The four hottest family travel trends for 2021

Laura Fowler
·7-min read
Ocean Park glamping
Ocean Park glamping

1. The new kids' clubs

With the prospect of proper family holidays on the horizon, parents are looking to build on the closer ties developed with their children over the past year when they next go away. So rather than aiming for all-inclusives which enable them to offload their little treasures in the kids’ club – if only for a sweet couple of hours while they enjoy cold beers and a book or an uninterrupted conversation – they are aiming at holidays designed for families to spend more time together, with engaging and evermore unusual experiences to keep everyone happy.

The forced hiatus from travel has prompted many to re-evaluate what they want from a holiday, warming to the idea of “making travel count” and seeking out authentic experiences from around the world – and sunbathing with an airport thriller while your children watch films is not exactly the meaningful, memorable experience we’re seeking this year.

“Increasingly we’re seeing families travelling to spend time together rather than shunting the children off to a kids’ club while parents lounge poolside,” says Carolyn Addison, head of Black Tomato. “They want to return from a trip with a formative experience or new skill they can enjoy together – in Costa Rica this might involve surfing lessons, Spanish classes, ­stargazing with an astronomer, or chocolate workshops.”

Jonny Bealby, founder of Wild Frontiers, agrees. “We have been seeing a steady rise in inquiries from families who are wanting to do more together following lockdown,” he says. “Increasingly, clients are inquiring about holidays that are special, as the children want to do something active and parents use their kids as an excuse for that bucket-list adventure they have been dreaming about.”

Kids skiing
Kids skiing

Another reason for the shift is the widespread desire to avoid crowds and instead stick together in family ­bubbles, taking over stand-alone accommodation in more socially distanced destinations.

“Kids’ clubs tend to be offered by larger hotels and interest in these has waned as parents look to stay away from the masses,” explains Nico Kostich, founder of Yonder. “We’ve seen a significant pattern emerging recently, up as much as 60 per cent, in which families are looking for remote hotels and lodges down those roads-less-travelled where they can enjoy spending time together. Far-flung beaches in Sri Lanka for one-to-one surfing lessons, lodges in Indian National Parks for private safaris, diving off lesser-known islands in Thailand – all have seen meteoric rises in interest for travel in 2021.”

And it’s not just parents, according to Simon Lynch, sales director at Scott Dunn, who reveals that the luxury tour operator has been “hearing from grandparents who want to take their families somewhere remote and with a strong sense of adventure, as well as the luxury of their own space – whether this is an exclusive-use safari lodge or an epic self-drive trip along some of the world’s iconic routes”.

So, has enforced confinement actually helped us bond? Rossella Beaugié, founder of The Thinking Traveller – a villa rental company that specialises in arranging family experiences such as Greek dancing classes in the Ionian Islands, cheese-making in Puglia, or private family sailing courses on Capraia – believes so. “These long Covid lockdowns have brought many families closer together,” she says, “to find out that spending relaxed time en famille can actually be fun!”

By Laura Fowler

2. Bringing the outdoors in – to the city

Hospitality around the world has come up with an extraordinary amount of innovation recently, from flash sales and flexible booking, to robot cleaners and cocktail home deliveries. Now, with people thoroughly fed up with being stuck indoors, the industry is finding novel ways to bring the outdoors into town.

In sardine-packed Hong Kong, Ocean Park has turned every kid’s dream to stay overnight in a theme park into a reality. While the borders have been closed, leaving Hongkongers unable to travel, a glamping site has been set up between the park’s thrill rides, three-storey aquarium and cable car station. Costing HK$2,800 (£265) for four, the price includes four two-day park passes; breakfast, lunch and dinner; and a night-time tour of the snowy South Pole Spectacular penguin enclosure.

Brighton Harbour Hotel
Brighton Harbour Hotel

Meanwhile, Ritz-Carlton hotels, from Miami to Singapore, are now offering families the option to camp – in their rooms. Tents are set up for ­little ones, complete with high-thread count linens and feather duvets, and a selection of old-school games are provided, including Scrabble, Monopoly, and Twister (Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore “Ritz Kids Night Safari” from US$550 [£404], including breakfast; ritzcarlton.com).

With less road traffic and more cycling lanes appearing as a result of the pandemic, the Onomichi U2 in Hiroshima has started offering a “Cycling and Relaxing” stay, with bicycles available for rent and a cycle-through café counter where you can pick up chunks of cheesecake. Closer to home, the due-to-be-opened Melia Innside hotel in Newcastle is also adding free bicycles for guests. Just book the day before and you’re free to set off for the Northumbrian coast or Hadrian’s Wall.

Further south, the Brighton Harbour Hotel has introduced watercolour painting kits with easels, canvases, bushes and paints, for guests to immortalise the town’s pastel-hued alleyways, pretty piers and pebble beaches. And London’s Belmond Cadogan is giving guests exclusive keys to access the manicured lawns, ancient mulberry trees and colourful flower beds inside the private Cadogan Place Gardens.

By Lee Cobaj

3. Sailing in solitude

Clean air, space and viral security will still be top of the agenda for families this year. With a question mark hanging over cruising, yacht charter holidays may offer the perfect alternative, particularly when crew quarantine beforehand.

Hoping to capitalise on increasing demand is Meridian Adventure Sail club, which launched in 2020 and specialises in voyages to destinations such as Tahiti, the Bahamas and Palau, via a fleet of six catamarans for 32 members and 24 crew. Founder Sean Galleymore says: “Guests can fulfil a lifelong dream to explore and enjoy a first-class experience in the company of loved ones.”

Family diving in Indonesia
Family diving in Indonesia

Lynch agrees that sailing holidays will be popular this year. He says: “There has been renewed interest in yacht charters and we expect more in 2021, with a desire for privacy and luxury. As part of Scott Dunn Private – our new membership platform – we have added four yacht charters to our new Limitless collection.

“We have the beautiful Alexa J for exploring Greece’s Ionian Islands, and the Satori on the Med with access to Michelin-starred dining. In Indonesia, guests can sail scenic waterways on the Dunia Baru or head over to the islands of Komodo and Flores on Lamima, the world’s largest wooden sailing yacht.”

Meridian Adventure Sail’s private club application and prices are available on request. Multi-vessel voyages are available. Yacht charter pricing is also available on request for Scott Dunn Private members.

By Jenny Southan

4. The family that spas together, stays together

Family time has been far from healthy of late. The lack of routine has meant that, by and large, the whole family has exercised less, with adults drinking more alcohol and all of us becoming much more digitally dependent. Digital addiction, in my opinion, is a pandemic in its own right.

Happily, help is at hand. The smart spa industry has for some time been inventing wonderful ways to help us reconnect IRL (in real life – an actual thing now).

Schloss Elmau
Schloss Elmau

Ahead of the game is ­Germany’s Schloss Elmau, where multi-generational families can enjoy skiing, biking, archery, canyoning, ice hockey and drumming. Marbella Club in Spain has a brilliant balance of spa and wellness for the whole family, blending time together and me-time beautifully.

Further afield, in Qatar, Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som will include a family wellness programme in its offering when it opens early this year, featuring a children’s dance studio, family treatment rooms and more.

For families with older teens (over 16), investigate Clover Mill, a retreat set in a renovated 17th-century mill in the Malvern Hills where Julie Dent, an advocate of ancient ayurveda, assists loving, exhausted parents struggling to help troubled children with all manner of ills.

Rooms at Schloss Elmau from €300 (£270) pp/pn, half board including a range of activities; Marbella Club from €390; Clover Mill from £695pp for a weekend all-inclusive.

By Suzanne Duckett

Travel within the UK and overseas is currently subject to restrictions. Check the relevant guidance before booking and travelling.