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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Family Guides and the Single Parent

By Frank D Gardner

Few things are more exciting for a parent than witnessing their child in the act of discovery. What a thrill it can be to introduce your youngster to a new place, and see his or her face light up with excitement and wonder! Even a humdrum trip to the next county over can feel like striking out into new and uncharted territory; if your family has never taken a trip there together, it's all new for the little ones, and their enthusiasm is sure to rub off on you no matter how mundane the destination. However, planning and executing a long trip can be a tall order for the single parent; particularly when traveling to overseas destinations (often the most exciting and memorable of all family outings), one has to worry about lodging, itineraries, exchanging money, etc.; all while keeping the rabble under control. Hiring a family guide - a combination professional travel guide and a nanny - can make the difference between a successful, orderly outing with the troops that you'll all fondly remember, and a tearful, chaotic mess that you'll all wish you could forget!

Though the right family guide can be an invaluable asset, choosing one that is both qualified and can function well with your family is task that you'll have to undertake alone. To lend you a helping hand, we'll look through the various decisions and qualities a parent should focus on when choosing a guide, either through an agency or as an independent contractor: where to look, how to read an applicant's profile, and what to ask during an interview.

Locating a Family Guide

The best resource for trustworthy reviews of family guides are the people you personally trust most; your family and friends. Ask around to see if someone in your inner circle has ever hired a guide, and if so, what their experience was like with the person or agency they contracted. Failing that, the internet will be your next best option. Make sure to look up consumer reviews of any freelance guide or agency you come across, to get the most straightforward appraisal of the company from the mouths of other customers. Exercise the same caution you would when taking your family into any unfamiliar territory - that gut instinct will serve you just as well when choosing a guide as it will when you're all galavanting abroad.

Once you've come up with the profiles of at least a few guides, you can begin to narrow the selection by looking in more detail at their list of qualifications. If you're traveling to a foreign country, make sure the guide is proficient in any languages you'll need to use for getting around and transacting daily business. Experience with children will be a big plus, especially if you have younger kids, who as we well know all have a limit, after which there's little chance of getting them to wait patiently and follow orders without complaining. A guide who can handle these situations with aplomb and grace will be a huge asset, and to this end, it's not uncommon for family guides to list experience or training in child psychology. Though these qualifications may come at a premium, they can certainly be worth the extra expense!

When you've gotten your selection narrowed to a few choice candidates who meet your qualifications and budget, it's time to schedule interviews. Try to use this opportunity to get a feeling for each potential hire's personality, attitude, and bearing. Don't forget to bring up the subject of privacy - depending on the age range of your children in tow, you may want the family guide to agree to sign a confidentiality agreement, keeping you (as their legal guardian) in the loop about their activities when you're not present, but making sure this information is for your ears alone.

How to Know if You Chose Your Guide Wisely

Be sure to request from the outset that the family guide assist you in planning your trip and arranging all the necessities of lodging, transport, and food. If the guide happens to be from the region that you'll be traveling to (or through), so much the better; their insider's view of the terrain will be invaluable in making the most of your all-too-short escape from the hectic routines of daily life. It should go without saying, but do your own research (as well as asking the guide up front) if there are convictions or criminal history - especially involving children - lurking in their past, both in your country of residence and in your travel destination. A great family guide will be lynchpin of your trip, the guardian that lets you breathe a little easier knowing you are leading your family in the right direction - to fun, adventure, and an unforgettable journey!

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