April’s #TWChats covered family travel. // © 2015 Thinkstock
Armed with the #TWChats hashtag and ample family travel expertise, travel agents, suppliers, journalists, bloggers and travelers joined TravelAge West and Travel Weekly on Wednesday, April 15, in discussing the flourishing family travel market.
The buzzing Twitter chat started at 3 p.m. EST/noon PST and lasted about an hour, reaching well over 1 million accounts and also garnering millions of impressions — with just the first 1,500 tweets. Top contributors included Beaches, Visit Florida and social media consultant and Travel Weekly contributor Carrie Finley-Bajak, who was also one of the chat’s organizers.
Co-hosts of the family travel-themed chat were able to receive questions early and invite their own networks to contribute to the banter. These family experts included AMResorts, Abercrombie & Kent, Avoya Travel, Beaches, CityPass, Family Travel Association, Family Vacation Critic, Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, Hilton Head Island Visitor & Convention Bureau, Iberostar Hotels & Resorts, Intrepid Travel, social media entrepreneur Lori Hardegree, Monograms, Nassau Paradise Island Tourism Board, Palladium Hotels & Resorts, Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, Sheraton Macao, Tourism Fiji, Travel Impressions, Trips with Angie, Vacation Express and Visit Philadelphia. Several family travel bloggers joined the Twitter party as co-hosts, including Amy Whitley of Pit Stops for Kids; Erin Gifford of Kidventurous; Keryn Means of Walking on Travel; and Sarah Pittard of Solo Mom Takes Flight.
The chat kicked off with a question from TravelAge West, asking attendees to name one destination or type of travel that people don’t realize is great for families. Many popular responses focused on tropical destinations, such as Fiji, the topic of Family Getaways’ recent cover story, Barbados and Bermuda.
Question No. 2 came from Travel Weekly. Participants gave their opinion of a major family travel trend, and Family Travel Association, Avoya Travel, Holland America Line, Trips with Angie and Whitley, among others, all noted the rise of multigenerational travel.
Abercrombie & Kent chimed in with, “In addition to multi-gen, we’re seeing 'beyond parents,' grandparents taking grandkids on trips sans parents.”
Another popular response was the rise of family trips incorporating elements of wellness travel.
The third question touched upon how family trips can come with their fair share of headaches. #TWChats participants tweeted some concerns parents often have when planning a trip, in addition to possible solutions. Keeping everyone happy seemed to be a trending apprehension, which encompassed meeting kids’ dietary needs and sufficient age-appropriate activities to keep kids entertained. “Hiring a travel agent” served as a frequent solution, along with utilizing kids’ clubs and/or a cruise or hotel’s concierge.
Family Travel Association asked about top tips for successful family travel to busy attractions or during peak periods.
Travel42, sister brand to TravelAge West and Travel Weekly, echoed many other chatters’ sentiments: “Take plenty of breaks, and plan loosely scheduled itineraries. Don't set yourself up for stress!”
One such break could be kicking back on a beach, as suggested by Tourism Fiji.
TravelAge West Assistant Editor Chelsee Lowe tweeted, “Don’t set crazy expectations. The smallest things please kids; no need for fireworks and roller coasters at every turn.”
Pools ranked at the top of the list for favorite travel amenities geared toward kids and parents.
Atlantis Paradise Island tweeted, “What could be a better amenity than 141 acres of waterslides & river rides? Kids & adults can't resist!”
Increased space was another favorite travel amenity, particularly when including in-room kitchenettes stocked with snacks and drinks for children.
Family experts also talked teen travel, as teenagers can typically be a difficult-to-please age group. Getting teens involved in prepping for a vacation was a widespread response.
Intrepid Travel tweeted, “Give the teen traveler some responsibilities planning the trip. Make them feel a part of the process.”
Wi-Fi access, preferably complimentary, was a standard must-have for traveling teens, too.
Finley-Bajak requested participants to divulge the can’t-live-without apps when traveling with the family, and answers ranged from travel organizing app TripIt; review apps such as TripAdvisor and Yelp; and map apps such as Google Maps. Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya and Monograms both recommended WhatsApp, a cross-platform mobile messenger without SMS charges.
For kid-friendly foods families should seek out on the road, AmaWaterways, Iberostar Hotels & Resorts and many others tweeted to choose dishes with local flavors and ingredients. Healthy eating was a recurrent response as well, though less healthy kid favorites such as gelato and ice cream were also popular.
The final question, asked by Travel Weekly Managing Editor Rebecca Tobin, was to share the best strategy for keeping parents sane on a family vacation. Remembering to relax and have fun, while setting aside grown-up time, was a resounding strategy — as was the assistance of free cocktails and wine.
Travel Impressions noted, “Don't sweat the small stuff or the tears. They'll only remember the good and the hilarious.”
Those who missed the April #TWChats can catch up on the family travel dialogue by searching #TWChats on Twitter. The next #TWChats will take place on Wednesday, May 13, at 3 p.m. EST/noon PST and enable participants to chat directly with top editors of consumer-travel publications.