Family Traveller Trends: exploring, having fun and dreaming

Data source information:

Unless stated differently, the data shown in this chapter is based on an online survey among more than 9,000 parents aged 18+ with children under 15 from the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Sweden and Austria. The survey was realised by Atomik Research during December 2019 on behalf of HomeAway, a Vrbo brand, part of Expedia Group.

Other data sources:

* Savills Second Homes Report, 12 November 2019, Savills Research & HomeAway 

** Data shown is based on demand and actually paid prices by travellers on www.homeaway.co.uk during 1st January-31st December 2019 compared with the same period in 2018. 

Let’s explore the world together – Who British families travel with

Close family is truly key when it comes to taking a main holiday in 2020 with 72 per cent of all Europeans surveyed saying that they intend to travel with their partners and children. Six per cent also include their grandparents in the group while another five per cent add grandparents and other family members, such as aunts, uncles and cousins to the generational mix. 

The picture for UK holidaymakers looks very similar at just under 70 per cent travelling with their children. The Brits are also the most inclined amongst Europeans to take grandparents with them, accounting for another nine per cent, and extending it to the wider family group adds another four per cent.

But it seems that adding the family pet to such a large party is a step too far as only two per cent of British families intend to include their four-legged friends on their main trip in 2020, compared with seven per cent of the Portuguese.

In for a big win! The benefits of family holidays

With the vast majority of the Europeans interviewed travelling with their families, the list of benefits in seeing the world with your loved ones is long. The main value, according to holidaymakers all over the region, comes from having fun together and unwinding from everyday stress and also spending quality time together to strengthen the bonds between them.

Making long-lasting family memories together appeals to many respondents, while getting away from everyday routine and trying new things are also important.

The priority for British families is to spend quality time together, getting away from the everyday routine, but having fun together is also important, as is building long-lasting family memories. Exploring and trying new things together is also high on the agenda.

The beneficial impact of international travel on their children in particular is widely recognised amongst British parents, with giving them the chance to experience and learn more about different cultures, countries and destinations to help them succeed in later life acknowledged as the primary driver. 

The fact that it will also lead to them becoming more open-minded and increase their tolerance of other ethnicities and lifestyles is also seen as important, as well as coping in unknown environments in a family setting, which breeds confidence and makes them more adventurous as they grow older. 

The aspirations for a perfect family holiday*

When looking where to rent that next family holiday property, which do you prefer – beach or countryside, mountain or riverside, or perhaps a big city? For British families, it seems the countryside is the favourite with 40 per cent saying it is essential or very important, beating the beach into second place on 32 per cent.

When it comes to the amenities and features of the accommodation, 82 per cent of British families give the highest significance to internet access, showing the value the Brits put on staying connected even when away. This is highlighted even further when comparing the results with other Europeans, such as the Spanish on 74 per cent or the French on 69 per cent. 

A private garden is a high priority for almost half the respondents but a shared pool only excites 11 per cent, this time the lowest result amongst the Europeans, with 52 per cent of Spanish families giving it their vote. 

For the accommodation itself, a shower on 79 per cent decisively beats a bathtub on 20 per cent – easier to wash off all that sand from the beach, perhaps. The ability to lie back and lounge on a patio was a key feature for 30 per cent and a balcony a further 16 per cent. With the importance of spending quality time together on holiday, ninety-nine per cent of British families thought an office or workspace of little or no importance.

However, considering that they are on holiday, a surprisingly high 59 per cent still consider a television to be essential or very important, tying with the Portuguese but way ahead of the Italians on 25 per cent. Just over 40 per cent also believe that central heating is far more important than air-conditioning on 19 per cent, reflecting their experiences with their own weather.

Parking is a big concern for the British with 59 per cent saying that a reserved space is essential or very important, again the highest figure amongst the Europeans, with the French on 56 per cent and the Spanish the least troubled on 45 per cent. 

When it comes to filling the family stomach, a well-equipped kitchen is considered essential or very important for 67 per cent, with 36 per cent looking for grocery stores close by and 38 per cent also keen on restaurants.

There is little interest in taking an active part in sports with a cycling or hiking trail receiving the highest vote on just 13 per cent and 97 per cent seeing a gym of little or no importance on holiday.

* Savills Second Homes Report, 12 November 2019, Savills Research & HomeAway 

Kids-Mopolitan? A generation of explorers

With the rapid growth in international travel over the last few decades, European children are remarkably well-travelled when compared with their parents. More than 30 per cent of adults admitted that they had never ventured abroad when they were their kids’ age, in stark contrast to just 12 per cent of their offspring. 

More than half of the children have visited 1-3 countries and another quarter have made it to between four and six, while a lucky 10 per cent have been to more than seven.

The British have always been enthusiastic globetrotters and the figures bear this out. Even so, their children are much more experienced travellers than their parents were at the same age. More than a quarter of parents say that they never travelled outside the UK when they were young, against just seven per cent of today’s youth, with both figures lower than the European averages.

When it comes to the number of countries visited, the comparison across the generations is much closer. Forty-four per cent of children have visited 1-3 countries, compared with 40 per cent of their parents when they were young. It seems that the love of travel runs in the blood as well-travelled parents are encouraging their offspring to also spread their wings.

The Brits tend to journey further than other Europeans in general too, as a third of today’s children have visited 4-6 countries compared with the European average of just a quarter. Fourteen per cent of today’s youngsters in Britain have visited more than seven countries before reaching their maturity, compared with 10 per cent in Europe as a whole. 

However, the most widely travelled youngsters in Europe having visited seven or more countries live in the Netherlands and Sweden, both on 15 per cent. On the other hand, the French (7%), Spanish (6%) and Portuguese (4%) acknowledge that their children have visited the fewest countries.

The holiday begins at home

The holiday begins at home is the mantra for British parents who are keen to build excitement and anticipation for the holiday with their kids before they leave. More than 40 per cent of British families say that they carry out internet research and make plans for what they can do at the destination together. Over a third (34%) think that letting them pack their own bag to involve them in the travel preparation is a good motivator.

Another 30 per cent go that extra mile and teach their kids a few words of the language or dialect of their destination. Almost a quarter go the whole hog and introduce them to the culinary experiences they can expect abroad by cooking typical dishes at home. Perhaps the famous Tortilla de patatas (potato omelette), as recommended by Spanish families, or, for the more adventurous, Bacalhao à brás (cod pastries) as favoured by the Portuguese. 

Exploring the world - Dream destinations vs. Reality**

British holidaymakers certainly had big ideas when it came to their 2019 travel wishlist with dreams of crossing the Atlantic uppermost in their minds as 34% voted the USA into the top spot. The Caribbean tied in third place with Europe on 24% and Canada in fifth on 22%. Distance did not put 32% off voting for Australia and New Zealand.

In reality, many Brits chose to holiday in Europe during the year 2019 but this was still living the dream as 24% had put the continent firmly on their wishlist, tied third with the Caribbean.

History to touch, see and feel – The family landmark bucket list

The European bucket list of aspirational landmarks for family travel spans the globe but it is one quite close to home that made the top of the list with the Eiffel Tower in Paris on 35 % of the vote, just pipping the Statue of Liberty and Niagara Falls to the post. 

Others closer to home are the Colosseum in Rome (tied in fourth place with another US favourite the Grand Canyon) the Leaning Tower of Pisa, with the UK just making the top 10 with Tower Bridge tied in ninth place with Iceland’s Blue Lagoon

Further afield, the Great Wall of China makes the grade at number six, tied with the Pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx in Egypt

It is a close run contest when it comes to which landmarks are on the nation’s family bucket list, with destinations in the USA, Europe, North Africa, Asia and Australia all in the top 10.

The first three are all in the USA with Niagara Falls, the Statue of Liberty and the Grand Canyon topping the poll, each on more than 20 per cent. The Eiffel Tower in Paris is the highest ranked European target, alongside the Colosseum in Rome and the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. But the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids and Great Sphinx in the Egypt and the Sydney Opera House are also very much in the mix, as the Brits love to travel far and wide.

Future travel plans 

Europeans are not planning on straying too far from home over the next three years with all but nine of the top 10 destinations being located in Europe. The holiday hotspots of Spain, Italy and France lead the table with the UK in fourth place. 

The USA is the only non-European destination in sixth place, ahead of other favourites such as Portugal, Austria and the Netherlands.

When it comes to travel plans over the next three years, Spain is the perennial favourite, particularly for beach holidays so loved by British families. In contrast, a domestic trip to explore the UK and show their children all that their own country has to offer wins second place on the holiday agenda.

The USA is the highest non-European destination in third place, ahead of France, Italy, Greece and Portugal, while just under 10 per cent of respondents are planning a long distance trip to Australia and New Zealand

Iceland is perhaps an unexpected choice for seven per cent of British families, bucking the European trend, but this does match with the family landmark bucket list choice of the Blue Lagoon.

Parlez-you Italiano? - Let’s talk

Voltaire once said “To know many languages is to have many keys to one lock” but it seems not all British people take his message to heart. Almost half of all respondents say that they either do not speak any foreign languages (27%) or only a few words (21%). 24 per cent are confident that they are fluent in another language while a further 28 per cent feel they speak them fairly well. 

These results compare unfavourably with other Europeans. Apart from the French on 20 per cent, barely 10 per cent or less of all the other nationalities admit to only speaking their native tongue.

The best linguists of the nationalities surveyed are the Swedes with more than 80 per cent claiming they are fluent in other languages or at least speak them fairly well, with the Portuguese on 77 per cent and the Germans, Austrians and Dutch also at least on 70 per cent.

French is the most likely second language for the British, chosen by 39 per cent, followed by Spanish, German and Italian. However, English is by far the most popular second language for Europeans in general, spoken by almost 80 per cent, way ahead of French on 28 per cent, Spanish on 25 per cent and German on 20 per cent.

Why learning languages is important for kids

Although 27% of Brits confirm English is their only language, they do recognise the importance of learning a foreign language in that it helps you to get along in the world (56%), helps to open your mind to other nationalities (54%) and opens up job opportunities (27%). However, 12 per cent see no benefit at all.

The main reasons given for not learning another language are that they just communicate in English (38%), they don’t travel much (22%), they don’t want to (15%) and it’s too much work (12%).

Travel fun facts

The world on the tip of the tongue: Top family dishes recommended by families

What favourite British dishes would you recommend to visiting families to help them enjoy the best possible taste experience during their stay in the UK? Well, for our British families, it is the traditional favourite of fish and chips that garners half the votes, while a full English breakfast and a Sunday roast also get their juices flowing. 

The time-honoured afternoon tea, complete with scones and clotted cream, is advocated by more than a third of voters but the acquired delights of jellied eels appeal to less than 10 per cent.

Choices from across Europe show a wide divergence of taste. For the Germans, the spicy sausage dish Currywurst tops the poll as their recommendation for visiting families while, for the French, it is their wonderful array of cheeses and the Spanish vote for the potato omelette tortilla de patatas.

Suitcase essentials – What British families never travel without

British families have shown themselves to be quite homesick for familiar essentials, even when travelling abroad for new experiences, and they make sure they pack a selection of “must-haves” just in case. 

By far and away the items almost half of British families want to take with them are their usual brands of tea and coffee. This compares with only 21% of French families and 20% of Swedes. It seems that having a swift brew after a long, hot day on the beach is a real comfort.

Showing themselves to be steadfastly optimistic, only 19% of British families take an umbrella with them and only 14% pack a Pac-a-mac. Given the tight restrictions on the size of baggage these days, it is also remarkable that almost a fifth of all families are prepared to devote space in their suitcase to their own pillows.

Kids all inclusive?

How far does the bank of mum and dad stretch when it comes to paying for their children to accompany them away? European parents are seemingly quite determined when it comes to subsidising their children’s holidays with 26 per cent cutting off funds after they leave home and a further 10 per cent when they turn 18.

On the generous side, 17 per cent will pay as long as they can afford it and 16 per cent will always pay for their children’s holiday, if they are travelling together. Nine per cent will continue until they have their own family and eight per cent as long as they are studying.

With more young people in the UK facing the burden of student debt and the expense of buying their own property, it still seems that British parents are more stingy than their European neighbours. On the comforting side, more than 20 per cent say they will still pay while their children live at home, 16 per cent as long as they are studying and 14 per cent until they have their own family.

However, only seven per cent say they would always pay, compared with the European average of 17 per cent. Others are similarly circumspect with 19 per cent cutting off funds when their children turned 18 and a further 6 per cent when they turned 20.

Looking at how the British results compare with our European neighbours, the Germans and the Spanish have considerably deeper pockets with 20 per cent saying that they would always pay for their children’s holidays if they are travelling together. The French are perhaps the most generous with 36 per cent saying they would continue to pay while their children lived at home and 15 per cent they would always pay. 

© 2020 Vrbo, an Expedia Group Company. All rights reserved. Vrbo, HomeAway and the Vrbo and HomeAway logos are trademarks of HomeAway.com, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners