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Working on the Family Vacation

Parents now turn to the kids to help plan 'quality experiences'

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 1, 2001 (HealthDayNews) -- First came "quality time" -- a concept that took hold with the emergence of large numbers of families in which both parents worked.

Now, the catch phrase has been expanded to include "quality vacation time."

According to researchers at Purdue University, not only do parents involve their children more in the planning of vacations these days, but the trips are now geared to "quality experiences" that range from educational history tours to structured wilderness adventures.

Citing statistics from the Travel Industry of America Association, the researchers say that options for such learning and adventure or "special interest" vacations are greater than ever.

"The last decade has seen the development of adventure vacations," says Liping A. Cai, an associate professor of hospitality and tourism management at Purdue. "There has also been a proliferation of soft-adventure travel built around activities such as biking, hiking and fishing."

The researchers add that the number of visits to museums is up over the past decade and many museums are offering more hands-on educational experiences, including classes and tours.

But the big difference appears to be that, rather than turning to travel agents to find various vacation options, many parents are turning to their own kids for help.

"In many cases, the children are more computer savvy than the parents and may know their way around the Internet better," says Alastair M. Morrison, also a Purdue professor of hospitality and tourism management.

"I think families are just more democratic in vacation planning these days," Morrison says. "Previous generations had more time on their hands. But with both parents working, the desire is to spend real quality time with children. And learning provides a great opportunity for the entire family to participate in a common experience."

In an effort to make the most of every minute with their kids, however, parents should be careful not to "over-structure" that time together, says Dr. Elizabeth Berger, a child psychiatrist and author of Raising Children With Character: Parents, Trust and the Development of Personal Integrity

"Of course, it's important for people to be uplifted by art and travel," she adds. But families need to also budget their time for simple things, little things like lying in the back yard and looking at the stars or putting bugs into jars, she says.

"A big part of parents' leadership should be understanding the importance of the things that happen when time is not being structured and money is not being spent," Berger adds.

What To Do

Visit Purdue's Hospitality & Tourism Research Center for more information. The Travel Industry Association of America has more information on travel statistics and trends.

Or visit Connect for Kids: Guidance for Grown-ups for more information on relating to your children.

SOURCES: Interviews with Alastair M. Morrison, Ph.D., professor of hospitality and tourism management, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.; Liping A. Cai, associate professor of hospitality and tourism management, Purdue; Elizabeth Berger, M.D., child psychiatrist and author of Raising Children With Character: Parents, Trust and the Development of Personal Integrity
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