Choosing a Destination

Portrait of Katrina Garnett

My husband and I have always had certain goals in mind when planning our family travels. We want to show our kids the great museums and historical sights of the world, expose them to different cultures, and help them develop an appreciation for wilderness and nature. We also want to have fun and bond as a family. And we want to do it before our kids are too busy with their commitments and friends, and while the places we want to see are still accessible and relatively untouched. Following these goals has taken us all over the world, on cultural trips, adventure trips, boat cruises, and relaxing holidays in the countryside. Here are a few tips to help you decide where you should go next:

Consider All the Factors
Deciding which trips to take when depends on a number of things: the ages and abilities of your kids, the length of your holiday, the weather at that time of year, the exchange rate. We also take into account the subjects our kids are studying, and plan trips that correspond with them. Not only does it make the subject more meaningful and relevant to your child, it helps him or her enjoy the experience more fully.

Pursue Your Passions
Our personal interests are another major factor in our plans. My husband loves Middle Eastern art and architecture, and collects both Orientalist and contemporary art. I’m a photography buff. My daughter and I love to ride. All of the kids love skiing, fishing, and water sports, and we’re all enchanted by the desert. The list goes on and on. Sometimes our trips are planned around these interests, and sometimes new interests are discovered on the trip.

Mix It Up
Variety is good, not only for its own sake but because you never know which experiences will be particularly interesting to your children or have a lasting impact. We might follow a wilderness safari with a trip to a European capital, or a tour of an exotic country with a ski trip to Aspen.

Create a Strategy
When you have an entire globe to choose from, picking just one place can seem daunting. But rather than putting too much weight on a particular trip, think about it as part of a larger plan. Set short-term and long-term goals for your travels – a checklist of sites and museums you want to see or experiences you want to share before the kids go off to college, for example – and then make them happen!

Check Age Requirements
Sometimes, the destination itself puts a limit on the child’s age. Exclusive resorts often have a 12-and-up policy, for instance. And some activities are restricted by age, such as hiking the Perito Moreno glacier or seeing chimpanzees in the Mahale Mountains. (It’s worth asking if they will make an exception – our partner was able to arrange access to the chimpanzees, even though our kids were underage.)

Think Big, Even if Your Time Frame is Small
Many schools only give a week off for spring break, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go somewhere exotic. We’ve taken week-long trips to Morocco, Japan, and Peru – the key is not to pack too much in. For Japan, we concentrated on Tokyo and Kyoto, with a day trip to Himeji. In Morocco, we stayed mostly in Marrakech, with a two-day excursion into the desert. In Peru, we spent a few days in the rainforest, and the rest of the time in Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, which are all very close together.

Latin America is especially appealing for short trips because of the time zone (0-3 hours ahead of EST). Jet lag is less of an issue, so you spend less time recovering, and it’s an easy flight from the East Coast. The exchange rate is also favorable right now in most Latin American countries.

A week is plenty of time for a wilderness adventure in North America, as well. And if you want to visit a major city like London or Paris, a week will allow you to really explore the neighborhoods and still make a couple of day trips.