Five Tips for Planning a Trip to Morocco with Kids
Despite Morocco’s popularity and the explosive growth of tourist infrastructure, it’s still a logistically intensive country to visit. Add kids to the mix and you have the recipe for the best – or worst – family vacation ever. Founder of CiaoBambino.com and Family Travel Expert Amie O’Shaughnessy shares the five tips for navigating the country with kids.
We recently visited Morocco with our then 8-year-old and hit many highlights including Marrakech, the High Atlas Mountains, Ouarzazate, and the Sahara Desert dunes at Merzouga. Despite bad luck with the weather, we had a tremendous experience and I highly recommend traveling to Morocco with kids.
I found that Morocco is on the top of many travel bucket lists, particularly now that so many other places in North Africa are experiencing political turmoil. Here are our five tips to optimize travel in Morocco with kids:
1. Unless you plan to visit a single major city and stay there, use a reputable tour operator with years of experience in Morocco to manage and coordinate all ground logistics.
There’s quite a bit of driving down remote roads required to visit the different parts of the country. You need someone experienced who knows exactly how to manage the itinerary to be in charge. Once you are in the countryside, it’s as rugged and “foreign” as it gets — it’s the beauty and the reward of Morocco — but you don’t want to be navigating through this terrain unaided with kids.
We selected Kensington Tours for our trip and were thrilled. A private driver and guide accompanied us everywhere, and not once did we feel scared or vulnerable, as we knew we were in good hands.
2. Ease into the experience by starting the trip in Marrakech in a kid-friendly resort.
Although Marrakech isn’t Kansas, it has hosted Europeans for years and has familiar elements to it, which helps ease kids into exotic environment.
Although the old Medina is the heart of the city, it’s a chaotic place with zero room for kids to safely roam on their own. Opt to stay in a kid-friendly resort where children can be free to run and play. We stayed at the new Four Seasons Marrakech with a supervised kids’ club, glorious garden, and a wonderful family pool. It’s only a 10-minute drive from the action, but offers an oasis from the elements. Moreover, the kids’ club provides a way for parents to explore the city on their own.
We also stayed at Hotel Beldi and loved this boutique property for families. Although it has fewer amenities than the Four Seasons, there’s an immense garden, beautiful pools, and an incredible pottery workshop for children.
3. Design an age-appropriate itinerary. Unless you take a helicopter, there is no way to avoid long drives between attractions.
Our trip to the Sahara Desert involved two days each way just to get there. Although we saw incredible sights on the journey there, this road would be a nightmare with very young children who can’t entertain themselves in the car for hours at a time.
If you have children 7 and under, spend your time at a family-friendly resort in Marrakech and pair that with one other destination that is 2 to 3 hours away via car versus taking a multi-stop road trip.
4. Spend an afternoon in a Moroccan home.
Kensington Tours arranged for us to have traditional lunch in a Moroccan home. Of all of our adventures in Morocco, this was the most memorable activity for our son as he was thoroughly immersed and engaged in the experience.
The act of hospitality is a deeply rooted Moroccan tradition and nowhere can you experience this better than in a home. We shared couscous and tea with a family and learned first-hand how radically their lives differ from ours. At the same time, we shared many moments of laughter and joy while interacting with one another and remembering that people are people, irrespective of where or how they live. Lessons like this are the essence of travel, at any age!
Moroccan food is fantastic. We ate everything and never had a problem, although part of the value of a tour operator is they thoroughly scout out all restaurants ahead of time.
That said, there are no guarantees and we met a few travelers who had experienced stomach issues. For healthy travel with kids for a list of supplies to bring so you are fully prepared self-medicate. Definitely visit an overseas medic clinic before you travel for an update on required vaccinations.
If you drive over the Atlas Mountains (necessary for many itineraries and recommended for beauty), the road is steep and narrow — a quintessential white-knuckle drive for the average traveler. I wouldn’t want to self-drive in this terrain.
Regardless, ensure your medical coverage includes an evacuation program where a helicopter can transport anyone in the family to a hospital in or outside of the country, if necessary. We get our coverage through our American Express card, but there are other providers offering this coverage as well.
Knowing you are well prepared while traveling abroad is the secret to enjoying the experience and remaining confident that you are well equipped to handle any situation that comes your way.
What’s on your family’s bucket list? Share your tips for turning kids into world travelers.
Text and Photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy. Amie O’Shaughnessy is the Editor and Founder of CiaoBambino.com, an award-winning family travel blog, offering expert tips and advice on where to go, where to stay, and what to do in the world’s top destinations with kids. See her Morocco with kids tips article on Ciao Bambino for more insight on how to select the right kid-friendly tour operator.