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Travel: it's fun for the whole family

Traveling solo, or with a spouse or significant other is a wonderful experience. But what about another option—traveling with children, grandchildren or extended family members?

Inter-generational travel, with family members of all ages, means a chance to see the world together, and through each other's eyes—but can be a daunting effort to plan and carry out. Many escorted tour companies offer great family options and can create a wonderful and stress-free way to bring the family along to some of the world's best destinations. And for kids, it's a highly memorable way to learn geography, social studies, and history in a meaningful (and fun) way, while spending quality time with family.

Some things to consider when booking family travel:

How will you decide who rooms with whom? All kids in one room can be tricky, and who goes where? Do the hotel rooms and ship cabins allow triples? Many do, but understand what that means. Triple beds/berths are usually fine for younger children but can be tough on teenagers and adults. (And ask yourself if you really want to share a bathroom with a teenager.) Most food while traveling in the U.S. will generally please everyone's palates, but make sure children will be willing to try foreign, and sometimes exotic foods while overseas. Many ships and hotels try hard to accommodate children and teenagers, but discovering the local food of an area can be one of travel's greatest perks.

Check the recommended ages for the trip. The tour operator or cruise line will know the program well and their recommendations should be heeded. The logistics of the trip may look easy, but travel is hard and keeping even mature children content can be tough. Are there early morning activities, with luggage out before 7 a.m.? Are there long stretches on a bus? Late dinners? No wi-fi or television? All these things can stretch a family relationship quickly. Find out the logistics of the program you are interested in, and if other families have had good luck with this destination.

Is the content of the program interesting to kids? European history can be fascinating for adults, but children or teenagers may not have a long attention span for the 300-year reign of the Habsburg empire. Find out if the program can include some non-adult modifications or special activities, or if there is free time for your family to explore on its own. Programs like safaris and nature-based cruises can be a perfect fit and an outstanding experience—what person of any age can resist a baby sea lion on a beach in the Galapagos, or a mama grizzly bear and her cubs in Alaska? You can even pose for the family Christmas card picture with the first, but probably not the second.

Are all family members able to handle the physical requirements of the trip—can they handle flights of stairs, get in and out of small boats or skiffs, and follow safety instructions? In some cases, young adults can actually be helpers to senior family members, providing a steady hand when needed and a great experience for both. Tour operators and cruise lines can let you know the mobility requirements for any program, and then you can decide if it is right for your family.

Nothing helps children learn about the world more than actually traveling in it, especially overseas. And nothing can tests family bonds more than a stressful travel experience. But carefully chosen, and thoughtfully executed family travel can create a memorable family journey that brings joy, laughter, and knowledge to all.