The summer months are now upon us! For many families, this is the time to start putting the finishing touches on our summer vacation plans, whether it’s European family vacations or a beach getaways. If you’re like me, you’ve already got your airplane tickets and lodging booked weeks and months ago. But if you’re more of a spur of the moment type of traveler, you’re probably just now starting to think of where to take you and your brood for the summer.
Many families opt for the standard European holiday for the summer. According to the United Nations World Travel Organization, seven of the top ten most visited countries in 2013 were European countries. Places like France, Italy, and England are often frequently visited. And they have such a strong travel infrastructure, it’s almost a no-brainer. Plus, cheap tickets and vacation packages make it easy and enticing for families to choose European family vacations.
Opting out of the standard vacation
But I, on the other hand, am of a different mindset. Aside from stopping over in Amsterdam last year, I have not been to Europe since 2010. And while I love and appreciate the culture and history of Europe, I think there are plenty of other countries in this world that are just as family-friendly as any of the popular European destinations.
Tickets to Europe may be cheap, but in-country costs are not. And European family vacations for a family of four can really add up! Taking into consideration all the travel costs (flights, lodging, food, and transport), you can spend the same amount of money in Southeast Asia, South America, or even Africa. And you can easily have a luxurious stay!
Alternatives to European family vacations
Reading articles on the top family-friendly destinations always leaves me feeling frustrated. Many of these lists mainly highlight European and North American destinations.
But the last time I checked, there is a great big world out there besides Europe and North America (not that those place aren’t great to visit). While the below list is in no way comprehensive, I’ve compiled four alternative destinations to European ones.
So before you think about booking a trip to Greece for your family, why not consider one of these alternatives to European family vacations.
Ghana: Beautiful beaches and rich history
I have traveled to Ghana several times and have always enjoyed the relaxed pace of life in that country. From lounging on the beach at Kokrobite to learning about the history of Africa’s slave trade in Cape Coast and Elmina, Ghana has a lot to offer for travelers willing to make the trip. Ghana has a fairly developed tourism industry. And its use of English as a national language makes the country a lot more accessible to visitors compared to its Francophone neighbors.
Paraguay: A taste of rural living
Visitors to places like Provence or Florence are drawn to the idyllic simplicity of pastoral living. You can get a similar experience in Paraguay, where the majority of the people are farmers. A visit to a farm will introduce you to Paraguayan hospitality. And you will undoubtedly be invited to spend the afternoon resting under a tree and sharing a drink of terere, the Paraguayan version of yerba mate, with the locals. Paraguay is also home to the Jesuit misson of Trinidad. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where Jesuit priests had helped develop a thriving community with the local Guarani people in the 16th century.
Cambodia: Exploring ancient ruins
Places like Italy and Greece are famous for their ancient ruins, but there are plenty of ruins in countries throughout Southeast Asia. One of the most intriguing and exciting ruins to visit is Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. It is still a functioning place of worship for the country’s Buddhist population.
Angkor Wat is actually a compound of several temples. It boasts stone carvings of Buddha, and bas reliefs depicting Buddhist worship and life in Cambodia during ancient times. One of my favorite parts of Angkor Wat is a portion that has purposely been left unrestored. There are giant trees growing out of and engulfing the stone temple structures.
Kosovo: International and cosmopolitan feel
If you are still dead set on taking European family vacations, why not go off the beaten path? Kosovo is a relatively new country, having gained its independence from Serbia less than ten years ago. But the country is already working on making itself known in the European community.
Since post-independence development is still under way, there are a large number of expats living in the country’s capital of Pristina. This gives the city a decidedly international and cosmopolitan feel. You can sample cuisine from all over the world, and listen to some good music at many of the city’s local bars and restaurants. To get a taste of some of the country’s history, take a day trip to the town of Prizren. This city dates back to ancient Roman times!
To me, family travel doesn’t have to mean the typical trip to Europe. In fact, I often think the best family vacations are those spent visiting unexpected and unconventional locations. So rather than spending your summer dragging your kids on European family vacations, why not check out some of these alternatives instead.
Don’t miss out on my latest tool, the Overseas Family Vacation Checklist. Click here to receive your free copy and subscribe to my newsletter.