The meaning of travel: Anecdotes from children

Mimi Li, Yi Wang, Yan Wan, Xiaoting Huang, Yihan Yang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Research on travel experiences involving children has focused on hedonic aspects of family travel, such as family togetherness and fun, based on recalled data. The present study argues that this perspective overlooks children's agency by oversimplifying their understanding of tourism. The research design was informed by a constructivist grounded theory approach. Data were collected from on-site drawing-elicited in-depth interviews with 53 children ages 3–16. Based on semiotic analysis, this study revealed three themes in children's family tourism experiences: casual leisure, identity formation, and casual learning/serious leisure. Children's understanding and meaning making of family tourism evolved with age, demonstrating children's agency in internalizing, appropriating, and reproducing tourism experiences. Practical implications and study limitations are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103664
JournalAnnals of Tourism Research
Early online dateOct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023


  • children's drawings
  • Meaning of family travel
  • Onsite travel experience
  • Semiotic approach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Development
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
  • Marketing


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