A Family Affair: Is this the Next Generation of Travel?
As lockdown restrictions ease and countries begin to reopen their borders, we’re saying farewell to solo travel and bringing the entire family along for our next trip.
17 June, 2020
Group getaways usually consist of grabbing your least flaky friends, forcing them into a WhatsApp chat and hoping you figure out somewhere to book before you're muted - or worse, they leave the group.
Yet right now, I can't help but focus on the fact that I've spent a record 84 days without coffee dates with my mum or Zara spending sprees with my nan. That's why summer plans with my Formentera-loving girl gang have been replaced by one with the two leading ladies in my life. As soon as we can, we're escaping to the Highlands - it'll be our first holiday together since I learned to swim without armbands.
I'm not alone. Since Zoom pub quizzes and virtual birthday barbecues have replaced IRL facetime, we're all hankering for a dose of much-needed quality time with our nearest and dearest. Elderly and at-risk relatives have spent the past three months shielding, family members have found themselves bravely working on the frontline and with close-contact practically being deemed illegal, the longing to reunite has quite naturally fiercened. To see it, you only have to look at the emotional embraces between reuniting relatives as people enter their new "support bubble". It's true what they say, sometimes you just need your mum.
Multigenerational travel has already on the rise before the pandemic. Virtuoso, a global luxury travel network, cited cross-gen holidays as the top travel trend every year since 2016. A recent study conducted by Visit Britain found that 62 per cent of people surveyed have already taken a multigenerational trip or would strongly consider one. Way before COVID-19 crushed our collective travel plans, families were already using milestone birthdays, anniversaries and big life events as an excuse to plan epic getaways - surviving a global pandemic surely fits into the latter.
The rise in multigenerational travel is a family affair in which everyone can play their part. Baby boomers are retiring earlier with more freedom (read: income) to spare, Gen X are fitter, more active and hungrier for holidays, while millennials and Gen Z are battling it out as to who craves adventure more. With people living farther away from their families and as our lives become more pressurised, our need to switch off, log off and reconnect grows. Add to this a cash-strapped cohort of Gen Z and millennials leaning on the bank of mum and dad (and grandma and grandpa) and you've got all the components for a harmonious family trip… provided that nobody whips out the Monopoly board.
As travel plans start to form on the horizon, we're realising that we're more ready than ever to embark on trips with the whole family in tow. Self-catered accommodation that can be taken over by whole families - off-grid cabins, rural farmhouses and hidden cottages - beckon. Plus, with working-from-home fully integrated into our day-to-day, clashing plans and prior commitments are no longer a hurdle to overcome. In short, we're a lot more flexible; there are no airport arrivals to navigate and higher-risk family members are easily catered to. Suddenly, the planning part of the escapade doesn't seem so daunting.
The new normal has shifted and our travelling priorities - sentimentally, socially and sustainably. Even before the coronavirus crisis, 84 per cent of millennials surveyed on multigenerational travel agreed that "difficult times have helped me focus on the things that matter in life". Family matters - and never more so than it does now. We've learned that slowing down is ok and checking in with our loved ones is more important than making that 5pm spin class or squeezing in one last prosecco before boarding the train. All the things that were once cluttering up our calendars and flagged as important now pale in comparison.
Having your parents join you on a journey is no longer naff but a necessity. We're navigating this new travel landscape by making up for months of lost memories with calendars filled with plans to make new ones.
If home is where the heart is, then I'm transplanting my family to a coastal crash pad - and inviting the extended relatives too.