FAMILY TRAVEL REQUIRES due dilligence by parents in both planning and implementation. Where will you go? What will you do once you arrive? Is it worth your hard-earned cash? My email inbox is always full during the autumn months with questions from parents who are booking adventures for the following year. They want to know about quality, value, and logistics. With tough economic times, coupled with a discerning customer base, leisure travel is receiving a hard look with respect to its kid-friendliness, especially now, as more families than ever are wanting their kids to experience the world at large.
It’s not easy to filter through hundreds of choices available for lodging, dining, activities, and transportation, not to mention merely choosing a destination. Whether your family is heading out for an epic adventure or simply relaxing beside a campfire, asking some questions of travel and tourism businesses before booking a trip can turn a so-so vacation into the stuff by which memories are made. We’ve learned - oh, yes, we have.
Now that's a 5-star kid menu!
Ask for references from other satisfied customers. I tend to stay away from online ratings because, sadly, competing companies often negatively rate their rivals, with consumers as unintended casulties. Better to inquire about references from a business directly, a reputable one will deliver promptly. References are critical for adventures like flightseeing, climbing, kayaking, and other activities where safety is paramount. And speaking of safety....
Do tour companies, vehicle rental agencies, and/or adventure businesses provide a safe environment for kids? Ask about PFD’s, seat belts, car seats, and age, weight, or height restrictions before arriving on site for an activity. Fishing? Ask ahead of time about life jackets specifically designed for your child’s weight. Road tripping with a tour company? Check to be sure they have a car seat, and make sure the company is well acquainted with current state laws concerning boosters for older kids. Better yet, bring your own.
Just chillin' with some "hands-on" learning...
Inquire about specific activities for children. Does a company or resort offer a truly independent children’s program, or is an adult itinerary simply adapted for kids? Depending upon the context, either can work, as long as it is safe and age-appropriate. Ask, too, about crew/staff training specific to kids. Are guides acquainted with specific strageties for talking to and interacting with kids, in an appropriate manner? We went on a whale watching cruise once where the wildlife was great but the guide spent a little too much time talking about whale sex, leading to much further discussion with our five year-old that evening.
Kid-friendly rangers know their audience...
Do businesses offer space for kid-friendly “downtime”? I’m a huge proponent of freeplay for kids while on vacation. A wide lawn with play equipment, a table set up with books, games, and drawing tools all go a long way toward family harmony (and that of other guests) when everyone needs a break. This includes restaurants, who score major points with me if they offer age-appropriate activities at the table along with the children’s menu.
It takes effort and a whole lot of buy-in from businesses to create an atmosphere of family-friendliness in the tourism industry. Those companies who choose to embrace kids generally find that the return on their investment is well worth time spent creating a memorable experience.
For more insight into the world of family-friendly travel, visit AKontheGO.com and click the “Family Approved” tab.