In the beginning, backpacking has been the domain of young people who, after graduating from high school or university, take a year off to “find themselves”. They often travel to distant and exotic places in Europe and Asia either alone or with like-minded friends.
Then, people in their late twenties or early thirties started going on gap years. This time, two major reasons are often the trigger. One is what people call the “quarter life crisis”. Another is when these young professionals find themselves at a crossroads in their careers or have experienced burn out and want to have a career break.
Later on, retirees experiencing the empty nest syndrome joined in the gap year bandwagon. Freed from family and professional responsibilities that have defined most of their lives, these couples find that they can now do that dream vacation they want. At this time of their lives, they now have both the financial capacity and the time to fulfill something that could have been postponed many times before due to the said responsibilities.
Now, a new group has emerged – the family gappers. Previously unheard of years ago, this group composed of parents and their young children have taken to the road to embark on a long trip of exploration and adventure.
In this group, the parents are mostly in their thirties and the kids can be as young as a few months old to pre-schoolers. For the parents, they find this an ideal time to travel while they are still young and child-rearing expenses are not as serious (as opposed to when the children start going to school). An added incentive is that for infants and toddlers, flying is cheap or even free.
Parents of the family gappers group are often avid travelers themselves. They don’t see a baby or a toddler as an added baggage. They reason that it would be a positive experience for the kids to see the world outside their own by being exposed to other cultures, places, and peoples.
Realizing this expanding market, gap year tour organizers have started making specialized tours for this group, tying it up with volunteering in environmental projects or community development that are family friendly.