We all work hard for our time away with family and for many it is the highlight of the year. The costs of travel, relatively speaking, are getting cheaper every year as more and more of us can afford to travel further and for longer.
For so many families their holiday consists of one to two weeks around a pool in a resort and country that they know precious little about. The kids have fun playing with other children in and around the pool while the parents work on the tan or prop up the bar. Sound like any resorts you have ever been to?
Is it not a shame that on your return flight you know as little about your chosen destination than before you had left. Travel can be rewarding in so many ways and you don’t necessarily have to forego the rest that we spend all year saving up for.
The excitement of our holiday shouldn’t suddenly stop when you have booked your flights and accommodation to be put at the back of the mind until the departure day suddenly dawns on you. Travel planning should be an integral part of any holiday. It is a chance for everyone to get together and talk about what they want to achieve.
Use the internet to research your destination, not just the town you will be staying in but the people and culture you will be visiting. Learn a little bit of the local lingo. Learn how to say please, thank you and some basic questions such as, “how much is this?”. The fact that you are trying means a lot to the local people.
If you have school age children get them involved too. Show them the cultures they are going to visit, get them excited about it, get them asking questions. Don’t be afraid that you won’t know the answer. These days the answer is just a click away.
In today’s technologically advanced ways, ticketing has virtually become a thing of the past. Even 10 years ago the excitement was palpable as you got all your travel documents through the post or picked them up at the travel agent. Along with your tickets you may have had a small brochure about your destination.
These days your tickets arrive in the form of a faceless email, sometimes undecipherable to anyone that doesn’t know the codes used in airline ticketing systems such as Sabre or Worldspan. It looks like a load of jargon your computer spits out when it has a hissy fit over a web page it can’t load.
Your resort ‘welcome pack’ is a blurry photocopied piece of A4 paper that tells you the reps will be around at some point in the day and where the nearest pharmacy is with a couple of numbers to use in an emergency.
Although it has helped take the cost of travel down it’s taken the excitement out of it and that is a shame. You now have to do the legwork that the holiday companies used to do so use it as an opportunity to further your own, and your kids, knowledge. You could be surprised what you find out. As human beings we are all naturally curious about things.
Staying in a faceless branded mega-resort teaches you nothing of the local culture and customs so if you are booking independently seek out local owners so your money stays in the local economy benefiting the people that live there and not making a multi national company exec another zero on their quarterly bonus.
Look for excursions that will provide a memorable experience and enhance your understanding of the culture. Seek out experiences that will bond you as a family. All to often around hotel pools worldwide I see dad propping up the bar, mum sitting on the sun lounger and the kids in the pool. Is that real quality time? Going away as a family yet spending more time apart than you do at home.
There is no better feeling than returning home with memories you will treasure forever and have an understanding of the local culture and customs while knowing that the money you have spent will help the local people improve their lives not sit in a distant corporate bank account padding out stakeholders pension pots.
All my beach and pool holidays have merged into one in my mind. There is nothing that sets them apart so as to be memorable but I can recall flying over the Costa Rican jungle on the Southern Hemispheres longest zip line, staring eye to eye with a pissed off tarantula in the Peruvian Jungle, held my nose at the stench of thousands of penguins crowded on a windswept slab of rock in the notorious Cape Horn or watched a mother cheetah feed her two young cubs with the carcass of a freshly caught Tomsons Gazelle not more than 10 feet from me in the Serengeti.
I remember them precisely because they are different. I can recall the people I was with, I remember the weather of that day, I remember the feelings that were going through my mind and the smells around me with a vivid clarity like it could have happened yesterday when in some cases it was years ago. I returned home more aware than when I left, I had made lifelong friends and I had learnt something in the process.
To me, that is something you can’t put a price on.