How to Create Authentic Family Travel Experiences

There’s a lot of buzz around the idea of authentic family travel. But what is it?

Proponents of “authentic” travel generally eschew more traditional forms like cruising, bus tours, and pre-packaged travel deals. Instead, “authentic” travel is more intimate, more directly engaged with locals, and less commercially manipulated.

Some believe “authentic” travel is inherently better than any other form. Me? Not so much. I think travel is like food. Everyone has different tastes – and that’s ok. It keeps things interesting.

That being said, my personal tastes trend toward the intimate, engaged and less commercially manipulated, aka “authentic” travel, which I’m passionate about sharing with my family.

Here are a few ways we’re teaching our kids to be “authentic” travelers too:

Eat Local

Skip the chain restaurants and opt for small eateries frequented by the locals. Not sure where to go? Just ask someone. And be specific. “We’re looking for the best local place in town, something we can only get here. Where would you recommend?”

This question has taken our family to delicious dives and kooky kitchens all around the world. We’ve had everything from mouthwatering traditional foods to more creative fare like sauerkraut pizza and fried pickle soup. These culinary experiences lend a special flavor and flare to our memories of each location.  

Connect with the Locals

There are many ways to do this. It can be as simple as striking up a conversation with someone in a restaurant or signing up for a cultural connection program like the Bahamas’ People To People program.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Take the kids to hang out at a local playground. It won’t matter if they don’t speak the language. They’ll be playing with the other kids in no time. And it can help to give the something fun or yummy to share.
  2. Arrange to visit a local school. This is a great way to show kids the reality of daily life in foreign places, in an easily relatable way.
  3. Sign up for a cultural connection. As mentioned above. This is a great way to make friends and gain insight into daily life.

Step Off the Beaten Path

Some things are too good to miss. After all, they’re famous for a reason. I’m not advocating that you skip the Eiffel Tower, but I am suggesting that you also explore less frequented areas.

Ask locals for recommendations. This is a great way to find hidden gems without wandering into dangerous or sketchy areas.

See the Highlights in a More Authentic Way

Before visiting the big attractions, do a deep educational dive into their history and cultural significance. Learn what happened there and why it matters. Watch documentaries and read books. That way, when you see these places, you aren’t just checking them off your list, you’re touching history – together.

Live Like a Local

Stay in an apartment, condo or house with Airbnb. Take public transportation. Shop in local grocery stores. By living like a local, you can get an inside look at daily life, even if only for a few days.

Bring it Home

Document your travel experiences and continue to remember and discuss them when you’re back home. Doing so will expand your children’s understanding and cement the experiences’ significance in everyone’s mind.

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes

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