Rachel Dodds, a professor at the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, has travelled to 84 countries, many with her daughter. In her book, Are We There Yet? Travelling more responsibly with your children, Dodds and co-author Richard Butler share tips, facts and stories to help families travel in socially and environmentally conscious ways. The book has been rated five stars on Goodreads and was nominated for the USA Today Readers Choice awards for best family gift.
What are the benefits of travel for kids?
Travel fosters independence in children. For example, young children can help with packing, while older children can do research and assist with plans, such as how you’re going to get from the airport to the hotel or what activities to do. Your kids love when they can boss you around and make decisions. Travelling with a child also opens up a whole new world for them and for their parents. For example, I’ve been in restaurants in Morocco where servers made googly eyes to entertain my daughter. Often when travelling, people will help with your luggage and strike up a conversation. Travelling with children makes you realize there is a wider community that understands and is willing to help you.
Parents often feel overwhelmed, so the convenience of cruises and all-inclusive resorts is attractive.
Why are these types of vacations problematic?
Very little revenue from cruises and all-inclusives goes to local economies. Companies also try to scare you by saying it’s not safe to go on excursions that aren’t part of the cruise or resort, fostering a feeling that you can’t engage with the local community or explore beyond
the ship or resort. Meanwhile, many establishments only pay workers a dollar a day. Organizations such as Friends of the Earth rate the environmental impact of various cruise lines and many get an ‘F’ for dumping illegally. You wouldn’t want your kids swimming in fouled
water. If you would like to be more responsible, search for cruises and all-inclusives that adopt socially responsible practices.
How can parents find a responsible hotel or travel company?
There are many different resources. For example, responsibletravel.com allows you to pick the destination and type of trip and they suggest responsible operators. You can also ask tour operators about their sustainability practices. Fairbnb gives half of their revenues to community initiatives, and Ecobnb books eco-friendly accommodation. The book outlines multiple ways to choose more responsible options that are easy and right at your fingertips.
What’s your most memorable travel experience with your daughter?
In Mexico someone asked my four-year-old daughter if she wanted to swim with dolphins and her eyes lit up. As we walked, I asked her where dolphins lived. She said the ocean. I explained that even though dolphins live in the ocean, some have to live in pools so people can swim with them. I said, ‘I wonder if the dolphins are happy.’ When the man returned with the offer to swim with them, I was so proud when my daughter looked him in the eye and said, “That’s bad. Dolphins belong in the ocean.” When we got home, we made art and she sold the art and cookies to raise money for dolphin conservation.
#1 Travel Tip?
Pack carry-on bags only. It saves time and you don’t have to worry about your luggage getting lost.
Japan. The culture, the food, even the playgrounds for kids are amazing.
I went to my cabin which is off-grid in British Columbia.
Favourite part about travel?
You can meet someone who speaks a different language, and comes from a different culture, and connect with them over something you have in common. It's a magical experience.