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Planning a family vacation can be a stressful situation, which sometimes entails conducting multiple searches to find the right family-friendly hotel, entertaining grumpy children during flights or compromising on an itinerary to make everyone else happy. According to a recent survey conducted by MasterCard, 89 percent of Americans get stressed out by organizing family vacations.
“The numbers might have been higher than we expected, but the results were not surprising,” says Beth Adams, vice president of MasterCard Travel Services.
Fifty-seven percent of families are stressed by getting to and from airports, 50 percent by deciding on a location, 49 percent by creating a fun itinerary and 44 percent by securing family-friendly accommodations. The data also suggests that a sizable percentage of U.S. adults have gone on a family vacation that they wish they could re-do.
“We plan to do this survey again next year to look at trends,” Adams says. “But what we learned from qualitatively interviewing family captains in the past was validated quantitatively by this research.”
Conducted by Omnibus, the telephone survey focused on American “mass affluent families,” which MasterCard defines as couples with children or multigenerational households that earn $100,000 to $300,000 a year. The findings reflect the responses of two national probability samples, composed of 1,006 adults.
Another key finding was that people without travel plans were more likely to be stressed out by the task of planning a trip versus those who were already in their vacation planning process. However, stress among both populations is high, with 75 percent in the former category reporting stress and 66 percent in the latter.
And it’s no wonder that so many find the planning process daunting. According to a 2013 Expedia Media Solutions and Millward Brown study, individuals in the U.S. visit an average of 38 different travel sites within the 45 days leading up to actually making a booking.
“As a full-time working mother of three, I can attest that the facts in this survey are absolutely true for me,” Adams says. “It’s very difficult to plan family travel and makes sure everyone is happy.”
To address these concerns, MasterCard provides various travel services to its cardholders, including Priceless Cities, which offers unique experiences in various cities, and Airport Concierges, which help families through the airport process.
“I think this data will certainly help travel agents understand the family traveler and give them data to help provide memorable experiences,” Adams says.
Ryan McGredy, president of Moraga Travel in Moraga, Calif.,, decided to specialize in family travel because of his own troubles organizing vacations for his family.
“I’ve got four kids, ages 6 and under, who I travel with,” he says. “We struggle with all of those things. You look online, but you just don’t get the information you need to feel confident that you’re making the right decisions for your family.”
He says the data illustrates that families are an underserved market with a lot of potential for agents.
“Many travel agents head toward the luxury business, but a family trip in the premium category can rival a luxury trip for two people, in terms of what you make on commission,” he says. “And it’s a broader market — there are a lot more families looking to travel than there are affluent people.”
According to McGredy, business within the family-sector quickly snowballs due to word of mouth and families’ tendencies to travel together.
So what makes a successful family travel agent?
“Over-plan,” McGredy says. “Setting reservations and taking care of transportation are important when a parent is dealing with his or her child having a hard time sleeping in a strange place.”
But it’s also important not to make schedules that are packed too tightly or require a stringent timeliness for the family.
“Kids are unpredictable, so you need to put gaps in the itinerary,” he adds. “Also, you might fall in love with an itinerary, but then you’ll get a call from a client whose son suddenly wants to do something else. So, you want to be flexible in the planning process, too.”