Millennials don’t want to stop traveling after kids—and this app was (literally) made for them…
In the last year, young consumers have gotten creative to travel safely and continue to satisfy their wanderlust—but they’ve been looking forward to getting back to the vacations they’ve been craving. Travelling for vacation is the top thing Millennial parents tell YPulse they’re excited for post-COVID—in fact, they’re even more excited than their non-parent peers to say they’re excited to travel. YPulse’s travel and outdoors behavioral report also found Millennial parents are traveling and spending more than non-parents, and 55% of Millennial parents have already planned to travel after they get vaccinated, compared to 35% of non-parents.
Other research also indicates Millennial parents are more willing to take on debt to have their dream vacations. According to financial services platform Credello, 54% of 25-40-year-olds with kids say they have gone into debt to travel and would again, compared to 31% of their non-parent peers. Millennial parents are more likely than non-parents to say they spend on activities once they’re on a vacation.
Clearly, Millennials don’t stop travelling once they have families—but their travel needs definitely change. Gowhee, an app that launched during the pandemic, wants to fill a void in the market to specifically help Millennial parents traveling with their kids. According to Founder and CEO Maud Maciak: “We felt that the travel industry leaders did not provide enough support for Millennial families, and we know that there is a huge amount of parents looking to travel differently.” The app’s features include an interactive world map that users can browse to get inspiration or do in-depth search with filters for specific locations globally, and parents can do everything from look for kid-friendly amenities, and share reviews and photos. Maciak and her husband Justin, who serves as the IT / Security Officer, started developing the app during a road trip in Europe at the end of 2019, and while it originally wasn’t supposed to be a product made solely for the pandemic, they were able to adapt, add new features, and launch it last summer.
We spoke with Maciak to learn more about the app, how her team adapted to an unexpected year, and what current travel trends she’s seeing among Millennial parents she anticipates will stick around:
YPulse: How did Gowhee get started?
Maud Maciak: Gowhee started in the back of a van in 2019. While on a road trip around Europe with our then two and half-year-old-son, my husband and I started to experience firsthand the challenges that come with travelling with a young child. We searched and searched again for a solution that would help us with simple things like finding playgrounds with a bathroom nearby—if you ever potty trained, you must know why!—or finding babysitters to get for date night, etc. Nothing was out there to help us, and many families felt the same way. That is why I decided to take a leap of faith, and despite having no experience in tech, no budget and no connection in the app world, Gowhee was born.
YPulse: How does Gowhee work?
MM: Everything in the app is designed for parents. It takes a couple of seconds to find locations you need, where you need them and filter these kid-friendly places by things your family is actually looking for—like age appropriate, changing tables, whether a baby cot is provided, or if there’s childcare onsite. You can use our app in the planning phase, with our interactive world map—be careful, it’s addictive!—and our bucket list option. Or it can be used on the go once onsite. Families within the app range from local parents can share their favorite weekend spots in town to international families traveling the world.
YPulse: You began developing the app in 2019, but officially launched last summer. Did you come across any challenges launching an app during COVID?
MM: Yes, we did, and I have to say, every startup faces challenges when launching something new. But Gowhee was essentially promoting travel during a travel ban and world pandemic. We were at the time irrelevant in the eye of the public and talking about travel was even taboo at some point, so we didn’t have the mediatic leverage we needed nor the ability to promote our launch. But we did push through with our organic outreach. Thanks to our amazing community, Gowhee survived and grew. Because [our community] sent love and support, we heard them and didn’t let go.
YPulse: Has Gowhee incorporated app features for safer travel during COVID?
MM: In the summer of 2020, we realized that COVID was not a short-term thing and that the travel industry would be changed for the foreseeable future. We decided then to incorporate two filters available for every location—even outdoor ones. The “Mask Required Filter” is designed to show locations that do make mask wearing mandatory and respect their health department’s regulations. The “Social Distancing Filter” helps families determine if there’s a way to put distance between themselves and others. For instance, a crowded trail will probably not carry that filter.
YPulse: Our travel and outdoors research has found that Millennial parents are currently traveling and spending more on travel than their peers. Are you seeing that more parents are traveling more during this time?
MM: Absolutely. This is why we created the app. We felt that the travel industry leaders did not provide enough support for Millennial families, and we know that there is a huge amount of parents looking to travel differently. They are traveling more often, and locally, craving boutique-style experiences. They also make their travel decisions based on ethics such as supporting small businesses and the local economy, even if it means spending a little more or traveling near their home.
YPulse: Are these trends you think will continue to flourish post-pandemic?
MM: I think that the pandemic did shine some light on all the disadvantages that small and local businesses are facing in a market supporting large corporations. Families saw their favorite local restaurant close down, or self-funded cultural places losing staff and amenities. I wish I could see what the future holds, but I am determined to help small businesses to flourish in a post-COVID era with features on the app, which are still in development, and I know that the parents in the Gowhee community will embrace that mission.
YPulse: What are some popular travel trends you’re currently seeing among parents?
MM: Many families qualify themselves as “foodies.” I have seen lots of changes and innovations in food tourism and if kid-friendly amenities are combined with these newer concepts, travels centered around food experiences could be the new trend. But overall, parents want to find unique things to do, see, and connect on a deeper level with the community they are traveling into. The terms “hidden gem” or “visit like a local” are being used constantly amongst traveling families, so I can see this lasting for a long time.
What really stood out to us while developing the app is that we are definitely entering a phase that redefines what family travel looks like. Parents take their kids further, for a longer period of time and want to be more than in “vacation mode”—they want to live an experience.
YPulse: What destinations and types of trip accommodations are popular with parents right now?
MM: With COVID, it keeps changing, but we noticed that outdoor discovery is at an all-time high on families’ bucket lists, so campsites near national parks are a huge hit. We also see a lot of families interested in treehouses and glamping experiences, so those are probably something to watch for.
YPulse: What should other brands know about Gowhee?
MM: Gowhee was built on a few key points: Helping families find their way around the globe, shine some light on small businesses, and give a voice to families that are underrepresented in the travel industry. We are all about ethics and changing things for the better.
Maud Maciak is a French expat, world traveler, and mom of a little boy. After traveling full-time in an RV with her family, she bootstrapped the Gowhee app, which is specifically designed for parents, with the goal of changing the travel industry from within.