Ria ditched her nonprofit office job in Chicago to teach English overseas. Needless to say, that transition gave her a fresh perspective.
If you're a parent of small children, you probably want to give them lots of great vacations and valuable life experiences. While that's an admirable goal, let's face it: Some places are just not great for children. It's probably worth it to hold off on some of your dream vacations until your children are old enough to actually appreciate them. You probably don't want to lug a five-year-old around London if he's not even going to enjoy most of it, right? (And the people around you won't enjoy dealing with your cranky five-year-old, either.)
That's not to say that you can't take your kid anywhere other than Disney World. Some destinations are just better than others for kids. While Hawaii, Key West, and Chicago are usually great for kids, there's a long list of cities you should probably avoid with kids under 14 in tow. Here are the less-than-obvious ones.
1. New York City
The Statue of Liberty is a bucket list item for most Americans, and Broadway sometimes has some fantastic family-friendly musicals, but the rest of New York City is not going to be of much interest for kids. The museums of NYC aren't going to be much better or more unique than the museums anywhere else, and they're not even as good as the Smithsonian collections that are a few hours south in Washington, D.C.
To make matters worse, NYC is incredibly expensive, and securing a hotel for your whole family might break the bank! Eating out and getting around will add up incredibly quickly, especially if you're trying to cover a fairly wide geographic area. With how unreliable public transit can be, you could end up having to shell out for a taxi to make it back to your hotel at a decent hour.
If you live or are visiting nearby, NYC might make a great day trip, or it could be worth it to get a hotel for one night if you want to see a Broadway show. However, it's not worth going out of your way for unless you have family in the area.
Not many Westerners try to take their young ones anywhere in East Asia, and for good reason: The language barrier is steep, and for most, the distance alone makes it unrealistic for family vacations. However, if you do decide you want to take your children somewhere in Asia for a multicultural experience, don't pick Beijing.
Though the Great Wall of China is a memorable place to tour, most of the other cultural and historical sites in Beijing won't be of much interest to kids and teens. The pollution also makes it hard to enjoy the city, even if you don't have asthma.
Plus, the food is not going to be anything near like what you'd find in a Chinese restaurant back home. Bones are routinely left in chunks of chicken, fish are served whole with the heads still attached, and you might find that the English version of the menu isn't accurate or even legible. It's also not uncommon for street vendors and even legitimate restaurants to increase their prices for foreigners, or to trick you into ordering the most expensive item on the menu.
If you really want to give your kids a chance to learn about China firsthand, take them to Shanghai, which is much more clean and foreigner-friendly.
If your children are Pokemon or anime fans, they may have already developed an interest in Japanese culture. While Japan is a long haul from America or Europe, it's theoretically a viable trip for folks living in Australia or in Southeast Asia. Japan has a reputation for being polite and clean. Seems like a good choice, right?
The problem, though, is that Tokyo is crowded, expensive, and somewhat lacking in things for kids to do. There are only so many shrines and shopping malls your kids will want to get dragged around before they start to get bored. The arcades are great, but unless you want to deal with the kids constantly begging you for money or whining because they lost at a game, they are best avoided. Plus, unless your kids are adventurous eaters, you'll probably be forced to pass up some of the best restaurants in the city and stick to hamburger chains.
Even if you have ties to Japan or someone in your family has work obligations in Tokyo, it's probably not worth hauling the kids there. It's best enjoyed at an older age, especially when you factor in jet lag.
Yes, Paris is the historical and cultural capital of France, and it's home to truly magnificent works of art. It's relatively tourist-friendly, and there are a million guidebooks written about it, so it's far easier to navigate than many other cities in Europe.
However, take it from someone who got dragged around Paris at the age of 11: Your kids don't care about seeing the Mona Lisa from 20 feet away in a room full of pushy tourists. Your kids don't care about La Defense, and the Arc de Triomphe will barely matter to them. They might care about Versailles and Notre-Dame, since they're absolutely gorgeous, and they'll definitely be excited for the Eiffel Tower. That's about it, though.
Your kids and teens aren't even old enough to enjoy the wine. While they'll surely find plenty to eat on the average Parisian menu, that alone doesn't justify shelling out for plane tickets and hotel rooms for them. Even if you live just over the channel in the U.K., wait until they're older and can actually enjoy the cultural experiences of Paris.
Picture this: Your kid reads a book on India and starts to think it's the coolest place ever. Elephants, the Taj Mahal, naan bread, saris . . . what's not to like? It's a truly beautiful and unique country.
Except it's difficult enough to navigate as a solo-traveling adult, let alone while hauling kids. India is very hot and humid in the summer, and it's only getting hotter due to climate change. The cities and tourist destinations can be massively crowded. Clean drinking water isn't always available, and food-handling practices aren't as good as they are in the West, so it's common for travelers to get sick from the food.
While violent crime isn't particularly high, theft is common. Train and bus accidents happen surprisingly often, making this destination less than ideal for families. If your family is seeking a summer adventure in a safe country with delicious food, try the Philippines or Costa Rica instead.
© 2019 Ria Fritz