Travel by Families and Grandparents
There are many tour operators, travel agents and clubs devoted solely to the needs of traveling family
My wife and I took our daughter to Europe when she was 2 and a half months old. As travel writers revising a book that was then called "Europe on $5 a Day," we had no other choice. In the days before Pampers, we dragged an infant from country to country for several weeks at a time, and ruefully considered changing the title to "Europe on Five Diapers a Day."
For years afterwards, when readers would write to ask whether they should travel with their young children, I would take the juiciest felt pen I could find, and scrawl "No!" across the face of their letters, which I then stuffed into a reply envelope.
So I consider myself (a) an expert on family travel, and (b) an opponent of traveling with children of too young an age. I wince when I see three and four-year-olds on an observation deck of the Eiffel Tower, or on the beach at Waikiki and grieve at the work and expense that brought them there, ruining both their own times and those of their parents. Even at a later age--say, until eight or nine--I regard children as far better off in their own milieu at home or at a day camp or in and around a summer bungalow, than on the road. Nor, during those early years, do I concede that they receive educational benefits from travel. My daughter traveled everywhere for the first ten years of her life--from Denmark to Tahiti, from Curacao to Canada--and scarcely remembers a single setting or event from those journeys, though she is an awesomely bright young woman in every other respect.
And yet families numbered in the multitudes, travel with young children to remote corners of the world. And a sizable segment of the travel industry exists to serve them--we review these family specialists just clicks of the mouse away on this website.
Tips for family travel
Here is a very brief rundown of the basics of family travel: types of vacations, top operators, child friendly resorts and hotels and resources for further investigation. You'll find a number of widely acknowledged experts on travel listed in this section. My own advice on the subject is far more succinct, less loquacious, than theirs.
The finest single facility of family travel known to me are the summer campus vacations listed in our discussion of campus vacations elsewhere in this Encyclopedia. Though not primarily designed for families, most of those programs are aware that many of their adult summer "students" are recent graduates who have now become young parents and cannot leave their children at home while they pursue a week or two of summer academic instruction.
Consequently, most of those summer campus programs operate a parallel program of recreation and learning for the children of their adult participants. If you will click on the words "campus vacations," above, you will be brought to a detailed analysis of each such program, and you'll learn whether they suit the travel needs of you and your family.
Similarly, our discussion of summer camps will alert you to another opportunity for adult learning in the vacation season, at camps maintaining parallel programs for the children of participants.
In the tropics
The finest resorts for families wishing to enjoy a tropical vacation consist of three groups of properties. First, the "family villages"of Club Med, which are clearly identified as such in the travel catalogue of the Club Med organization (phone 800/CLUB MED or 888/WEB CLUB to obtain a copy).
Children's Clubs are 18 in number, and are found year-round at the Sandpiper on the Saint Lucie river in Florida (children from four months old are accepted), at Ixtapa on the Pacific Coast of Mexico (children from four months), at Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic (children from age two), just south of Rio de Janeiro at Rio das Pedras, Brazil (children from age four), also in Itaparica, Brazil (children from age four), at Phuket in Thailand (children from age four), at Lindamen Isle off the northeast coast of Queensland in Australia (children from age two), at Crested Butte, Colorado (children from age four), and at the Caravelle in Guadeloupe (children from age four); in addition there are several winter-only ski resorts in the Alps.
I have toured those properties in several locations and have always been impressed by their facilities for children ranging from four months to the early teen-age years. Children enjoy activities of their own (from circus training to snorkeling to scuba diving--all supervised, of course), but rejoin their parents at breakfast (and at other meals if the family wishes), and everyone is able to enjoy the "privacy" of a vacation with their own age group. For more information, visit its Web site at clubmed.com.
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