It is downright tough to plan an extraordinary family vacation these days. Assuming you find a convenient time on the busy family calendar, you have to be conscious about activity and meal preferences — as well as your budget. Tying in the aspiration to have a pay it forward vacation that is educational or experiential may overwhelm the planning process altogether. However, that need not be the case with these four vacation planning tips.
Limit travel to one small region of the world
Exploring a region using public transportation, bicycles or even your own two feet saves money, time and is more eco-friendly. All too often, we find ourselves with very little vacation time, but the desire to get the most out of the experience. Staying in an area where all vacation activities are easily reachable actually contributes to a more profound travel experience because you are immersed in a community’s way of life, festivals, cuisine, and peculiarities — events that your family will likely be recalled for years.
For example, a trip to the Burren region of Ireland enables your family to participate in one of the many sporting, art, music, culinary or craft events occurring during the 2013 Gathering Festival, which is calling its Irish descendants from all over the world to come home for a visit and embrace their culture.
Pack some purpose into your suitcase
Whether you are headed to a city or village in Central America, Africa or Asia, the non-profit organization Pack for a Purpose can help make the experience more meaningful by encouraging your family to donate everyday items such as school supplies, soccer balls or even Band-Aids to benefit local communities.
For example, if you are considering a trip to the Peruvian Amazon that would include a stay at the Posada Amazonas Lodge, the eco-lodge is welcoming donations of solar calculators and math flash cards among other items. All of your donated items are given directly to the local Ese’Eja indigenous people, some members with whom you will interact with during your vacation experience.
Support sustainability you can sleep on
Sustainability does not mean paying more, nor does it mean roughing it. There are thousands of places around the world that offer distinctive green accommodations ranging from agritourism farms to old country houses to eco-lodges. However, it is important to ensure that the claim of sustainability is supported by a transparent label provided by a reputable accreditation body, such as the Rainforest Alliance, Green Key or a country’s individual eco-certification.
If there are no eco-certified lodgings available at your destination, review the list of eco-accommodation criteria against the available options and ask the hotel manager about their corporate social responsibility policies so that your family encourages local management and ownership, honest wages and responsible environmental policies.
For example, staying at an eco-certified in Costa Rica not only financially benefits local residents, it supports the habitat conservation of endangered species such as the jaguar, puma, crocodile, tapir, poison dart frogs, and the harpy eagle located within the Osa Peninsula.
Help with conservation efforts
The concepts of voluntourism and volunteer vacations are very popular. However, for a successful vacation, it is just as essential for your family to relax and rejuvenate. If children are younger than 12 years old, consider spending a half-day volunteering with a local conservation program during your vacation.
Otherwise, research voluntourism options that provide a balance between offering a volunteer service during the trip and actually having a chance to enjoy the vacation through guided activities such as horseback riding, snorkeling, kayaking or hiking.
For example, if you have a penchant for koalas and endangered tiger quolls, a stay at an ecolodge in Australia will fulfill your need to give back and still have time to unwind. Each morning, you will work alongside a conservation team as you assist in vital research efforts and recovery programs for these species. Then, after an organic locally-sourced lunch, you’ll take the afternoon to explore the Twelve Apostles and other extraordinary rock formations by the beach.
Who says you cannot have fun and give back while on vacation! What are ways you have given back?