“While we are concerned about Covid, we also know we only have one life to live. We are deciding to still travel while trying to take as many precautions as possible. Wipe things down, wear our masks, wash our hands, change our clothes immediately after getting to a destination so that we don’t infect locals, etc.,” says Bébé Voyage member Christine Burnham.
Until recently, stating this penchant for travel may have been taboo. However, a March 2021 survey conducted by Bébé Voyage, the experts in supporting travel-loving families with small children, confirms that this is a wider trend.
97% of the survey’s respondents are very worried or somewhat worried about Covid-19 when it comes to travel, yet two thirds of them took a trip during the pandemic. More than half spent at least one week away from home, with the longest trip being 45 days away!
During normal times, this cohort tends to favor air travel, but for these recent family trips during the pandemic, 75% of respondents traveled by car instead.
When asked what was the primary motivation for this pandemic trip, 52% said taking a break, 31% responded to visiting family and friends, and 14% stated discovering a new destination.
So what does all this tell us? During a year of lockdowns and social isolation, families needed to find coping mechanisms. And getting a change of scenery seems to be key. This means that family travel has the potential to be a serious player in the travel and tourism recovery, as corroborated by these McKinsey and Accenture reports. Considering that 79% do NOT need to save up money for travel and 70% want to go on a bigger trip because they already have the money to do so, this segment is not to be overlooked.
Jennifer Ponder states, “I feel more comfortable doing closer domestic travel in the short term, prioritizing trips by car or with no-layover-flights and where we can rent a house to stay in.”
Considering a third of families are planning their next trip for May 2021 and half for June to September 2021, destinations that can address families’ needs are likely to win out. Overwhelmingly, families are looking for more nature and outdoor destinations. However, 70% are also looking for destinations with good healthcare infrastructure and are prioritizing destinations with high Covid vaccination rates. If city websites and tourism boards, make this information easily accessible, they are likely to win some visitors. Especially since 81% want to go to a destination they’ve never been to before.
When it comes to bookings, two thirds are planning several months ahead, yet 89% want flexible bookings (i.e. free last minute cancellation). As for accommodations, 44% prefer staying in vacation rentals, 34% have no opinion, 11% staying in hotels, and the rest are planning on staying with family and friends.
In the short term, respondents echo Carolyn Caselli’s sentiment, “I am much more likely to travel domestically now, rather than internationally.” Rebecca Redfern adds, “We will restrict our movements and will not fly until vaccinated (children excepted).”
This is related to families’ concerns about how their unvaccinated children will be treated. No one wants to quarantine in a hotel room for 2 weeks with small children. Policies for unvaccinated children coming from abroad seem to be stricter than those for domestic travelers.
“For bigger international trips, we’ll wait until we’re vaccinated and for public health officials to lift travel restrictions. At that point, we’ll prioritize trips in locations that are handling COVID well and that have shorter flights,” says Jennifer Ponder.
“We need to be very careful traveling to lower-income countries where vaccines aren’t going to be as widely available as higher-income countries,” cautions Elizabeth Doerr. “I’m really afraid that a lot of westerners are going to think ‘Well, I’m vaccinated, I can go anywhere,’ but they could still be a part of causing covid-related harm to communities that are often overlooked by these kinds of medical advances.”
These are the results of the first travel survey conducted by Bébé Voyage. We will continue to track how Covid is impacting travel for families with small children each quarter of 2021, and beyond if necessary. For more information or press inquiries, please contact Marianne.