Wellness travel is rising among a particularly weary group of travelers — parents

Amusement parks and road trips — this is this stuff many family vacations are made of.  

But a new survey shows parents increasingly want in on a trend that isn’t often aimed at families: wellness travel.

A report published Thursday by the market intelligence company Morning Consult showed that parents, compared with others, showed less interest in traveling to relax or for cultural experiences, and more interest in traveling for mental and physical health.  

The data showed an emerging picture of family travel — one in which parents may be starting to prioritize their own needs alongside those of their children.   

Traveling to improve physical health

American Kristen Graff took a diving trip with her family to Fiji in 2022.

“It was something we could all do that was active,” she said.

But “we were doing it for us,” she said, referring to herself and her husband. The kids just happened to be invited too, she said with a laugh.

Purpose of leisure travel for trips planned in next year.
Source: Morning Consult

She said the family reserved one day for kid-centric activities, like all-terrain vehicle riding, but spent most of their time in the water. Graff said she and her husband are avid divers, and, as it turned out, her sons ended up loving it too.

Compared with nonparents, parents were nearly twice as likely to have plans to travel to improve their physical health, according to Morning Consult’s survey of some 2,200 American adults.

And the trend appears to be growing. Traveling for physical health is up eight points among parents since last year, said Lindsey Roeschke, travel and hospitality analyst at Morning Consult.

“One bit of data I find particularly interesting is, when looking at the various goals for traveling, we asked parents who benefits from those goals — the parent themself, the kids, someone else, or everyone on the trip — and the idea of traveling to improve physical health is the one most likely to benefit the parent alone,” she said.

And “mental health is a close second,” she said.

One in five adult respondents said they are planning to travel to improve their mental health, but among parents the rate rose to nearly one in three — perhaps reflecting the lack of time parents have in their daily lives to focus on their own well-being, according to the report.  

“The idea of traveling for mental or physical wellness is attractive to them because they themselves feel the benefit of it, rather than putting someone else’s needs before their own — which parents have to do all the time,” Roeschke said.

Traveling to relax

Compared with nonparents, parents indicated less interest in traveling to relax or “get away,” according to the survey.

However, that’s likely because parents accept the realities of traveling with kids — especially young ones. Parents of children under the age of five are the least likely to say they travel to escape or get away, according to another Morning Consult report on family travel published in November.

Simply put, it’s harder for parents to relax when traveling,
Lindsey Roeschke
travel and hospitality analyst at Morning Consult

Parents of young kids are also the most likely to be deterred from traveling, because of costs or the added stress of lugging around car seats and strollers, according to the report.

Simply put, it’s harder for parents to relax when traveling,” said Roeschke. “I’ve often heard it said that traveling with a child is just parenting in a new location, and it can actually be more difficult than parenting at home due to schedule changes, lack of comforts of home — like toys, games, cribs, highchairs — and upended routines.” 

Parents also showed less enthusiasm to travel to spend time with family and friends, the May report showed.

“Parents are doing that often at home, so they’re less likely to think of it as the purpose of their trip,” she said.

Planning a wellness family vacation

Though some wellness resorts only allow adults, places like The Farm at San Benito welcome guests of all ages.

The resort — located 90 minutes south of Manila, Philippines — has children’s meditation and fitness classes alongside animal-feeding and vegetable-picking activities, according to its website.

In February, Napa Valley’s Carneros Resort and Spa debuted a spring “Little Seedlings” program for children that includes garden tours and chicken feeding. Kids can also take yoga classes, embark on scavenger hunts and sleep outside in a tent — fireside smores included.

“Napa doesn’t just have to be an adults-only experience,” said managing director Edward Costa. “The Little Seedlings program was designed to inspire our youngest guests … while allowing the adults to fully embrace the charm and amenities of our luxury resort.”

Guests must be at least 17 years old to visit the BodyHoliday Saint Lucia, but the all-inclusive resort makes an exception on major holidays and during fitness-themed weeks in the summer. From July 3 to Aug. 25, the family-based fitness weeks combine yoga, sailing, healthy cooking and “beach boot camps” hosted by visiting Olympians.

Planning your own wellness trip

Rather than a resort stay, parents can plan their own wellness trips based on their interests.

One activity that suits many families is the safari, said Mike Harlow, the general manager of the travel agency Scott Dunn Asia.

“We are able to customize safari holidays for families with little ones to see the Big Five in South Africa,” he said.

Places like Madikwe Safari Lodge are ideal for families, he said, because they combine shorter game drives with bush and bug activities and animal tracking to ensure kids never get bored.  

Madikwe Safari Lodge accepts children aged seven and older, and drives don’t go as close to dangerous game, according to its website.
Hoberman Collection | Universal Images Group | Getty Images

In the winter, Harlow recommends Sweden for sleigh rides, watching the Northern Lights and a stay at the Ice Hotel — which has beds and chandeliers made of ice — while families keen on history can cruise the Nile in Egypt.

Parents can also swap the traditional family vacation for a couples or even solo trip — or by booking a trip that includes just part of the family.  

“Globally, we’ve noticed a growing trend of one parent taking one child away for a bonding holiday,” said Harlow. “Mother and daughter trips, in particular, are on the rise.”

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