We're pleased to welcome guest blogger CajunMama of TravelingMamas.com to Fodor's. Here are her observations on 2008, and a few predictions for 2009.
We've all heard the same things over and over. The economy is in a recession. Gas prices have been at a record high. Airline travel has become similar to taking the bus. The value of the dollar has dropped.
This sounds grim. It makes me wonder if the travel industry will survive. This past summer, every time I turned on the news or picked up the newspaper, I heard that awful term "staycation". This is a word that I hope to never hear again.
Thankfully, consumers (you) didn't take this word to heart. Lots of families are still planning to go away for the holidays, and continue to plan those spring breaks and summer vacations. But where are people really traveling? Well, I did a bit of unscientific research, checking out travel forums, blogs, and general travel search terms to see what has been popular for family travelers in 2008.
Staying in the States
The majority of family travelers have stayed in the mainland US. The average family of four would have to have already had passports in hand to be able to travel internationally. That would be almost $400 of a vacation budget that many families just haven't been willing to part with. Some higher income families still vacationed in the Caribbean or Bahamas, but not middle class America.
This is one of the best trends I noticed. I'm all about international travel, but exposing the younger generation to the people and places that make up this great country is truly inspiring. Kids retain more information about history, geography, and all sorts of educational aspects of travel when they experience something first-hand.
A good number of families have opted to vacation in big cities, visiting museums, landmarks, and aquariums. Chicago, NYC, and Las Vegas rank as the top three domestic destinations. Las Vegas for families, you ask? I don't know if it would be one of the top three on my list, but when DesertMama and I were in Vegas for a conference, we noticed a large number of families walking along the strip at 1am. The beauty about visiting a city is the ease of leaving the car parked in one spot, museums galore, zoos, and the excitement of all the hustle and bustle. Fast paced cities can seem magical to the eyes of little children.
Many families are taking to the great outdoors and are saving money by camping. National parks are popular camping destinations, but with the price of fuel being so high this past summer, many travelers opted to stay closer to home this year. This is also a great choice for families to unplug from the video games and internet, allowing for more bonding time.
This year, travel was higher during Thanksgiving Week than 2007's July 4th travel peak. Again, fuel prices probably had a good bit to do with this trend, but many families chose to incorporate a visit to Grandma's house, therefore saving a few dollars. This makes a family's pocketbook happy, and Grandma too.
What does this mean for the future of travel? I would recommend securing that passport for each member of the family. The $400 investment now will insure that you are ready to go when those spring deals of 2009 are revealed. The travel industry is hurting, and while this may sound grim, it only means good news for you.
Gas prices have come down dramatically and hotels are offering some unheard of travel deals. Airlines are dropping some of those fuel surcharges, and taking a family trip by train can be within your budget. Even that Mousy destination is offering deep discounts for the entire family.
Let's take "staycation" out of our vocabulary and spend more time with our children making wonderful travel memories and introducing them to new places. That trip to Hawaii may not be as unattainable as you thought it was two years ago. Let's start planning our 2009 Family Vacations. Our family is planning a 4th of July trip to Washington, DC. Where are you going next year?
About the Writer
CajunMama (aka Shannon Hurst Lane) works full time in the fire service and is a freelance travel writer. She blogs about all things travel with her friends at TravelingMamas.com. You may learn more about her at ShannonLane.com.