Nancy Schretter is the President of Beacon Group Holdings, Inc. As an award-winning editor and travel journalist, Schretter’s articles, quotes and insights on travel have been featured in dozens of leading print and online media outlets, including Leisure Group Travel, Destination Reunions, TravelAwaits, USA Today, Fox News, Redbook, Travel Channel, Travelocity, and more. Nancy has appeared as a travel expert on radio and television shows, including NBC’s TODAY, CNN and NBC News.
She is the founder of the Family Travel Network, launched in partnership with America Online, and Together for Good. Schretter is also a consultant and a frequent presenter at top travel industry conferences and events. She has traveled to more than 70 countries on all seven continents.
Schretter serves on the Family Travel Association Board of Directors, among others, and she was honored with the Family Travel Association’s Mike Janes Media Member Award in 2022. We asked her to tell us about her career, as well as any insight she has on the state of today’s travel.
Can you give us the quick story of how you ended up in the world of travel journalism?
Earlier in my career, I worked with companies in the travel industry as part of my earlier roles as Co-Founder and EVP of a 21-person consulting firm and as VP of Marketing for a large financial institution. I also traveled a lot and started flying with my oldest daughter when she was four months old. After my second child was born, I started my own company and launched a print newsletter publishing business.
In the early 1990s, the online world continued to develop. I had become interested in launching a family travel print newsletter in addition to our existing publications. When I met with key executives at America Online, they expressed interest in working together to launch a family travel site on AOL. I became one of their publishers and, as one of the early pioneers in the online travel space, launched the Family Travel Network in 1995. The award-winning site helped millions of families research and plan trips across the country and around the globe. That site is now undergoing a redesign. I’m currently serving as a contributing editor and freelance journalist for several travel publications and consulting on projects.
Why are you passionate about family travel, especially?
Family travel is something I’ve been passionate about for decades. It’s a powerful, transformative thing. The Family Travel Association’s tagline is “changing lives through travel,” and that’s so true. Family travel experiences shape who we are, the trajectory of the people we become, and our connections with each other.
We traveled extensively as a family, and I’ve watched this happen with my children as they’ve grown. They’ve learned about the world – and themselves, gained new perspectives, honed skills, developed key interests, and become more flexible, compassionate, and self-confident. They look past boundaries, see what’s possible, face challenges head-on, and want to make an impact. Family travel is also an incredible educational tool – and it’s one of the most immersive ways to learn. Children become global citizens, and seeing the world through their eyes is fantastic.
When our family gets together around the table, we often talk about family travel experiences of all kinds. Some of our funniest stories are about trips that weren’t always perfect, and that’s fine. Life isn’t perfect, and picking up the skills and worldview needed to deal with life’s twists and turns are valuable things to learn.
Family travel can also have a positive impact on destinations. As travelers become more connected and immersed in communities and different cultures, they often develop a fresh perspective and a desire to make a difference.
What’s the mission of your work with family travel media?
The Family Travel Association (FTA) is a vibrant community of professionals and organizations that share a strong commitment to family travel, and family travel media play an important role. The FTA has an outstanding group of media members who develop stories and content that inspire, inform, and empower their audiences. I am continually impressed by their talent and exceptional work.
As a member of the FTA Board of Directors and head of the Media Committee, I’m firmly committed to building and supporting the family travel community and our media members. Some of my goals are to foster increased professional opportunities for networking, learning, and collaboration for media members and the entire FTA community. We offer a number of great programs and events, like the FTA’s Lunch & Learns and the upcoming FTA Summit in Boston. These activities deliver a significant return on investment for those who participate.
In addition, we’re starting work on new programs including some that will enhance media member connections and opportunities with our destinations and suppliers. Look for more details in the future!
Do you have a family travel memory that stands out for you?
We’ve been blessed with incredible opportunities that stand out in different ways. I’m fortunate beyond belief to have these kinds of special family travel memories, and I can’t choose just one.
My parents were educators who instilled in me a passion for exploration and learning. When I was growing up, our family took short road trips together each year. My Mom made the best picnics and cookies for those trips. We’d also go to North Carolina’s Outer Banks together, and I loved spending time fishing with my Dad.
Once we had our own children, we started taking multigenerational vacations and celebration trips. We all shared a wealth of special moments together – and those memories live on forever. My parents lived into their mid-nineties – and these are some of the moments that we talked about and treasured.
I spent time earlier today talking with my family about our travels together. When I asked about favorites, a litany of stories and memories appeared. Sharing these special moments is one of my greatest joys.
You asked me why I’m passionate about family travel. It’s this – the incredible bonds and unforgettable shared experiences it creates. As Dr. Seuss said, “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” Make the memories. Do it now.
What have you seen lately in terms of family travel trends?
We’ve lived through an incredibly challenging time for family and multigenerational travel, but now both are soaring back. With all that’s happened, there’s an even stronger focus on family togetherness and bonding. Family vacations and multigenerational trips are topping travel lists. We know time together is precious, and the future isn’t guaranteed.
Parents and grandparents want to make up for lost time. We have years of trips that we want to take and family memories we’re yearning to make together. Multigenerational and skip-gen travel demand is strong for many travel advisors and suppliers. Some are also continuing to see non-related multi-family groups traveling together.
Booking data shows international travel is up significantly this year, and I’ve heard similar reports from family-focused tour operators and travel advisors. According to AAA, international travel has increased more than 200% this year compared to 2022. In addition, ticket prices for international flights have risen by over 30%.
Looking at demographics, you can see the importance of family travel. It’s a huge market opportunity. Millennials are currently the largest generation, and they love to travel. The majority have children, and family travel is reportedly their most popular trip type. Baby Boomers are close behind Millennials in generational size. They hold plenty of spending power, many are retired – and they want to make lasting memories with their children and grandchildren. Sandwiched in between these two is Gen X – a smaller generation that’s also traveling with kids.
Taken as a whole, that adds up to a lot of family travel. Many companies have recognized that – including a number in the cruise industry. Family cruising has returned in a big way, as a great vacation value with an appealing blend of togetherness and freedom.
As part of the conference session, we discussed some trends we’ve been observing in the market. How families make vacation decisions and family travel buying trends have been changing rapidly over the years. Different family members are driving vacation decisions – and social and digital media are definitely playing a significant role. More families and multigenerational groups are using travel advisors, which is a huge plus. In addition, one of the key decision-making factors can be “kidfluence” – the significant sway kids have in making family vacation decisions.
(I could add more here, such as families’ increasing interest and commitment to sustainability, but I think I’ve gone on long enough.)
Anything else you want FTA members to know right now?
As one of my favorite actors, Michael J. Fox, said – “Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” Family travel celebrates these family ties. So, take those family trips. Build the bonds. Make memories. Learn and grow together. Don’t wait. Go now. The Family Travel Association and our members are here to help.
And remember – family travel doesn’t stop at 18 summers. It lasts a lifetime.
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