Category Archives: Family

Where the Wild Things Are: Why you Should Expose Kids to Wildlife

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Like most children, I grew up with a love for all things small, innocent and fluffy. For years, I begged my parents for a puppy, but since we traveled a lot, I ended up with fish, gerbils and rabbits, as they were easier to pawn-off on people when we went away.039_36

Yes, I would consider myself an animal lover from a young age. However, it wasn’t until young-adulthood, while traveling abroad, that I had the chance to see exotic animals in their natural habitat. Although I was in my mid-twenties and did not yet have children of my own, I remember thinking what an amazing opportunity it would be for a child to experiences true wildlife encounters.

Recently, as my daughter and I watched in awe, as two wild stags fought antler to antler, she expressed it perfectly when she said, “Wow! This is way better than Animal Planet!”  Wildlife documentaries are wonderful, but here are some reasons to expose kids to the real thing.

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As many parents will tell you, connecting children with wildlife helps to develop kind, thoughtful, considerate and caring qualities. As children begin to realize that not all animals are respected and cared for, they can learn about the people who are working fervently to preserve wildlife. You can discuss what your family can do to help and even visit a wildlife sanctuary to see caring in action. (Contact us and ask about such experiences!)

Promote Environmental Values

Respect for wildlife and the environment go hand-in-hand. Develop this knowledge in your kids and produce great role models and advocates of future preservation.

Do it for Health

Studies show that getting outdoors is healthy for our body and our mind. Whether you are going on a nature hike in your area, or hopping on a plane for a wildlife expedition abroad, getting children (and ourselves) to abandon computer screens will keep us moving and reduce stress.

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Education

The world is a living classroom (we can’t say it enough). Even your backyard can support a love for wildlife and educate kids about local flora and fauna. Take them on a family wildlife expedition abroad and they will return with a treasure chest of knowledge that they will never forget.

An Opportunity to Bond

A love for nature and wildlife is something that is stimulating to people of all ages. Through learning and discovering the natural world, you will find boundless wild activities to do together.

How do I find out more?

Contact us and ask about the best family itineraries for optimal wildlife viewing. Experiences can range from staying deep in the rainforest, surrounded by nature and animals, to visiting wildlife sanctuaries or locations where endangered sea turtles are nesting.

Education in the Classroom and Beyond – Missing School for Family Travel

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Have you been caught in the middle of the debate regarding taking children out of school to travel? It has been a popular topic in the United States and Europe and is certainly not without controversy.

Schools make the case that absences will put the child behind, can disturb the classroom flow and make extra work for teachers. Furthermore, there is no doubt that schools are concerned about standardized testing scores and overall school ranking. Some schools in London have implemented fees for unexcused absences. There has also been dialogue in the US, surrounding the idea of making it illegal for parents to take kids out of school for family vacations. Yes, you read that correctly…illegal to take your children on vacation without school approval.

In a recent post, we discussed some of the reasons why family travel is so important. Besides the significance of relaxation and quality time together, most parents strongly believe (as we do) in the value of education outside of the classroom. Therefore, it is no wonder that many parents have been fighting back regarding such stringent policy.

3125755833_15d66056b4_oHowever, the debate runs deeper than ethics – many families cannot afford the cost of travel during peak (school break) times. In fact, off-peak travel could average a cost savings of $2,000 or more, per family. In addition, not all businesses can have the majority of their staff out of the office simultaneously.

From a tourism perspective, if schools dictate when families can and cannot travel, this becomes problematic for communities that rely on year-round visitors. Likewise, it is not enjoyable for the thousands who are fighting for space on the beach, waiting in long lines at attractions, or crashing into each other on the ski slopes.

In the past, schools treated each family as an individual case, which is what many parents are hoping they will revert to. We believe strongly in the benefits of traveling with kids – yet also in the value of classroom education.

Before taking children out of school, don’t forget to consider the grade your child is in and how are they doing in school; informing the school and collecting homework assignments in advance; the length, timing and frequency of your travel.

Don’t forget to make it memorable, fun and educational!

We’d love to hear your opinion.

Suggested family itinerary: Costa Rica Family Vacation

 

iPads vs. Turtles – Top 5 Reasons to Prioritize Family Travel this Holiday Season

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As a child, I didn’t consider the sacrifices my parents made in order to whisk our family of six, half way across the world on regular intervals. In fact, there may have been times I complained about having to leave my friends during a holiday break or (perish the thought) an entire summer. However, as I grew up, it became increasingly clear that these experiences not only had a significant effect on my life, but also contained many of my fondest childhood memories. Now that I am a parent, I can attest to the fact that traveling with children is not always easy and it can, most certainly, be expensive. Yet, wandering the globe with our kids has only strengthened my belief that family travel should be a priority. Here are some reasons why:

It teaches them that experiences are worth more than things

In a society where children are beginning to feel entitled to all the latest technology and gadgets, it is important for them to appreciate that meaningful and memorable experiences are what life should be about. If adults model this behavior, kids will eventually get the message. One day it dawned on me why, while I was growing up, I was told we didn’t have enough money for the designer jeans all my friends had, yet we were able to spend Christmas in the southern hemisphere and summer on the English seaside. Kids might not appreciate it at the time, but do you think they are more likely to remember the newest version of the iPad or watching baby turtles make their way across the sand? Perhaps more importantly, which one do you want them to remember?

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It bonds you together & recharges you

Life today seems to move at a swift pace. Children are often going from school, to activity and repeat. In many cases, families are lucky to eat dinner together a couple of days a week. Whether adventurous or low-key, family travel allows everyone to be together without the rush that seems to accompany everyday life. A family vacation can be the perfect remedy when you might be losing sight of each other, under the constant pressure of crammed schedules. Photographs can transport you back and recall wonderful memories that only your family shares. We have made short videos of some of our past trips, and have watched them repeatedly, with lots of laughter, reliving the fun.

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It encourage curiosity and a sense of adventure

We all want to keep our kids safe, but we also know that if they don’t take risks, they will have little opportunity to fail, which is an important part of growing up. When we travel, we are usually treading (sometimes leaping) outside our comfort zone, taking chances and often making mistakes along the way. As a family, we have experienced flying into the wrong airport, losing our luggage, struggling with language barriers and many other mishaps. I can’t claim to always remain composed when things go wrong, but to explain to our kids that this is part of the adventure and that we learned something from it, is a valuable lesson. Travel allows for spontaneity, which encourages curiosity and adventure, which go hand-in-hand with learning.

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The world is the greatest classroom they will ever have

Speaking of learning…this is a biggie. You have probably heard it before – travel is the ultimate classroom for everything your child is learning in school. It bring history, politics, architecture and art to life, not to mention geography, culture and languages. Even mathematics isn’t excluded, as I was reminded recently, when my kids converted their allowance into the appropriate currency while on vacation. Some of the best questions my kids have asked have been during our travels, which have led to engaging conversation. Spotting monkeys in the trees in Costa Rica or experiencing 24 hours of daylight in Iceland are things that have much greater impact in-person, than they would from a textbook. After a few trips, your kids might begin to compare the geography, topography and political and social systems of different places.

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It enhance their global awareness

There is little doubt that the world is more accessible than ever before. This means that greater cultural and global awareness, as well as foreign language abilities, are qualities that are now sought-after in the business world. We want our children to see themselves as part of a bigger picture. By nature, young children are self-absorbed and as they begin to detect the greater world around them, they need to process this information. By hearing different languages, tasting new foods, listening to foreign music and seeing how people live in different parts of the world, they will consequently be more accepting of contrasting appearances and beliefs.

As the holiday season approaches and we consider our budgets and priorities, I leave you with the words of Keith Bellows, author of 100 Places that Can Change Your Child’s Life (National Geographic), “Any parent willing to give the gift of travel offers the gift that keeps on giving. Children who learn to travel will travel to learn. And they will do it all their lives.”

Travel Tips to make the Most out of Your Trip

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You are perhaps thinking about visiting Costa Rica. Or maybe you’re headed to the country with the happiest people on earth soon! Your smile will fit right in.

While on your trip, your focus is on relaxing, having fun and soaking in your surroundings – a vacation. But we’ve found out that using some of our most important green travel practices below sets the stage for the kind of experience that changes you a little bit – the kind you remember and talk about for a long time afterward:

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  • Converse with the locals! Use  HOLA, POR FAVOR and GRACIAS with at least one non English speaking Tico (Costa Rican). 
  • Capture the moment! Take a picture of your most adventurous moment in CR and consider sharing it with us (por favor??), so you can inspire other travelers!
  • Sample the exotic! Try a cajeta, pejivaye, or – one of Irene’s favorite tropical fruits – mamones, especially if you have never had one before. 
  • Think green! Be ready to spread the word with family and friends about the “greenest” experience of your trip, and help to make the world a better place.
  • Fill up! Don’t forget to take your GreenSpot water bottles with you so you can refill instead of landfill.
  • Perhaps most important of all – Respect traditional culture. Everybody is working very hard to make your trip an unforgettable experience. You are in a different country with different priorities and ideas about values, time, and even daily life. So patience, an open mind and flexibility all let you learn something new about yourself and others.

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Start (planning) summer vacation with these tips

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Remember when you were a kid, and you looked forward to summer like it was Santa coming at Christmas? That’s how stoked we want you to be for summer vacation 2013. Even though summer doesn’t officially start for another few months, planning early can pay off. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Consult with the kids. This doesn’t have to mean a free-for-all or throwing darts at a map. Kids do best when you provide specific options. Give them a list of a few destinations to choose from, and they’ll feel you value their input. (If you must, use reverse psychology to get them to pick the place you want most.)

-Seek out a specialist. Once you have a destination in mind, consult with a specialist. Of course, as Condé Nast Traveler’s Top Travel Specialist for Costa Rica for the past seven years, we’re partial to their list of Top Travel Specialists. Each year Condé Nast Traveler handpicks an elite list of travel designers who are experts on a particular destination or interest. Only the best in the industry make the cut, and they’re the ones who can help you plan your summer vacation sans stress.

-Do your not-home work. Even if you’ve been to your vacation destination before or are having a specialist help you plan your trip, it can be fun and interesting to research where you’re going even before you get there. Get each family member involved and delegate duties. Big brother might like history, Dad may find the closest weird attractions like World’s Largest insert anything, and Mom always knows about the wildlife and when is the best time to view them.

-Save time with templates. If you have pets and/or plants, there’s no need to keep re-inventing the wheel with written lists of instructions. Use free templates like these  by Microsoft Office and just fill them out with the information that your sitter needs. Email it to your sitter to save paper. The best part? They’re reusable. Just edit them as you accumulate more pets and plants!

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @GreenSpotTravel & let us know where you decide to go!

Photos: If the kids insist on throwing darts, feel free to use this map. Heading to Italy? Look up the history of pizza & try to make an authentic pie at home. Speaking of home, sorry Zoe, it looks like you’ll be staying home this trip!

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