Annalise Andrews has spent much of her adult life travelling, having visited over 45 countries, lived in five and guided tours on four continents.
After meeting her husband Ray and settling down to have children, Annalise has realised there's one trip she wasn't prepared for - the family trip. Since then, the travel guru has dedicated her time to mastering the ins and outs of family travel.
“I’ve designed and guided travel experiences all over the globe, but nothing beats exploring someplace new with your family – even if it’s just around the corner,” Annalise says.
“Travelling with kids is extra special because you see them learning and growing at such a fast pace, and they’ll always surprise you at how independent and inquisitive they are."
Annalise says she has also enjoyed seeing how travelling with her children has helped to break down cultural barriers.
“You end up having so many diverse interactions with locals and members of your travel group as children naturally bring communities together, forging intimate connections that might otherwise not have occurred.”
Annalise, who works as a private trip designer for Butterfield & Robinson, an immersive travel experience company, shares her top tips for getting the most out of your trip with the kids in tow.
1. Get them involved
Give kids some ownership of the travel arrangements, and get them involved in the planning stages. Depending on their age this can be anything from getting them to help decide on the destination or choose the accommodation, to having them source the best ice cream shop in the area, or coming up with some of the activities.
TripAdvisor is a great resource for them to use to research options, and it will help to get them excited about their upcoming travels. For older kids, set them a budget and give them a whole day to plan for the family that they can look forward to and be proud of!
2. Keep them busy during travel
If your travels are going to involve long plane trips or hours in the car, come prepared! For plane trips, download a bunch of movies and see if you can get any that are set in the area you’re about to visit, or involve some of the culture or history from that area. It will help set the scene and teach them a little about the destination and what’s different and exciting about it.
For car trips, audio books are a great way to keep everyone occupied. Unlike an iPad which isolates kids to their own device and head-phones, a shared classic audio book is something that the whole family can enjoy together through the car stereo, and bond over as the journey progresses.
3. You don’t have to be all together, all of the time
Don’t feel guilty about thinking that you have to spend all of your time together. Although it’s great to have some awesome family experiences you can all get involved in, it’s equally nice to separate out some time that’s all about the kids, and some that’s all for the adults.
On our Butterfield & Robinson Family Trips, we generally spend some time in the morning with everyone together enjoying a bike ride or a great hike, but then let the ages find their space. The Butterfield & Robinson Loire Valley Family Trip, for example, has a ropes and climbing course specifically for the children, which our trained guides will lead while the parents get some time to settle in to their settings. After kids experience the rope course in St Benoit la Fôret, everyone enjoys a fantastic dinner prepared by Chef David Chartier.
4. Step out of your comfort zone
Great travel is definitely not all just about 5 star hotels and fancy restaurants. The trips that your kids will remember most in years to come are those that push them a little outside their comfort zone, or help them to discover just how different life can be in another part of the world.
Our daughter celebrated her 10th birthday on a deserted island in Papua New Guinea, with locals from the neighbouring island teaching us how to hunt and forage for what we needed for a few days. It was hot and different and back to basics – a family experience that none of us will ever forget.
5. Do what the local kids do
Do some research before you go to find out what local classes, activities and events are on for kids in the area you’re visiting. A simple web search for something like “what’s on for kids <city>” will generally bring up a host of pages with all sorts of suggestions.
A quick search in my area has just brought up ideas for outdoor cinemas, art and cooking classes, surfing lessons, a family fun-run, and a whole host of exhibitions, plays and activities to choose from. These are often ideas outside the normal ‘tourist’ realm that will connect you more with local life and people.
6. Don’t just wait for your holidays to try something new with your kids
We often think that we need to save up trying new things until our holidays come around, but the truth is you can jump into something new with your kids at any time. I’ve sent my daughter off to some fabulous art classes and watched her come back full of smiles and satisfaction, so when they opened the enrolments up to adults as well recently I took myself way out of my comfort zone to try something new.
The end result – a great new experience that we did together, for some fun bonding over paint and creativity. Next weekend? Stand-up paddle board and rock-climbing with my son. Wish me luck!