Creative Ways To Pursue Family Travel and Adventures
The year before the world shut down, the global travel and tourism industry contributed a colossal $8.9 billion to the world’s total GDP. It’s a figure so large, it’s difficult to visualize exactly how many workers, businesses and travelers had to intersect to sustain it. But, of course, the pandemic turned our excursion habits — and the industry — upside down. Many people worked from home, creating a facsimilie of their former office lives, but cancelled vacations proved to be much harder to re-create from home. As travel restrictions loosen, family travel has evolved, too. Many travelers remain wary of international air travel, expensive mandatory quarantines, and accessing healthcare far from home. (Not to mention flying with a baby.) Adding to the complications of planning a trip: countries are updating their incoming traveler restrictions and requirements regularly and the U.S. government’s travel guidance to its own citizens reflects evolving health situations in destination countries.
For families who want to exercise caution in their vacation planning without sacrificing adventure, we have plenty of ideas for how to keep family travel going.
Live the Digital Nomad Life
The term “jet set” was first coined by society columnist Igor Cassini in the 1950s, when jet passenger service was primarily reserved for and marketed to the upper class. Jet setters were socialites who had the time and the means to travel widely for pleasure, jaunting off to Rome for the weekend and hopping between New York and Paris to attend glitzy parties. Passenger lists became gossip column material. As airfare prices dropped over the decades, the Golden Age of air travel for the rich gave way to the democratization of travel for, well, anyone who wanted to go somewhere.
Today, with greater accessibility and affordable airfares, the moniker “jet setter” now includes travelers on a budget who prioritize frequent adventure and seek new experiences. But the heirs of the jet-set generation have become accustomed to a whole new level of freedom that isn’t restricted to air travel. Thanks to laptops and the Internet, even those with steady jobs can remain indefinitely on the move, road-tripping between new destinations and unearthing novel experiences for their own sake, not at the behest of their employer.
Some families have taken up a “digital nomad” lifestyle while they’re working from home, and allowed to do so from anywhere. Ideal for families with small children not yet in the school system, it’s a great way to see the country, have a different home base, while still getting the work done and having time on weekends for adventures with the family. A recognized (if not broad) professional class before the pandemic; some estimates say there were 7.3 million digital nomads in the U.S. in 2019. During the pandemic, that number climbed to 10.9 million. The 49% jump is easily explained; remote work became the norm, and everyone tired of quarantining at home opted to hit the road. A study by MBO Partners, a contract and freelance talent agency, found that the ranks of the nomad are likely to continue to swell: a further 19 million Americans say they plan to become digital nomads themselves, and another 45 million claim they’re considering it.
Take a Road Trip
While there’s no guarantee all the luggage-toting dreamers will follow through on turning their travel plans into digital nomadic lifestyles, the pandemic demonstrated a major shift in the way people seek adventure. Of those Americans who did travel during the summer in 2020, 71% opted to drive to their destinations rather than flying. RV owners also reported a record number of bookings – Outdoorsy, an RV rental and outdoor travel marketplace, saw a 4,500% increase in reservations – as families sought safe, socially distanced travel experiences.
Road trips, done right, can be every bit as rejuvenating and exhilarating as an international trip – and given the fact that fewer logistics are involved, like luggage limitations, airport security, and jetlag, they might even be more relaxing. The trip will involve a little more planning than it would have a year ago, particularly for drivers who’d like to avoid stopovers in cities or regions with high infection rates – for example, if you have a general sense of your route in advance, it’s a good idea to arrange lodging ahead of time to avoid major inconveniences.
But traveling by car offers the chance to tailor your route to the experiences, venues and activities you’d most like to enjoy. Get a great playlist going and look up some unique natural or historical sites (or restaurants) towards which to navigate. After all, the world is large and most of it thrives with no regard for schedules, so take your time and take the overland route. If you’re headed for a beach town, don’t forget your packing list.
Indulge in a Staycation
Staying at home has people itching for a change of scenery – even if it’s only a few blocks away. Staycations, or short-term vacations not far from where you live, offer an easy and no less indulgent alternative to longer-term holiday trips. Expenses are minimal, and time spent in transit is eliminated. A staycation might look like a weekend at a nearby bed-and-breakfast, or an overnight at a friend’s guesthouse in the area. Try to focus on things you wouldn’t normally do in your own home: order takeout or room service, enjoy a luxurious bath, or go for a walk in a part of town you’ve never explored. A staycation may not involve seeing the world, but it does allow you to reconnect with the most meaningful people in your life in a relaxed, new-to-you setting that makes for a welcome escape.
And if you’re lifestyle allows it, live the digital nomad lifestyle for a while and take your staycations to another city.
Arrange Day Adventures
If overnights are too much to take on, mini-adventures that just require a few hours are the perfect way to treat yourself and your family to some new experiences. Scope out nearby hiking paths, or take a picnic to the neighborhood park and make an afternoon of it. Research has shown that being near or on the water can provide a long list of benefits for our mind and body, such as lowering stress and anxiety and boosting an overall sense of happiness and well-being. If it’s geographically feasible, look for day adventures that involve the beach, riverbanks, or scenic lakes. Outdoor destinations like botanical gardens, the zoo, or open-air historical sites that are open to the public during social distancing will also help get you out of your house, out of your head, and closer to an experience that feels like a vacation.
In time, the travel industry will fully rebound as it always has after pandemics, terrorism and natural disasters. Despite the recent obstacles, it’s still important for people and families to carve out time to decompress and explore new places and experience different cultures. But we might look back on this shift in travel habits as the moment society realized that you don’t have to be a jet setter to make the most of the world’s incredible offerings. Exploration and adventure can always be found closer to home if you’re willing to travel a little more like a nomad.