At 7-months-pregnant, Passported co-founder Henley hopped a plane to Casablanca with her husband, 10-year-old and 7-year-old to explore Marrakech, the Atlas Mountains, and the desert at Dar Ahlam in a jam-packed weeklong adventure. Read on for her planning pro-tips, packing essentials and guide recommendations.
If you’re traveling from the East Coast, the easiest way to arrive is via the nonstop flight from JFK to Casablanca. They have two departures — one daytime and one overnight — and the total flying time is less than seven hours. Royal Air Maroc flies shiny new Dreamliners, and if you can splurge on the business class seats, it’s well worth the upgrade. For transfers to Marrakech, meet your driver at the exit and then snooze the 2.5-hour drive in the car. This route is far preferable (and quicker) than waiting for a connecting flight. For travelers outside of New York, almost all European capitals have frequent connections directly into Marrakech.
If you’re traveling with young children, you might want to stick to a simple itinerary of Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains. Marrakech has lovely kid-friendly hotels (Amanjena, Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons, Royal Mansour, and Maison Arabe, if you want a riad), and so long as your dates coincide with one of the family times at Richard Branson's Kasbah Tamadot, you can live like the billionaire in the Atlas Mountains. For those who want more adventure, adding a couple nights on the coast in Essaouira or in the desert at Dar Ahlam is fun. Also consider a trip to the north of the country to visit Fez and the famous blue city of Chefchaouen, but be prepared for a lot of driving. Side note: Fez and Marrakech are much easier to connect now thanks to a new nonstop flight between the two.
KEEP AN OPEN MIND
Some of our favorite activities were the ones that I almost crossed off our schedule. Learning Arabic calligraphy? The kids couldn’t get enough of it, even the 1st-grader. Hiking the Atlas Mountains at 7-months-pregnant? Yep, it’s fine. ATVs on the beach? I could have cruised on that thing for days. But don’t skimp on your guide, who will keep things on track, make changes where needed, and will always know the right place to stop for a quick ice cream (or where to avoid eating) when the children start to melt.
BRING AN EXTRA SUITCASE
Whether you’re hitting the super chic boutique in the Majorelle Gardens, scouring the souk in Marrakech and Essaouira, or loading up on Berber carpets at the market near Tamadot, there are a lot of treats and keepsakes to bring home. And kids can get in on the act, too. Let them choose from the small handicrafts in the medina, or select some art from a gallery. Regardless, you’re likely to come home with more than you brought, so pack light or come with an additional duffel you can fold out for the trip back. Alternatively, inexpensive roller bags are for sale in the souk.