Much has been written about the benefits of family travel. It brings families together for serious bonding time, we're told, and strengthens relationships. It adds to the pool of shared memories that we'll reflect upon for the balance of our lives.
I've traveled with my family all over the world. Not to put too fine a point on it, but when my older son was 5 years old, we had to add pages to his passport. Most of our travel has been independent, in countries ranging from China, Australia and Oman to Honduras, Hungary and South Africa.
I'm always grateful for these opportunities to explore other cultures, landscapes, languages and customs with my family, but I'm also grateful -- profoundly grateful -- for a type of family travel that is, for lack of a more precise word, artificial. It has less to do with culture, language and landscapes than with bringing to life the concepts of travel industry visionaries.
My wife, two youngest children (7 and 9 years old) and I were aboard the 48-hour inaugural sailing of Norwegian Cruise Line's Epic last week out of New York. We had a terrific time. We bowled, climbed rock walls, played basketball and went to the Nickelodeon character breakfast together. We participated in Nickelodeon's Slime Time Live. We tried every water slide and spent a lot of time hanging out in the ship's Aqua Park. (See video at bottom of page.)
But with the exception of the Nickelodeon events, we had experienced all of these activities previously, on normal weekends in and around New York.
What doesn't happen on normal weekends, however, is a chance for my wife and me to simply relax in the sun, drinks in our hands, and muse about the more important things in life.
We're usually busy visiting friends or carting the kids to sports activities. Even if we're just home and the kids are entertaining themselves, we've fallen into the habit of trying to make good use of that time, hoping to put a dent in an endless list of projects.
But the Epic has now joined the Disney Magic, Beaches in Turks and Caicos, the Iberostar Playa Paraiso on the Riviera Maya, Wild Wadi in Dubai and Club Med in Punta Cana as industry creations that my wife and I felt were safe and structured enough to hand our kids over to their diversions and relax, far from home projects, far from work, far from all the distractions of the familiar.
My kids don't read Travel Weekly, so I feel it's safe to share my belief that the unsung benefit of family travel is, ironically, a little time away from one's children. When I know they're content going down water slides or in a "kids camp" of some kind (on the Epic, for children ages 6 to 9, it's called "Recess"), my wife and I can go off duty in ways we simply can't on our home turf.
And during those rare times, we raise a toast to the creative entrepreneurs in the travel industry who don't merely bring you from point A to point B on Earth, but who transport you to a world apart.
Watch the video below as Travel Weekly Editor in Chief Arnie Weissmann’s 9-year-old son goes for a spin in the mid-level of “The Plunge” water slide on the Norwegian Cruise Line Epic’s Aqua Park.
Email Arnie Weissmann at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter.
This column appeared in the July 12 issue of Travel Weekly.