New Website Promotes LGBT Family Travel
Steve Brister, an affable Austin, Texas-based marketing executive, found that the life he shares with his partner Carmine changed dramatically after they adopted their two sons. There were the anticipated challenges - shopping, meals, laundry and school -- and there were unexpected challenges, too, especially when it came time to plan family vacations. The couple’s early forays into exploring vacation options proved frustrating due to a dearth of adequate resources in the LGBT community to aid them in their searches.
Brister looked everywhere for "guide posts," as he puts it, to help him and Carmine find recommended gay family-friendly destinations. He stumbled on a website, based in England; upon closer scrutiny, the listings were outdated. Eventually, that site ceased operation altogether.
"Carmine and I are both in our 50s, and we had grown used to adult-themed gay destinations, places where no kids were allowed," Brister said. "So we always headed to popular gay resorts like Palm Springs, Calif., or to Key West, Fla., locales that featured beaches and the ’guest house’ experience. But when you have kids you look to destinations where your kids can be surrounded by other kids their age with tons of activities to keep them active and happy."
So Brister took the risk to establish his own website that would include the very options lacking elsewhere. Last month, while attending the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association’s convention in Spain, he unveiled that website devoted solely to furnishing LGBT families with the very linkages to information he and Carmine spent frustrated hours searching for during their previous forays into family vacation planning.
The site is called GayFamilyTrips.com. It brings together travel information, advice and ideas for gay families written by gay family travelers themselves. The site is lively and colorful, includes a calendar section devoted to upcoming trips, lists of family travel opportunities, and a travel directory with directories of hotel recommendations and tour operators.
His gamble has paid off. Soon after launching the site, Brister found he had tapped into a market that is clamoring for the information he posts.
"While the site was still in development," he says, "we had over 1,200 visitors." That number is steadily increasing as Brister, who is the only full-time employee of the company, and his part-time associates scurry about collecting information in an effort to update the site with content that ranges from popular vacation spots like San Francisco and Disney World, to other, lesser known locales.
"What I’m discovering through this site is that there is a passionate audience for LGBT family travel," Brister says. "Key themes that have come up in our articles so far include the need to prepare our kids for handling awkward questions and situations. As LGBT parents, we may be looked upon as ’immoral’ in some countries we might visit, and recommendations for how to deal with this, or when we find ourselves off the well-worn paths of tourism and are looked at differently. Consistently, the importance of sharing our family stories leads to connecting with others about what we have in common with them, rather than what’s different."
In addition to planning sections devoted to resort destinations, trip types (such as gay family gatherings, educational destinations, and major cities), Brister is developing a family adventure section. That idea grew out of his family’s desire to book a trip with their sons, one of whom has been diagnosed with an attention deficit disorder.
"Many families want to find adventure activities like snowshoeing, canoeing, hiking and other activities that a kid like my son, who needs to get out and run around, can do safely with others," Brister says.
Brister’s staff produces fresh content for the site each week. He has formed business partnerships with tour operators. Missing from the site, at this juncture, are suggestions for gay families looking for international destinations. Brister asserts that this, too, is in the works.
"We’re working on an editorial calendar," Brister says, "and we intend to post recommendations for family travel in foreign countries in the near future."
Meanwhile, GayFamilyTrips.com is fast becoming a go-to source for gay families everywhere looking to book their next family getaway.