Spend less energy on travel logistics and more on preparing your kids. They’ll enjoy the trip so much more if they have educated expectations about the places you’ll be visiting. The more they know, the happier they’ll be (and so, of course, the happier you will be too). You can’t really expect them to be all excited about seeing a mosque when they don’t know what it is. And, let’s face it, art without expectation can be no fun at all. If you’ve read about the Mona Lisa in a story, it might be fun to go see her. On the other hand, standing in line to see a painting of a smirky lady that your parents tell you is “really famous”? Well, that just makes for really bad day.
Our affordable London hotel (lower left) was under the Eye!
It wasn’t that long ago when finding a hotel meant pulling out my Lonely Planet Guide and telling the taxi/rickshaw/tuk tuk driver to take me to whichever guesthouse was recommended. Many other travelers used the same method and inevitably places became too popular and overcrowded. Sometimes I found lodging by word-of-mouth and by getting advice from other travelers, but often these recommendations were based on the very same guidebooks. Sometimes lodging solicited me. I remember coming out of immigration at the Kathmandu airport and being accosted by a sea of people offering beds in their various guesthouses and feeling overwhelmed by it all; the sights, the sounds, the hustle, the bustle. But that was in the 80’s, when international phone calls were only for periodically checking in with worried relatives at home and incoming mail was so slow it had to be sent general delivery weeks in advance. Read more
We think about cultural and historical education when we’re on the road with kids. We remember to take our kids to art museums, historical landmarks, and famous icons. But what about music? Music differs all over the world, it’s everywhere, and it’s often free. It’s something that can be hard to find time for at home so take advantage of being on the road to expand your child’s vision of what music means.
There are street musicians in almost every tourist hotspot around the world, local concerts, special cultural performances, and musical history. Try saving some focus for street musicians on your next trip. They’re in fairly predictable places so plan a visit and take some time Read more
Unless you’re going someplace extremely remote, you can expose your kids to the language(s) they’ll hear on your trip. If they’re old enough, insist that they learn the few phrases below before entering each country. (It might take an adult 4 hours to learn 10 phrases but your kids can memorize these words in no time). It is so much more fun to greet people in their native language and the reception your kids recieve will likley be much more genuine. There is no need to try to become fluent, just a few words can make all the difference. Read more
National Parks are ideal family destinations. They’ve already done all the work to make it fun and education for your kids. The coolest program is the Discovery Pack program, available at lots of National Parks (but not all). We used them at Denali National Park; They’re available at Grand Canyon, Saguaro, Wupatki, Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, Voyagers, Canyon Lands, Yellowstone etc . Inside there might be activity guides, books, plant, bird, or animal ID cards, magnifying glasses, binoculars, thermometers, water testing kits, clay for making footprint casts, a blank journal, water color pencils, pastels, pens, blank postcards to create your own. All to borrow for free in most parks (some ask for a small donation). Some parks offer ranger programs to teach you what to do with the pack. Other parks, for example Biscayne National Park, have packs for teachers with lesson plans and all curriculum materials for a group of students.
There is also the Junior Ranger Program. Each kid gets a booklet Read more
There are so many cool camps for kids and only a small fraction are commuting distance from your home. Why not enroll your kids in a camp while on vacation? In Seattle there are unique opportunities for sailing and boat-building at the Center for Wooden Boats or rock music at the Experience Music Project. Boston has a sports broadcasters camp and there are plans for a history camp at the newly re-opened Philadelphia History Museum. Where is there a better place to study US history? Chicago International Children’s Film Festival has a film-making summer camp. Of course, some camps are full day but many camps are half-day or even just a few hours per day. Find cool camps wherever you’re going by searching the Internet for your destination or directly visiting the well known museums and attractions at your destination. Note that camps are popular for spring break too. Kids can learn about something they would never be able to learn about at your own home and parents can be tourists at their own pace, take a course themselves, work, exercise, or maybe just relax and read a book.
We signed our girls up for camp at the Mendenhall Glacier this week. They learned Wilderness Survival Skills including map and compass, shelter-building, making a fire, and using a knife. They met local kids from Juneau and learned all sorts of new camp songs. And, ah, the glacier! Pretty cool.
Lots of discount airlines don’t get picked up by the big travel search engines like kayak (which is otherwise awesome) or Expedia. Especially for flights within Europe, you can get some fantastic deals if you go straight to the websites of the discount airlines. Check out this nice wikipedia list of discount airlines!
Printed all our reservations and put them into The travel book. Just created packing lists for the kids … not sure if we’re expecting a tropical vacation or an arctic blizzard. Hoping for a little of both, wildlife, native art, and at least one sighting of the aurora borealis …
Here’s our packing list: Packing List – June in Alaska