The fall season for travel agents means the arrival of all the new glossy travel brochures. I had one of these new brochures sitting on my coffee table when a I saw a preview for the new season of my favorite TV show "Modern Family".
This got me to thinking....There seems to be a real disconnect out there between what the travel industry thinks about family vacations and reality.
Don't you just love the perfect hotel family from the glossy brochure, all dressed in white. This photo must have been taken prior to the breakfast buffet. I know if I had dressed my two daughters in matching white bikinis there would have been bickering and an assortment of ketschup, grape jam and egg stains within five minutes.
As a travel agent that caters to families, the biggest problem that I have with the resort photo here is that most hotels operate based on their own advertising illusions. Most hotels define a "family" as two adults and 2 kids under the age of 12. Now think about this...how many families that you know fit this description? This definition fails to address the needs and desires of today's modern families.
As a travel agent, vacation planning for this resort photo family is a complete no brainer. This family would fit into just about any hotel on the planet. Their kids would remain happy and sparkling clean while Mom and Dad enjoyed a round of golf followed by a romantic beach dinner...a complete story book.
In reality, most of my clients who come to Vacationkids looking for family vacation planning help are far more like the cast photo of Modern Family. Because everyone is so familiar with this popular show, let me use the cast to illustrate what goes on in my head when I look to help families plan Modern Family Vacations....
1. The Pritchett-Delgado Family - Grandparents, parents and expectant parents all rolled into one. They are wordly and sophisticated while enjoying the finer things in life. At the moment, Manny is an only child in serious need of interaction with his peers while entertaining his very mature outlook on life. With Gloria's pregnancy, vacation timing and activities would need to be top priorities.
2. The Dunphy Family - Families of five which are always a challenge when it comes to finding affordable family accommodations. Luke is now over 12 which means by hotel definition, they are classified as a family of five adults. Budget will certainly be called into issue here. My challenge as a travel agent will be finding sleeping space that allows 5 adults. Everyone will want some privacy but Claire and Phil must be able to keep a watchful eye on boy crazed Haley. Chances are Dylan may either tag along or show up which would turn them into a family of six adults. They will need plenty of teen friendly activities to keep the kids busy (and to keep Phil out of trouble).
3. The Tucker-Pritchett Family - If the new adoption goes thru then we'll be looking for a Gay friendly family vacation with baby care. Of course Lily will need toddler care activities complete with fashion design and clown school. We'll need a place that is stroller friendly as well as one that meets the high standards of helicopter Dad Cameron.
For those of you who are fans of the show, you know this Modern Family usually travels together. Whether it's Hawaii, a dude ranch or Disneyland with a leash they enjoy spending quality time together. Think about all of these needs each of these families and how to balance and blend this into a vacation for all. At least TV's Modern Family all live close to one another. With our real world clients, we're balancing all of family vacation wish lists along with flights to the Caribbean for Grandparents living in Boston, A family of five from Houston and the gay uncles from San Francisco.
The face of family travel is dramatically different from traditional hotel definitions, operations and advertising models. A few hotels chains have recognized this reality and have started moving into the 21st century. For the rest of hotels out there that call themselves family friendly, ask yourselves this question...why do you think this TV show is so popular? Yes, the cast and writers are talented but the truth is, Americans can relate to the characters and the dynamics here. Even though Modern family is a fictional TV show, it is still far more real to the face of family travel than the hotel brochure photo.
So where do you think we should send the Modern Family folks on their next family vacation?