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Talking Travel Trends at Momtrends

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Last night I was asked to speak about travel trends at the Momtrends event in New York City. If you’re not familiar with Momtrends, you really need to get on their guest list, Nicole’s events are amazing.

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The subject was a bit daunting, what is trending in travel? It’s a big question. So I went to some of my most trusted travel experts and asked them what they see travelers looking for.

My first call was to the queen of family travel, Wendy Perrin. Wendy recently left Conde’ Nast Traveler and is now at TripAdvisor as a “travel evangelist” (hallelujah) and she has launched her own site, wendyperrin.com.

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Wendy sees travelers, and especially families, looking for authentic travel experiences. Whether it’s exploring the national parks, going on a wilderness safari or renting a home in the Spanish countryside and eating with the locals. She sees tour providers who are making adventure travel more accessible to families. Want to know who they are? Just ask her, she’ll tell you. She has spent decades compiling lists of travel agents who are experts in their field and monitoring the service they give. Yes, you heard me, Wendy also believes that a good agent is key to a great trip. Her quote in a recent interview on Skift has been cheered around the globe by travel planners :

Skift: Even with the boom of online travel agencies, you still saw a role for traditional travel agents in the buying process. What kind of agent still matters to the average traveler?

Perrin: Stellar ones. Agents who can solve problems you can’t solve yourself. I’ve found that these tend to be well-connected trip orchestrators with in-depth knowledge of challenging destinations. I’ve been tracking such travel fixers for years now. Actually, I’m highlighting some of them on my new site, wendyperrin.com.

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My next call was to Henrietta Loyd, founder of the bespoke travel planning firm cazenove+loyd. I recently spent a week in Cuba with Henrietta and it was my first, but will not be my last, group tour experience. Henrietta says that travelers are not “asking with the thread count of the Italian linens will be” as they once were, they are more interested in a culturally immersive experience. Since we all can’t afford to go on safari Robert Redford style (this still remains my number one fantasy), I asked Hen what trips they organize that can be affordable. She suggests expanding your horizons and considering Asia and India. In fact I’m looking in to a trip to southern India with some girlfriends next fall (Eat, Pray, Love fantasy anyone?). cazenove+loyd quoted me $2,000 for 10 days. That’s everything except airfare. I know. The shoes I wore while speaking last night cost almost that much. Henrietta says that that travelers just aren’t interested in the “fly and flop” anymore, they want an extraordinary experience. Her firm does individual itineraries and can work with most budgets, but not all.

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My next call was to my dear friend and mentor Amie O’Shaughnessy. Amie founded the award winning family travel website CiaoBambino. Amie doesn’t just write about travel, she plans it and she lives it. She saw a need for experienced travel planners who understand the needs of families when booking trips. Amie is a big advocate of transformative travel. Of course we all need to take our kids to Disney at some point and we need to visit Grandma in Florida, but how about one trip taking your kids to the Amazon? Amie did it. Surprisingly the flight was only two hours longer than a trip to New York, and they were in, um, the Amazon. Or stay closer to home as you start your adventure travel trend, Amie recommends rafting the Snake River, an amazing bonding experience for the family for less than a trip to Disney. My favorite quote from Amie was “the world is our collective oyster”. Can I get an amen?

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My last call was to my own agent. Yes, I use an agent. I cannot keep track of all these travel details. Poor Tim will tell you that I often have to ask him to send me itineraries more than once because I can never find them. I’m a creative, details are not my thing.  Tim sees a lot of families headed to Europe this summer. They are going to Italy but not just to sightsee, they are booking villas and taking cooking classes. I know, the idea of finding the right villa, finding the cooking classes and getting an Italian car rental sounds daunting, um, that’s why I use an agent.

So for the roughly 300 million of you who weren’t at the Momtrends event last night. Here are my best tips for taking your family on their next adventure:

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Why you should do it:  Did you know that your brain encodes long term memories when you do a new or novel activity? This is science people, do something new with your kids and you’ll remember it. It’s all about the chemistry, but I can tell you that when Wilson and I came across a beach full of sleeping sea turtles, I will never forget it. Also, the time we saw the Southern Cross in the sky while on vacation in Parrot Cay. My husband pulled out an astrology app for the night sky, and we saw the Southern Cross as a family, just like the song says, for the first time. I can’t remember what we did for dinner last night, but that magical moment is burned in to my memory forever and I treasure it.

Consider doing a group travel experience:

Groups can hire tour guides and gain access to amazing sights at far lower prices than you can access on your own.

You have someone else to talk to besides your husband and children (that totally should have been number one).

These trips are STRESS FREE, every bit of planning is done for you from the transfers, to the meals. An excellent planner will make sure you experience the very best of your chosen destination.

Resources for Group Travel:

cazenove+loyd – Their group trips are called “Inspired Journeys” – they do very few – and you want to be on one. The trip to Cuba for 2015 is already filling up.

Abercrombie & Kent – For the Robert Redford fantasy. When  you want the best and you are willing to pay for it.

Kensington Tours – Amie swears by this firm. She calls them a solid four star experience.

Austin Adventures – They have everything from the high end to the affordable. Their number one trip is to Yellowstone, I am ashamed that my children have been to the other side of the world but have never seen Old Faithful.

Resources for custom travel planning:

CiaoBambino – Amie and her team know what they are doing when it comes to family travel, Amie is especially familiar with Italy if you are now dying to rent a villa and take a cooking class, I know I am.

Tim Burke – Tim does everything from booking my roadside hotel that takes hamsters to multiple stop European adventures. He has pulled a rabbit out of a hat for more than a few of my friends, getting them a suite in a hotel that says they are sold out, or getting me a reservation at Cinderella’s castle that I was told “was impossible”.

cazenove+loyd – They specialize in the extraordinary. Want to go to Bhutan? Patagonia? Sri Lanka? Don’t know where to start? They do. I can tell you that they are best in class.

Last but not least I suggested that we all try the new website EatWith. Hosts from all over the globe open their homes for sit down meals. You get a chance to eat with locals and other adventure seeking travelers. I can’t think of more authentic travel than that. If you’ve tried it, or when you do, please tell me how it went. I am fascinated by this site and idea.

Now get out there and make your next family vacation an extraordinary memory.

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