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Elaine Pesky

New York, New York Travel Agent

Active Family Travel Around the World

The Pesky Family in the Galapagos

My husband and I started taking annual trips with our two daughters when they were three and five years old. Now that they are grown and have families of their own, we try to take everyone—all 17 of us--on a trip every year.

In my decades of planning travel, both for my family and for others, I’ve learned that traveling with children almost everywhere in the world is feasible and fun. It just takes the right attitude and planning. 

With multi-generational travel, it’s often a good idea to allow for differences in interests by building in choices. For example, often there are members of a family who want to be active and go hiking or biking, while others may prefer some time at a museum or in a spa. When this happens, I’ll provide options for different excursions throughout the itinerary so everyone can pursue their interests. 

Nevertheless, it’s important to have one person take the lead. If not, it’s impossible to finalize any kind of arrangements. I worked with one family where more than 20 people were calling me with input, and they wouldn’t empower anyone to make a decision. Finally, we agreed that I would lay out an itinerary with several options for each place they were going. I got everything back in writing and was able to organize them into groups for each activity and pull a complete itinerary together. That worked! By getting everyone’s choices in writing, we were able to move forward and make concrete plans. 

I’ve planned family trips around the world and find people often are surprised at how easy it can be to travel with children. Most kids love wildlife, so African safaris are wonderful. Safaris are also accessible to family members who may be less active or confined to a wheelchair since they can easily go out on the game drives.

Costa Rica is another wonderful family destination. It is deservedly known for eco-tourism adventures through the jungle such as zip-lining through the canopy, river rafting, and hiking. The country has wonderfully trained guides, especially the ones who specialize in the country’s flora and fauna, and they make every day a fun learning experience. Costa Rica also offers opportunities for lots of different activities, including water sports, spas and golf. 

Other great places to experience nature at its wildest include Antarctica, the Galapagos, Australia, and New Zealand, and all can be wonderful for families. In fact, with the right guides, cities such as London and Paris and exotic cultural destinations such as Vietnam, all can be accessible to families.

Among the best domestic spots for families to enjoy together is the U.S. National Parks. The challenge is that the lodges in the parks can be booked up to a year in advance, and staying outside the parks can mean waiting in long lines, a recipe for crankiness. Popular activities and even restaurant reservations also can get sold out way in advance, so it’s important to plan ahead.

No matter where you go, setting a date well in advance is essential to getting everyone to set aside time in their busy lives. With my daughters living more than 1,000 miles apart, our annual trips are the one time everyone is together, and that is true for many of the families I work with. It’s worth the effort because, in addition to the educational value, travel helps families strengthen their bonds through shared memories and experiences. I’d love to help you plan your next family adventure!

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