Just like how products and techniques are not the best for every family, when it comes to travel, what works for one family, may be another family’s nightmare. – Erika Bud
The Best Way to Travel Abroad With Children
When considering traveling abroad, what is the best way to travel with children? There are friends and family and even Facebook groups who recommend “the best way to travel with kids.” But before taking their advice, it’s important to remember that every family is different. Most parents remember what it was like when they were pregnant. Everywhere they turned someone was giving them advice on the best products or techniques to use for their child. Travel is no different. Just like how products and techniques are not the best for every family, when it comes to travel, what works for one family, may be another family’s nightmare.
Determining the best way to travel abroad with children
To determine the best way to travel abroad with children, it really depends on one factor: the wants and needs of the adults traveling. Notice the consideration was based on the adults and not the children. Children tend to be adaptable, and if their parents are having a wonderful time, the children are likely going to have the same positive experience. Parents can make it fun for children regardless of the method chosen. Parents also need to remember their wants and needs will change over time and need to be reconsidered when planning each trip. What worked for one family trip abroad may not be the best option for the next trip.
Cost shouldn’t be the deciding factor
While cost is a factor, it is not seen as a determining factor. Traveling abroad as a family is a lifetime dream for so many families. For those who travel abroad with their family more frequently, they are doing so because of the memories and experiences they want to continue to share with their family. Taking this into consideration, families should be conscious of the cost, but if a lower price keeps a family from a fun and memorable experience, it should not be the driving factor in the parent’s decision.
So, what should parents consider with each method when traveling abroad with children?
Individual Family Travel
Visiting family or friends: This option is often seen as the cheapest way to travel abroad with children since accommodation, transportation, and many meals are often provided, but does this option allow for the family to experience the country in the way they want? Can the family go where they want to go and see what they want to see? Is this a once-in-a-lifetime visit where they only have one chance to see and experience their wants and desires or can they compromise because the family plans to visit again and continue to see more of the sites and experiences next time? Experiencing life as a local and truly embracing the culture should also be considered as this method may provide the best opportunity to achieve this.
Plan and conquer: For parents who love to research and plan, this may be the best method for a family trip abroad. This option is often best for families who are good at going with the flow. When planning the logistics, activities, accommodations, etc., it is rare that something unexpected won’t happen. If the family doesn’t let that negatively affect their experience, this can be an affordable option and provide the opportunity for a family to accomplish everything they want to accomplish on their overseas travel adventure.
All-inclusive resorts: All-inclusive resorts are available in practically every country a family could want to experience. This method is great for families who do not need much of a cultural experience but still want to enjoy different scenery and experiences from what they can get in their own country. This is considered more of a vacation than a trip as it is centered more around having fun and relaxing within the resort with an option to experience some cultural activities outside of the resort as desired. The most difficult part about all-inclusive resorts is picking which resort would be best for the family. The amenities and activities at each all-inclusive resort can be quite different, so it’s important to do the research. It’s also important to consider that what a resort says on its website may not be a realistic option (e.g., the amazing spa is booked out months in advance, water slides are too crowded to enjoy, etc.). Facebook groups, friends, and family will be able to provide insight, but it is highly recommended to use a travel agent in this case. A good travel agent will know the best all-inclusive resort for your family’s needs.
Group Family Travel
Cruises: Many children and parents rave about their cruise experience. This is a great method for parents who don’t want to plan how they are getting from point A to point B and want plenty of activities available for the entire family so everyone can have fun. To enjoy a cruise, a family needs to be content with being restricted on the boat while sailing, seeing many of the same people throughout the vacation, and the food options available on the boat. Smaller accommodations can be an issue for some families as well.
Now it’s important to remember there are several types of cruises. Ocean cruises are more about the experience on the boat. Yes, families can enjoy some cultural experiences and activities at each of the ports, but as a lot of time is spent sailing, the ocean cruise lines have tried to think of everything to make sure families can enjoy their time on the ship. River cruises, on the other hand, are more about the cultural experience. The ship is used primarily as a vessel to sleep, eat, and relax, as most of the days are spent on land experiencing the sites and local culture. By the time a family returns to the ship, everyone is often too exhausted to do anything but relax. Ocean cruises also have thousands of people on the boat at one time, while river cruises tend to have less than 200 passengers.
For families considering cruising, this is one method where the children need to be taken into consideration. Most river cruises don’t allow children younger than eight years old, and there are not nearly as many children on a river cruise as on an ocean cruise. Also, because the experience is more about the cultural activities on land instead of on the ship, children can be bored if they do not appreciate cultural activities.
Group tour travel: Similar to a cruise, group travel is a wonderful option for parents who don’t want to plan and want everything taken care of for them. There are many types of group tour travel to consider. Tour companies try to offer options for every family’s needs. From high-end accommodation to hostels. Options are available to stay in one city for the entire vacation all the way up to multiple cities a day and multiple countries in a week. It really depends on what your family wants to accomplish during their family trip abroad. Families can even select how many people they want to travel with as tours can have as few as just your family or a full motorcoach of 40+ people.
There are several pros and cons to group travel to consider.
Pros: Logistics and accommodation are taken care of by the company, often including valet service so you don’t have to worry about taking your luggage to your room. Most options include a tour guide who is responsible for your family’s well-being, will answer any questions (e.g., how to get to a city, where to wash your clothes, etc.), and will help should any emergencies arise. Tours will visit the tourist sites your family wants to see, while still providing your family with alone time to experience the city or sites as a family vs. as a group. Most tours include guides who tell you about the sites and history, so you don’t have to do the research on your own. Families also have the opportunity to bond with other families traveling on the same tour.
Cons: The itineraries might not be exactly what your family wants to experience. While the motorcoaches are usually comfortable, families can spend a lot of time driving between destinations. Tour companies tend to travel to some activities where they get an incentive (e.g., a perfumery or glass blowing lesson, etc.), even though it is not what your family wants to do. For families who want a lot of spare time, it is possible to find a group tour that offers more free time, but the options will be more limited or more expensive.
Digital nomad and worldschooling: A rather new method of traveling abroad with children is to stop traveling on a short-term vacation and live in various countries, worldschooling children and working as a digital nomad. This is an option for families who understand the benefits of experiencing other cultures and learning about other countries. Surprisingly, this option can be very affordable depending on where a family lives, and colleges and universities tend to love worldschoolers, so their education is not negatively impacted if that is the direction they choose. The hardest thing about this option is taking the leap and not being able to see family and friends as easily.
Are there any methods of travel that I missed? How do you prefer to travel abroad with your family? Please post your comments below.
To hear more about life as a digital nomad and worldschooling or to find out more about different travel methods, listen to the Planes, Trains, & Kids Abroad travel podcast at: https://bigworldpub.com/listen-to-travel-podcast/
Note: While travel agents can be extremely helpful with determining the best all-inclusive resorts, cruises, and group travel companies for a family, they tend to have their favorites so make sure multiple options are given to consider with reasons each option was suggested. The travel agent is not going to risk their reputation suggesting a poor fit for a family though, which is why a travel agent is still recommended. They can often pass on incentives that are not available to the public as well.
Written by: Erika Bud. You can find out more about the author, the Travel Rangers book series, and travel podcast at: http://bigworldpub.com/