Family travel is not necessarily about taking our children as far away as possible from their hometown, nor is it about ensuring they ride an elephant before they reach their teens. But if you book yourselves into an all-inclusive break that guarantees little or no interaction with locals you—and your children--are missing the point.
Family travel should be about exploring places away from home and meeting the people who live there, sitting in a cobbled square sipping wine, listening to the sounds of a fiesta as your children run around with their local peers. But I also know that for many parents the idea of travel with children is a little nerve-wracking.
“I’m scared to travel with my young baby.”
In my experience a small baby has no concept of what is "normal" and so this is the best possible time to get them used to travel. Most hiccups come not because of children acting up, but because parents feel stressed at the thought of the task. Sit back, relax and when the hiccups do come, just laugh it off and think about the funny tale you will have to tell your children in later years.
“I loved more varied travel experiences before I had children, but now I just think it would be too complicated and stressful.”
Many people think that it is easier when you have small children to take them on a package deal because it offers minimal stress and maximum relaxation. But think about what you are all missing: new faces, diverse cultures, fresh tastes. The child’s world is one of exploration. When a child is content with what they are seeing and experiencing their behavior usually reflects it.
“I work hard all year, the last thing I want to do is spend time trying to book travel independently.”
Although I am a huge advocate of independent travel, especially as a family, I realize that it is not everyone’s cup of tea. But independent travel does not have to mean packing a backpack and heading off into the unknown. You can book flights easily these days and there are many places where you can deal directly with owners of holiday cottages and villas. This gives you a base, the security that you might desire, but also gives you freedom to explore your chosen destination in more depth.
“I have two small children, how can I go on an extended traveling adventure!?”
Life is short and if you have a burning desire to travel longer-term and you’re in a position to take a sabbatical or simply opt out of your work life for a while, then you absolutely can. Everywhere I look in recent months there are blogs popping up in which families describe taking a year out to travel the world. You might worry about schooling or routine, but I can assure you that the adventure and on-the-road education you and your children receive, will be more amazing than anything you can imagine.
I know it can seem daunting to travel with our children, let alone organize our itineraries ourselves rather than leaving things to a travel agent or responding to a brochure, but once you have a few pointers I believe many families will realize just how easy it is to make their own plans. And perhaps most importantly, you will see the benefits that it will bring not only directly to your children, but to your entire family.
—Alice Griffin, author of Tales from a Travelling Mum: Navigating Europe with a Babe-in-Arms