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Even by taking one trip abroad each year, parents can instill in their children an appreciation for languages, food, history and cultural traditions.
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updated 9/3/2008 11:07:35 AM ET 2008-09-03T15:07:35

The first time Elizabeth and Bruce Rubin took their two children abroad, the couple decided that London was an ideal destination.

There, Isobel and Beatrice, now 20 and 16, sampled British and Indian food, visited the Tower of London and watched a Shakespeare play at the Globe Theatre. That was about 10 years ago, and since then, the family has snorkeled in the West Indies, toured ruins in Mexico and Belize and visited museums in Paris, among other adventures.

Traveling extensively with their two daughters was something the Rubins, both 52, had planned from the beginning.

"We wanted to give them a taste," says Elizabeth, who lives with Bruce in Swarthmore, Pa., "so they could see that there's so much more when they're ready for it."

Parents have been sending their children abroad for education and culture since at least the advent of the Grand Tour in the 15th century. At that time, young men from aristocratic families spent months traveling Europe with the aim of learning about music, classical history, languages and art, among other subjects.

Times have changed and now kids have countless demands on their time, from SAT-prep courses to playing the latest Wii game. But that doesn't mean parents should give up on turning their son or daughter into a world traveler. Even by taking one trip abroad each year, parents can instill in their children an appreciation for languages, food, history and cultural traditions.

The right destination
That approach might seem simple enough, but when it comes to planning travel for a family, meeting everyone's needs can be complicated. One resource to consider is a travel agent who can be invested in a family's long-term travel plans.

The Rubins, for example, often rely on Park Avenue Travel, an agency based in Swarthmore. Joshua E. Bush, vice president of the company, likens his services to that of a financial planner who can create a five-year travel strategy. This includes determining when a destination is age-appropriate and coming up with a list of activities that will engage both adults and children.

"The destination really connotes the main focus of the trip," says Bush. For families traveling to China, Bush can organize a lunch on the Great Wall and then an opportunity for children to meet a master kite-maker. In Italy, he has arranged visits to famous Renaissance museums followed by a course in watercolor painting.

The globe-trotting experience
Activities like these are what distinguishes a standard trip from a stellar one. They also slowly introduce children to the concept of becoming a world traveler.

To this effect, Lisa Lindblad, president of the New York-based agency Lisa Lindblad Travel Design, recommends incorporating as many aspects of culture as possible.

Image: Kids culinary traditions
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Expose your children to different culinary traditions by having them sample local fare by arranging a cooking course for the entire family. This often involves going to the market with a guide and returning home or to a hotel with cooking facilities to prepare a regional dish.
Lindblad has designed comprehensive itineraries for her clients that include lessons in the destination's history and exposure to local traditions. She recently sent a family to Provence, France, where they first learned about the region's storied history, then took courses in pottery making, followed by gathering oysters on the shore, which gave them a look at how people in the area make a living.

Experiences like these can be enhanced when parents expose a child to various settings and languages. Flower, flea and food markets are an ideal place to let children absorb culture. Visits to private homes and schools can be equally enlightening since children get an opportunity to interact with their peers while also glimpsing their day-to-day lives.

Learning just a bit of the language is important when trying to make children feel more comfortable and relaxed abroad. They can practice prior to the trip, although another option is to hire a bilingual guide who will give lessons along the way.

Looking back on traveling with her two daughters, Elizabeth Rubin is confident that such diverse experiences helped shape them. Now, she says, her goal is to keep the tradition alive through adulthood.

"We're hopeful that when they grow up and get married and they're on their own," she says, "that they'll still want to travel with us."

© 2012 Forbes.com

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