International travel with children and/or grandchildren defines a different kind of trip than going solo. You’ll need to rethink almost all your typical planning options.
If this is your first family foray to Europe, the temptation is to visit as many capital cities as possible and take in all the sights: the Tower of London, the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, the Eiffel Tower, the Prado. St. Peter’s Basilica, the Parthenon. The more countries the better.
A family trip is about building bonds and making memories. This can best be done in an environment with low distraction and high interaction. And, at the same time, reap the richness of an international experience.
As a child your family may have enjoyed summer trips to a cabin on a lake. There was connection with nature, family storytelling around a campfire, boating and swimming, shared preparation of meals, day trips to local attractions. Over the years, trips to the same cabin on the same lake strengthened these memories and bonded generations together.
They are the stuff of endless “remember when” stories.
How can you plan the same type of experience with an international destination?
• Visit only one country.
• Stay in a remote village/town where you can live with and get to know the locals.
• Rent an apartment.
• Stay in one location at least two weeks.
• Take day trips to learn about the country and its culture.
• Intersperse kid friendly fun (hiking in search of trolls, pony trekking) with learning (visiting a castle, observing cheese making).
• Prepare the kids prior to taking the trip. (Use maps, videos, books, photos, history to learn about the country. Learn to speak a few words of the language.)
• Record the trip in photos that you jointly design into albums when you return.
Once kids sample the differences experienced in a foreign country, they will return. Later they can visit the must see sights. That’s assuming, of course, they rank these sites above those they experienced in the unique contacts with real people in real places.