How to Appeal to Traveling Families With Diverse Needs

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The family vacation has a long tradition in the U.S. but it has morphed from simply loading the kids in the back of a station wagon in the 1950s and 1960s to boarding flights to international destinations today.

Marketers must keep in mind that the very definition of family has markedly changed. For example, in Edelman’s report, “The Modern Family: A Study in Marketing,” the public relations firm reports that just 4 percent of families align with how the U.S. Census defines a “traditional” family (stay-at-home mom, working dad and children under 18). Moreover, citing 2010 U.S. Census data, the report noted that minorities make up nearly half the children born in the U.S., 40 percent of all U.S. children are born to single moms and two million children are being raised by GLBTQ parents.


Regardless of structure, all U.S. families share certain characteristics. Cision’s study, “Planning Travel: What Drives Travel Decisions,” took an in-depth look at the factors affecting families’ travel decisions by analyzing social media posts on forums, blogs and social networks. For example, the study found that:

  • Families begin planning travel far in advance and want to have itinerary details clearly outlined to facilitate hassle-free trips.
  • Travel scheduling is based, in large part, on the timing of school vacations. As a result, families focus more than other groups on spring and winter trips. For example, families’ social discussion of spring trips was 53 percent higher than average discussion levels.
  • Families are very aware of the high cost of air travel, with the need to buy multiple airline tickets. Many consider other travel arrangements such as driving.
  • Families with young children greatly appreciate perks that help them navigate through airports.

What drives travelers’ purchasing decisions? Find out in Cision’s free report!

Families that take vacations on children’s winter breaks discuss a variety of destinations, from warm-weather locations (such as Hawaii and Florida) with family-focused activities such as the beach or Disney World, to cold-weather sites such as Switzerland for skiing.

Many parents list childcare as a key factor in deciding to stay at a location. Family-friendly Disney resorts frequently generate praise because they include childcare as well as activities for children accompanied by a guardian, such as character tea parties and pirate cruises.


Matthew Rosenberger, consultant and publisher, ABC Travel Guides for Kids, agrees that understanding the changing needs and emotions of families is a key success factor for hospitality providers.

In “7 Mistakes Marketers Make When Trying to Attract Families,” published in the Hotel Business Review on, Rosenberger outlined several marketing attributes essential for hospitality providers serving families, including:

  • Generating a “wow factor” for family travelers based on three components: great value, location and customer service.
  • Developing partnerships with other marketers to combine campaigns and programs, resulting in both entertainment and educational activities.
  • Paying attention to trends, such as environmental awareness and the need for healthier menu options.
  • Conducting guest surveys and using them to train staff to recognize issues noted by guests. He also recommended monitoring online reviews of properties—like the reviews analyzed in the Cision report.

It’s vital for travel providers to be sensitive to the diverse needs of families. In evaluating online discussions of 13 different travel amenities, the Cision report found that families indexed well above average on all but two: Wi-Fi and on-demand TV. The top five amenities discussed by families were kids clubs, pools, in-room dining, snacks and hotel shuttles.

The good news for hospitality providers is this provides a “target-rich” environment of amenities to promote, but keep in mind that, as the Edelman report points out, the message cannot be “one size fits all.”


About Michelle Vangel

Michelle Vangel is an Insights Vice President within the Cision Global Insights (CGI) group. Michelle has nearly 20 years of experience helping global Fortune 500 enterprise clients derive actionable insight from media intelligence. She started her career in traditional media research, and then moved into helping clients leverage the power of social intelligence to achieve business results. Michelle has led innovative global programs helping clients make data-based business decisions.

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