THE BLOG
06/28/2013 07:42 pm ET | Updated Aug 28, 2013

We All Want the Same Things From That Family Vacation

By Eileen Ogintz and Kyle McCarthy

Sun, sand and happy kids. Just make sure the little ones don't eat the sand. Maybe your family would rather be hiking in a national park or exploring a foreign country. Wherever you go this summer, all of us want the same thing: The chance to relax and make happy memories.

Vacation memories, families say, not only last a lifetime but are among the most important they have, helping them to get through the tough times. Just thinking about the vacation ahead can put the fun back in everyday life, Disney Consumer Insight Team's Amy Foster told the attendees at the First TMS Family Travel Summit in Orlando recently.

"Fun is not frivolous," she said. "Fun is precious."

According to new research from MMGY Global, reported by Peter Yesawich at the Summit, the vast majority of family travelers want time to relax, unwind and spend time together. Eighty percent want to see new places (forget customer loyalty) and 75 percent want an easy to get to destination. Supervised kids clubs aren't so vital to these time-starved families said Yesawich, with 78 percent of families opting for free WiFi over kids programs on their last vacation. Digital media in all forms was tasked with making the travel research and booking process easier and less confusing for families, who want to be assured that their needs for connecting rooms and adjacent plane seats will be honored.

With demand for family-friendly summer vacation destinations and multigenerational accommodations and organized tours at an all-time high, according to industry sources, those attending our first TMS Family Travel Summit looked at what "family travel" really means today.

For the instant summer vacation marketing guidelines that emerged from TMS Family Travel Summit, and you can read more in our report. The 35 Summit attendees from around the country lapped up the data points, generating 54 million-plus #TMSOrlando impressions throughout the weekend by sharing insights with their followers.

Marketers take note:

· The classic married couple with two kids represents less than half of all American families.

· Single parents run 16% of all households in the industrialized world and, social media statisticians would have us believe, moms control everything--including vacation planning.

· Grandparents rock--especially when it comes to vacations. More than a third of grandparents who are active travelers have traveled with grandchildren just in the past year, according to the 2013 Portrait of American Travelers

· Generation C -- the collectors, creators and curators among us-- are driven to share every experience on and offline.

· American families now average a shorter length of stay on vacation --2.73 nights - but are still traveling as the economy recovers, According to research by D.K. Shifflet,

The group cited social media's potential for broadening the family market, from helping less affluent families to find vacation values to sharing advice.

At the same time, Dorothy Dowling of Best Western International notes that with women managing their own incomes, their household expenses, and the finances of their own parents, the "sheconomy" controls approximately two-thirds of America's wealth. How has this affected family travel? It has put women and moms in the driver's seat when it comes to making vacation planning destinations.

One of the most important trends identified at the Summit was the need to satisfy Generation C. Their constant need for stimulation and new experiences means the travel industry must provide activities to satisfy every age group, and make those experiences photogenic as well, so that guests will share them.

Social media, researchers and attendees agreed, is the sales tool that can share those memories and turn happy family vacationers into brand evangelists. Here are seven ways Summit attendees--leading travel media and marketers--believe can improve the family travel experience:

1. Offer vacations in all price ranges so that less affluent families can afford to vacation.

2. Empower today's maker families to book trips themselves by keeping it simple and transparent. Make getting to your destination easy and fun.

3. Welcome diversity in staff and guests .

4. Make guests feel like everything they do is new and unique.

5. Give them free WiFi and encourage them to share memories about you.

6. Arrange activities for all ages together.

7. Have your photographer and filmmakers on hand to record the fun.

Makes sense to us.