Why family travels never been better

Then: plane travel was considered a luxury, low-cost airlines had yet to take to the skies and, for many, family holidays were annual events bookended by seemingly never-ending drives, complete with squabbling siblings and ‘are we there yet?’ on repeat.

Now: thanks to a boom in affordable air travel, the modern child may take numerous trips each year, blending close-to-home camping expeditions or farm stays with urban adventures in the world’s ‘must-see’ cities such as London, Paris or New York.

What were once considered ‘trips of a lifetime’ are also more likely to be regular fixtures in childhood, with long-haul holidays spent zip-lining in Costa Rica, snorkelling off Thailand’s beautiful beaches or penguin-watching off the Cape in South Africa all boosting a young jet-setter’s memory bank.

 

We all sleep easier, family style

Then: the whole clan often crowded into one unappetising hotel room, slept top-to-toe in a cramped tent or descended upon some kindly old friend or distant relative who had once politely suggested ‘you should really come and stay some time’.

Now: hotels are generally far better prepared for families, offering adjoining rooms, cots and even babysitting services. There’s a whole range of luxury places created specifically for the family market – Cavallino Bianco (cavallino-bianco.com) in Italy, the UK’s Watergate Bay Hotel (watergatebay.co.uk) or Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii to name just a few – with kids’ clubs, child-friendly food, play areas in the grounds and so on.

But the accommodation revolution does not stop there. Thanks to popular home swap and rental sites it’s now super easy for families to locate great apartments, often with toys, bunk beds and all the mod cons required by today’s child. If you really want to go the extra mile, companies such as Bush Baby Travel (bushbaby.travel) offer safaris where the whole family can sleep comfortably under canvas in the bush. There’s also the family cruise option, with entire ships devoted to entertaining your children… did we mention Disney?

 

Our digital natives engage differently with a trip

Then: without portable screens and global roaming, children were kept busy while travelling by what now looks like a relatively limited repertoire: playing games, reading books, writing a travel journal or filling up a sketch pad.

Now: technology has transformed how children engage with a trip. Sure, the tech-free pursuits still apply – kids from any era adore reading, writing, drawing and (hopefully!) playing games as a family. But now they supplement these with a wealth of digital aids: Google Earth (google.com/earth) to see what their destination looks like before they arrive; translation apps to converse easily with locals; search engines to help locate fun things to do while away; and of course Skype or social media to share stories with family and friends back home.

Tablets are now key weapons in the parental arsenal against ‘I’m bored’: they get families through delays and meltdowns, and provide respite for siblings who need a bit of space from each other. Just don’t forget to pack the charger.