Theme parks and beach vacations might come most easily to mind when thoughts turn to family travel, but there’s a lot more to consider when thoughts turn to packing up and taking your brood on the road. One of the best parts of travelling as a family are the memories those vacations create and no matter how old your kids are or whether you have one or five, there’s a trip that will not only be fun, but bring your family closer. If you’re in search of some family travel inspiration, here are nine ideas that are sure to create some unforgettable memories.
1. Take a DIY city break and live like a local
Allison Restauro travels frequently with her family—so much so that she decided to become a travel planner. But, funnily enough, her most memorable trips of late have been the ones where there isn’t much of a plan. On a recent trip to Toronto, the family rented an apartment through airbnb and spent the kids’ spring break simply exploring a new city. Over the six-day trip they took public transportation, ate at local restaurants, explored neighbourhood markets and playgrounds, and even became regulars at a local ice cream shop. “It’s little things like that that make these very memorable trips,” says Restauro.
2. Consider a culinary vacation
Co-owner and vice president of The International Kitchen, Peg Kern recently returned from a family vacation to Italy where food and cooking was a big part of their travels. “My family cooks together; that’s just what we do,” she says. For her, a food-focused trip was a particularly memorable option. “One of my favourite memories was a pizza-making class,” she affirms. “A family cooking vacation is sort of like going to a better kitchen where someone else has done the shopping and getting to learn amazing new recipes together before eating them, and having someone else do the kitchen cleanup.”
3. Adventure in Alaska
Getting off the beaten track is one of the keys to creating lasting travel memories. For Etela Ivkovic, this meant travelling to Alaska with her husband and then 12-year-old daughter in 2013. “What made this trip so memorable for all of us was the amazing beauty of the Alaskan wilderness and wildlife, combined with exploring together as a family, getting off the beaten path, finding all sorts of adventures and making the most of them.” The family travelled around Alaska in a van for three weeks and explored small villages and national parks, encountering unique wildlife along the way.
4. Road trip in an RV
If you have the time, an extended road trip can be a surefire way to bond as a family. Monica Bennet, a writer and photographer from Seattle, has recently been travelling the Pacific Northwest with her family in an airstream trailer, something that has allowed the family to experience some fun and unique adventures together, including whitewater rafting though Hells Canyon and hot air ballooning in Jackson Hole. “What makes our RV trips so memorable is the whole kit and caboodle, from towing the airstream through the contrasting landscapes of our beautiful Pacific Northwest, to spontaneously pulling over if we see an interesting place we’d like to explore,” says Bennet.
5. Go remote
Kaamna Bhojwani-Dhawan, founder of MomAboard, a trip-planning service for families, had heard about the Maldives’ remoteness and beauty and thought it would be a good fit for her family. “The thing about remote places is that you do feel like you are cut off from the rest of the world and in a private space just for you,” she explains, adding that going somewhere difficult to access can encourage togetherness. “It was a life-changing trip for us all.”
6. Plan an unplugged vacation
For Karen Dawkins, a family travel writer, memorable travel experiences need to come with an off switch. “On vacation, we lock the phones up. Mom and Dad, too, when possible,” she says. To avoid temptation, the family even purchased a point-and-shoot camera as a substitute for their phone cameras. “The destination is not as important as the time spent really interacting,” says Dawkins. “In this age of cell phones and text communication, getting away together to create memories through shared experiences changes us fundamentally.”
7. Be awed by the Galapagos
When it comes to bucket-list-worthy destinations, the Galapagos Islands top many a list. The volcanic archipelago is home to unique species that can’t be found anywhere else on the planet. The best part, especially for kids, is just how friendly those species are. Giant tortoises, penguins, fur seals and sea lions have no qualms about hanging out in plain view of curious humans. In addition to wildlife viewing, other activities include hiking, diving, snorkelling and kayaking.
8. Go on safari
There’s something incredibly special about riding in an open-air vehicle and seeing a family of giraffes casually loping by or a pride of lions napping in the shade. South Africa is a justifiably popular safari destination with camps open year-round and a variety of game reserves in almost every province. Kids and parents will get a big kick out of trying to catch a glimpse of the Big Five (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard).
9. Head somewhere culturally different
Cindy Bailey likes to think of her children as world citizens and considering their travel experiences, it’s a fitting descriptor. Bailey and her husband have been travelling nomadically with their two kids for about a year and a half. Much of the family’s travels have been to destinations that are culturally different, including recent stints in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. Bailey explains destinations like these have the potential to leave lasting impressions on the whole family. “We are immersed in these foreign cultures and are forced to learn all the time,” she says. “We are collecting experiences and gaining a wealth of memories as we go.”
5 steps to creating lasting travel memories
Snapping endless photos and posting family selfies on Instagram is one thing, but there are more ways to ensure lasting memories when travelling as a family.
1. Plan together: The more collaborative you can make trip planning, whether you’re taking a quick city break or going on safari, the more memorable the vacation will be for everyone. Giving everyone a say in what the family will be seeing and doing means that everyone becomes more invested in the experience as a whole.
2. Go outside your comfort zone: Create even deeper connections as a family by collectively going outside your comfort zones. Maybe it’s taking on a challenge, such as hiking a volcano or participating in an activity that forces you to face a fear, but doing it as a family will give everyone stories to tell long past the end of the trip.
3. Pay it forward: Giving back as a family can be a fulfilling way to bond. Research volunteer opportunities or ways to donate toys, clothing, etc. in your destination of choice and make a point of adding a day of charitable work to your itinerary.
4. Learn together: Whether it’s surfing in Costa Rica, pasta-making in Italy or batik painting in Bali, learning something together is another easy yet effective way to create lasting memories as a family unit.
5. Put the phones away: By all means, snap as many Instagram-worthy pictures as you want, but keep in mind the best memories are created beyond the smartphone screen.