This is a common theme in our family. As your kids get older, you may find it very worthwhile involving your kids in this discussion. When our children were younger, of course they accepted our decisions without complaint. But now as teenagers, they’re not only ambivalent about the whole idea of a family trip, but also have strong opinions about where to go. You don’t want to be in a situation where you get to your destination and then have one, two, or lord help me, three kids moaning about your choice of destination.
There should be some ground rules for this discussion. These are guidelines to at least narrow the choice somewhat.
1. Assuming you’re like most people, except the very lucky (or unusual, at least for families) ones, you will be restricted in choice by a few key issues. These are time and money. You probably want to go somewhere affordable. You likely will be traveling (with everyone else) in school holidays, or peak season. And it’s hard to take older kids on long trips as they have so many other things going on, and more and more just want to hang out with their friends.
2. That being the case, you probably want to go to a place that is not terribly far away and where jetlag won’t be a factor. Because I lived there, and love it so much, and we’ve been there so many times as a family, I always use South Africa as an example. I would never think of going on a vacation as a tourist to SA if I did not have two full weeks to spend in the country. I’ve been there numerous times for a week or so and it is hard. Very. If you go to a place without a serious time difference (say for us, from Seattle to Colombia which we did in 2009) in effect you will gain a day or two of vacationing. And you’ll feel much better for it.
2. Seasons – Unfortunately many of us are in the same boat, the one we call school. So we land up traveling in peak season, in summer which makes so many countries either too expensive, too crowded, or too hot (or cold). Think Europe in the middle of summer. I have been in the Greek Isles in July and at night in Mykonos and Santorini, you cannot move. It is unbearably crowded, often filled with drunken European revellers. We often read how we should travel in the ‘shoulder’ season – for all the years we have children in school, that sounds like a joke to me. And as your kids get older, they are less likely to want to miss school. The solution is to look for deals – see which countries are cheaper to fly to and to travel in – from the USA for example, South and Central America are better value options than Europe.
3. Pay attention – very closely to what your family really loves doing. This can be difficult as for every additional child you’re going to have more likes and dislikes. So it’s hard to strike a balance. But if you have one kid who hates jungles, safaris and hiking (we do), you should be forewarned… Or at least in the past I should have been. On the other hand if you do one or 2 day hikes/walks in a two-week trip, you may get away with it. In our family, two successful themes over the years have been beaches and markets. Beaches – in the USA, Australia, South Africa, Mauritius and more recently the Caribbean (Mexico, Honduras, Colombia) have been fantastic for us. Granted they were wonderful beaches, but they have provided memorable family experiences. Markets too, are something we all enjoy – Asia (most notably Hanoi and Chiang Mai) and Guatemala were terrific. And when we’ve let the kids choose activities in advance, these too have generally been successful – we had a really rich experience at Elephant Nature Park in Thailand. But then we have things that have not worked for everyone – skydiving, scuba, hiking, and jungle trekking, just to name a few. At Quivertree Family Expeditions, we look VERY carefully at what the kids are saying and what they want to do. (www.quivertreeworld.com)
Here are some links to other posts that have been written on the subject. I dare say by parents!