1. Just do it!
In addition to expanding your child’s awareness through travel, exotic family vacations inevitably strengthen family ties and create dinner conversations to last a lifetime.
2. Visit schools or sports events: Nothing helps a child understand a destination better than meeting their peers. I love to arrange school visits or visits to local community sports events. Usually the local kids are just as fascinated by my kids as my kids are by them!
3. Don’t sweat the small stuff: Now is not the time to worry about a balanced diet or the usual house rules. It’s a vacation. Rest assured that your kids are gaining invaluable exposure, so if they eat nothing but fish sticks and French fries for two weeks and it makes them happy (yes, one of my kids did this once in Indonesia) they will come out of it no worse for the wear.
4. Have a great guide – Part 1: Having a knowledgeable guide is like bringing a wonderful educator along with you. They can truly bring the destination to life through their stories and knowledge, making a lasting impact on young minds. Case in point: I was in Dubai and Istanbul last year with my daughter. Most people don’t think of culture or history when they think of Dubai, but we had such a wonderful and passionate guide that my daughter and I walked away with a great respect for the Emirati people and their culture. Meanwhile, we were on our own in Istanbul, a city that one normally thinks of as being filled with amazing history, but my daughter did not make the same connection there. She actually wants to move to Dubai when she is
5.Have a great guide - Part 2: Yes, there is something to be said to wandering around lost in a new city, but if you are traveling with kids who can get tired, hungry and grumpy, everyone’s sanity can be saved by having a guide take you around who will not only impart knowledge, but will pick up on when little ones are tired or hungry and adjust the schedule accordingly, sometimes getting you back to the home base or nearest restaurant as quickly as possible!
6. Scheduling is everything: Don’t overdo it. Include some downtime in every day for your family to digest what they are taking in, and move at a slower pace than you would if you were on your own. It may be your first trip to China, it doesn’t have to be your last!
7. Hotel Selection: Picking the right property is critical so that when you have downtime you aren’t crammed into a tiny hotel room. Look for hotels that have a great indoor or outdoor pool, bigger rooms, or are located near parks or open areas to run around!
8. TV is a cultural exchange: A little TV viewing can give the parents a welcome break and your kids can see another aspect of the culture you are visiting. My kids still talk about familiar cartoon characters speaking in Thai and the crazy Japanese TV shows they have stumbled upon.
9. Don’t force it: If your kid doesn’t want to do something, let them have a little ownership of the situation. My 7 year old opted out of a monk cleansing in Cambodia once, and as the rest of us stood there in sarongs freezing and wet, we had to think she was the smart one.
10. HAVE FUN: That’s really the point isn’t it? Relax and enjoy and your kids will remember the trip forever.
Leslie Overton is a mother and the General Manager of Absolute Travel.