President & Founder of the Family Travel Association Rainer Jenss is a devoted advocate for family travel as an essential part of every child’s education. It was Rainer’s experience—both personally and watching friends—that parents look at travel with kids as more recreational than transformational. But he and his wife, when their two sons were 8 and 11, decided to do family travel differently: They revived a long-held dream of theirs to travel the world for an extended time. “We were definitely concerned [the kids] would be bored and want to go home,” he says, “but we learned pretty quickly how much they loved it. We had been hoping they’d tolerate it, and it went so far beyond that for them.” On this trip, the family spent time in Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, and Bhutan, among other places. “We spent comparatively little time in Europe or South America,” Jenss says.
Don’t underestimate your kids. You just don’t know until you expose them to something.
Jenss learned many lessons during this long trip, and says one of the most important was, “Don’t underestimate your kids. You just don’t know until you expose them to something. It is often parents that have a preconceived notion of their kids. Many parents project their own emotions and perceptions on their kids.”
A publisher of National Geographic Kids magazine for seven years, Jenss blogged about his family’s trip as it was happening, and readers had so many questions after the trip was other, his blogging continued for another three years. “Many parents think their vacation options get narrowed down to Disney, cruises, and all-inclusives, but there are so many things you can do with kids. I would argue that kids open up the possibility for doing even more than you would on your own.” If you know where to look for information and inspiration about such trips.
In the fall of 2014 Jenss founded the Family Travel Association (FTA) to provide this information and inspiration. FTA members include industry professionals—The Clear Creek Group was a founding member—journalists and public relations specialists, and travelers. Travel industry members include not only TCCG, but also dozens of dude ranches, the luxury tour operator Abercrombie & Kent, and KOA. “It is a pretty diverse group,” Jenss says. FTA’s mission is to inspire families to travel more while advocating that travel is an essential part of every child’s education.
You can learn more about the FTA and get tips on and inspiration for transformational family travel on its website, familytravel.org. There you can also sign up for monthly e-newsletters that tackle topics from family travel by bike to family travel and river cruising and family travel and camping. Since Jenss is such a huge fan of Jackson Hole—he and his oldest son climbed the Grand Teton together—and because of the deep relationship between TCCG and FTA—TCCG owner Morgan Bruemmer is on FTA’s Board—we got him to share some of his personal thoughts and experiences about family travel.
Q: How old are your boys now?
Jenss: 17 and 20. The younger one is in his senior year of high school and the older is in college.
Q: How much do they remember about the big trip?
Jenss: The older one remembers everything. It really stuck with him. He was 11 and turned 12 during the trip. I think, and I think he would admit this to be the case, that he discovered his passions on it: photography and an incredible appreciation for architecture. The younger one didn’t necessarily find himself so much, but he has much more maturity for his age and deals with adults really well. For both of them it was a self-discovery time. They weren’t only exploring the world, but also themselves. They didn’t have their friends on a day-to-day basis and they became very close as brothers.
Q: Do you have a travel philosophy?
Jenss: Slow travel is really a gift. People often look at a vacation and prioritize the expense—here’s my budget—and often from that will come their accommodations. I say the heck with that: Make the priority your time. Time, I think, is the most valuable resource and asset when you travel. Do whatever you can to maximize the quality of the time you are in a place.
Q: You and your wife dreamed about a long trip around the world before you had kids, but never did it. Was there something about having kids that was the final motivation you needed?
Jenss: After a trip to London with them when they were 4 and 7, we realized that showing the world to them could set a great foundation for their future. In London, they noticed that people and the culture were different—rugby, driving on the other side of the road, people spoke weird. By waiting several years and visiting more of the world we saw we could give them a global perspective and enable them to develop in a way that wasn’t predicated on the fact that the world revolves around the U.S.