6 Family Travel Trends to Watch in 2017

As you gather with family for the winter holidays, now is the time to start to plan adventures for the coming year. The recent Family Travel Association Summit in Tucson, Arizona, discussed how parents, more than ever, are looking to bond together as a family through travel. Extended families are traveling together on multi-generational trips with grandchildren to celebrate milestones or explore ancestral history, and these trips are a valuable part of our children’s education. Here are six trends on the rise, according to Family Travel Association experts.

Family Travel Association

Rainer Jenss, President & Founder of the Family Travel Association, welcomes delegates to the FTA Summit, photo by Andy Austin

History-Driven Trips

The dominant story of 2016 was the U.S. presidential election. Now that the election is over, perhaps you and the kids are making plans to visit the nation’s capital for the Presidential Inauguration on January 20, 2017. Inauguration Day includes the traditional parade, concerts and inaugural balls. And for those looking for an escape from inauguration weekend, Philadelphia offers plenty of places to celebrate America’s history. The new Museum of the American Revolution, which will display thousands of artifacts including many items owned or used by George Washington, will debut in spring 2017. A top highlight of the museum will be Washington’s Revolutionary War command center headquarters tent. A new guided trip from Adventures by Disney, the company’s group tour division, bundles Philadelphia and Washington, District of Columbia together, so families can see where the Declaration of Independence was signed before touring of the U.S. Capitol.

Jefferson Memorial Washington DC

An Interest in Exploring America’s National Parks

Will Shafroth, president and CEO of the National Parks Foundation, recently called America’s national parks “our common ground.” Certainly, the National Park Service’s 2016 centennial celebration proved American’s love affair with our national parks is as strong as ever. At the Family Travel Association Summit, the National Park Service’s Estee Rivera Murdock said the Find Your Park campaign will continue past the centennial year. Notable parks to visit in 2017 include Alaska’s Denali National Park, which will celebrate its centennial in the New Year, Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park, which turns 55 next year, Dry Tortugas National Park in the Gulf of Mexico, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2017.

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park, Tucson, AZ, photo by Dave Parfitt

Families Are Seeking Vacations Where They Can Disconnect to Reconnect

According to findings from the American Academy of Pediatrics, American children spend much less time playing outside versus an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including phones, computers, televisions and other digital devices. Parents are opting for meaningful outdoor experiences for their children, and a number of companies are creating nature-based vacations. UnCruise Adventures, a small-ship cruise line, takes 80 to 100 people on weeklong immersive trips to places like Alaska, the Galápagos and Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. Sarah Scoltock, director of communications at UnCruise Adventures said there’s a number of first-time experiences for kids on these vacations. “Parents enjoy the big moments such as seeing a humpback whale breach,” Scoltock explains. “While kids like the small things such as licking a slug or learning about lichen – small things make a big impact on the kids,” she adds. Outdoor Adventure River Specialists (also known as O.A.R.S.) has created transformative, life-changing outdoor trips through the American West since 1969. “Kids that experience nature before the age of 11 are more apt to grow up caring about nature to inspire the next generation of stewards of the land, kids need to experience it,” says Steve Markle, vice president of sales and marketing at O.A.R.S.

UnCruise Adventures

Relax with the family on a piece of glacial ice, photo courtesy UnCruise Adventures

Families Want to Experience New Cultures

A study presented at the Family Travel Association Summit revealed that over half of parents want to expose children to new destinations and cultures. “I’ll never forget a multi-regional trip through Europe with our sons,” says John Miller, president of travel provider Grand European Travel. “We explored all the major highlights, from London and Paris all the way down to the ruins of Pompeii. The entire trip was filled with educational experiences, and stands out in our family travels,” Miller adds. Travel should be an essential part of every child’s education, and an important way to understand diverse people, cultures and differences. Taking kids to an international destination is a perfect way to broaden and elevate their global perspectives. Grand European Travel has a number of itineraries designed specifically for families, including a “Gladiators, Gondolas & Gold” tour in Italy, a “Castles & Kilts” tour in Great Britain and a “Monkeys, Jungles & Volcanoes ” tour in Costa Rica.

Mosaic Scene in the Roman Colosseum

Mosaic Scene in the Roman Colosseum

River Cruises Will Cater to Families

Formerly catering to well-off retirees, today’s river cruises are attracting more families with their small, intimate ships, extended time in port for leisurely exploration and the ability to travel across a continent without touching a suitcase. Plus, river cruises offer the chance to explore tucked-away destinations and enjoy immersive experiences aboard and ashore. Venerable river cruise line AmaWaterways has partnered with Adventures by Disney and Tauck River Cruises has developed multiple itineraries specifically for families. “Travel is part of life’s curriculum,” says Chris Greco, brand manager of Tauck River Cruises. These river cruise itineraries are designed to optimize fun, enriching and engaging activities for all family members. In the U.S., American Cruise Lines specializes in river cruises along the Mississippi, Hudson, Columbia and Snake rivers as well as coastal sailings in New England, Alaska and more.

2017 Adventures by Disney Itineraries

Adventures by Disney Rhine river cruise itinerary, image courtesy Adventures by Disney

Families Will Visit the Caribbean, Central America, and Europe in 2017

Research presented at the Family Travel Association Summit revealed the most popular region for family travel is the Caribbean and Central America, with Europe close behind. Costa Rica continues to appeal to families with its stable democracy, rich biodiversity and variety of natural resources and activities. And in Europe, London is an especially enticing choice for kids, particularly for those travelers with youngsters obsessed with Harry Potter. There’s J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” playing at the Palace Theatre and “The Making of Harry Potter” at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour. Finally, for an international adventure closer to home, our neighbor to the north, Canada, is celebrating its 150th birthday in 2017 with events and celebrations across the country throughout the year.

The Making of Harry Potter tour

The Making of Harry Potter exhibit at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London

A version of this article originally appeared on U.S. News & World Report and MSN.com. For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.