Family Travel Abroad
The opportunity to experience different cultures and see the world is something that can expand your horizons. Like some great things in life, it can all come to a screeching halt once you have kids. But it doesn’t have to. When looking into family travel abroad, know that your travel style will change, but your traveling days don’t have to be over.
Where to go?
My wife and I have traveled together to France and Spain and would love to go back with our children so they can have the same kinds of experiences we had. I would love to see their faces the first time they visit the Eiffel Tower, immerse them in the family history we have on the beaches of Normandy, or show them our favorite spots in Segovia. Seeing these things through their eyes would be like experiencing them for the first time again.
On the other hand…
Family travel abroad can be made even better by going to someplace new for everyone. That brings up the question of a destination. Should you revisit a favorite spot or experience someplace entirely new?
There are arguments for both. If you have visited a particular destination before, you could eliminate some mistakes and make the trip more efficient. But you also run the risk of skipping a spot you didn’t enjoy that could turn out to be a favorite of your kids. Choose carefully and, if your kids are old enough, get their input. There is no wrong answer, but to get the most out of your trip, make sure everyone is on the same page.
To tour or not to tour
After you decide on a destination, the next big decision you need to make about family travel abroad is whether to travel independently or as part of a tour.
Again, there are arguments for each. Multiple companies offer tours across the globe. This allows you to pick an itinerary and know exactly where you’re going to be on any given day of your trip. Someone else handles the transportation, tickets, meals (in some cases) and many of the details. Tour guides make sure you don’t get lost and tell you what you’re seeing and why it’s important. All you have to do is show up and get on the bus. This can be a plus, especially when traveling with children, because it removes a lot of uncertainty and, as a result, a lot of stress.
The alternative is to travel independently. No tour guide, no bus, just you and your family. While this puts more pressure on you, it’s often less expensive and also allows you more freedom. You are in charge of where you go, when you get there, and how long you stay. Perhaps more importantly, you’re in charge of where you don’t go. You can change your path on a whim and make adjustments on the fly. While in France, my wife and I missed a bus but ended up renting a car and driving through chateau country on our own timetable. It turned into one of the best days of our trip. Conversely, on another trip we planned to spend a night in Toledo, Spain and discovered there was a festival in town. There were no hotel rooms available and we had to travel back to Madrid and scramble late at night to find a room, which proved to be a bit of a budget buster.
Change your pace
One big thing to remember about traveling with kids in general is you need to plan down time. Your ideal vacation may be to crawl through museums and cathedrals all day. If you do that, there’s a good chance your kids will be bored. Bored children tend to do unpredictable things which parents sometimes don’t enjoy.
As difficult as it may be, plan to spend a half day at the hotel pool if there is one or some other kid friendly activity like a park with rides. Use the time to plan the rest of the trip or upload pictures to Facebook. Allowing them to do what they want to do can make your kids more agreeable which makes the trip more enjoyable.
Along with that, if they’re old enough, engage your kids in the planning process. Talk to them about places they would like to visit and take them there. They may have interest in something you never would have thought of and it may turn out to be a treasured memory.
Isn’t that what travel is about?