Ever since my kids started school, we’ve taken four trips a year scheduled around their holidays. So when people ask me, “Where can you go if you only have a week for spring break?” I say, think big. A week is plenty of time to go abroad—and even go exotic. The key is not to pack too much in. Here are a few of my family’s favorite one-week destinations:
As a cultural crossroads between Europe and North Africa, Morocco is both approachable and captivatingly exotic. During the day, you can flood your senses with the fragrances and colors of the souks, the ornate architecture of the mosques and palaces, the musicians and snake charmers in Place Djemaa el Fna; then retreat to the luxurious oasis of your hotel at night. We stayed mostly in Marrakech, with a two-day excursion into the desert, where we toured an ancient Kasbah and enjoyed a traditional Bedouin feast in a tented camp under the stars. This trip was full of immersive activities my kids would never get to do at home, like riding camels in the desert, getting a henna tattoo, and sand boarding on the dunes. Boredom is simply not an option here!
From the food to the architecture, this is another place where you definitely feel far from home (in a good way!). Japan dazzles you with its contrasts—you can watch a morning practice at the sumo stables, get your virtual-reality fix at Sega Joyopolis, and see a traditional Kabuki performance, all in the same day. But because the country is so safe, clean, and well organized, it’s very family-friendly. We went in spring for the Cherry Blossom festivals, which everyone should experience at least once. Because we only had a week, we concentrated on Tokyo and Kyoto; it’s about two hours by bullet train between the two cities.
In Tokyo, we got up early one morning to visit the famous Tsukiji Fish Market, then took a day trip to magnificent Nikko National Park. From Kyoto, we took a day trip Himeji, the ultimate samurai castle, which really captured our kids’ imaginations. They loved the cuisine, too: whether it was a bowl of soup at a 400-year-old noodle house or the extraordinary, two-table Aronia de Takazawa restaurant.
The City of Lights is a wonderful place to go with kids. We’ve created some family rituals over the years: first, we always go straight from the airport to the Jardin de l’Acclimatation, where the kids can shake off their jetlag. Our favorite place to stay is Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris. Some parents might think such a grand place wouldn’t be kid-friendly, but the staff is very accommodating. And though my children do enjoy Paris’ formal restaurants, they also love the steak frites at L’Entrecôte, and the soufflés at Le Soufflé. Ladurée, for macarons, and Berthillon Glacier, for ice cream, are also de rigueur. As for activities, Paris offers plenty for everyone: from art lovers to history buffs to fashion mavens. A week in Paris will allow you to really explore the neighborhoods and still make a couple of day trips. It’s fun to see your kids’ jaws drop when they see Versailles or Chantilly!
Katrina Garnett is a successful Silicon Valley, California entrepreneur and start-up investor. Her latest company, My Little Swans, is dedicated to high-end family travel and lifestyle. The site reflects more than 16 years of Garnett family trips. My Little Swans includes 40 global destinations and an elite network of travel partners, who can book any type of trip worldwide. Katrina lives in northern California with her husband and three children.
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