When you ask me or Deal Dad about the ways we travel with kids we’ll probably mention a view, a meal, or an attraction. Ask the Deal Kids about any given trip and you’ll hear about the kids. We’ve woven cultural excursions- or as the kids know them travel playdates- into our travel and we’re so much richer for it.
Two favorite excursions spring to mind when I think of travel playdates. The logistics were very different but both gave the kids a peek into how other kids live and the chance to bond and play.
Last year we had the opportunity to hang out for a lovely weekend in Osaka with Kids Travel Japan. In fact, you might see some familiar faces on their website as we were their “test family”. Caleb and Cindy are English teachers in Osaka who had a simple, but brilliant, idea: kids learn best from other kids.
With that in mind Kids Travel Japan recruits native English speaking families to hang out with their students on fun outings. The experience is free for the English speakers and gives you Japanese speakers to help navigate your day in addition to the new friendships formed. The kids also participated in a short and fun English lesson each day- games, songs, and basic phrases.
I can’t say enough about the experience. For two days we explored the Osaka area with three different Japanese families with kids ranging in age from 3-9. I’ll always remember our visit to Nara- site of an impressive series of ancient monuments. Nara is also famous for the wild deer that range freely among the historic sites.
While the Buddhas were impressive what the Deal Kids talk about is our English lesson: “That’s a deer. That’s a deer poop.” “That’s a deer poop”- enunciated carefully- is now firmly implanted into our family shorthand. Nara would have been memorable without the family escorting us but having the kids playing together took the experience to an entirely different level.
Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Our experience with Fathom Cruises in the Dominican Republic was different, but the same. We attended Creative Arts, Music, and Sports (CAMS) at a local school in Puerto Plata and shared our time with three girls ages 9-10 (which was perfect as Deal Girl is 9). We shared a short English lesson about animals then did what kids do best- played a game.
Our game was “baseball”. I use the term loosely as our balls were rolled up socks, our bats were our hands, and our pompoms (any game has to have cheerleaders) were newspaper. Did it matter that our equipment wasn’t exactly standard? Heck, no! The girls adopted Deal Girl right away (her limited Spanish certainly helped) and they were teaching her dances and those hand games only 9 year old girls know. Fathom was amazing on many levels but one of my main takeaways from the experience is “kids are kids”. They’ll always find a way to make it work.
Sometimes the travel playdates are just time set aside for the Deal Kids to enjoy a playground. The ones in Ireland earn high marks for equipment you’d never see in the states- stuff that would never pass liability insurance muster. The playgrounds opened up an interesting conversation about the US’s penchant for litigation. The Deal Kids’ favorite was the one at Malahide Castle just north of Dublin. It earned high marks for both the challenging equipment and the coolness of the other kids.
Do you incorporate other kids into your travels? I’d love to hear how in the comments.
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