Making Travel Easier...
For Family and Special Needs Travelers...
If you are looking for a COVID-friendly family escape during Spring Break, consider the following warm-weather venues, all having made necessary adjustments to accommodate last-minute cancellation and safety protocols:
The Hotel Xcaret Mexico, Quintana Roo is doing everything in its power to keep its guests safe: not only can guests cancel their reservations up to seven days in advance with no penalty, the resort has implemented the 360 Xafety model to assist guests with COVID-19 detection tests at the company’s resort and parks. Guests staying at the hotel have access to a complimentary COVID-19 antigen test, with results delivered the same day, or a PCR test for $140, with results delivered within 24 to 48 hours. Resort guests with a minimum of four-night stay who test positive for COVID-19 before departing to the U.S. will be able to quarantine for up to 14 nights at no cost to them. This new initiative will be effective until March 31, 2021. Along with offering 900 guest suites and easy access to the Caribbean Sea and the Riviera Maya jungle, the Hotel Xcaret Mexico is offering an All-Fun Inclusive Package featuring unlimited entry to the numerous Xcaret Parks, with prices ranging from $285-$358 per night from Feb 1-April 30th, 2021.
The 119-room Buenaventura Golf & Beach Resort, Riviera Pacifica, Panama offers guests the flexibility to change their reservations without any penalty or restrictions with the added benefit to reschedule for a future stay. Once there, guests have access to an on-site private clinic, Vidatec, which offer COVID-19 PRC tests for $95, quantitative antibody tests for $35, and antigen tests for $45. Results are delivered by email within 24 to 48 hours. The resort’s Family Experiences package, with rates starting at $249 to include daily breakfast for 2 adults and 2 children under 12 years old, includes complimentary stand-up paddle boards and kayak, daily activities in the Kids Club, a visit to the on-site Zoo, complimentary Wi-Fi and the use of tennis and volleyball courts. Guests can book from now until 12/8/21 using promotional code: MAJ.
The Ocean Club Resorts in Providenciales, Turks & Caicos, located along Grace Bay Beach, offer a new cancellation policy: guests can receive a full refund up to 24 hours prior to their stay for stays between now and April 11, 2021. The resorts have also started extending their concierge services to now include helping travelers with testing on-island during their stay. PCR testing is done for an additional fee of $185/person onsite at the resorts’ east location while the concierge can assist guests in setting up an appointment for antigen testing, $50 per person, done nearby. While the resorts’ suites feature kitchens, so families don’t have to visit the dining room, Ocean Club Resorts have begun offering complimentary breakfast for those who do wish to venture out. Previously, no meals were included with their stays.
Gaylord Hotels is unveiling some special COVID-friendly “Spring It On” family packages, valid between March 12-May 16th, 2021, to entice travelers during the upcoming Easter school break and beyond.
“At all of our Gaylord Hotels, we have redesigned our spring activities and events to deliver a fun experience for the whole family while integrating our new, enhanced health and safety measures,” said John Adams, VP and Managing Director at Gaylord Hotels. “Whether visiting Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, TN; Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee, FL; Gaylord Rockies in Aurora, CO; or Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, TX, guests will enjoy the resort’s expansive water parks and pools, as well as an incredible line-up of springtime programming that provides ample opportunities for families to have a memorable spring break getaway or staycation with the confidence that their experience has been purposely redesigned to respect social distancing and an enhanced Commitment to Clean program.”
Gaylord Hotels’ inaugural Once Upon a Spring programming features live fairytale shows, magical games, artful activities and more. At each of the four resorts, kids can experience “Paint Me A Fairytale,” an interactive live storytelling adventure where Mother Goose paints to life beloved storybook favorites, including Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and The Beanstalk and The Princess and The Pea.
Little ones can also flex their culinary skills with each resort’s Cookie Decorating activity, where they can decorate and eat their own spring inspired creations. Gaylord Rockies in Aurora, CO and Gaylord Texan in Lake Grapevine, TX also encourage guests to challenge their minds with spring-themed escape rooms, including the Mad Tea Escape Room at Gaylord Rockies where guests are invited via an anonymous letter to a never-ending tea full of riddles.
In addition, from March 12 through Easter Sunday on April 4, Gaylord Hotels will present several Easter-themed experiences:
Gaylord Texan and Gaylord Rockies will present Easter EGGstravaganza with a socially distanced Easter Bunny Meet & Greet, Brunch with the Easter Bunny, and a game of Hop-and-Go-Seek during an Easter Bunny Scavenger Hunt.
Gaylord Palms will present an Eggspression Garden, an imaginative walkthrough experience featuring blossoming tulips, gigantic Easter eggs, a massive chocolate bunny and five additional spring-themed photo opportunities. On select dates through April 4, families can also enjoy a special Mr. & Mrs. Easter Bunny Character Breakfast in the newly renovated Villa de Flora.
At Gaylord Opryland, a special Delta Boat EGG-stra Fun experience will offer a themed indoor cruise that will represent a departure from traditional egg hunts. Kids are also invited to move, shake, dance and celebrate the season at a socially distanced Hop-Along Dance Party.
For those more interested in aquatics than Easter eggs, on March 1, Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee, FL opens its newest extension to Cypress Springs Water Park – Crystal River Rapids, a thrilling new action river attraction that will twist and turn guests through speeding currents at three-and-a-half feet per second as they race past roaring waterfalls, crumbling limestone walls and larger-than-life leaves. The resort’s Springtime Pool Party will feature games, sing-a-longs and prizes to keep youngsters amused.
Gaylord Opryland’s Spring into Fun Getaway Package rates start at $259 for a family of four, Gaylord Rockies’ Spring It On package start at $219 per night, and Gaylord Palms’ Spring Into Fun package features rates from $199.
In separate Easter vacation news, the new JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa is launching Family by JW, a lineup of activities for kids and families that gives the kid-friendly Orlando travel market a luxury twist. From March to June, the resort will transform into a mystical fairy garden, with special programs focusing on magical fairies and wizards, including fairy-themed story times and interactive letter-writing; scavenger hunts and “springtime”-themed miniature golf and Spring break pool parties and barbecues at Palm Cove. For adults, the resort’s collection of events includes a variety of interactive and make-it-yourself activities involving flowers, alcoholic beverages, and body care products.
Spring events and activities for Gaylord Hotels and Marriott Hotels have been developed in accordance with Marriott’s “Commitment to Clean” and with enhanced protocols and social distancing measures. Programming will also operate in accordance with the latest local, state and federal legislation.
As first seen in Insider Travel Report 2/22/21:
Post-COVID travel may look different than before, but will likely keep travel advisors busy, says Rainer Jenss, founder and president of the Family Travel Association (FTA). I recently sat down with Jenss, who spoke about how the virus is reshaping travel, common misconceptions about family travel, what’s spurring growth in this niche, and the latest trends travel advisors should keep on their radar.
Jenss: “We’re seeing more multi-family travel, where families are vacationing with other families."“We’re seeing more multi-family travel, where families are vacationing with other families,” Jenss says. “They’re traveling together in ‘pods’—meaning groups of friends who spend time with each other at home and are now going out on the road together too.“
“For years, tour operators have brought different families together, but this is the first time we’ve seen proactive booking of such groups,” Jenss says. “There’s more of a trust factor between people who know each other, a way to better control [their] environment.”
According to Jenns, one of the more interesting and innovative developments has been [the rise of] resorts catering to families who want a “workcation,” a chance to leave their homes but still work or study remotely. Jenss pointed to the Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, in Solvang, Calif., which, like many destinations and hotel chains, targeted this market in 2020.
“They transformed their kid’s club into a virtual learning space called Alisal Academy,” Jenss says. “It’s a way to work while still enjoying activities like horseback riding in beautiful surroundings, a great distraction or departure from the monotony of being home for so long.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has also spurred on additional interest in vacationing outdoors with loved ones. “We saw a similar boom in post 9-11, a heightened appreciation for family,” Jenss says. “Now it’s particularly acute, especially among those who have lost family members and are therefore particularly appreciative of spending time together. Let’s face it, Zoom calls are great, but can only do so much.”
Jenss says that KOA stays and RV travel are booming because they allow you to keep a safe distance from other travelers. Glamping (glamorous camping, where tents and sleeping bags are already set up), while not a huge niche, is also growing in popularity. Popular in Europe and the U.K., it’s not always expensive, and it’s now available in the Adirondacks and the Berkshires, among other places. How are travelers booking these vacations?
“We’re seeing a resurgence in consumers consulting with travel advisors, which goes against the conventional wisdom that everyone books directly through websites,” Jenss says. “They’re realizing that post-COVID, no one is better equipped and ready to handle their bookings than travel advisors, which like insurance, add a level of protection that more and more families will be looking for.”
Jenss also redefines what family travel really is. “We have to remember what ‘family’ means,” he says. “The way we define it at the FTA is really one family member traveling with another member of the family. Most people think of the traditional nuclear family as mom and dad and two kids, the iconic scene of families on the beach, running up and down the surf. But the industry is now responding to the unique variations on families of various shapes and sizes, such as multi-ethnic families. One of our members, R Family Vacations, caters to LGBTQ families.”
Jenss says what really generated the growth in family travel, at least pre-COVID, is multigenerational travel: three generations traveling together, including parents, grandparents, and children. “The grandparent demographic has been growing, both in size and in age,” he says. “People are living longer and healthier. And what’s trending is Skip-Gen, which is a new term referring to grandparents traveling with grandchildren.”
“It’s an outgrowth of a demographic reality: couples are having children later, often in the prime of their careers when the children are growing old enough to travel,” Jenss says. “It’s also due to a shift in the mindset of grandparents. They’re no longer just concerned about leaving inheritance, gifting money, and wealth, but gifting experiences.”
“And for seniors, there’s so much more accessibility now,” Jenss says. “Take safaris. Twenty-seven years ago, when we went, you wouldn’t see so many older people and children on safaris. Now you see lots because the tour companies are now catering to families and the older generation.”
Jenss says that In 2021 the FTA will be establishing standards and guidelines for what it means to be family friendly. “We will also be creating a certification program that will help consumers and travel advisors identify those organizations that adhere to those criteria,” he says.
Heading to Chicago? No need to leave Fido behind. The Hotel Zachary's Bark and Park Package will make sure your furry friend is just as comfortable as you by providing a dog bed, food & water bowls and a signature Hotel Zachary-branded welcome amenity for your pooch. All shapes and sizes welcome! Valid through November 24, 2021, the package also includes complimentary parking, and a waived pet fee. For baseball fans, another plus: the hotel looks out onto iconic Wrigley Field.
.My name is Dawn M. Barclay. My parents were owners of Barclay Travel Ltd. and later, Barclay International Group, and I basically grew up in the travel industry. Along with stints working with both companies and a few other travel-related firms, I've served as a senior editor/reporter at Travel Agent Magazine, a contributing editor at Travel Life, the meetings/incentive editor at Travel Market Report and now, the Contributing Editor for Family Travel and Special Needs Travel at Insider Travel Report. My articles have also appeared in the pages of Jax Fax, GoNomad, and Successful Meetings Magazine. I also write psychological thrillers and romance as D.M. Barr.