My father started Big Five
in 1973. He was born in Kenya
, my mom is from Sudan, and my wife’s family is from Uganda
. I started traveling at the age of 4. I guess you could say that we, as a family, started trying to figure out what family travel is about from that young age. For my generation, when our parents used to take us somewhere, it was “The parents said we’re going here,” and we would follow along, but over the last ten years at Big Five, we’ve noticed kids have more influence than ever before. Look at clothes, for example: I know that my son, who is 12, has a huge influence on the things I buy. Not that he has a say, but he has an influence.
The worst thing is to take a family trip and the kids are on their devices or they’re completely disengaged. Our process starts with a personality test for kids on a website we created for travel advisors. There’s a kids’ section where the questions are not “Where do you want to go?” but “When do you like to wake up in the morning?” and “If you had superpowers, what would you do?” These are trigger questions that are associated with certain answers. We’ve learned, working with child psychologists who interpret the test data, that kids between the ages of 5 and 15 can take on more challenges and are able to make decisions better than we think.
We created something at Big Five called the Kids Kouncil. We took junior members of some of our staff, invited travel advisors’ kids, and put together a collection. We had two meetings last year, and the answers we heard from the kids gave us chills. We started talking about what kids would do if they had superpowers. I was expecting “Fly through walls,” “A million wishes” – the stuff children would say. Instead, we heard “Put a stop to bullying,” “End world hunger,” “Save endangered species.” These are kids from 6 and 8 to 13 and 15 saying this. Using this information, we created Kids Kouncil Approved programs, from biking between villages in India
’s Panna National Park to a samurai-sword-making master class in Japan
to something as unique as, in Aguas Calientes, Peru, creating a little lemonade stand with a sign that says, “You teach us Spanish; we’ll teach you English.” Our kids are better, smarter, faster versions of us. Trust them enough to have them be part of the equation.