How to turn your next vacation into a once-in-a-lifetime expedition
Way to go, millennials!
Kudos to your parents for passing on their love for travel. Now, though, you aren't waiting to take your kids on adventures -- even to places like Antarctica, once the purview of senior citizens.
"Antarctica is at the top of their list," said Todd Smith, CEO of AdventureSmith Explorations, who is seeing growing numbers of millennials and millennial families opting for those bucket list trips.
Millennial families, according to the new 2016 MMGY Portrait of American Travelers, are more likely than millennial couples or singles, to travel internationally, said Steve Cohen, who oversees the agency's industry research, including the Portrait of the American Travelers. Cohen detailed the new findings at the recent TMS Family Travel Summit, which I co-chair, the focus of which is Millennial Family Travel.
An astounding 64 percent of millennial families polled took an international vacation in the last year, Cohen said, and they are more likely to visit a new destination. "They want bragging rights."
That could be why, according to the Adventure Travel Trade Association, most tour operators (72 percent) say they are addressing more itineraries to meet the needs of families, especially as the average age of adventure travelers is 36. National Geographic Expeditions, for example, touts a Kid-to-Kid Connection, which links every young traveler with a pen pal of similar age. They have the chance to meet during the trip.
That includes Antarctica. Abercrombie and Kent, and others, has initiated a family trip to Antarctica and to the Galapagos Islands. They certainly don't come cheap. The Abercrombie and Kent family Antarctica trip this December starts at more than$13,000 per person (half off for kids up to 18), though many other international trips can be had for a third of that price.
But if you have the bucks (or grandma and grandpa do) such trips can be life-changing for children, tour operators say. "I'm living proof of that," said Eric Andrews, 42, who works for Quasarex in Quito, Ecuador. He said it was a trip to the Galapagos with his family when he was a teen that started him on the road to becoming a biologist, a dive master and cruise director there. "Especially as a cruise director, I saw first-hand so many other examples of the amazing and positive impact and influence that the Galapagos has on families and especially children. It is safe, it is the definition of unique, it is immersive, it is active, it is educational, it is a bonding experience."
It's key to choose the right trip for your family, Todd Smith said. Does anyone in your group have mobility issues? Food allergies?
The Galapagos, for example, really isn't suitable for kids younger than eight. He noted they turned down a couple who wanted to book an Antarctica trip with their baby, because the trip wasn't designed for young children. Choose a trip designed for families with special activities and guides, if possible. It also helps if you know there will be other kids on the trip around the same ages as your children.
For all of you millennial families out there who are anxious to take your kids to far-flung destinations, here are five ideas you might not have considered:
For those who love getting on their bikes -- BikeToursPortugal has been hosting more families in a country that not only is safe, culturally rich but affordable, compared to others. "Our country is still very safe and peaceful and people are warm and friendly," promises the company's Joana Sousa. Closer to home, check out Bicycle Adventures with family trips to Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands, among other places.
South Africa right now is increasingly affordable, thanks to a favorable exchange rate. It also offers the chance to see "The Big Five" on safari, explore Cape Town and for grown-ups, sample great wine.African Safari Company is family owned and family trips can include activities like drumming lessons and child-friendly wineries. Trips can start at under $2,000 per person.
See the belugas and polar bears, depending on when you travel with Frontiers North, a family-owned company that has been offering wildlife adventures in Canada's North for more than 40 years. One of the most popular destinations is to Churchill, Manitoba, which is focused on polar bears, beluga whales and northern lights. Because of the strong dollar and interest from American families, specific family-focused trips are being planned for 2017.
An easier Machu Picchu Mountain Lodges of Peru is offering a new multi-activity Lares Adventure to Machu Picchu, as an alternative to the traditional Inca Trail, offering hikes and daily activities through some of the most pristine and culturally traditional corners of the Peruvian Andes. "It's a rare day one can hit the trail near Machu Picchu without seeing another hiker, but we do," promises the company's Nadia Le Bon. She adds that this was designed as a more flexible, less physically demanding itinerary. "You can take the kids for easy to moderate hikes, let them join a cooking class, hang out with friendly alpacas or visit a traditional village with local weavers," she said. "And at the end of the trip, you get to see the mystical Sanctuary of Machu Picchu." All-inclusive rates for a five-night trip start at $2,250 for adults, 20 percent less for kids.
Explore the Amazon with International Expeditions, which is currently offering discounts as much as $1,200 on certain summer voyages. Summer months are ideal for family exploration because the lower water levels allow for more hiking and more concentrated wildlife populations and even fish for piranha. Families get acquainted with ribereno (river people) culture on visits to a local village and its school. Rates start at under $3,600 per person.