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As Restrictions Loosen, Families Travel Far and Spend Big

By Debra Kamin - 19th May 2021

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Newly vaccinated families are opting for private jets, luxury resorts and guided tours in elaborate new twists on the old-fashioned family reunion.Far-flung families are combining traveling and being together - two of the most longed-for practices during more than a year of pandemic lockdowns - into elaborate new twists on the old-fashioned family reunion.

In a recent survey, 75 percent of respondents said they were planning to travel for a family reunion in 2021; in a March survey from American Express Travel, 71 percent of respondents said they planned to travel to visit loved ones they hadn’t been able to see during the pandemic, and 60 percent said a 2021 family reunion was in the works.

Reuniting at long last

Traveling together will also offer families a chance to reconnect offline after many months of Skype and screen time.

One company told us that on an average year, 5 percent of their clients are booking family reunion trips. This year, that number is already between 15 and 20 percent.

“We do a lot of family travel but it’s usually just a family of four or five. Now we are getting two adult kids and their families and grandparents, and sometimes both sets of grandparents. And everyone is spending more money because nobody ate out or travelled in 2020, so they have funds left over.”

Not your old-fashioned family reunion

While the demand for travel across all sectors is high, family travel was predicted to eventually lead the way for the industry’s rebound after a staggering collapse. Travel advisers spent most of 2020 creating socially distanced itineraries for nuclear families that were already living together during lockdown. But now, they say, the most popular type of family trip is the reunion that brings far-flung relatives back into the fold. Another Travel Company, told us that they have seen a sixfold increase in family reunion travel compared to last year, and they expect the number to continue to climb.

Properties are leaning into the trend, rolling out packages geared toward family reunions and even hiring dedicated staff to shepherd the events.

Private jets, budget-busting plans

And after using the act of planning for future travel to get many isolated families through the darkest months of the pandemic, many of the reunions on the books are truly budget-busting. Private jet travel, which surged during the pandemic, is increasingly popular among large families. Jessica Fisher, the founder of the aviation marketplace Flyjets, said private jet bookings for families have doubled since last year. “There is this readiness to ‘move’ in safe ways among groups, especially for those who are choosing to reunite with extended family,” she said in an email.

We discovered that spending is up, as well, as families splurge on longer and more elaborate trips together than they might have pre-pandemic. During the worst of Covid, when people were unable to see their grandparents, what started happening was that they were already planning these epic, complex itineraries for the future, and the rise of multigenerational is the biggest trend we can track.

Another company we spoke to has seen a 70 percent increase in multigenerational bookings over the past two months, and a 55 percent increase in average spending for family trips as people want to make up for lost time, they’re really open to where they go and just want to be together.

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