When You Want Family Travel to Really Count
The latest trend: family vacation planning. The idea behind it is to encourage families to take the time and save the money so that they can meet all of their travel goals. Preplanning is about getting value and saving money; like you would for college. Some families struggle to save for their family vacation and this destination may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience with the family. We are offering ways to save and make that a very memorable experience for multi- generational travel, too.
Future-minded travelers are not just super-organized; they may be onto something: A plan helps save for the trips so that they don’t forfeit their travel budget to take care of domestic emergencies such as roof repair. Planning can also help lower costs; last-minute airfares, for example, are almost always the highest possible price. And many places, particularly national parks like Yellowstone or Yosemite, require planning up to a year in advance for some visits during the high season, especially if you plan on doing some camping.
Children often seem to grow up in an instant, and if that’s not apparent to a parent, the travel industry tries to make it so with marketing plans that tug at the heartstrings. Visit Idaho, the state’s tourism office, has a travel campaign called 18 Summers, underscoring the limited number of summer most families have together before the kids move out. Another North American network of travel agents created a program called Return on Life, which is designed to inspire travelers to heed the clock and plan their travels as they would their finances.
It may also be a matter of logistics. We know someone who spent at least two years arranging a family trip to Africa with the travel agency. This year, her multigenerational group is heading to the Galapagos Islands. Some people would rather travel than have stuff. The pendulum has swung back to seeking great experiences, not filling the garage with cars and boats. With families, much depends on the children’s interests and maturity, but experts recommend the following progression of age-appropriate trips to consider over time:
Ages 6 and Under: Junior might not remember the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Hubbard Glacier in Alaska, but at an early age, children can be exposed to the practice, stimulation and etiquette of travel that may pay off later. Once kids are exposed to any kind of travel experience, particularly at a young age, they’ll be a better traveler as time goes on. One mistake is to hold off too long, and then they’re teenagers and not interested. Teens are very distracted anyway because of school and social pressure. It’s important to expose children early in life. Beach resorts make easy destinations for families with toddlers. Cruise lines increasingly cater to young families; many of the cruise lines even offers nanny care for infants as young as 6 months old. And European destinations in general tend to be family-centered. Parents won’t feel prohibited there.
Ages 7 to 10: School-age children may develop an appetite for history based on their studies, which places like Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, DC bring to life, as well as the European countries. For trips that focus on nature and the environment, go to the Galápagos Islands rather than Africa for a wildlife experience that is easy, up close, engaging and fun. You’re not putting young kids in front of lions. Also, families with children ages 8 to 12 find enjoyment by going to places like Costa Rica. It’s about ziplines and rafting and burning off some of that energy, but you still have wildlife and educational aspects.
Ages 11 to 13: Tween children can do a lot physically that they couldn’t do when they were younger. Growing stamina makes longer hikes and ski runs possible. They’ve also reached a great age to learn a skill, such as surfing or cooking, with their parents. The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) offers a certification course for children as young as 10 years old. You can have that kind of family fun at the Beaches Resorts in the Caribbean and the excursions with Island Routes are fun for the entire family. Many safari operators will take children as young as 8, though specialists suggest waiting until they’re ready to sit still for long drives that can be very sedentary, often for safety.
Teenagers and Young Adults: Although it may be harder to persuade a teenager, especially one committed to a busy school and activities schedule, to travel than it is to figure out where to go, they are ready to handle the complexities of places like Japan, Australia or India. Once people reach their late teens or early 20s, more adventurous trips will keep them engaged, such as a self-driving safari with overnights at rugged desert camps. When they’re 18, 20 or 21, they’ll think that still sounds cool: going on safari with Mom and Dad rather than going to a hotel or living on a schedule, it’s young and fun and full of adventure. However, if you choose a destination that interests them – at this age – like a cruise around Norway; they are apt to have fun then, too. Just ask them…