“It is too much work to travel with the little ones.” I hear this all the time from parents. With the spring break travel season upon us, I thought it befitting to address this topic now. As both a travel agent and a parent of small children, I do not believe there is a one-size-fits-all solution to this common objection to family travel. However, I firmly believe that travel provides excellent opportunities for families to be together, away from their everyday routine. I feel safe in saying that if there weren’t others who felt the same way, family travel wouldn’t exist as an established niche of the travel industry.
What troubles me is that despite the litany of family-friendly travel options, accommodations, and activities, combined with an endless array of baby and child travel gear, so many parents are still of the mindset that traveling with children involves too much “work.” Speaking as a parent, I fail to see how anyone who truly wants to enjoy a trip with their family can see time spent with their children as “work.” Speaking as a travel agent, what I would like to figure out is exactly what we as travel professionals need to do to convince potential clients that they need not see family travel opportunities as such drudgery, but instead as the wonderful experience it can be.
Beyond the regular intake and recommendation process, here are a few thoughts to consider as you work with families considering traveling with children:
• Cover all your bases. Having initially started my agency to serve the travel needs of adoptive families, I quickly learned how common it is for people to have never traveled anywhere before, as well as how apprehensive they might often be. If a family travel client fits the bill of a very novice traveler, walk them through their trip step-by-step, in as detailed a manner as possible. The more they know to expect, the better, even if it seems mundane to you. Clients will appreciate your thoroughness and willingness to provide helpful information. Besides, they will let you know if you are being too basic.
• Teach your clients to pad their travel timetable. Travel pros know to plan for the unexpected, and when and where we might expect lines. When it comes to family travel, advise your clients to pad all their travel plans to allow for the extra time needed to keep the kids happy, get through airport check-in, security, immigration, customs, and baggage claim. Nothing tends to ruin a trip faster than the stress of rushing around.
• Help your clients see how their destination is suitable for all travelers. Regardless of the type of trip or destination, family travel clients often need to see that there are a variety of ways for all members of the family to enjoy themselves. For example, some members of the family might enjoy an early morning jog before breakfast, everyone could spend time together at a pool or theme park, and some of the adults might enjoy golf, tennis, scuba diving in the afternoon if the kids need a nap. Later, the whole family could enjoy dinner and a show afterwards.
• Go the extra mile. Do whatever you can to help make your clients’ travels easier or more enjoyable. Request a crib for their room if they need one. Make sure the resort, cruise line, or restaurant knows if they need a highchair or booster seat. If they have a child with food allergies, notate this so that the staff will know to speak to the parent. If you have international guests, make sure the youth activities staff has someone on hand who speaks their native language to accommodate the children. On a recent group cruise, I walked a French-speaking parent and her daughter to the youth activities center to help register the child, and explained the program and the ship’s offerings. These efforts don’t cost you anything, and will show the client that you genuinely care about their family’s experience, and may well earn you their repeat business.
Adrienne Mitra is the owner of Celebrations International Travel, Inc., an independent agency focused on serving a number of niche markets, including culinary travel, cruises, tours, and group travel. Phone: (480) 272-6020. Web: www.celebrationsinternationaltravel.com. Email: email@example.com. Twitter: @CelebrationsInt