UK Family Travel Market and Trends

Take the Family hand-picks selected family breaks and holidays for UK-based parents seeking more than a sun-lounger. We've been learning about the UK family travel market since launching in 2004 and are pleased to share some perspectives. The following statistics and trends are updated regularly (most recently Feb 2018):

About the UK Family

There are 19 million families in the UK (in 2017), a 15% increase from 16.6 million in 1996. Of these, 8 million have dependent children1.

Families with Dependent Children by Type, 2017

Families with Dependent Children by Type

Parents are getting older when the kids arrive. The average age of the mother at the birth of her child in 2015 was 30.3 and the father 33.2. In 2000 they were 28.5 and 31.7 years old respectively.

Mums are increasingly likely to be ‘working’ mums (not that having children isn’t loads of work anyway!). In 2017, 4.9m mothers with dependent children were in work, up from 3.7m in 1996.

86% of single-parent families are headed by a mum.


About UK Family Travel - Destinations


34 million family holidays were taken in 2015, with an estimated spend of £13bn (exc overseas transport costs).

This represents about 1/3 of the total UK holiday market by volume and value.

Of the 34m family holidays, 19 million were taken in the UK and 15 million abroad (spending £9.3 billion excluding transportation costs abroad)4.

Top 'Overseas' Holiday Destinations for 0-15 year olds in 2016

Top Family Holiday Destinations

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) collects travel information about UK residents, including by age and type of travel. Families are not a distinct category and the above table will be skewed a little by school 'holiday' trips. We assume that one of Cyprus, Austria, Dubai, Switzerland or Malta, who sit just below, might displace Belgium, for example, if school trips are factored out.

Nevertheless, most studies conclude that France and Spain alone account for the majority of UK overseas travel, generally and for families, with Portugal, Greece and Italy also consistently favourites.

There have been big 'winners' and 'losers' for the family travel market over the last 20 years from a review of summer (July -Sept) holiday departures among 0-15 year olds:

Top 10 'Overseas' Destination Trends for 0-15 year olds travelling July to Sept (1997-2017)

Top 10 Destination Trends for UK Children

France has fallen most out of favour with families in the last ten years (see below), driven primarily by the growth in air capacity across UK departure airports, making it relatively cheaper and easier for families to travel further afield. 

Turkey suffered in 2016 and 2017 at the expense of Greece and Western Europe, in particular Portugal, and is experiencing revived fortunes in 2018.

The U.S. is the only long-haul destination consistently in the Top 10 and long-haul accounts for just around a 10th of family holiday travel.

Mexico and Croatia made the Top 10 in 2017 for summer holidays. Both became relatively affordable given the strength of the Euro following the Brexit decision.

Summer Holiday (July - Sept) Visits to France - 1997 - 2017 by 0-15 year olds 000's

France Summer Holiday Visits by 0 - 15 year olds 1997 - 2017

About UK Family Travel - Holiday Types

Lightning GMI and Mintel surveyed over 1,000 families in 2015 with the question: "what type of family holiday have you enjoyed over the last three years:

Most Popular Family Holiday Types, 2015 Survey

Top Family Holidays by Type

Cities, within and beyond the UK, are proving increasingly popular family break destinations. EasyJet, Ryanair and Eurostar, in particular, have all helped make cities more accessible, while family focused accommodation and attractions have also raised their game.

Family cruise holidays are in demand (from a small base), as are both short and long-haul activity and adventure holidays. 


About the UK Family Travel Industry

The top 10 overall overseas holiday providers (as defined by the numbers of airline seats for which they are licensed by the UK's Civil Aviation Authority2) all cater for families and one can assume that their overall licensed passenger numbers include at least a third of families or more.

Recently established Jet2holidays, Love Holidays and On the Beach are the current ‘rising stars’, with Thomas Cook and BA Holidays experiencing most pressure:

Top 10 ATOL License Holders, Nov. 2017

Top 10 ATOL License Holders Nov 2017 doesn't make the list because it focuses primarily on bookings for its 1.6 million listed accommodation properties. Its owner, Booking Holdings (formerly Priceline), is now firmly established as one of the top global (and UK) travel intermediaries. In 2017 digital ad spend for Booking Holdings is estimated at $4.3 billion and Expedia $2.9 billion3. These are global figures, but both firms are very active in the UK.

Other disruptive trends include meta-search. Germany based Trivago generated €1bn in revenue in 2017 by helping consumers find the best prices on hotels with other intermediaries or direct, while Skyscanner was purchased by China's CTrip for £1.4bn in late 2016.

The biggest disruptor in hospitality, including the family travel market, is Airbnb, with estimated 2017 revenue of $2.6 bilion. Airbnb is now the 4th largest 'hotelier' and is also pushing into hotel listings, initially with independent properties.

EasyJet, Ryanair and Norwegian continue to displace the 'flag-carriers' across the UK and Europe. In the 12 months to end Mar 2017 15.5 million passengers travelling as part of a family flew with EasyJet, up 15% on the previous year.


Other interesting facts and opinions

Term time travel is highly contentious, driven by the massive difference in cost between school holiday travel and term time travel. UK tour operator Oliver's Travels has disclosed that 18% of all holidays booked with them between Aug 2016 and Aug 2017 involved taking children on holiday during term time.

The Royal Family spent £4m on travel in 2017, including £1.7m on helicopter trips.

Baby boomer and relatively affluent grandparents are increasingly enjoying holiday opportunities with their children and grand-children.

The fortnight's family holiday has fallen out of favour, ONS data suggests that under a quarter of family holidays are two weeks or longer in duration.

In addition to Mexico and Croatia (see above), trending family holiday destinations in 2018 (based on enquiries by parents to Take the Family) include Iceland, the Maldives and Sri Lanka, but each account for well under 1% of family holidays.



Office of National Statistics
Civil Aviation Authority
5 Take the Family Research

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