The two aspects of my life I missed the most during a year in lockdown were, without question, the ability to travel freely and the ability to see my family. A number of since-released data sets have proven that I was not alone, and so it’s no wonder that, when restrictions began to ease up, people looked for every opportunity to marry the two. Family and travel, that is.
As a consequence, this past year has seen an unprecedented (albeit unsurprising, as travel spending is also up with people prepared to splurge on longer and more extravagant trips) uptick in opulent destination-style family reunions. It’s also no wonder that many established travel concierges and adjacent companies would seek to expand on their existing offerings … particularly where kids are involved. Kensington Tours, Abercrombie & Kent and Black Tomato are just a few of the companies to build or expand their family-dedicated assemblage of itineraries and let’s just say … the days that indulgent kid-friendly travel meant a trip to Disney? Long gone.
Abercrombie & Kent is a premier luxury travel company whose network spans 100 countries across all seven continents. They boast more than 50 offices in more than 30 countries and a web of over 2,500 dedicated travel experts. They’ve operated in the luxury family travel space, offering family small group journeys since the mid ’90s, but they’ve offered private tailor-made journeys completely customized for families since their conception in 1962. For the latter, the family members’ ages, their personal interests and their preferred travel style, among other things, are taken into account as they build an itinerary that meets the needs and interests of everyone involved.
“There’s always been a consistent interest in family travel — especially multi- or intra-generational (grandparents with grandchildren) — but since the pandemic, we’ve seen an increase in all family groups,” a spokesperson for Abercrombie & Kent told us. “Historically, guests may have taken a big trip as a couple for their anniversary or to celebrate a milestone birthday. Now, they’re taking the whole family.”
Over the course of the past year, they’ve seen another persistent trend: extended families traveling together, often in groups of 8-14, and to far-flung destinations like the Galapagos, Alaska, Africa, Antarctica and Europe, in particular.
“For 2022, bookings are more international. Everything from chartering yachts in the Galapagos, to safaris with private planes and exclusive camp buyouts — even a family of 24 traveling around Europe by private jet,” the spokesperson says.
“We’ve seen growing interest in travel to Europe, especially private stays. Guests are searching for places that are a bit more remote to spend time with family and friends, renting a private European villa with a wonderful view or chartering a barge on a picturesque waterway,” she adds. “It’s all about traveling at a slower pace, being together after so long apart, and spending time outdoors — biking along a towpath, strolling through uncrowded local villages or simply watching the passing scenery from a cozy deck chair.”
Prices vary widely from destination to destination and are date-dependent — they don’t even have estimates for North America with demand being so high — but a 9-day custom family adventure trip to Morocco, for example, generally runs somewhere in the vicinity of $8,595 per person, while a 10-day family-style trip to Italy runs closer to $14,500 per person. A financial undertaking, to be sure.
In similar fashion, Black Tomato, a curator of bespoke travel experiences, is offering a unique set of kid-friendly jaunts, all of which live under the “Take me on a Story” umbrella. As its name suggests, this particular portion of Black Tomato’s offering includes a series of itineraries derivative of classic children’s books. Patrons can “follow in Alice’s footsteps on a five-night journey through the heart of rural Oxfordshire” a la Alice in Wonderland or “turn rags to riches on a six-night journey across Morrocco’s sand-whipped deserts and through crumbling kasbahs in search of a hidden magic lamp” inspired by Arabian Nights. Any concerns surrounding the sophistication of these trips should be assuaged by the price of admission — rates range anywhere from £14,000 to £112,000 for a family of four.
“Having spent so much time indoors, in the confines of home, during Covid we wanted a joyful vacation that took us all into a new world, into something that really sparked their imagination,” San Francisco-based Black Tomato client Linda, who traveled to Iceland earlier this year with her husband and two sons, says. “And to add to that, my eldest son loves Jules Verne’s geological thriller Journey to the Centre of the Earth. So when we saw Black Tomato was offering us a chance to be on the set of this book, in an action-filled adventure, we couldn’t say no.”
“Our Black Tomato guide, Arnar, gave us a book of maps on arrival, he fed us film-set quality props and clues throughout the week to get us from A to B (ones challenging for our children and us). We found aged parchment packages filled with riddles — all maintaining the story of our mysterious uncle ‘GH.’ Over various days this lead to the crescendo moment of heading inside the chamber of dormant volcano — so quite literally inside the centre of the earth,” she adds. “The attention to detail on this trip kept our children entertained from dusk till dawn. Not only did we get to enjoy Iceland but we got to spend time as a family, bonding through comradery of trekking, solving puzzles and tonnes of adventure – it was everything we wanted and needed. “
Kensington Tours is another luxury travel company that specializes in personalized trips. Boasting expertise in over 100 different countries, this summer — presumably as a direct result of the rise in demand for small group trips — they released a new collection of family-centric itineraries described as being “seamlessly designed for the needs of families, including those with multiple generations and especially those with children under 15 years old.” The itineraries include activities like chocolate tasting and a treasure hunt in Paris at the Louvre, exploring the epicenter of pet cafés, anime, pop culture and the art of ninja stealth in Japan and an introduction to wildlife in East Africa for aspiring rangers on jeep and walking safaris. In short: activities you’d probably want to partake in as an adult, with or without kids, but in the case of the former, ones that will also keep your kids stimulated and engaged in a cool place and in the absence of an iPad.
“We know that planning a family trip can be time consuming,” said Helen Giontsis, President of Kensington Tours, in a release. “With their own families in mind, our experts have worked to source services and create experiences for individual families with a very wide range of wish lists and needs. We want to take the guesswork away so that your family vacation is everything it should be.”
Of course, the experiences themselves are worthy of the lofty price tags, but there’s also value in the fact that you’re instilling in your children the importance of meaningful travel. Also priceless? Not having to take your kids to Disney.
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