With more kids eligible for vaccines, here’s how families are approaching 2022 travel

Nov 3, 2021

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Parents around the country breathed a collective sigh of relief when the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was officially approved for use in kids ages 5-11 by both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The pandemic changed nearly every aspect of families’ lives, from school to visiting family to travel. For some, travel came to a standstill for what is approaching almost two years. Others opted for road trips over air travel or found solace in the great outdoors, where social distancing was less of an issue.

In a 2021 survey conducted by the Family Travel Association, only 44% of respondents took a family vacation in 2020, a 26% drop from the previous year. Of those who did travel, more than half made changes to their original plans, while other families postponed or canceled their trips altogether.

After cost, it was COVID-19-related safety concerns and travel restrictions that were keeping families at home. Respondents in that survey who weren’t planning to travel in the next 12 months shared that they were less likely to do so because everyone in their family wasn’t vaccinated at that time.

But things are changing. Vaccines are now available for those ages 5 and up and travel restrictions are loosening in many parts of the world. As we approach 2022, the future of family travel is bright (don’t forget to pack your kids’ shades).

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There’s already an uptick in family travel demand for 2022

Chris Hsi, head of market research at Tripadvisor, told The Points Guy via email that, based on a recent holiday travel survey and Tripadvisor site activity, “Our current statistics are showing a favorable upswing in family travel for 2022 with families looking to book vacations both nationally and internationally.”

This lines up with survey results from the FTA, which reported travel demand from U.S. families was higher in this year’s survey than any of the past three years. There’s no question that many families are ready to get back out there and see the world.

We are also already seeing the beginnings of higher-priced airfare with additional increases expected in the coming months.

Here’s where families are headed now that they’re ready to travel

According to Tripadvisor, the vast majority of travel intent remains domestic, with 65% of respondents planning to travel domestically between now and February 2022. In the U.S., Tripadvisor reported Maine and California as destination front-runners.

Although demand for domestic travel is higher, families are still planning to travel internationally.

Hsi shared that, “We are finding that European destinations such as Paris, London, and Rome are the top destinations of choice.” Destinations in the Caribbean and the Cayman Islands also continue to be popular with families. If that sounds pretty good right now, check out these all-inclusive beach resorts you can book with points.

Fun in the sun in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Families are back to planning their favorite pre-pandemic trips

The FTA’s research shows that family travel preferences are in line with pre-pandemic family travel behaviors.

Traveling to see family and friends and beach vacations are at the top of the list, followed by theme parks, waterparks and state or national parks.

Respondents were also asked who they were planning to travel with in the coming months.

After more than a year where many families postponed visits with extended family, 52% of respondents to the FTA’s survey said they were planning a multigenerational trip, while 11% of parents plan to send their children on a skip-generation trip with their grandparents.

Fun with grandparents. (Photo by Andrea Bacle Photography)

Related: 8 tips for a successful multigenerational ski trip 

Travel funds are burning a hole in many parents’ pockets

Based on Tripadvisor data, the average booking cost of stays being planned for January 2022 is twice that of those that were booked in September 2021, which coincides with the FTA’s survey findings that 44% of families expect to spend more money than they did previously on domestic travel.

Spending on international travel is in line with the slower rebound, with only 22% planning to spend more and 42% expecting to spend less.

This higher spending could be a result of money saved during the early days of the pandemic when fewer families were traveling. Forty-one percent of families “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that they saved money during the pandemic to use toward future travel.

Related: How to use airline credits before they expire 

(Photo by Juan Ruiz/The Points Guy)

The pandemic has changed certain things about family travel

Even with a renewed confidence in travel, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected how families approach travel.

FTA survey findings showed parents were paying more attention to trip cancellation policies. Eighty percent of respondents either “agree” or “strongly agree” that they will only book through companies with flexible cancellation policies. They’re also now more concerned with a destination’s health and safety measures and expect “frequent, visible cleaning of common areas and often-touched surfaces” from the destinations they choose.

Despite some travelers reporting they feel safer on a cruise than at a theme park due to the higher health and safety standards, the FTA found “26% of respondents were less likely to consider a cruise even after COVID-19 has been contained” and 15% felt the same way about international travel.

The outlook is promising, but there are still health and safety considerations to keep in mind even after your children are vaccinated.

Related: Travel insurance policies vs. built-in credit card protections

Bottom line

There’s no denying there’s pent-up demand for family travel. As we transition into 2022 with school-aged children eligible for vaccines, many families plan to hit the road (or the friendly skies) once again for a vacation. If you are among them, there are a few things to know as you plan out your adventures.

Whether you are visiting a theme park, flying to an all-inclusive island resort or setting sail on a cruise, take the time to get familiar with your destination’s vaccine, testing and mask requirements before you travel. You don’t want to be halfway across the country before you realize you forgot your vaccine cards.

Also, read the fine print on change and cancellation policies when booking a hotel, cruise, air travel or event tickets.

While airlines are still generally more flexible with changes than they were before the pandemic, some lodging and event companies have returned to normal rules and may penalize you for canceling your trip or making changes for any reason, even those related to COVID-19.

Last, but certainly not least, do what feels comfortable for you.

Even if your whole family will soon be vaccinated, your comfort level may differ from your friends and family. There are so many ways to do family travel and you have to pick the one that’s going to be fun and relaxing for your family — or at least as relaxing as traveling with kids can be, anyway.

Featured image by Gary John Norman/Getty Images.

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