Whether a jet-setting executive or just in love with adventure, many people are incorporating a significant amount of travel into their life. But full or part-time life on the road comes with a set of challenges, but it also presents opportunities for a family.
Adventure and excitement
A shared sense of adventure is key to a happy family travel experience; however, nothing brings down a vacation faster or undermines a relocation more, than unfulfilled expectations and poor comfort levels. Practically, this means good communication between individuals and taking into account each family member’s needs and preferences. If your idea of travel is hiking in the wilds of Peru, while your partner’s is all about luxury city breaks and historic sights in Europe, and your teen refuses to go anywhere without a bikini-worthy beach and Wi-Fi, you’re going to need a strategy for dealing with disappointment.
Negotiate a solution before setting off. Maybe you’re traveling to a location that frightens one family member, or that he or she will find boring. Can you split vacation days between activities that please different family members? Can you get involved in groups or take day trips that meet his or her needs even though your new location isn’t quite what he or she prefers? Sometimes splitting up for a little while is the best option; maybe the kids need to go to school in one location, while you head out for work or an adult-only getaway elsewhere.
Consistency and stability
Even the most adventurous family needs some consistency and a sense of normalcy. The process of travel can be exhilarating, but it can also make establishing a routine a challenge. Adjust your approach based on the ages and needs of your kids. Small kids tend to need a more inflexible schedule around feeding and naps, so don’t plan to get as much done in a day, and map out home bases where you can crash for some quiet time. Older kids have educational requirements. A short break can usually be sorted out with the school in return for special projects or extra homework, but be sure to check in with teachers before booking – some tests and requirements can’t be missed.
Longer breaks and a relocation abroad for work reasons are a bigger challenge. Is there an adult in the family with enough free time to oversee the kids’ education? Distance learning is an option, but most kids struggle to stay motivated and on track when left to their own devices. For a quality education consider an international school in a city that will also provide a new cultural experience. If relocating to Singapore for career reasons take a look at the Stamford American school calendar and get the kids enrolled there for a top-class education.
Community and opportunity
Travel can be isolating. You might be busy networking with clients and business partners or be perfectly content with the company of your spouse, but you need to take every member of the family into account. For short stays, schedule time for kids to connect via online messaging and video to extended family and friends, or look for opportunities for them to play with other kids. For more extended stays, getting involved in social or activity-based groups in the community is a way to make friends and build connections. Lasting relationships can be another form of stability for the family, and an international school experience can pay off for both you and the kids, giving them the chance to grow friendships and build a life-long network of diverse, well-educated, global connections.
Legality and safety
Travel comes with paperwork, and family travel comes with extra paperwork. Do your research, and when in doubt, connect with a travel agency or consultant that specializes in navigating documentation and safety requirements for your destination. Passports and copies of identification documents for every member of the family must be obtained and kept up to date, but that’s just the beginning. Kids’ documents need to be updated more frequently as they grow and change in appearance. Visas and travel permits are required in many locations and may be challenging to obtain for family travel. And don’t forget vaccinations, medication and health advisories. Depending on where you’re headed and how long you’ll be there, kids as well as adults, should be inoculated against local illnesses or carefully monitored until they build immunity.
Family travel can be fun, educational, and a great bonding experience as you share adventures together. Be realistic about the needs of each family member, look for compromises and creative solutions, and make sure you’ve got all travel documents and shots up to date, the kids’ education covered, and emotional and practical needs met before setting off.