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Have Kids, Will Travel

Guides from Frommer’s and Zagat Survey show that there are great family travel destinations in all corners of the world as well as in your backyard.

 

Who says you have to stop traveling when you have kids? I never got that memo.

My husband and I traveled plenty through our courtship and saw a fair amount of the world the first five childless years of our marriage. When we had our first son, everyone said, “You’ll slow down your traveling now, right?” Even though we answered yes, we did just the opposite. With both of our families on the East Coast and us on the West, ending travel simply was not an option.

Freshly inspired to show our new son the world, we got motivated, got packing and got on that plane to Seattle when he was only 4 months old. We followed that trip up with Nashville, Ft. Myers, Fla., and Germany, when he was just over a year old. And you know what? It wasn’t as difficult or the nightmare that many people assume traveling with children—especially infants—would be. Our son, now age 4, along with his 2-year-old brother, have become the consummate travelers, and we continue to show them as much as of the world as possible.

For like-minded parents, the following two books, reviewed below, should provide plenty of inspiration.

I’ve discovered that there are loads of options suitable for families that might not have made your destination wish-list because they seemed too far, too exotic or you thought the kids needed to be older to visit. But don’t rule out any place until you’ve done your research. Take Nikko City, Japan. The place is recommended here by author Holly Hughes, a travel writer and mother of three, who says it’s a destination for all ages. Kids can come away having seen Yakushido, one of Japan’s great mountain Buddhist retreats, where kids can clap their hands under its dragon-painted ceiling and hear what sounds like a dragon’s roar. They also can look for ghost lanterns in the allegedly haunted Futarasan Shrine, built in 1617.

Hughes draws from personal trips as well as experiences from other families and their travels and gives not only information on each destination, but also a quick history lesson so you can sound like an expert in front of your kids (and spouse!).

Pros

While many travel guides only scratch the planning surface with lists of hotels, restaurants, activities and places that have a great view, this guide goes deep to also give the ‘why’ you should travel to each place, along with appropriate age ranges for each destination and a host of things to do once there (contact phone numbers and Web addresses included).

The book is divided into 15 chapters by types of vacations. This is a good way to start if you’ve got an open slate. The chapter "Taking in the Scenery" recommends destinations and drives that offer awesome vistas, bridges with sublime views, and boat and train rides. Lost in the Mists of Time highlights points of interest in ancient worlds.

Hughes strikes a good balance between long-haul destinations (which often equal mucho dinero in my book) like Australia with domestic destinations that can be enjoyed without breaking the bank, such as visiting one of the United States’ breathtaking national parks.

Cons

The "Why They'll Thank You" sections seemed forced, and I raised an eyebrow to see "Driving the Appalachians" (a 574-mile stretch of mountain highway) as an all-ages trip—I think I’ll wait until potty-training is complete, the kids can sit for long periods of time, and they are willing and able to hike more than a half mile.

Tip

Having just been to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks in California, Hughes was spot on in her assessment of why it’s a great family trip: mountains, camping, beautiful scenery, nature and those awe-inspiring, majestic, gigantic trees that seem to rise up from nowhere and touch the clouds! There are great hikes for kids, including the short loop trail through Grant Grove, where mine got to walk into the bottom of a tree. And though Hughes didn’t list this place in her accommodations, we stayed at the very family-friendly Montecito Lake Resort, which offered activities for all ages and has a high-powered telescope for extensive stargazing.

Worth buying?

Absolutely. After reading Hughes’ book, I feel armed with the knowledge I need to travel to any of these 500 spots.


Themes: Family Travel


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