxe Report, and seeking unusual places is a Gen Z priority, so families are searching for lesser-known and more remote parts of the world. Topping the list of “unconventional” destinations attracting family travelers are Iceland and the Galapagos Islands—both perfect destinations for adventure travel.

“I believe that more families will be looking for ‘outside’ the box vacations in the years to come. Visiting ruins in Mexico, exploring glaciers in Iceland or seeing castles in Ireland are just a few of these types of vacations,” says Harrington when asked about unconventional travel destinations. “It also seems that the younger families are wanting their children to experience more exotic adventurous destinations.”
Havana, Cuba.
Other countries and locations included in the list of top 10 unconventional family travel destinations include Antarctica, Morocco, Japan, Egypt, Bhutan, Rwanda, and India. While some travelers are confident enough to venture out to these farther-flung destinations, Goldenberg believes there will always be those travelers who prefer a bit of familiarity.
“Destinations that could become more popular for Americans include places that are similar to popular destinations in overall feel and comfort, but are still a new country or setting like Ljubljana and Lake Bled in Slovenia,” she says.
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