Sometimes, it seems like just packing up the kids for a weekend trip to Grandma’s is a lot of trouble. Taking the whole family abroad? That might sound completely absurd. But, international travel is a great learning experience for kids of all ages. Your kids can learn about new cultures, customs, etiquette and languages. You can also broaden their worldview, help them learn to be more open-minded and create lifelong family memories.
Following are six tips to help you plan an international trip the whole family can enjoy:
1. Pick the right destination. Choosing a family-friendly international travel destination is key to enjoying your experience abroad. Some of the best international family vacation destinations include Rome, Italy; Africa’s Serengeti National Park; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Hong Kong, in China. These destinations include free museums, attractions to suit all ages, parks and reasonably priced family lodging. You can also consider a destination that’s relevant to your family’s ancestry and heritage so your kids will have a chance to better understand their roots.
2. Think outside of the box for lodging and accommodations. If you have a large family, you’re aware of how quickly the cost of one or two hotel rooms can add up. Even in some cities around the world, the cost of one hotel room for a few nights is enough to consume most of your travel budget. When traveling abroad, consider staying in houses, apartments, cottages or villas. Websites like airbnb.com allow you to search for accommodations by specifying a destination, check-in and check-out dates, and the number of guests. You can then book directly through the home or property owner, read reviews and see photos of properties.
3. Take care of the logistics. Passports are required for international travelers of all ages. If your kids don’t already have passports, you should submit their applications as soon as you start planning your vacation. Obtaining a passport can sometimes take months, so it’s wise to start the process as early as possible. You should also consider family travel insurance so your whole family is covered in the event of a medical emergency while you’re abroad.
4. Have an efficient transportation plan. Whether you plan to rent a car, use taxis or rely on public transportation, it’s wise to choose your accommodations and activities with transportation in mind. You don’t want to spend your entire vacation in transit, so try to choose activities and lodging that are easily accessible by driving or public transportation.
5. Plan ahead, but don’t overdo it. While you don’t want to waste your time abroad with trying to decide what to do each morning, you also don’t want to pack your schedule with back-to-back activities. Aim for about one or two major activities per day. With this schedule, you’ll still have set plans — but you’ll also be able to explore your surroundings, lounge by the pool or at the beach, or just have quality, slow-paced family time that’s hard to come by when you’re at home.
6. Travel light, travel smart. When packing up the whole family to go overseas, it’s best to travel as lightly as possible. If you can avoid checking bags, your international travel experience will be much easier and cheaper. Try to limit your luggage to one carry-on item and one personal item per traveler. Pack only the essentials, and buy items of lesser importance when you arrive at your destination. Traveling light will mean less time spent at the airport, no possibility of lost luggage and an easier transit experience when you arrive at your destination.
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