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Kenya Safari With Children - How Does The Age Of Your Child Affect Your Planning And Budget?

Apr 27, 2008
Planning a vacation is not an easy task. It might be easy if you know the destination well. The planning will certainly be easier when you are travelling alone. Even then, you might still find that you will need the travel agent or destination specialist to help you here and there especially if you have to make a big decision. When you are a single traveller, planning is easy because you know your interests and can easily sacrifice one interest to be able to achieve the other. But when or if another family member - for example a spouse - is also involved, then you have to be sensitive to their needs as well. That means more discussions, more deliberations, more considerations and more concerns.

When kids come into the mix, the situation gets a little complex. You have to deal with more challenging issues and you have trickier decisions to make. As you think about how best to enjoy yourself, and get the best value for your money, you also get concerned about the children's safety, health, and comfort, interests, among other issues. Balancing these aspects of a trip is hard enough when only adults are planning. Having children come along obviously calls for a little more effort and attention to detail during your planning stages.

Let us now assume you have finally held that family meeting to discuss this very important matter of vacation. The consensus favoured travel to Africa. You have decided to go on a Safari in Kenya. And you are going with the children. How then do you proceed from here?

Kenya remains a great destination even for kids

Even with the changing faces of family travel, Kenya still remains a very attractive destination in Africa. Kenya's magical attraction lies partly, in its contrasting physical features and to a great extent, in the wildlife. Within the borders of this same country, you will find beaches - both public and private, pockets of rainforests, steep rocky hills alongside flush green plains teeming with wildlife, cold mountains and hot deserts, all in one. The climate and the culture are almost as diverse.

This enchanting and alluring combination means you have a wide variety of options when it comes to planning your vacation to Africa. It also means families travelling with children have a wider range of options to explore. Needless to say, the age of the child or children involved will be one of the most important aspects that will guide the process of the vacation planning. For example, the age of the children will determine the type of vacation - adventure or beach or otherwise. It will have an effect on the cost. Some hotels may have age restrictions. Some activities may be too strenuous for children below a certain age.

Here is a summary of the connection between the age of children and the other aspects of the safari.

Age of children and type of Safari vacation

The type of safari you choose - whether on the adventurous side or beach vacation will be dependent on the age of the children. The age in turn determines many other things. For example what is their interest? At that age, are they able to appreciate nature, or meeting new people? Or would they have more fun playing with the sand instead? How much attention will they need while you are on holiday? Can trust other persons with the task of looking after them? If you are thinking of a particular resort, does it provide child-friendly environment? These are just a few of the things you are considering as you plan. The answers to these questions lead you to picking the right Kenya Safari.

Age of children and the cost of the Safari

The age of your child or children has implications on the pricing of the Safari. Most hotels, and by extension, most Safari outfitters, have a pricing policy that is guided, partly, by age. For the purpose of costing, they will consider the ages from birth to 2 years, as infancy. Persons falling within this age-group may be free of charge during their stay. Some other hotels will say accommodation is free but you pay for meals. You will therefore need to get a clarification on what is applicable in your case. From 2 years to 12 years, the person is considered a 'child'. Again here there is a whole spectrum of policies and general procedures that the hotels and safari outfitters apply. Some will tell you they charge 50% of the adult rate on condition that the 'child' is sharing a room with 2 adults. Others may say 70%. You may also encounter a situation where the child's rate changes depending on whether the child is sharing the room with 2 adults, 1 adult, or with another child or children. Avoid grey areas, just seek clarification as you plan.

The question of age and pricing gets a bit hazy and slippery from 12 years upwards. Definitions like 'young adults' pop up. Suddenly you realise that at 12 years you have a 'child' but at 15 years some hotels insist he or she is an adult, while others label him or her 'young adult'. The problem is that these definitions are not universal and therefore will not apply to all the service providers that you might come into contact with. Your best bet is to go with the definition fronted by your trusted travel agent of Safari outfitter. There is reason you want to insist on settling these seemingly minor issues in the process of arranging you vacation in Kenya. It might bring forth a minor dispute if not addressed in the beginning. For example, you might be considering your 13-year-old as a 'child', yet the hotel expects full adult rate to apply.

You might be considering doing a self-drive Kenya Safari where you will be making direct payments to the hotels, as opposed to a an all-inclusive Safari where you prepare a tour operator to take care of your payments on your behalf. In that case, it is worth noting that the National parks and Game reserves in consider persons below the age of 18 years as children and therefore the child rate should apply when paying the entrance fees to their facilities.

Age of children and age restrictions in some hotels

Some hotels have age restrictions. In simple terms, these hotels have rules that do not allow children below a certain age to stay in their facilities. These types of hotels are the ones commonly referred to as 'tree hotels'. Generally, these are hotels that either have a natural waterhole or salt deposits that attract wild animals to come within the vicinity. This of course allows the visitors to view the animals from the comfort of their rooms or balconies. For this reason, these types of hotels place an age restriction on the basis that very small children may scare away the animals as the children play or cry. Find out if your Kenya Safari itinerary might involve any form of age restriction from your Safari outfitter or destination specialist.

Age of children and Safari activities

If you intend to engage on safari activities while on your vacation, you will have to worry about the participation of the children as well. The age of the child will determine whether they will take part in some activities that may be part of the safari. For example, hot air balloon excursion in the Serengeti is restricted to persons above 12 years. Similar excursions in Maasai Mara may also have such age limitation. This is obviously due to safety concerns. If you insist as a parent, you will be asked to sign a release form. Other activities that may have age restrictions are bush walks or hiking. Check these details and get the correct position.

Age of children and flow of your Kenya Safari itinerary

As you plan your vacation to Kenya, the age of your child will play a major role in determining the flow of your itinerary. For example, do you want to use road or air transportation? You may not want to subject your 5-year-old to a 5-hour-drive from Nairobi to Samburu game reserve. The scenic drive would certainly be worth the drive for the discerning adult who wants to see the country-side, the people and probably learn their way of life. But the young ones will find it taxing and exhausting. Such a consideration will lead you towards opting for the schedule flight option that will take you there in 1 hour. You will probably spend a little bit more, but the kids enjoy the safari ultimately. That means your destination specialist will be good enough to be able to advise you on the best way to design your itinerary. With young children you need an itinerary that will avoid long, uninterrupted drives that may be on rough roads as well.

Age of children and the services in the hotels

Related to the question of the flow of itinerary is the matter of services delivered by hotels and lodges in your itinerary of choice. You will want to ensure wherever possible, you stay in hotels that are built with children in mind. This goes beyond the physical structures. It concerns that area of food, recreational facilities, staffing and all other services. The truth of the matter is the lodges that will serve you while you are on your Kenya Safari will score differently, when it comes to 'child-friendliness'. Some are better equipped than others. A few are simply not built for children.

Generally, one can say that within the mid-market range of larger lodges with many rooms, you will need to try harder and insist more if you are to a perfect lodge for a vacation that both adults and children will enjoy.

On the other hand, the smaller, up-market, boutique hotels appear to be better equipped for families with children. But again, this is a huge generalization and you will need to keep asking for details on what you need.

If, in the process of planning your Kenya Safari, you contact a lodge or hotel and ask the front office person if they will provide a baby cot and the persons hesitates in response or says they have to find out, that hotel is probably not wired for children. Drop it. And if you are planning your vacation with the assistance of a destination specialist, make it clear that you have such and such a wish with regard to the children. They should be able to suggest the best hotels that can meet your needs. But even if you decide to delegate this small matter to your destination specialist, remember to hang on to it as your own responsibility so that you it delivered. Keep insisting politely.

Age of children and room occupancy

Put differently, how many persons can be in a one room while on safari? You are traveling with your 2 children on Kenya Safari. There age is 8 and 14 years. You feel these are children and because you are concerned by their security especially at night in the African bush, you want be together in the same room. If this is your wish, you will have to ensure that the entire itinerary is booked on family rooms. This will be challenging because not many hotels and lodges have 'family room'. The most comfortable number for hotels is 2 persons in a room. They are willing to do 3 persons in a room. Most are not ready to have a 4th bed in the rooms. Apart from the size of the rooms being a hindrance to this, the quality of comfort of also compromised.

Finally, as you plan your Kenya Safari with children, I would advise that you avoid ready-made safari programs. These will look attractive, especially in terms of price, but they do not offer you the flexibility you need to ensure the children enjoy themselves. Ask your Safari outfitter or destination specialist to help you design a perfect child-friendly Kenya Safari.
About the Author
Solomon Okila is the Editor of African Voyages Travel Journal, which is part of African Voyages Tours and Safaris. If you need more information on African Safaris or Hotels and Lodges please visit our website today!
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