Making Travel Easier...
For Family and Special Needs Travelers...
As seen in Travel Insider Report 3/8/21
As COVID-19 positivity levels dip but the global pandemic persists, a recent informal survey of Facebook’s Traveling with Kids Worldwide group asked members what health- and safety-related modifications would make them more willing to travel with their children this spring.
Their answers were thoughtful and comprehensive, including such requests as providing voluntary COVID testing upon arrival and departure; isolating rooms for at least three days after guests check out; requiring mandatory and properly worn (over the nose) mask-wearing in common spaces as well as for staff; regularly testing staff; providing info on local testing; and preparing pre-made breakfast bags instead of expecting guests to visit a breakfast buffet.
Other requests included limiting elevator capacity; posting prominent signage regarding protocols; removing tables and chairs from public spaces that are “too close for comfort”; and timing guests’ use of public amenities such as pools, breakfast areas and reception space.
Said one mom: “[I’d like] having a guarantee that provides isolated/quarantined accommodations should you test positive, or low-cost insurance so if you do test positive, you aren’t stuck without options and a huge additional hotel bill.”
Another mom said: “I’d love antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer in the rooms, plus dish soap to wash non-disposable water bottles and kitchen items. Also, affordable bottled water and grab-and-go breakfasts and even lunches…even if I have to order it the night before. Then we can stay away from one more interior space while touring, [while saving] time and delivery fees.”
Hotels and resorts have been quick to implement health and safety protocols. But are they the ones preferred by prospective family guests?
In many cases, yes, according to those properties we interviewed. For example, Gaylord Hotels, a Marriott brand, is offering several Easter-oriented programs this spring with COVID safety top of mind. “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,” says John Adams, vice president and managing director. “(Our) line-up of springtime programming 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.”
With protocols in place similar to those preferred by those we surveyed, Marriott overall require all guests and associates to wear face coverings and to limit elevator capacity. The company’s Commitment to Clean program also requires surfaces in public areas and guest rooms to be treated with hospital-grade disinfectants in common areas with increased frequency. In addition, Marriott places disinfecting wipes in each room for guests' personal use. Electrostatic sprayers also are being used to sanitize public areas throughout the hotels.
To help ease the risk of COVID-19 transmission through person-to-person contact, Marriott employs signage in its lobbies to remind guests to maintain social distancing protocols and has removed or re-arranged furniture to allow more space for distancing. The company has added partitions at front desks to provide an extra level of protection and is working with supply chain partners to make masks and gloves available to associates. Sanitizing stations are scattered throughout all hotels, including near the entrances and front desks, elevator banks, and fitness and meeting spaces. As for dining, besides enhancing safe food preparation and service practices, Marriott is modifying its operational practices for in-room dining and designing new approaches to buffets.
Similarly, many hotels and resorts outside of the Marriott family are also running Easter and spring promotions and have implemented many of these precautions, including the ability to cancel closer to departure date in case of last-minute illness. For example, Hotel Xcaret in Mexico now allows guests cancel their reservations up to seven days in advance with no penalty and has implemented 360 Xafety model to assist guests with COVID-19 detection tests at the company’s resort and parks. Guests staying at the property 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. 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.
The 119-room Buenaventura Golf & Beach Resort, Riviera Pacifica in 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 Ocean Club Resorts in Providenciales, Turks & Caicos, located along Grace Bay Beach, offer a new cancellation policy where can receive a full refund up to 24 hours prior to their stay for stays between now and April 11, 2021. Turks & Caicos requires a negative test prior to arrival. The resorts also have started extending their concierge services to now help travelers with testing on-island during their stay. PCR testing is done for an additional fee of $185 per person onsite at Ocean Club East. Onsite antigen testing at the Ocean Club West location is available for $25 per guest. While the resorts’ suites feature kitchens, so families don’t have to visit the dining room, they have begun offering complimentary breakfast for those who do wish to venture out. Previously, no meals were included with their stays.
All of these resorts report that they provide ample signage regarding social distancing, mask-wearing and updated health protocols. Furniture in seating areas, pool, beaches, and restaurants has been rearranged accordingly. For travelers eschewing restaurant dining, all also offer the option to enjoy meals in rooms and suites via room service and takeaway options.
For family travelers interested in traveling this spring break, it appears that resorts are providing the precautions and testing to assure travelers are healthy and safe while on vacation.
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.
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.
.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.