By Jane Marshall
As a travel writer, I’ve had the opportunity to visit cool places. And as a mother of two, I love showing my children the world — its cultures, foods, and landscapes. Traveling with kiddos presents unique opportunities and challenges. Here are some ideas and tips to get you inspired.
Where To Go
I love travelling to daring locations when I’m solo. Himalayan mountains, hidden haciendas in Mexico, and the arid plateau of Tibet. But when planning a family adventure, it’s important to make it fun and manageable.
Will the location be safe?
- Check Government of Canada travel advisories
- Learn about local rules and customs, and brief yourself on safety concerns such as crime and unrest
Choose somewhere inspiring, maybe even from your child’s school curriculum.
How to Go
For our first family international trip we decided to connect with Intrepid Travel to go to Morocco. We didn’t want a typical ‘tour,’ but we also had no experience traveling in North Africa.
The things we loved most about our Intrepid trip:
- Freedom. We had time to explore on our own — to visit local markets, buy handmade almond nougat and roasted pistachios, walk the beach and make sandcastles, and watch the kids soak up a new world.
- Support. Our hotels were booked so we never had to worry about accommodation. No arriving at night and trying to find a guesthouse in the dark with exhausted kids. We traveled as a small group in a van, which made it possible to access much terrain — and without the dreaded ‘tour bus feeling.’
- Culture. Our guide Mohammed was Berber. Being local, he had authentic connections. He arranged donkey rides through an oasis, mint tea rest stops at kasbahs, and he explained his culture in a way that connected us.
If you go un-guided, try reaching out to friends and colleagues for an on-the-ground connection. Having a local person show you the ropes is invaluable!
Watch this super-inspiring Intrepid video on traveling to India with kids:
Get Vaccinated (Followed By a Hug)
We were going to Morocco and I decided we should take Dukoral, an oral vaccine said to help with travellers’ diarrhea. The kids stood at our counter, nervous, watching as I mixed the solution. It fizzed like a science experiment. I handed them each their glass. They melted down in protest, and my husband and I spent the next hour trying to persuade/bribe/demand they swallow it down. Needles are no fun either. But when traveling internationally, it’s so important to protect your health.
- Alberta Health Services recommends seeing a travel health specialist 6-8 weeks before departure. Visit their Travel Health Services for more information
- Or call a private provider like Atlas Immunization, whom I’ve used several times
- Keep a record of the immunizations your family receives
Learn more about travel vaccination:
With kids, it’s imperative you have the right documents. Or you might not make it past check-in! The Government of Canada recommends:
- Canadian passport
- If travelling with one parent, a consent letter confirming the child has permission to travel abroad
- Supporting ID (birth certificate or citizenship card)
- Possibly other documents such as divorce papers or a death certificate
Register Your Family’s Trip
Registration of Canadians Abroad is a service provided by the Government of Canada. If there’s a political situation or natural disaster, they’ll contact you.
Photo credit: Intrepid Travel
Family Travel Inspiration with Intrepid Travel
I reached out to Rebecca Shapiro, Managing Editor for Intrepid Group North America, to ask her about family adventure travel. Intrepid knows what kids like and parents need.
Jane: Why should parents consider adventure/international travel with kids?
Rebecca: It’s about what the child learns. How it facilitates their development. We all know we become more worldly and educated when we travel, so why not get them started when they are young and adaptable? Travel makes people more empathetic and understanding.
It can be a hassle thinking of all the logistics, but all the best things in life are worth the effort. Whether it’s in Canada, or Botswana!
Read this article about a 13 year old boy who’s visited 45 countries already!
Jane: How popular are family trips for Intrepid Travel?
Rebecca: We saw 16% growth in family bookings from 2016-17. So we’ve launched 6 new family tours for 2018, including trips designed for solo parents, and teenagers. It’s massive. Travel is not just about backpacker and resort style.
Jane: What are some examples of Intrepid family trips?
Rebecca: New locations we’ve added this year include:
- Northern Italy
Jane: Why is it important to have a local guide?
Rebecca: 100% of our trip leaders are local. These leaders are unparalleled. We also have an equity drive, aimed at hiring and supporting empowered female leaders. People make the trip. If you have a good leader, you’ll have a good experience.
What About Teenagers?
Did your teenager just roll his or her eyes when you mentioned a family holiday? Fear not. Intrepid makes their trips ‘non-patronizing,’ ie. your teen won’t feel talked down to or bored.
“The teenage trips include more physical activities — biking, rafting activities, hiking. They still have down time but not as much. The Inca Trail, Pyrenees, and Bali trips are good examples of these,” says Dyan McKie, Family Product Manager.
Happy family travelling!