By Eileen Ogintz and Kyle McCarthy Sun, sand and happy kids. Just make sure the little ones don’t eat the sand. Maybe your family would rather be hiking in a national park or exploring a foreign country. Wherever you go this summer, all of us want the same thing: The chance to relax and make happy memories, Vacation memories, families say, not only last a lifetime but are among the most important they have, helping them to get through the tough times. Just thinking about the vacation ahead can put the fun back in everyday life, Disney Consumer Insight Team’s Amy Foster told the attendees at the First TMS Family Travel Summit in Orlando. “Fun is not frivolous,” she said. “Fun is precious.” According to new research from MMGY Global reported by Peter Yesawich at the Summit, the vast majority of family travelers want time to relax, unwind and spend time together. Eighty percent want to see new places (forget customer loyalty) and 75 percent want an easy to get to destination. Supervised kids clubs aren’t so vital to these time-starved families said Yesawich, with 78 percent of families opting for free WiFi over kids programs on their last vacation. Digital media in all forms was tasked with making the travel research and booking process easier and less confusing for families, who want to be assured that their needs for connecting rooms and adjacent plane seats will be honored. With demand for family-friendly summer vacation destinations and multigenerational accommodations and organized tours at an all-time high, according to industry sources, those attending our first TMS Family Travel Summit looked at what “family travel” really means today. For the instant summer vacation marketing guidelines that emerged from TMS Family Travel Summit, and you can read more in our report. The 35 Summit attendees from around the country lapped up the data points, generating 54 million-plus #TMSOrlando impressions throughout the weekend by sharing insights with their followers. Marketers take note: • The classic married couple with two kids represents less than half of all American families. • Single parents run 16% of all households in the industrialized world and, social media statisticians would have us believe, moms control everything—including vacation planning. • Grandparents rock—especially when it comes to vacations. More than a third of grandparents who are active travelers have traveled with grandchildren just in the past year, according to the 2013 Portrait of American Travelers • Generation C -- the collectors, creators and curators among us-- are driven to share every experience on and offline. • American families now average a shorter length of stay on vacation --2.73 nights – but are still traveling as the economy recovers, According to research by D.K. Shifflet, The group cited social media’s potential for broadening the family market, from helping less affluent families to find vacation values to sharing advice. At the same time, Dorothy Dowling of Best Western International notes that with women managing their own incomes, their household expenses, and the finances of their own parents, the “sheconomy” controls approximately two-thirds of America’s wealth. How has this affected family travel? It has put women and moms in the driver’s seat when it comes to making vacation planning destinations. One of the most important trends identified at the Summit was the need to satisfy Generation C. Their constant need for stimulation and new experiences means the travel industry must provide activities to satisfy every age group, and make those experiences photogenic as well, so that guests will share them. Social media, researchers and attendees agreed, is the sales tool that can share those memories and turn happy family vacationers into brand evangelists. Here are seven ways Summit attendees—leading travel media and marketers—believe can improve the family travel experience: 1. Offer vacations in all price ranges so that less affluent families can afford to vacation. 2. Empower today’s maker families to book trips themselves by keeping it simple and transparent.
 Make getting to your destination easy and fun. 3. Welcome diversity in staff and guests . 4. Make guests feel like everything they do is new and unique. 5. Give them free WiFi and encourage them to share memories about you. 6. Arrange activities for all ages together. 7. Have your photographer and filmmakers on hand to record the fun. Makes sense to us.

The 4th annual TMS Family Travel Summit, which I co-host, explored how the largest leisure travel segment likes to dream, plan, go and selfie their family vacations. Millennial families are more diverse, likely to travel farther, seek out new destinations and spend more than their peers without children, attendees learned at the fourth TMS Family Travel Summit. The Summit is the industry’s only social good conference designed to improve travel products for families. It was held in South Walton, Florida April 17-19, 2016. Forty of the top national travel media and marketers heard how 84 million Millennials – now between ages 18 and 36, half with children — are reshaping the highly lucrative family travel landscape, whether they are driving an RV, sharing a local’s apartment, or taking an exotic adventure trip.

Given opportunities to discuss and debate the research presented, the largely C-suite gathering expressed many “ah-ha” moments relating to their millennial co-workers and their own children.

My co-host at the Summit was Kyle McCarthy, editor of Family Travel Forum. Joanne Vero, producer of Travel Media Showcase, orchestrated the event at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa. Among many insights were the following key takeaways.

  • The Millennial Family Travel market — more ethnically diverse than any other generation — is far larger than many think, accounting for 31 percent of all U.S. travel with children, reported Jeffrey Eslinger of D.K. Shifflet and Associates, who added millennial families are less likely to be married, and more likely to take short 1 to 3-day getaways, than other family groups.
  • Millennial family travelers with annual household incomes above $50,000 spend more ($5,749 per year) and travel more (average of 5.4 trips) than most in the industry assume, said Steve Cohen, who offered a sneak peak of the 2016 “MMGY Global Portrait of the American Travelers.” They take an average of 5.4 trips, spending $5,749 on travel per year.  According to the new research, 64 percent of Millennial families took at least one international vacation in the past year.
  • The “me” aspects of the Millennial profile are no different than those ascribed to Boomers and GenX travelers when they were in their youth, said Ed Tapan, Head of Industry, Travel, at Google. “You just have to tweak the message and deliver it in their language,” he added, citing examples of room service menus written in emojis and loyalty reward offerings that varied from hangover cures to exclusive concerts. They also are more apt to combine business and leisure travel— coining a new market for “bleisure” travel.
  • Since Millennials will comprise 50 percent of all business travelers by the year 2020 noted Andrew Nelson, editor at large National Geographic Traveler, hotels must accommodate them with facilities they prefer including social lobby spaces where they can connect with other travelers.
  • Millennial families want to experience something new when they travel. With more than 64 percent of Millennial parents reading user reviews online, and 60 percent feeling obliged to post their own reviews, personal recommendations from friends, family and others drive travel decisions (MMGY Global POAT 2016). Meeting new people (67 percent) ranks much higher as a motivator than other generations, underscoring the personal focus that will certainly be passed on to their own children.
  • Millennial families want personal service, attention and expert advice from informed sources. The travel industry must be prepared to communicate with them in new ways, via Facebook and blog comments, said Todd Smith, CEO of AdventureSmith Expeditions, whose best-selling cruise for Millennials is to Antarctica.
  • Millennial families are returning to expert travel advice in print — magazines and guidebooks — agreed Pauline Frommer, editorial director of the pioneering Frommer’s Guidebooks and  Elizabeth Shaw, editor of Family Fun   Podcasts and online ratings by experts vs. consumers have seen huge growth.
  • Millennials love the outdoors and adventure says Polly Mulvaney of KOA. Among the 1.2 million new campers in the past year, 44 percent are millennials who reflect the increasing diversity of this age group, and prefer KOA’s custom cabins – as long as there’s WiFi — as a favorite lodging option.
  • Millennial family travelers rely on smartphones and 78 percent have booked a travel service with an app in the past year notes Jeremy Crider, manager, public relations for, the giant hotel metasearch engine.