UX Design Case Study: Travel with Virgil

A service design solution for traveling with children

Time: 2 weeks

Post-its used: Over 100

Traveling with children has long been seen as a whole different challenge than traveling alone: for everyone involved. So for Project 4, we set out to see if we, positioning ourselves as Virgin Atlantic, could create a solution which effectively tackled the problem.

We designed a service that would engage children in the journey and as a result de-stress parents.

The User Journey

The Brief & TheClient

For Project 4 we were given the opportunity to choose what we worked on. From the broad topic of travel we narrowed down our issue to traveling with children and created a brief:

Domestic and international travelers often feel that small children present new challenges when vacationing by plane. Even though parents prioritize traveling, many of them avoid it once they have kids. How can we keep toddlers (ages 3–5) engaged and allow them to feel like they are apart of the travel process? How can we minimize stress for traveling parents? Ultimately, how can we encourage parents to travel more often with their children?

In order to more effectively solve for this and set up some constraints, we decided to position ourselves as an airline.

The airline we chose was Virgin Atlantic, due in part to their brand position as a service-heavy airline who already goes some way towards alleviating stress for parents.

We looked at competitors who were also targeting families.

What’s the problem

Since we started with a hypothesis that traveling with children had challenges but we really needed to understand what those challenges were.

So we conducted a survey of 50 parents whose data gave us some insight into not only what those challenges were but where they happened and what the demographics were that affected those challenges.

For those on a lower income, money was a contributing factor. But for those for whom money was not the top concern, a lot of other challenges came up: from the preparation phase, to the airport, to the plane, to what they could do at the destination.

Survey word cloud

How often did you travel for leisure before you had children?

How often do you travel for leisure now?

Talking to parents

To get more qualitative data we sat down with 6 parents and asked them about some of their experiences of traveling with their children. The information we got from their stories was extremely revealing about where the challenges lay and how they, as parents, manage it.

Excessive planning & preparation came out in all stories.

“Traveling with kids is a different ball game. You have to be organised. If you are not organised you’re going to stress yourself out.”

The biggest problem area was clear early on.

“The airport stress is the hardest. Last time we flew we were there early and unbeknown to us they changed the gate without telling us. So were sitting there at the wrong gate for ages before we checked the screen and then we were last. If we didn’t have kids it wouldn’t have been such a disaster.

And the way they managed the children’s behaviour.

The iPad plays a really large part in our life. And we always give them things they haven’t seen before or something surprising. On the long haul everyone gets a screen so it’s fun.

On the scene: going to the airport

We knew the airport was the biggest pain point so we decided to head on over to O’Hare and talk to parents there as well as observing how children act when waiting in line.

We found patterns in the over planning and over packing, as well as similar themes of new toys and surprises being a great way to manage changes. One word came up a lot: Benadryl.

Obviously we had our solution: sedation.

Not really.

Some of the key insights we found from talking to parents:

  • Parents often feel anxious about traveling with children, pack excessive amounts of food & supplies for both the journey and the destination and feel they need to be ultra prepared to stay in control and avoid drama.
  • Despite being prepared, parents are often stressed by a lack of necessary support, unexpected changes and inconsistencies which lead to a disruption of routine and bored children.
  • When dealing with tired & bored children at this point, parents worry about the social stigma of disciplining children or placating them with technology.
  • The element of surprise is key. The need something new and different to keep them entertained.

Engaged child + transparent airline = less anxious parent

It became clear that in order to minimise anxiety for the parents we needed to two things: keep changes and disruptions transparent so they can better manage them, and engage the children throughout the entire journey, not just once they get on the plane.

As an airline, how might we

  • Support parents need for routine and consistency?
  • Minimise parents stress levels throughout the journey, 
    even when things go wrong?
  • Keep children engaged throughout the entire journey


We created three persona families to help us ideate on possible solutions for different types of traveling families.

The ideation session gave us plenty of ideas to work with (and some not to — magic flying suitcases, silencing masks). We split them into solutions directed towards the parents and those directed towards the children, then further categorised them.

It seemed clear to us at this point that this could not be just a one product solution, we needed to create a service which touched on these 5 key areas.

Creating the solution

To find the solution we needed to figure out the whole story and see where we could add the individual parts of the puzzle that would fit together to create the solution.

We discovered there was a digital solution for the parents to help them manage their journey & activities (digital & physical) for the child to engage them throughout but because our solution had physical and digital elements, it felt disjointed, we realised we needed some kind of central character who would be consistent throughout.

So we came up with the idea of Virgil, a traveling monkey, from Virgin who would take the children on an adventure.

While I focused on creating the user journey & service blueprint my other team mates worked on the apps. One teammate, Kyle, worked on creating the parents app, and the other, Kristen, on the children’s ipad app and activities.

We worked together to make sure we were managing each touchpoint.

We knew the journey started at home so we created a desktop mock up of the site which would include the option to add a ‘Virgil’ pack to their booking and download the apps.

The pack would arrive filled with a passport and activities for the kids which could engage them in the journey early on and become part of an evolving souvenir of their journey.

The app for parents would help them manage their journey with notifications and also manage what the children are playing with.

The children’s app would give them activities designed to engage children in the journey and introduce them to some of the people they’ll meet along the way.

One of the key features of the two way app is the ability to get alerts when boarding time is approaching, and turn off the children’s version in a way that is friendly and subtle.

Once they get on the plane the experience would continue with a connection to the in-flight entertainment and the possibility to even buy a Virgil in duty free.

As a competitive edge for Virgin, they would be the only airline to engage with children before they’ve even stepped on the plane. Treating the whole journey as an adventure.

The next step would be to test the concept, Virgil himself and some of the interactions before testing the whole service.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.