Single Parent Family Travel – An Untapped Niche Market
By Hillary Bressler, Fractional CMO & Digital Marketing Consultant at Pinch Hit Partners
The travel industry loves to focus on family travel. We see many family packages geared towards parents escaping for a break with mom, dad and two children.
The sharp rise in the number of children living with a single parent in the United States from 1970 to 2018 is more than evident. This rise suggests that more must be done to ensure that single parent families are encouraged to travel by meeting the needs of single parents.
The fastest growing segment of single mothers are those aged 35 and older. This population tends to be educated and financially stable single mothers by choice.
As a single parent, myself, I see the struggles that single parents encounter while traveling as a family. Traveling with children by your self is hard, there is no doubt about it. Couples generally have an extra set of hands, a second disciplinary voice and can act as a tag team to allow some individual downtime. I know many single parents that would flock to a destination or hotel that catered to them. Members of the travel industry, please take a look at what single parent families would love to see from you to make us travel more. We want to give you our money.
- Single Occupancy
Most family vacation packages are based on a pricing model of two adults sharing a room. Many of the other offers are only applicable with two full paying adults. When we travel with one adult, many hotels and cruises charge our children as the second adult. This singles supplement, can nearly double the price of travel for traveling on cruises and tours. It is too often we see tickets, deals and memberships that offer family discounts – but only for couple families. That isn't just frustrating for single parents it's also short-sighted of businesses, which are ignoring millions of single parents.
Suggestion: Offer single parent vacation deals exclusively for one adult plus their children and don't make us pay for an invisible partner.
- Nanny Services
Traveling with younger children creates many challenges as a single parent. We can't work out at your gym, or buy a massage at your luxurious spa. We are stuck in the room because we have no help. Hotels tout that they have babysitting services, but usually that is a phone number of a 3rd party nanny service. There are so many questions that make us single parents doubt hiring a nanny in a city that is unfamiliar to us. Are these nannies familiar with the hotel, and how do we trust that this nanny service is vetted or just a recommendation from the hotel?
Suggestion: Give us more than a nanny service phone number. Sell us the service. Just like you have golf and spa packages, offer "Parent Packages". A package rate that comes with 5 hours of babysitting from a sitter that is vetted by your hotel brand. The hotel package comes with the nanny from 10am-3pm or 6pm-12pm. They come to the room, or we take them to a kid zone or designated room. You give us an app that we can log into to check on the activity. And guess what? You have a customer for life as single parents will flock to you. FDR Resort in Jamaica has a program where your room comes with your own personal nanny for the day. The single moms, I know, flock there multiple times a year just for the break and help.
- Play Areas In Airports
Traveling with children in an airport is stressful. Airports have successfully cornered the market on bars in each terminal to soothe those bored and scared airplane travelers with liquor and tv's. However, you have barely helped us struggling parents navigate these airports with any semblance of ease. We love the children's play area, but why can't you have a playground in each terminal like the number of bars? The children and the people around them would be so much happier on flights if they had a chance to run around before boarding.
Suggestion: Have companies like National Geographic Kids sponsor playgrounds across airports nationwide to help pay for this.
Airplane Seating Together-Traveling with young children can already be very stressful for parents and when you can't sit together on a flight, it only makes this process more difficult. All we're asking for is for airlines to do a better job of accommodating parents ahead of time so we can make flying a better experience for families and other passengers on board. Having to call in or make arrangements after boarding to ask someone to move seats just adds to the stress of traveling alone with children.
Suggestion: Offer family seating areas that are assigned to traveling families. It is a win- win. No one wants to sit next to us and our crying kids anyway, and we can relax knowing we have a seat next to our child and if they cry the entire time, we have understanding parents around us.
- Help at the Buffet
As a single parent, a meal at a buffet presents a huge problem for us. How do I go get my food for my family, carry the tray but also have a stroller and another child in tow? Do I leave a 3 and 5 year old at the table while I scramble to bring them their food, and then finally get my food after they are done. Buffets are a single parent's most stressful moment during vacation.
Suggestion: At the hostess stand, offer a free service to any single parent in which a staff person either gets the food for the family or occupies the children while the parent gets the food.
- Conference Childcare
As single parents we work and we travel for conferences. Many times we want to bring our children when possible, but conference leaders are bad about supplying childcare or choose business hotels with no kids clubs, so we end up leaving our children home with babysitters or grandma.
Suggestion: At business conferences, turn one of your halls into a kids club. Hire counselors, bring in bins of toys and movies and charge a daily fee for the attendees. I guarantee your conferences will sell out as more people can attend and you will have an additional revenue stream of childcare. Plus the parents may extend their trip and enjoy your hotel and city.
- Airline Entertainment for Children
t is exhausting having to entertain children on an airplane for hours and hours. Many of us will choose airlines that have screens on the back of the headrests just for our children, but we know that some planes don't have screens.
Suggestion: Think about giving away a drawstring bag that has kid's toys in them by age. The kids will love the airline, but the single parents will love you more. Air France does this quite well.
- Cooking Food
Food on vacation is expensive. We would rather spend our money on attraction tickets, than $12 chicken nuggets at the hotel. Adding that quite frequently our children are picky eaters.
Suggestion: Build more hotels with mini kitchens. We need refrigerators for our milk, microwaves, sinks, utensils and corkscrews for our wine. We like to make our meals, so if you add a stove, we would be thrilled.
- Clear international travel rules
Traveling with kids outside your home country? In addition to worrying about how to fund the vacation and the extended time away from work, separated parents have to consider the other parent's plans and seek consent when taking the children interstate or overseas. Documentation requirements become more complicated when one parent or guardian is traveling alone with a minor. In general, besides your passport, you should bring written consent from the child's biological parent(s) along with the child's birth certificate. Many countries require that the consent document be witnessed and notarized. But, if you are a single parent who adopted, had a child by a donor, or a widow(er), it gets complicated as the directions for border control agents may not be clear.
Suggestion: As the travel industry begins to embrace more single parent family travel, make sure you know the issues we deal with in order to cross the borders and make the rules consistent and clear.
According to 2017 U.S. Census Bureau, 4 out of about 12 million single parent families with children under the age of 18, were headed by single mothers. Single mothers are powerful. You may think single mothers are poor. Nope. Don't hold on to a dated statistic that single mothers are poor. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of single parents are employed. We have to work. Many of us are executives, business owners and CEO's who have money and like to show our children the world. At any one time, about 66% of single mothers are working outside the home. And the big news, single parents like to travel.
More so, let us not forget those who have a parent who is deployed, working nonstop, grandparents traveling alone with grandkids and the cool trips with auntie. They all need these same services.
Single parents are an untapped industry. You have ignored us. Please take a look at these 320 million single moms and dads that are ready to take on the world and sell to us. We will follow.