I love good news.

And we heard a lot of it at our first-ever TMS Family Travel Summit in Orlando.

Families are more upbeat about traveling as the economy continues to recover, though they are careful with what they spend. 

“THE NEW Frugal,” said MMGY Global’s Peter Yesawich, who gave us a preview of the excellent 2013 Portrait of the American Traveler that is scheduled to be released soon.  He noted that traveling families are putting a top priority on getting healthier this year.

Are you listening hotels and restaurants?  That includes healthier eats for their kids! That includes more opportunities to get active on vacation!

And despite concerns about the economy, families are putting a priority on having fun together, said Amy Foster, from Disney’s Consumer Insight Team, seeing vacation as a time to relax and bond.  “Fun is not frivolous,” Foster said.  “Fun is precious!”

Families are putting a priority on celebrating milestones together, Yesawich said—birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, graduations, family reunions. They know those occasions only occur once.

Families are also putting a priority in what their kids think about vacation. That’s because parents know if the kids aren’t happy, no one will be happy.

More than half those polled for the  new Portrait of American Travelers report that kids are active participants in where families go on vacation.  Kids increasingly are impacting where families stay and what they do at the destination too.

“If you want to attract families, you have to talk to the kids today,” observed Dave Wiggins of the Trusted Adventures consortium of adventure travel companies.  

You also have to talk to the grandparents.  Consider that 32 per cent of active travelers who are grandparents traveled with their grandchildren in the last year, according to the 2013 Portrait of American Travelers.  “We are not all cookie cutter families traveling anymore,” said travel blogger and writer Diana Rowe, who travels with her grandchildren.

That may be why the research suggests that so many families are seeking out alternative accommodations like condos and vacation houses where they have more room to spread out, cook a meal together and relax.

They also want bragging rights, Yesawich told our group.  But these days, that’s instant bragging rights.  Twenty-five percent of family travelers polled said they posted vacation photos to social media sites to make friends and family jealous!  

Where do they want to go? We were intrigued that nearly four out of ten traveling families took a trip outside the country in the last year, according to the new Portrait research. The Caribbean is more popular than Western Europe and also ranks high as a “dream” destination, Yesawich said.

Their top picks where they would like to go in the United States: Florida, California Hawaii, New York and Alaska.  The National Parks also rank high, we were glad to see.  (Must be that desire to get outside and be active….)

We all know that kids seem to grow up in a blink of an eye (It seems as if my youngest who is graduating from college this month was just starting preschool!)  That’s why families shouldn’t feel guilty about taking time—or money– for vacation.  We’ve only got a certain amount of time when our kids are mesmerized by princesses or dinosaurs, when they think playing with mom and dad is the best time ever.

We also know that vacations don’t start when you leave the house .  The anticipation, Disney’s Foster, told our group, helps put the fun back in everyday life. 

And once you get home, those vacation memories can keep you going.  In fact, those polled for a recent U.S. Travel Association survey  reported they talk about what they did on vacation all year long.

They don’t want them to end either.

“Do you know what I’m going to do when I get home?” one little boy asked his dad as we were getting off a flight from Orlando recently.  “PLAY WITH YOU SOME MORE!!!!”  And he burst into giggles. trusted replica watch sites