Avid travelers are full of wanderlust and refuse to give up their love for exploring the world, even when busy raising a family. And why should they? Traveling with children can be a joy and taking the family on holidays near and far can produce a lifetime of unforgettable memories.
It’s true, however, that enjoying a vacation with kids is a bit different than an all-adult excursion. That’s not necessarily a bad thing! Traveling with children requires a bit more thought and you may be slightly restricted as to your choice of destination. But all the other perks of introducing your children to different world cultures far outweigh the sacrifices you may need to make until they grow up and you can venture off on your own once again.
Finding the Best Fit for Your Family
Where you choose to take your family on holiday can depend on lots of factors including your preference of activities, like sightseeing, sporting/active pursuits, cultural opportunities, and so forth. Begin your search for a good holiday destination by considering the things you’d like to do while you’re away from home. These may be activities you enjoy on a regular basis or things you rarely get to do except when you’re on vacation. Are you:
- An adventurous family? If so, choose a destination where you can participate in fun and daring activities like trekking, climbing, diving, jet boating, and camping under the stars. (Provided the age of your children can support these activities.) You may be just the right family for an African safari or a trip to South America’s Andes Mountains. Closer to home, your family may be ideal for a camping trip through the National Parks or a whitewater rafting trip down the Colorado River.
- An artsy, cultural family? If so, select a vacation destination that can provide your fill of cultural activities. Big cities are always ideal, because you can usually find plenty of museums, theaters, concert venues, and such. Try one of the great cities of North America, like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Toronto, or Vancouver. Or, if you prefer, choose a wonderful, historic European city, like London, Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, Moscow, Barcelona, or Budapest. All have something a little different to offer.
- A fun-loving family? If so, you’ll want to travel to a destination where your family can play together from morning ‘til night. Maybe you enjoy amusement and water parks, taking in a local major league sporting event, playing volleyball on the beach, tobogganing through the snow, or taking part in fun and unique local festivals. There are a number of wonderful places for fun-seeking families to visit including resorts like Walt Disney World or the other Disney properties, the wacky beaches of Southern California, or even a quaint ski village in the Alps. The beauty of being a fun-loving family is that you can probably turn just about any vacation into a rollicking good time for all!
The ages of your kids will help determine where you head for your next holiday. Teenagers can do just about anything….but will they? Be sure you allow your fickle teenager to be a part of the planning so that when you arrive at your destination, they’ll be looking forward to participating in the activities they’ve read about during the planning process. Be ready to compromise. Your teen’s first choice may not be yours, but perhaps you can find a destination that has a little something for both of you.
Traveling with elementary school-aged children can be a treat! Unlike their teen counterparts, they’re excited about everything, eager to learn, and willing to try new things. Kids from about age 7 to 12 are the easiest with whom to travel as they’ll make the most of their new adventures.
Trips with babies and toddlers can be challenging. There’s so much to plan before you depart and it often seems as if you need to carry the entire house with you on your trip. Remember, unless you’re going to a third-world country, you can buy diapers and other essentials when you reach your destination. Pack lightly and choose a simple destination, like a beach, where you can enjoy fun in the sun. All-inclusive resorts, found in places like the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico, often have special programs for toddlers and also offer certified in-room babysitting services so that parents can enjoy a dinner or evening alone.
Remember not to push your kids too far. Little ones have a limit. So do teenagers. When you’re tempted to do just one more museum or spend just a half-hour more in the sun, consult your kid. If they’ve already said they’re tired or hot or cold, call it a day. Your trip will run much more smoothly when your children are happy.
While domestic travel rarely presents a problem when it comes to food – even for the pickiest of eaters – international destinations where the food is “foreign” can be a real challenge for parents traveling with children.
Even the well-traveled child has likes and dislikes and you can’t expect your child to go without a meal. That’s why it’s always best to bring along a few staples just in case. Peanut butter is always a good bet, as is cereal, especially the small boxes that fit easily in your suitcase. Crackers work well, too. Any of those foods can be eaten at any meal and their familiarity will provide comfort to a child who’s overwhelmed by the foreign-ness of the food on the table in front of them.
Also be sure that the food and water your child is consuming is safe. Kids are more prone than adults to intestinal disorders caused by impure water and other food-related concerns. There’s nothing worse than a sick kid in a foreign country!
Truly, good planning can be the difference between a good holiday and a disastrous one. When you’re traveling with adults, it’s okay to leave things to chance, like a hotel reservation or a train ticket. With a family, however, the more complete your plans, the better.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that you need to schedule every minute of every day. Kids are spontaneous and just when you think an activity or attraction might consume 15 minutes of your time, your children may love it and you may wind up spending an hour or two at that particular task. Go with the flow and let your children take the lead. Thanks to them, you may discover things you’d have never found on your own!