American families set to hit the road

A whole bunch of American families are expected to travel this year—great news for us family travel bloggers and just about everyone else.

The stat comes from a recent survey report from AAA, which suggested that roughly 35 percent of American families will travel more than 50 miles away from home with at least two other family members in 2017.

The report was released earlier this week and included replies from 1,006 respondents. It also comprised a number of data points on the kind of trips family travelers plan to take. 

Leading the charge: the old-fashioned road trip (79 percent of respondents), national parks (51 percent), and theme parks (40 percent). Trips to international destinations (33 percent), guided or escorted tours (22 percent), and ocean cruises (20 percent) also made the list.

Drilling deeper, road trip numbers were 10 percent higher than last year—a curious finding, considering that gas prices are more than 50 cents higher than they were in February 2016. 

I wrote about the survey for AFAR, and a press release that hit wires Tuesday quoted an AAA executive as saying that Americans preferred the “structure and convenience” of group tours over the flexibility of a road trip. 

“Many tours are specially designed for multi-generational groups, plus there’s no better way to learn about a destination than from a knowledgeable, local guide,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA’s senior vice president of travel and publishing. 

Overall, survey data indicated that while the vast majority (70 percent) of respondents said they were planning to take one or two vacations this year, 28 percent of respondents said they would take three or more. AAA did not offer any explanations for this data, but it did note the number of frequent family travelers rose 13 percentage points over last year. That’s music to this dad’s ears.A

FTA Summit a smashing success

My mind is still spinning from this week’s Family Travel Association summit. The event was an overwhelming success.

I could regale you with hour-by-hour recaps of what we did and how it went, but I’ve already done that for the FTA blog here and here. I also could sum up the best and biggest moments of the week, but I’ve done that for AFAR.com here. Heck, if you really wanted to, you could check out the FTA’s Facebook page and listen to archived versions of my Facebook Live interviews with keynote speakers there.

Whatever you do, please follow up and read and listen and think more about family travel. The girls and I are headed to the coast for storm-watching and some R&R. Check back next week for more targeted impressions and more specific action items for the weeks and months ahead.

FTA Board of Advisors. I love these peeps.

FTA Board of Advisors. I love these peeps.

More cats, more cat videos

Another day, another video of our time at the Lana’i Cat Sanctuary. The latest video, an edited version of the original that appeared on AFAR.com, ran on AFAR’s Facebook page. The 50-second clip has no speaking, but with images and captions it gives a great sense of what the place is like.

To refresh your memory, we visited the Lana’i Cat Sanctuary last month during a four-day stay at Four Seasons Lana’i. The experience changed our lives. Especially for L and R.

Below you’ll find a screen shot. To see the whole video, click here.

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Why I hate Pokemon Go

All Pokemon, all the time

All Pokemon, all the time

Unless you’re completely off the grid, you’ve probably heard about this new augmented reality game called Pokemon Go. The augmented-reality game challenges players to explore the real world to capture virtual creatures they can see only when they look through their Smartphones.

People of all ages are going crazy for the game. In a matter of days exceeded Twitter as the most frequently used app in the United States. Usage in our country spiked so high so quickly that the game’s servers crashed (for a short while).

And users have been singing paeans to Pokemon all week. They love it because it gets kids off the couches at home. They love it because it increases fitness. They love it because it’s something fun to do together. They say it’s good for travel.

But I’m still a skeptic. Because it means seeing the world through a Smartphone screen.

I wrote about the issue for AFAR magazine, and in the article came out pretty strongly in favor of technology in moderation on a family trip. My reasoning: If the goal of travel is to connect with the people and heart and soul of a new place, it’s hard to accomplish that when you’re staring into a cell phone screen.

Where do you stand on this issue? Please read my piece and let me know.

Photo above by Yoshikazu Takada/Flickr

Family travel in AFAR

AFAR is paying attention. Are you?

AFAR is paying attention.

It’s always nice to see one of my clients give family travel some love, and I was especially tickled this week to read TWO separate pieces of content about traveling with kids in AFAR magazine.

(Full disclosure: I write a weekly column for AFAR titled “The View from AFAR.” It runs on Fridays.)

In the first effort, an article titled, “These Four Trends are Good News for Family Travel,” friend and editor Jeremy Saum recapped the highpoints of the recent Family Travel Association Summit in Montana. Saum boils down takeaways into easy-to-digest bullet points about why people should care about family travel at all. (In his last point, he quotes another one of my clients, from Expedia. Small and serendipitous world!)

In the second piece, a slide show titled, “Seven Outfitters for Kid-Friendly Treks,” the editors pulled together seven suggestions for outfitters worth patronizing when traveling with kids. I love that one of the picks in the slideshow is Country Walkers, which arranges walks all over the world. (In case you’re wondering, most of the treks in this slide show are for older kids.)

Both stories are worth a read; neither will take you more than five minutes to get through.

Learning about Learning on the Road

Who needs classrooms when you have this?

Who needs school when you have this?

Nothing embodies my perspective on education quite like the line from Springsteen’s “No Surrender” (off Born in the U.S.A., of course): “We learned more from a three-minute record, baby, then we ever learned in school.”

I certainly held this philosophy in journalism school; even then, I knew my parents were paying to hook me up with an alumni network, and that the real education would come on internships along the way.

Now, as a parent, my wife and I embrace the same sentiment with regard to family travel.

Yes, we regret pulling our kids out of their respective schools (click here for some tips). Yes, we recognize that, in terms of our nation’s standards-based curriculum, these absences create additional challenges (both for our girls and for the teachers). We even acknowledge that there are some social ramifications of our girls being “those girls” who jet off to Yosemite or New York or the Cotswolds.

Despite all of these issues, we still think exploring through travel is the best way to teach our kids about their world.

I’ve been pondering this subject a lot lately.

My wife and I are moving the girls to London for four months this fall, and, this week, we signed a lease on a fabulous two-story flat (it’s in Maida Vale, for those of you scoring at home).

Then, earlier this week, my buddy, Rainer Jenss, wrote this thought-provoking story for AFAR magazine about his experiences on a one-year round-the-world journey with his wife and sons (who were 8 and 11, respectively, at the time).

In the story, Rainer explains his rationale for pulling his kids out of school for the trip like this: “One of the primary reasons we chose to take a yearlong sabbatical with our kids was to enhance their education; to help them learn things no [school] could ever teach them.” Then, he offers this:

    “We all want our children to excel academically. One surefire way to improve their chances for success is to get them more engaged and interested in what they’re being taught. Science: Check out the glaciers at Yellowstone, hike a volcano in Hawaii, or snorkel in the Caribbean or the Great Barrier Reef. History: Visit Colonial Williamsburg, vacation in Rome, or tour Egypt. Social Studies: How about China, India, or, of course, Washington, D.C.”

To be clear: Turning family vacations into learning experiences takes hard work.

You can’t just sloth by the pool all day; you need to be engaged with your kids for pretty much all of their waking hours. You also often need to be engaged well after they’ve gone to bed. The day before I introduced L to Muir Woods National Monument near our home, I was up until 2 a.m. studying stuff to tell her about redwoods. I’m sure I wasn’t the first dad to play that game.

All of this effort usually pays huge dividends. My older daughter still talks about the Sequoia sempervirens she saw that day at Muir Woods. Rainer writes about how one of his sons fell in love with photography after being exposed to it on their year-long trip.

Heck, I think even The Boss would agree (that first record led to a few others).

So get out there. And embrace that learning can happen in any place, at any time, about any subject. Recognizing these truths arguably is the most important education your kids ever will get. It’s also not a lesson they’ll ever learn in the traditional classroom environment.

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