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If you don’t know what Bulgaria, London, Milwaukee, Montana, and New Zealand have in common, it’s my pleasure to remind you that they’re all places some of my well-traveled colleagues identified as worthy family vacation destinations for 2012.
Given that a new year is upon us and my friends are still well traveled, I called on them again to identify destinations that family travelers might want to add to their short lists in 2013.
Kangaroo Island: Yes, Things Are Hopping There
If Hobbit tourism catches on the way John E. DiScala (aka the very frequent flier better known as Johnny Jet) predicted last year, the New Zealand town of Matamata will still be a destination to watch for 2013. If Tolkien travel is not your family’s thing, but you’re still intrigued by the Southern Hemisphere, DiScala has another nomination for you: Kangaroo Island. “It’s in south Australia, just a 15 minute flight from Adelaide,” he points out, “and it’s known as Australia’s ‘zoo without fences.’” As you might expect, you’ll get an eyeful of kangaroos and wallabies there, as well as koalas, seals, and the whimsical-looking echidnas (spiny anteaters). DiScala also says the island’s Southern Ocean Lodge is one of the world’s best places to stay.
Perhaps the best news is that Kangaroo Island is not yet on the radar of U.S. family travelers. “I was there in October, so no U.S. families were traveling,” DiScala says, “but they will be there, as it’s just now getting known. It’s the new Tasmania.” Read more
On a whim last year, I turned to my children and asked them to suggest ways hotels, restaurants, and airlines might better serve vacationing kids. Their responses were enlightening and entertaining enough for a sequel, and that’s what we have here!
What I had forgotten from the last time was that this was less of an interviewing exercise and more of a parenting one. The kids started getting petulant and upset when one refused to let the other get a word in, but as optimists are fond of saying these days, that was a good problem to have. Here now, some new suggestions from Libby, Maya, and Felix (ages 13, 10, and 6, respectively) about how airlines, restaurants, and hotels can step up their game.
If you’re planning to take the kids to the Museum of Modern Art, ask them before you go what kinds of art they think they might see there. So suggests the museum’s website. This weekend, my wife and I (along with another couple) put that question to five kids ages 13 and under (our three children plus their two). The collective response was, “we don’t care, we want to go ice skating.”
No, we’re going to the museum, the grown-ups retorted. Actual stomping and screaming ensued on both sides (real parenting happens at this blog, folks) and the debate continued until we reached the museum lobby. We almost caved and abandoned the plan – especially in view of the museum’s $25 per adult admission fee.
But then we threw caution to the wind, dragged everyone in, and made a beeline for the first floor MoMA Art Lab. And as soon as we saw the lab, it hit us: We had been selling this outing all wrong, to the kids and ourselves.
This week, millions of Americans are trekking near and far to spend Thanksgiving with beloved friends and family. They’ll also have to play catch-up with folks they would not associate with if not legally required to do so – in-laws. A recent survey conducted by Extended Stay American found most travelers will spend the weekend with relatives instead of putting up for a hotel. Chances of being backed into a corner by that one in-law you cannot stand are high, and it may seem the only choice to making it through is gritting your teeth and hoping for a stocked bar.
But if getting drunk in a locked basement with your cousins and discussing how your aunt’s boyfriend is, ugh, seriously the worst isn’t an option, there are alternative courses of action:
If you plan to bring your children to New York City to see the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, then there’s a stop you ought to make first: the memorial’s website, where a two-page tip sheet on talking to your children about 9/11 includes the important tip that “it’s all right not to know the answer to every question.”
But as a parent, it is often difficult to resist the urge to answer every question, especially when your six-year-old son is asking so many of them. During the subway ride to the memorial a few weeks ago, one of his first questions was “why did they fly the planes into the buildings,” and remembering the advice from the tip sheet, I told him that I honestly didn’t know.
Tally up what you spend on admission fees, lunch, and mental anguish, and you may find that bringing your kids to a major New York City museum comes at a high cost.
That’s why I admire families who diligently cram several such museum visits into one weekend trip. And since I had never taken my kids to the Guggenheim until this weekend, I was prepared to accept the worst.
Well, not only did the Guggenheim surprise me, but my kids did, too. Here are ten things I learned while we spiraled our way down and around this most famous of New York City spaces.
1. Kids under 12 are free all the time, which offsets the $22 per adult admission. Plus, when you spread that cost over the four hours we spent there, it’s a relative bargain. On Saturdays from 5:45 pm onward, the Guggenheim has a pay-what-you-wish policy, but, as the museum closes on Saturdays at 7:45 pm, know that you’ll only have two hours. Read more
When my kids have managed to behave in restaurants over the years, I’ve always assumed there’s been magic or luck at work. But wouldn’t you know it, as with most other aspects of parenting, eliciting good behavior from your children in restaurants takes a little training and practice – for everyone.
If you’re on the road with young kids, especially in destinations where you may wind up seeing the same travelers and servers day after day – hotel restaurants, cruise ship dining rooms, or towns that you’d like to revisit without shame – here are some things you might want to try.
When I was around eight years old, my family took a road trip from Long Island, New York to northern Vermont. The drive took nearly eight hours and my father’s new sports car was not exactly made for comfort. As such, I found myself feeling ill toward the end of the trip. My father encouraged me to tough it out since we were “almost there.” What follows is my belated apology to my father for what happened in the backseat of that Honda Prelude.
Thanks for the great childhood. I feel like I should stress that point. We had some good times when I was completely reliant on you and Mom for survival. I hope that I have been a gracious and thoughtful child. However, one episode from my youth still haunts me, and I owe you an apology. I vomited in your four-day-old car sometime in the mid-1980s and feel pretty lousy about it.
Vacation rentals promise a home away from home, and even if you’ve never stayed in one, the benefits for families are what they seem: You’ve got the low-key privacy of roosting in your own residence, money-saving opportunities to cook your own meals, and more private toilets than you’d find in a comparable hotel suite and, usually, your own home.
The one thing vacation rentals lack – and which traveling families often need more than they sometimes care to admit – are the basic services and amenities of a full-service hotel. That’s where onefinestay.com comes in. The site layers on services and extras that permit it to transcend the benefits of your typical vacation rental booking site.
A bunch of travel writers sitting in a room, draining cup after cup of coffee, while exchanging tips and stories, is what our industry typically calls a “conference.” While these types of gatherings are far from uncommon, what’s a bit more unusual – actually, unprecedented until last weekend – is a meet-up of writers dedicated entirely to family travel, which was the point of the inaugural Family Travel Conference, held at New York City’s Omni Berkshire Hotel this past weekend.
I was honored to be part of a panel on Better Travel Writing, for which I suggested tips to family-specialized travel writers. I encouraged them to always consider themselves a work in progress – it’s a point I was particularly inspired to make upon learning that several of the bloggers had children in tow who were themselves budding travel writers.
By association, I think it’s constructive for all family travelers – not just travel writers and their kin – to consider themselves works in progress, striving to make every vacation better than the last. Along those lines, here are just a few tips from the conference that you might find handy on your next family trip:
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