Bilingual is Better

Editor’s note: We present you another informative post full of helpful tips on things to keep in mind if you’re thinking about immersion travel. Today’s post was written by Becky Morales, one of our regular contributors, who spends summers in Mexico with her four children and who participated in our SpanglishBaby Google+ Hangout on immersion travel earlier this week. 

Have you ever thought about taking your kids abroad for the summer, as an intensive language experience? Not only would they be immersed in day-to-day language, but also they would have the incredible opportunity to learn about the culture firsthand. Planning a summer abroad and preparing to travel with young children may seem like a daunting task to undertake; while it does take a lot of work, an organized plan can help make it less overwhelming.

The first step in planning a summer abroad is to determine the location. While some of us will automatically stay with family members or friends, others might choose a completely a new location. Through word of mouth and research, narrow your choices down to a country, region, or city. We normally go to Mexico City to stay with relatives, but this year we chose the Yucatán peninsula, because there are so many places nearby we would like to experience with our children.

Next, decide if you’ll stay with friends or relatives, pay to have a homestay (living with a local family), rent an apartment, or hop from hotel to pension around the region. Think creatively about lodging:

  • Would you ever consider house-swapping? There are web sites (such as HomeLink, HomeExchange, or Intervac Home Exchange) for families who would like to swap their house with someone in another country for a set amount of time.
  • Check expat forums on-line, or yahoo groups dedicated to specific locations for house-sitting opportunities, especially during holidays and summer when expats frequently come back home. We found an amazing opportunity to housesit a mini-farm near Alajuela, Costa Rica. Our children were too young at the time, though I would love to do so in the future!
  • Look up a local real estate agent for monthly rentals. Though uncommon in the US and some areas abroad, there are some areas where families can rent apartments by the month.

Whatever you decide, consider your transportation, and factor in public transportation into the budget. For special, longer trips we have rented a car for the day — but mostly we use taxis and local buses while abroad.

Before going abroad, decide if your or your children will be taking classes, volunteering, or just doing some slow-travel. During the summer — but remember that summer in the US is not always summer break in other countries — there are many day camps and summer schools that might interest your children.

Many of these cursos de verano are not on-line and must be found once in country. Fortunately, it isn’t always necessary to register the kids months in advance as is customary in the US. When you get to your destination, look at health clubs, park districts, community centers, dance studios, art studios, martial arts gyms, soccer camps- the possibilities are endless.

If volunteering is your goal, check out nonprofits in the area. We have visited orphanages, brought donations to schools, and this summer we’re excited to go on sea turtle patrol and participate in beach clean-ups. Volunteering gives your kids another perspective, develops empathy, and helps kids feel they are a part of something bigger.

Finally, in the months before we travel, we take out tons of guidebooks from our library to research what we want to see and do when we get there. Over dinner, our family discusses exciting day trips or cool places we want to visit while we’re there. We want to balance the different types of “field trips” because- frankly- kids get bored if you pack in all ruinas or all museos. Variety is the key: ecological/natural sights like bio-parks, river tours; places to see wildlife like reservas or snorkeling; cultural sights like a visit to a Mayan village; historical tours of an haciendas for example; pueblos, beaches, or ruins.

Are you planning an immersion travel trip this summer? What other planning tips do you have for families?

{Photo courtesy of Becky Morales}

 

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