Kids and teens find travel inspiration on social media. // © 2015 iStock
Feature image (above): Experts agree that allowing children to help plan trips makes for a smoother journey. // © 2015 iStock
Gone are the days when a summer stroll past a brick-and-mortar travel agency inspired your next vacation — contemporary travelers are now just as likely to pick a destination based on YouTube videos, Instagram posts and online reviews as they are a slick poster or a friend or loved one’s personal recommendation. According to “The 2014 Traveler’s Road to Decision” study, commissioned by Google and conducted by marketing research firm Ipsos, travelers of all sorts continue to lean on online sources for trip ideas and research.
According to the study, when adults are traveling with children, a young person’s preferences often influence their family’s travel decisions. Of the study’s respondents, 58 percent of those with children named the Internet as their top-used resource for determining a vacation, and 41 percent said their children had a significant impact on travel decisions. In the 2015 MMGY Global “Portrait of American Travelers” study, a markedly higher 70 percent of families reported that their children have a say in planning.
“Kids now have more access to info, have more chances to know about the world and are more likely to ask to go to a particular place or to see something special,” said Steve Cohen, vice president of insights for MMGY Global, at this year’s TMS Family Travel Summit in Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit.
For Eileen Ogintz, founder of travel blog Taking the Kids and author of several children’s travel guides, considering your son or daughter’s likes and dislikes is common sense.
“Parents and grandparents know that if kids are happy on vacation, everyone will be happy,” Ogintz said. “Let the kids weigh in — they will be more cooperative if they don’t feel like they are being dragged along. Some adults might not realize that the kids will likely lead them in wonderful new directions.”
What They’re Using
A 2015 study from Pew Research Center focused on teenagers’ internet use found that 92 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds go online daily; 56 percent go online several times per day; and 24 percent say they’re online “almost constantly.” Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat top the social media website/app popularity chart. So when it comes to helping pick a vacation spot, it’s likely that children’s decisions are being swayed by peers on the same sites, in addition to television shows, advertisements and other media.
“Kids want to cruise with Royal Caribbean International because they see the climbing wall and the bumper cars,” Ogintz said. “This is why marketers spend so much time and money appealing to children — they know how much influence the kids have, not only with vacations but everything from the kind of cereal parents buy to the cars they drive. But most important, I think, is what the kids are talking about with their friends and what they are seeing on social media.”
What It Means for Agents
It’s no longer enough to get to know the parents who foot the travel bill, Ogintz says. You also need to get to know the kids, start thinking like a kid and market to them, too.
“Travel agents need to be able to offer videos, photos and more that show places from a child or teen’s perspective,” she said.
That might mean creating content that highlights a resort or cruise line’s kid-friendly activities and menus or a destination’s most appealing attractions for families.
Amy Whitley, mother of three and founding editor of travel blog Pit Stops for Kids, agrees that an agent’s social media strategy shouldn’t be put on the back burner.
“Having an online presence suggests expertise in a subject or destination, and travel agents definitely want to leverage themselves as experts,” Whitley said. “Having a social media presence also allows for more online conversations, which could lead to meaningful business interactions.”