Family Reunions and Travel: A Lesson in Togetherness
I recently took my children to Panama, the small Central American country that joins North and South America as part of a family reunion trip. At first, I was a little nervous about taking a three and five year old along with 75 of our relatives of which only eight were children. But with the right preparation, we all had a wonderful time.
Three Tips to Planning an Foreign Destination Family Reunion
Here are just a few quick tips that I figured out will make traveling in large groups with children go more smoothly.
1. Get involved in the planning. As a parent, it was important that my children could benefit from this experience as much as their adult relatives. Little things can be a big deal. For example, we spent many hours on buses exploring the country so it was imperative that our tour bus had a high seat height/low window ratio so that even our smallest child could enjoy the view outside the windows. When choosing restaurants for group dining, we selected ones with children’s options and we also could call ahead with those orders so that the kids didn’t have to wait for their meals. Choosing the right accommodations for such a large, diverse group was also key to the trip’s success. The complimentary breakfasts of the Country Inn & Suites made mornings very easy for everyone and staying at the all-inclusive Royal DeCameron Beach Resort meant we didn’t have to think about a thing for our three beach days.
2. Learn before you leave. We visited the local library and read books on Panama before our trip. I wanted my children to understand that what is “normal” for us is not the norm in other parts of the world. We read about how Panamanians live, dress, and eat, what types of animals and plants are there. And then we looked for opportunities in Panama to have the children really
experience those uniquenesses such as the Embera Indian Village. I loved hearing “oh, we read about this, right mom?!”
3. Allow for down time. Let me start by saying that you know your children best and just how much they can take. As adults we find ways to pack in all the site-seeing possible but that can be a recipe for disaster if you have kids and teens with you. Make sure you allow for “chill” time. You will appreciate the sites you have chosen to visit more if you actually have time to enjoy and reflect on the experience. For us, the tour buses provided some of that; and some of our activities allowed us to simply enjoy the ride such as our trip across the Panamanian isthmus aboard the 1st Transcontinental Railway. It's also the down time that allowed us to get to know our relatives even better.
Yes, it did take quite a bit of organization to keep 75 people on schedule but it was us all being together that made the trip unforgettable.
Nicole Hockin is a travel expert and author of www.travelsmartblog.com, which provides practical travel advice, and deals courtesy of Hotels.com. She is a regularly featured in print, on TV and radio including the Rachael Ray Show, The Daily Buzz, and The Mike & Juliet Morning Show.
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- Family Reunions and Travel: A Lesson in Togetherness - November 11, 2010