Here Is the Secret to Enjoying Exotic Travel With Your Kids
If you’re a parent, you know the importance of having college and wedding funds. Now, if you want to be on the cutting edge of financial planning, you’ll also want to invest in a travel fund.
“We’re looking at a generation of parents who have been lucky enough to travel themselves, and they want to have that for their children as well,” said Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell, co-owner and director of the bespoke travel agency Cazenove+Loyd, in an interview. Perhaps as important, these parents don't want to put their bucket lists on hold for 20 years until their children fly the coop. Instead, they'd rather bring their kids along for extreme, educational adventures—as soon as they're ready for it.
Legacy Travel, Cazenove+Loyd's newly minted program, aims to take the guesswork out of long-term family travel planning. The basic premise: Agents find out how many children are in a family, what they enjoy doing, what they’re learning in school, and what their parents want to see and do. Then they create a long-term travel schedule that outlines the family’s trips for the next three to 10 years—yes, all in one fell swoop.
Big Costs, Big Benefits
“Without being a sentimental softy about it, [exposing kids to a lifetime of travel] can be a way to input into someone’s development," said Wilmot-Sitwell, "certainly a lot more than what a beach holiday could do.” In his 25 years as a travel specialist, he said, he has watched kids develop interests in photography, medicine, politics, and more as a result of global vacations. He said these kids grow up to have an awareness of the world that can’t be gleaned from textbooks. And in his experience, well-traveled children often find more meaningful careers in their adult lives.
It’s one thing to plan travel 10 years down the line, another thing entirely to financially plan for it. According to Wilmot-Sitwell, the typical trip with Cazenove+Loyd goes for $10,000–$12,000 per person. (He concedes that these are not your normal jaunts to Paris; they are once-a-year, experiential trips to exotic, far-flung places.) To accomplish one each year for 10 years requires an investment of nearly half a million dollars for a family of four.
As a result, most families need to plan. Kathy Sudeikis, a family travel specialist based in Chicago, noticed an increase in families who wanted to lay out their travels several years at a time and, as a result, joined forces three years ago with a financial planner.
“My job is to help them create their bucket lists,” she said, but “financial advisers are providing an outlet to help them fulfill those dreams.” She advises families on when to take which trips, according to their children’s ages, and creates a travel calendar that stretches several years into the future.
More travel agents are joining her in teaming up with financial advisers. In fact, it was a recommendation that agents affiliated with the high-end consortium Virtuoso get on board with a wealth management professional to help realize their clients' bucket lists—and retain a loyal clientele for many years.
Said Sudeikis, “The growth of the travel industry is pegged exactly to this: educational experiences. Not frivolous travel, but trips that shape you into a world citizen.”
When and Where to Go
At Cazenove+Loyd, trip planning is limited to three (very big) regions: Africa, Central/South America, and South/Southeast Asia. For the company’s largely European clientele, it’s easy enough to take a weeklong trip to Kenya or Sri Lanka. “We’re not, and sadly never could be, [our clients’] exclusive travel provider, said Wilmot-Sitwell, who knows his clients may want to go skiing or take a beach vacation in Florida. “We just hope to be their complete solution on the wacky, experiential, exotic trips,” he says.
When it comes to those big-ticket trips, most travel professionals, including Wilmot-Sitwell and Sudeikis, say that kids only begin to be ready for them when they turn eight years old. “That’s when they start having meaningful experiences of destinations—when they start learning about history and literature,” said Sudeikis.
Sam McClure, an Austin-based travel advisor that exclusively works on family travel, disagrees.
“Even at three to four years old, kids start understanding the differences between time zones, food, accents … they will get something out of it at that age.” She recalled her son, at four years old, getting ready for bed and wondering about the people in Europe who were just waking up. “Every family has a different map and a different timeline,” she said.
In McClure's experience, those who start young become more flexible travelers down the line. She recommends trips to Europe for the youngest set, interactive wilderness trips to places like Australia and the Galapagos Islands for seven- or eight-year-olds, and such places as Greece and Egypt for pre-middle-school kids learning about ancient civilizations. Preteens, she said, have the highest tolerance for museums, while teenagers are looking for active and exotic experiences. (See more ideas for where to go, broken down by age, below.)
Her most epic suggestion: a round-the-world trip. “You want to do it between the ages of 8 and 12,” she advised, explaining that she has hired tutors and organized year-long logistics for families who might be able to take a year off between jobs. It runs $10,000 per week, on average—or $520,000 per year for an entire family.
You Can Make Everyone Happy
One thing is for sure: no two families are alike, and even within one family, interests and ages may vary.
That’s why Wilmot-Sitwell recommends booking a few “separate but equal” trips—his term for trips that involve just one parent and one child. One mom he worked with, for instance, took her teenage daughter to learn southern India cooking in Kerala before taking her 10-year-old son to see prehistoric rock carvings in Chile’s Atacama Desert. Neither kid would have wanted to join on their sibling’s vacation of choice, and both got equally enriching experiences.
“The tricky dynamic is when you have multiple kids, and the oldest, a seven-year-old, is really ready to travel, but the youngest one, a three-year-old, just isn’t there yet,” says Sudeikis. “Even a trip to Disney can be utterly exhausting in that case—you have to wait until the youngest child is mobile and can do without the nap.” If you must travel with toddlers and teens, beaches can be an easy way to please a varied bunch.
Be Realistic—or Be Flexible
Though most family travel specialists are indulging their clients’ wish lists with plenty of advance planning, few think it realistic to put travel plans in ink when they’re still 10 years away. Kids change, personalities change, and frankly, the world changes. Especially with political uncertainty and such phenomena as Ebola virus or Zika virus, agents know that nothing is set in stone until the flights and hotels are booked.
“When your 16-year-old decides she wants to learn Spanish or become a doctor, there may suddenly be different trips that pop up.” said Wilmot-Sitwell. “Even if you’re planning six months out, there’s always wiggle room.”
Looking for some inspiration for where to take your kids next? Here are some expert-approved ideas from Wilmot-Sitwell, Sudeikis, and McClure, broken down by age.
For Grade School Kids (Ages 8-12)
- South Africa private game viewing in Madikwe and Cape Town
- The Galapagos Islands by private yacht, followed by the foothills of the Andes in Ecuador
- A jungle trek and surfing lessons in Costa Rica
- Visiting kangaroos and wallabies in Australia
For Young Teens (Ages 13-15)
- Sri Lanka temples, beaches, and culture
- Brazilian capitals and beaches, followed by a trip to the Amazon
- The royal palaces of Rajasthan
- An action-packed, Lord of the Rings-style trip to New Zealand
For Young Adults (Ages 16-19)
- Gorilla trekking in the Democratic Republic of Congo
- Whitewater rafting and mountain biking in Peru
- A food pilgrimage (with a dose of culture) to Southeast Asia
- Northern lights in Iceland