Singapore: They're probably the most high-maintenance companions any traveller will ever have, but a new guide aims to take the pain out of vacationing with children and giving their parents a break, too.
Lonely Planet has completely revised its Travel with Children guidebook, which was first published in 1985, reissuing it this month with a list of kid-friendly destinations and activities, as well as tips to ensure parents stay sane.
Coordinating author Brigitte Barta told Reuters that while people may not be travelling as much, or as far, as they used to due to the global economic crisis, families still need holidays, which, with some planning, can be a great bonding experience.
"There's no doubt that travelling with kids is very different from travelling without them. It's a lot more tiring and demanding, and holidays can be harder work than staying at home. But the benefits of family travel are enormous," Barta said.
"We're all more mobile and more prepared to travel to the other side of the world, even for a couple of weeks' vacation. Seasoned travellers, of which there are now so many, see no reason to stop just because they've had children."
The book features guides to what Lonely Planet believes are the world's 35 most child-friendly countries ranging from the obvious, like Australia and the United States for example, to places many people wouldn't really consider, such as Syria, Israel and the Palestinian territories.
There is a comprehensive section on how to decide where to go, the types of holidays that would suit different families as well as a games you can play with children on the road.
"Putting lots of effort into planning really helps," Barta says. "But it's also important to approach it all with the spirit of adventure and to build in flexibility so that when things do go wrong, as they inevitably will, you can problem-solve."
Barta predicted that for many families, overseas travel may fall out of favour for now, due to the expenses involved, adding that many people will probably vacation closer to home, if not at home in the next couple of years.
"It's likely that, for the next few years at least, families will spend their holidays exploring their own backyard, so to speak -- camping seems to be the new black. Perhaps there will be a revival of campervans and caravans," she said.
Barta's first trip was at the age of six months, when she travelled with her parents from New Zealand to Naples on an ocean liner and has been on countless vacations with her daughter.
Her tips for families travelling with children include:
- Travel really light
- Choose accommodation with a balcony or lounge where parents can hang out once the kids are in bed and also somewhere with a garden where the kids can let off steam.
- Involve children in the planning of the trip, encourage them to research the destination and also to keep a record of their travels and collect souvenirs.
- Most importantly, take it easy. Kids are useless at getting ready in a hurry and they hate rushing. Travel with children needs to be slow travel.