The world is more navigable and open to travelers today than it has ever been in the past.
Very few nations have closed borders, the Iron Curtain is gone and China is accessible.Â Vast swaths of the globe that were previously only available to the incredibly persistent or well-connected are now open to travel by almost anyone.
Why travel now?
Despite soaring fuel costs, the proliferation of budget airlines has brought (relatively) inexpensive air travel to the masses.Â Decades ago, the traveler to Europe knew that a Eurail Pass was the best way to go for cheap transportation. Today, train travel is still a good idea depending upon the itinerary, but cheap flights and packages means that it often makes sense to get to one’s destination continent and sort out the next transportation step after arrival.
Enhanced flexibility is good for family travel as well, but while children are pretty adaptable, it pays to bring a bit of structure and planning to a family vacation. Keep in mind that the best destination for kids may only be a short trip from your home, so whether you live in the US, Europe, Asia or another continent, don’t assume that your own backyard is “boring” and that you must haul everyone onto a plane flight to enjoy “real” travel.
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Family travel across the US
For families living in the United States, there are obviously many advantages to exploring one’s own city, state or region. The US is quite diverse, it’s easy to drive anywhere and (if you can afford the tickets) plenty of flights criss-cross the country.
The vibrant cities of New York and Boston dominate the Northeast, and who can resist autumn leaf-peeping or summers in New England? The South is open, friendly and often not very expensive in rural areas, but big cities like Atlanta, Miami or Washington DC offer plenty of urban vibe. Midwest communities like Chicago, Kansas City and the Quad Cities offer contrast to miles of agricultural heartland and a simpler life. Texas and the Southwest are full of cowboy, pioneer and Native American heritage, and the West Coast and California cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles have always seemed to grab onto the new and exciting ahead of everyone else.
No jet lag going north and south
Families looking for something different without having to deal with excessive jet lag can always journey northward to vast Canada, head south to the Caribbean or to kid-friendly destinations in Latin America like Belize, Mexico and Costa Rica.
The familiar, but never boring
Many Americans make their first visit outside North America when they travel to Europe. Both Canadians and US citizens often have family ties and a long national historic association with the United Kingdom, so London is a popular stop, although it can be terribly overpriced for the unprepared.Â The delights of France, particularly Paris, and of course Italy are usually next for first-time visitors, and all of them are good for families. The first sighting of familiar landmarks like the Eiffel Tower or the Leaning Tower of Pisa brings delighted smiles to parents and kids alike.
Long-haul travel with kids across the Pacific – worth it?
Asia and Australia/New Zealand can be a daunting prospect for family travel, especially with younger children.Â Although many destinations like Thailand or beautiful Bali are budget-friendly once you get there, the sheer distances across the Pacific coupled with jet lag and challenges in less-developed nations can give parents pause.Â Don’t let all of those considerations stop you; many Moms and Dads find that the long flight is the biggest hassle, and is quickly forgotten in the rush of excitement of seeing vibrant Asian countries (where the local culture is often particularly loving and welcoming towards children.)