It’s easy to get into a rut when you’ve got kids, not just at home but on the road too. And it makes sense—why mess with a tried and true formula? The kids love the beach, you love a decision-free vacation. Your extended family always meets in Disney in January, that’s just what you do. You’ve got a set budget, you know where to spend it. But even the perfect destination can get old after a while. And kids, as much as adults, benefit from change every now and then. The thing is, the world really is a big and beautiful place. Why not explore it?
There are ruins are all over the world but it´s remarkable how few parents take their kids to see them. ‘They won´t get it’ is a common response to the suggestion. But the way I look at it is this: taking your kids to ancient places creates an opportunity to learn about the past through storytelling before you even arrive, a place to let their (and your) imaginations soar once you’re there, and a great space for them to scramble, run, and hide while learning a thing or two about history. Some amazing (and personally-tested) archaeological sites include: Knossos, Greece (home of the minotaur, in Greek mythology); Pompeii, Italy (the city that was buried—and preserved—in volcanic ash during the Roman Empire days); Coba, Mexico (dug out of the jungle and home of one of the tallest pyramids in the Maya world); and Mesa Verde, United States (home of the ancient Anasazi and site of some of the best preserved cliff dwellings worldwide—just watch your step!).
Kids love water, no doubt about it. So if you’re traveling with tweens or teenagers, consider a scuba or snorkeling trip. And I don’t mean a single snorkeling excursion, I mean taking an all out underwater vacation to, say, Roatan (Honduras), Cozumel (Mexico), Cairns (Australia), or Monterey Bay (United States)—all spectacular places to explore the ocean. And if your kids are divers, a liveaboard trip—one where you live on the dive boat, typically from 2 to 6 days—allows you to go to less explored diving destinations plus gives you all a taste of living on the high seas (just don’t forget to pack Dramamine).
I’m not suggesting you take your 2-year-old to Afghanistan, but there are some amazing destinations in the world if you’re willing to forgo some creature comforts like potable tap water, cable TV, and all-inclusive options. Take your kids surfing in El Salvador, visit Buddhist temples in Laos, go animal spotting in Madagascar… You’ll find that many of these places are all-embracing not just of tourists but of children too. And the exposure your kids get to the different ways people live will expand their world view by leaps and bounds—a priceless and lifelong gift.
Your Own Backyard:
Funny, isn’t it, how you can live in a place for years and never go to the local sights? It could be a major attraction like Niagara Falls or just a great sledding hill, but if you live near it, you may keep putting off a visit because, well, it’s easy. Instead, treat your home town like a vacation destination. Take your kids to the King Tut exhibit your neighbor keeps telling you about, go hiking on that trail you haven’t been to in years, lace up your collective skates and get on that frozen pond. Instead of trudging through your every day responsibilities, think like a tourist even for just a few hours. ‘Staycations’ can have a powerfully positive effect on your psyche (and frankly, the dishes can wait). If you can’t think of where to go, stop by the city visitor´s bureau (almost every town has one, even if it’s tiny), get a guidebook, search the web, or just ask around. The world really does start in your backyard.