From glamping to mini-consumers, Tracey Spicer takes a peek into the future of holidaying with children.
I like to think I'm on the edge.
You know what I mean: on the cutting edge; at the coal face; ahead of the curve.
Mum, I really don't care what hotel we stay in, as long as it's got free wi-fi.
But the truth is I'm a late adopter, still wearing flares, fluoros, and fingerless gloves long after they've gone out of fashion.
Except in the area of family travel.
As well as sending me to the edge of sanity, travelling with kids allows me to see what's next on the horizon.
So, here are my top 10 family holiday trends.
* Interactivity: Airlines, hotels, and attractions are scrambling to improve their connectivity, because mini-consumers demand it. My nine-year-old son said yesterday, "Mum, I really don't care what hotel we stay in, as long as it's got free wi-fi." Hotels, like the Novotel London City South, have huge touch screens in the foyer, so the kids can choose an itinerary for the day, explore transport options, and learn the history of the area. Most attractions have free apps, with maps, games and blogging or photo features. Bound Round is a good all-rounder app for kids to download before you go.
* Floatability: This includes anything from ocean liners to river cruises and crewed yachts. It started with the likes of Royal Caribbean, which has water slides, kids' clubs, and ice skating onboard. Now, families are taking to European river cruising on Le Boat, where you can hop on bikes at each stop to explore the countryside. As for smaller craft, companies like The Moorings offer yachts or motorboats, with or without a skipper, for the same price as a resort holiday. The best thing is, you don't have to pack and unpack: your accommodation, transport and dining is all-in-one.
* Educational: An increasing number of parents are taking their kids out of school to travel. And they don't want to feel guilty about it! So, attractions are hiring early childhood educators, university students, and teachers as family tour guides. During a recent trip to Rome, we booked a PhD student through Context Travel to explain the history of the Colosseum in terms the kids could understand. She told them it was like a "giant Lego creation, with metal spikes from one block fitting into holes in the next".
* Environmental: This means different things to different families. Camping, glamping and gramping continue to grow, along with the philosophy of take-what-you-bring-and-leave-only-footprints. Others prefer five-star family-friendly places like Wolgan Valley in the Blue Mountains, the world's first carbon-neutral property. Eco-holidays are increasingly hands-on, including Wild Mob's adventures on Norfolk Island, where you help to restore the habitat of the endangered parakeet. (Check)
* Adventurous: No longer just hiking or biking, family adventure travel encompasses swimming with sharks and zip-lining across canyons. Of course, this means more insurance. Remember, if ropes are involved, it's usually not covered. Oh, and there are restrictions on some snow activities. Intrepid Travel offers everything from soft to hardcore family adventures.
As for trends for the future?
Well, I'll let Taj take that one: "Giant roller-coasters, which shoot out lollies, at every airport."
Now that's on the edge.