Next week my family is heading for Thailand for the Christmas holidays. We are all very excited to be heading to a destination that combines unique culture and great people with delicious food and tropical beaches. This will not be my first Thai experience however, but that does not make it any less exciting.
I first went to Thailand in 1989, on my way east from traveling for several months in Nepal and India. I was initially disappointed at how easy it was to get around. I could jump on a water-bus on the Chao Phraya River to get to most places that I wanted to go in Bangkok. Or catch on a cheap minibus on Khaosan Road to get to almost any place in the country that a backpacker would want to go – north, south, east, or west. There were no people aggressively asking me for money or competitive jostling in long lines to buy tickets. It took me several days to relax. Read more
There really are windmills in The Netherlands.
The whole third section of our book is devoted to reinforcing the memories of a trip well taken and exploring the cultural diversity offered in your own hometown. But what I neglected to include in those chapters is the memory boost offered by electronic blasts from the past. Every couple of months I get an e-mail message from Nederlands Openluchtmuseum. Even before I open it, it brings me a little smile.
Making paper at the Openluchtmuseum.
Back in 2007, when the kids were seven and four, we took the whole family to The Netherlands for a scientific conference. On an off day we took a train and a bus to a museum that was supposed to be fun for kids while documenting the everyday cultural heritage of the region. We had a great afternoon walking through the period buildings of the “Open Air Museum” and interacting with people in period costumes doing traditional labor like milling grain or smithing. Read more
Vienna ist für kinder! Vienna, Austria boasts castles, boat rides, music history, gorgeous Hapsburg-yellow buildings, and fantastic parks. We lived in the 19th district of Vienna for six months with two young kids and we fell in love. Many activities and museums are designed specifically für kinder (for children) and others are just naturally fun für kinder. Here are a few of our favorite hidden family hotspots. Read more
My trip to Costa Rica
This Spring Break, I went to Costa Rica with my friends from Spanish Immersion – we have been studying Spanish together since Kindergarten and we took the DELE (The Spanish fluency test taken in college) in May. This was sort of a good-bye trip before we separate to different high schools next year. It had been the topic of conversation for months, we were going zip lining, kayaking, rafting, hiking to a volcano, etc. I was all for it, but I’m a very cautious person and I was secretly terrified of having to be responsible for myself in a 3rdworld country. I’ve traveled a lot and everywhere but this was my first real trip that was just my friends, some parent chaperones, and me. As I started to pack, it dawned on me how dangerous and how risky this trip would be. I mean, we had to bring special meds for every possible situation! I also can’t swallow pills so my meds were different from everyone else’s. As soon as I Read more
Manhattan can be an expensive and intimidating destination for anyone. It’s a great place to travel as a family but it’s challenging to get past the big tourist destinations and into the real city. Here’s a few of our recent finds to get you started! The Tenement Museum is a fantastic window into the history of New York City and into America in general. It should not be missed but you must get your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment. Visits to the museum are by guided tour and there are several unique packages to choose from. Most of the tours take place at 97 Orchard Street, a renovated tenement building with a basement and 5 floors, each housing a different window into history. The building once housed 2 shops and about 22 apartments, each only 325 sq ft and without plumbing or electricity. During a 70 year period centered on about the turn of the last century, approximately 7000 individuals and 30 different businesses were housed in this one building.
We took their newest tour, the “Shop Life” tour, on the bottom level and enjoyed an overview of life as a new immigrant to New York with emphasis on the wave of German immigrants from about 1860-1880. We learned through old photos, newspaper clippings, an interactive card game, visiting rooms, holding artifacts, and a high-tech smart board (you may be impressed by the high tech smart board but your child will likely be a lot less impressed as there are many in school classrooms across the country). The 90-minute experience gave us all a multi-faceted vision of what life was really like for the proprietors, John and his wife Caroline, as well as glimpses into the other businesses that once occupied the building including a kosher butcher, an undergarment factory, and an auction house. The finale was a video of a nearby contemporary local storeowner and wrapped up the tour with thoughtful style and a new perspective on modern NYC life. The tours are billed for kids aged 8 and up because they do involve listening, sitting, and not touching. There are also food-sampling tours, live actress Read more
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
Colonial Williamsburg has to be America’s quintessential educational family travel destination. It’s like Disney for the NPR-crowd. Kids have fun and think they are on vacation. Almost accidentally, they learn about American history by watching and interacting with characters in costume. We had a great time but found it challenging to get our arms around the entire experience. There is too much to do in a short visit and yet I’m not sure parents or kids are likely to enjoy more than a few days at a time. Based on our recent visit, here are a few insider tips to help your family have a blast.
Colonial Williamsburg might also be one of the most photogenic places on Earth. We hope you enjoy a small sample of the five zillion photos we took while visiting. Read more
From the top of Chair 1 at Alpental.
Snoqualmie pass is the major east/west migration route through the Cascade mountain range from Seattle. It is also the home of The Summit at Snoqualmie, an amalgam of four ski areas that each have a unique and distinctive vibe despite being commonly-owned. There is Summit West, a perfect place for families to learn to ski. Summit Central has the terrain park and is popular for night skiing. Summit East (a.k.a. Hyak) is my family’s low-key favorite. And finally there is Alpental, which has the steeper terrain and backcountry access that expert skiers love. I’ve been skiing at Snoqualmie pass for over 20 years and have had a season pass there for the last decade. I won’t tell you where my secret stashes of snow are located, but here are a few other things that I have learned: