By Lynn O’Rourke Hayes
Lynn O’Rourke Hayes is a writer, photographer, and a passionate traveler. She is the Editor and owner of FamilyTravel.com and writes a weekly, syndicated travel column. Her travels have taken her to more than 100 countries and there is every indication the peripatetic trend will continue.
Family travel is more important than ever. Busy lives mean it can be a challenge to find the time to plan, let along take a vacation.
But research shows that those who plan and actually embark on regular family adventures are a happier and healthier bunch.
What’s more, travel can play a strong role in the education you offer to your children and grandchildren.
Here are eight ideas to ponder as you consider your future family travel.
Reflect Your Values
The travel choices you make can send a strong message to your loved ones about what matters most to you. Consider the bucket list as a thoughtful and deliberate reflection of your own values, hopes, and dreams. So before you begin listing desired destinations, ask yourself what aspects of the world –geographically, spiritually and culturally – you want to share with your children, grandchildren and perhaps other friends and family members.
Identify Priorities and Passions
Are you a nature, history or art lover? Do you want your children or grandchildren to learn how to ski, photograph or scuba dive? Do you hope to share your love of baseball or botany with the next generation? Will volunteer vacations or heritage tours be an important part of your mix? Take time to consider these ideas that will expand your family’s horizons and weave them into your travel plan.
Americans get low marks for knowledge of geography. Begin with a good map or atlas and consider studying the globe as an important part of your family travel education.
While your list will most certainly change over the years, think about which destinations you hope to visit while your children are in the nest and beyond.
And, when it comes time to involve the children in creating the bucket list, remember that kids don’t know what they don’t know.
Certain theme parks and resorts will likely be on their radar screens. But they may not be aware of the glories of Yellowstone or Yosemite or the historical significance of Gettysburg or Montpelier.
Unplug and Tune In
Plan a family trip around camping, hiking, biking or fishing. Unplug from technology, stow the phones, laptops, and tablets and tune in to the sounds of nature and to conversation with each other. Encourage the experienced to share outdoor skills that will serve youngsters for a lifetime. Any of nearly 400 national parks would serve as a grand classroom.
The More the Merrier
Busy careers, geographic spread and year-round sports and school schedules mean it can be harder than ever to gather the clan. Therefore, extra effort is required to maintain and nurture family bonds. Spending relaxed, quality time with your extended family – grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins – enables the generations to gain important insights into family history. And, to have some fun!
About the Money
Choosing to make travel a priority is a decision that may require foregoing other luxuries or experiences. But the quality bonding time and lifelong memories are sure to be worth it. Consider creating a travel savings account. Opt for travel-related gifts for birthdays, graduations and holidays. Encourage the children to establish their own travel fund. Saving for a specific trip can be an important part of the overall experience.
About the Time
Whether you begin by tossing up a tent in the backyard or strategizing to experience a safari in Africa, there is no time like the present to begin planning family travel. As children get older, their schedules become more complicated by their own commitments. Take advantage of school breaks. Consider off-season adventures when you will experience fewer crowds and lower prices, even if it means missing a few days of class. Is a month, summer or year abroad on your family wish list? If, so, begin the research now.
You’ve planned and prioritized. Now, have fun. Take pictures. Repeat.