Travel ideas for families with older kids: Part I Language Schools abroad

February 3, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Alleyway of Cafe Condesa, around the corner from Bagel Barn

As our kids get older and enter (and exit) the teenage years, it gets progressively harder to find travel destinations that appeal to them. Once all we had to do was get on a plane and tell them e were going somewhere fun. No more. Like my parents before me, I’ve had to learn that our kids now prefer spending time with their friends. Our children are now 17, 15 and 13, but I’m not ready to give up. I still believe in Family Travel, not just as a concept, but even, still, crazily, for us. And so here are my ideas – which we have employed with various degrees of success – for family travel with older, somewhat reluctant (or very reluctant) kids. Today : Language Schools abroad.

The appeal of a language school is that one’s children actually can see a benefit of this. Even though they will not want to study in their vacation, they appreciate that this could be very advantageous for them. The secret, I believe, is not only to find a good school, but find a location that has its on magical appeal outside of the school. Let me (try) enlighten you.

Roasting marshmallows at Pacaya

Our children all study Spanish, so that’s the language we have looked for. First we studied at CLI in Antigua, Guatemala for a week. CLI was a wonderful school – set in a large colonial house with a big garden, every student has a one on one teacher specifically at their own level (mine is the lowest, and mostly very frustrating). So our daughter, a terrific Spanish student who will always be way ahead of me, could go at her own pace. Meanwhile her (then) beginner brothers shared a great tutor. Our classes ran from 8am-1pm, Monday to Friday, which allowed for a lot of sightseeing. Antigua is a great place to be, even for the most jaded teenager. It’s a gorgeous colonial town, a little bit in ruin, with lots to do inside and out. There’s Chichcastenango, arguably the largest and most famous indigenous market in Central America (http://travellingdad.wordpress.com/2009/11/02/guatemala-2008-chichicastenango-to-antigua/), and there’s Volcan Pacaya, still the most dramatic excursion I can remember doing. Drama, pure drama.

http://travellingdad.wordpress.com/2009/11/06/antigua-volcan-pacaya/

Antigua

But best of all (this is for the teenagers amongst us) Antigua is just a cool place to hang out. My kids tell me Bagel Barn had the best bagels ever (high praise indeed) and Cafe Condesa serves the most delicious deserts that actually make you forget that you’re a total imbecile in your Spanish class. Add the market, the ruins, and the general atmosphere and you have yourself a winner. And with older kids, you can allow them a little bit of freedom without the constant worry about getting lost r worse. CLI is a five minute walk from the mercado, so every day after class our kids went over there while we checked our mail. Just a top family place.

Next up Cartagena, Colombia. Now I have to say that conditions here were not ideal like Antigua. Firstly, our school, Cactus, was not as organised as CLI. Mainly they were not sure what to do with 2 students (my son and me) who clearly had so little Spanish. Secondly Cartagena is stinking hot. As my son would say 90 degrees(Fahrenheit, about 32 celsius) by 9am. But on the other hand, it is one of the most fantastic destinations imaginable. When you combine the passion and happiness of the people with the spectacular architecture, the Caribbean beaches nearby, the general atmosphere, and the incredible Volcan Totumo (http://travellingdad.wordpress.com/2009/10/23/colombia-july-2009-cartagena-part-2/) you will find a city that will captivate anyone. Even a teenager. Oh, and found us a tutor who  could teach a kid and his dad at the same time. And it was great fun!

Bizarre Volcan Totumo

http://www.tripatini.com/video/cartagena-de-indias-colombia-1

You can travel with your teenage kids. It just takes some work top find the right places and the right activities!

One of Cartagena's great plazas