Travel internationally with your family

Take a step outside your comfort zone and experience a great cultural adventure with your family!

Local restaurant which served curry and jerk chicken with rice and beans.
Local restaurant which served curry and jerk chicken with rice and beans.

Have you ever considered taking your family to another country on vacation? How about a country less traveled? There are many countries that are terrific vacation spots and are more affordable to families on a budget. If you do your research and prepare for the unexpected, you will come home with memories your children will never forget.

Some of the main factors to consider when evaluating a potential destination are cost of living, visa fees, airfare, activities, culture and safety. I recently traveled to Belize with my family and will share some of my observations and lessons learned.

A major bonus about travelling to Belize is they speak English, which minimized communication challenges while visiting. Belizeans also speak Creole and Spanish but Belize’s English influence stems from when it was a British colony.

Currency is another easy process in Brazil since Belizean money is called the dollar and one U.S. dollar is equal to two Belizean dollars. The favorable conversion rate makes paying for your items easy as well.

''Belize is very beautiful and warm. The many cayes offer island experiences your family can explore. A caye, pronounced key, is a low island or reef of sand or coral. Ambergris Caye is the largest of the 200 plus cayes located off the Belize coast. The main mode of transportation on this island is by heavy-duty golf carts. Keep in mind the infrastructure of Belize is different from the United States, but it is all part of the experience. Caye Caulker is another popular island destination for scuba divers, snorkelers, anglers and relaxation.

When visiting another country, the goal should be to have the most authentic experience while you are there. Find the hidden restaurants the locals go to and enjoy their local specialties. In Belize, this meant a Creole lunch of jerk or curry chicken with rice and beans. The restaurant might not look like what you are used to in the U.S., but the food is top notch. Be observant, take in the scenery, and notice what daily life is like for the local residents. Notice their mode of transportation, living conditions and schools. Ask questions to help with understanding the cultural differences. Remember to bring cash on your travels as many small fruit stands and shops do not accept credit cards.

restaurant in BelizeIt is too easy to go on a vacation and be drawn into the tourist spots. For the best cultural experience, avoid those areas. Have a conversation with a resident at the fruit and vegetable stand. Go to the grocery store and purchase food to cook a meal. Buy fish, lobster or conch from a local fisherman who paddles up to the shore every evening to sell his catch for the day. He will clean it right there and you can negotiate on the price. Watch the wildlife during the day, mostly reptiles, and at night, hermit crabs. Even the unwanted sand flees are part of the cultural experience. Embrace the experience and your family will have memories for a lifetime!

4-H can also grow international experiences. If you would like to learn more about global and cultural education opportunities through Michigan 4-H, visit their website or contact D’Ann Rohrer at

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read the 2016 impact report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

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