As an agent, part of your role is to make overseas travel easier for clients. The amount of fun and relaxation they have depends on the arrangements and accommodations set up by you, but that equation changes drastically when children are involved. For some people, traveling to Europe can be intimidating, and traveling to Europe with young family members in tow can be even more so. Still, children are clearly common travel companions, as 170.1 million trips taken by U.S.-based families in 2004 included youth under the age of 18, according to the most recent data available from the Travel Industry Association.
Suppliers are certainly taking notice of this growing trend.
Perhaps the best and most recent example of this is Adventures By Disney, a
family-oriented tour operator launched in 2004 that now offers 12 packages to
destinations across the
Further evidence of the economic rule of supply reflecting
demand: At a press event in January, Adventures By Disney executives said that
trips are already close to capacity, the mark of a banner year for the company
now entering its third year. Executives also said new and expanded itineraries
will be announced by Labor Day and that Adventures By Disney is looking for
ways to tie
Take the Kids on a Cruise
Disney isn't the only tour operator meeting the needs of
families looking to cross the pond. Cruise lines, which always have catered to
roaming relations, are also placing special emphasis on their packages and
amenities geared toward families. "With both parents working now, there's
less quality time spent with the kids, so when they take vacations, they really
want the family to be involved together," says Vicki Freed, senior vice
president of marketing and sales for Carnival Cruises. "
Uniworld River Cruises recently debuted a nine-day
"Castles Along the Rhine Grand River Cruise," which sails the
From a value perspective, Carnival's Freed believes cruising is the way to go on a family vacation, given that food, entertainment, activities and onboard accommodations are all included. "Many times, families have to look at the dollars," Freed says. "We have very attractive rates for triples and quads, and we have very large cabins on our ship. The size of the stateroom plays an important role."
Finding the right hotel to accommodate a family also can be a hurdle, one Amie O'Shaughnessy knows about firsthand. An avid international traveler, O'Shaughnessy says she had a hard time finding appropriate accommodations after she had her first child. "I was so experienced I thought I could figure it out," she says, "but it's challenging to find child-friendly hotels online."
That challenge gave birth to the idea for Ciao Bambino!, an
online collection of family-friendly properties in Italy and France. The list
of properties used to be exclusively for travel agents, but O'Shaughnessy
recently opened it up to the public and instead employs three home-based agents
around the country to help families seeking more help in booking vacations to
"In terms of categories, we don't just look at hotels, we look at villas, resorts and apartments," O'Shaughnessy says. "Within that, it sometimes drives what you look for in a property. 'Baby-ready' is really about the parents."
Categories run the gamut from tiny tots to teens and include such requirements as a crib, a high chair and a room configuration that has two components, because "not everybody goes to sleep at 7 p.m.," O'Shaughnessy says. Plus, whereas "a toddler can be amused by a flat patch of grass, as they get older it's not that simple," she says, so Ciao Bambino! also rates hotels based on their proximity to attractions and well-known teen hang-outs.
Whether your client is looking to cruise or tour with their
family, what's most important is to ensure that the trip is age-appropriate. To
do this, Freed advises looking at the activities offered. Most trips, she says,
are appropriate for children ages 8 and over. "They're learning a lot
Clients can do a European trip with toddlers, so long as the operator offers a kids program. "Our children's program starts at age 2," Freed says of Carnival. "The older teens, ages 15 through 17, are in their own group, and they really find that to be so cool. It makes a big difference."
Though Freed cautions that parents shouldn't expect 3- or 4-year-olds to be able to handle a lot of heavy-duty touring, that doesn't mean such trips should automatically be ruled out.
"It's your enjoyment to have your children with you," says Chris Lytle, a travel consultant with Ciao Bambino! "You shouldn't consider the trip as an educational experience for them. They start becoming aware when they are three, four and five, and then the old cliché about seeing things through the eyes of your children comes to life."
Though it may seem that planning a family vacation takes a
lot of customization, the key, O'Shaughnessy says, is to keep in mind that most
families face the same challenges. "It doesn't matter if you're from