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While traveling outside the U.S. with children, parents often opt for staying in standard hotels. Straying a bit out of the comfort zone, however, can yield a much richer cultural experience. Following are some unique accommodations my family has enjoyed.
Enjoying the Sydney Zoo
Hostel – Sydney, Australia
Hostels are not just for youth — they are great for adventurous families who like to socialize with other travelers and don’t mind sparse accommodations. Two weeks after the planes hit the Twin Towers in New York, we gingerly proceeded on our three-week trip to Australia with our then three-year-old twins.
Our first lodging in Australia was the family room at The Sydney Center YHA, a five-star backpacker’s hostel. Although our room was bare bones (bunk beds and storage lockers which the kids loved hiding in), the hostel had a few excellent amenities such as a travel agency on premises, a rooftop viewing area, a pool, and ready access to the Central Train Station across the street. Continue reading
Posted in Accommodations, Adventure travel, Australian with kids, Belize with kids, Italy with kids, Morocco with kids, Travel with young kids
Tagged Accommodations, Australia, Belize, castle, hostel, Italy, lodge, Morocco, riad, treehouse
Are Family Vacations Worth It? posits the July 2nd New York Times “Room for Debate” column. Six debaters give their opinion, some prioritizing romantic vacations for the parents, others advocating for the unique bonding that is only possible on family trips.
With 14 years of family trips behind us, I agree with them all!
Family Vacation at Mono Lake with Kids on Our Backs
My husband and I enjoyed our most terrific, restorative vacations when our kids were too young to voice an opinion. These trips usually involved flying somewhere and exploring a new city (such as Vancouver when our twins where a mere three months old or Prague and Budapest when they were one and a half or Istanbul, Turkey when they were two and a half). Young kids could care less about the destination but were thrilled to spend 24/7 with happy parents who were ecstatic to learn they could still travel.
New York’s Beautiful and Unusual High Line Park
Walking New York’s most innovative park, the High Line, reminded me of a hike I took last summer in Zion National Park.
Although Manhattan’s elevated promenade doesn’t require the Zion Narrows’ tricky navigation through a swift flowing river, both popular trails have a lot of similarities.
My two-year-old son and daughter positively loved the large tower slides at Play Circle in San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Gardens, so I was surprised to learn we were five years too early, according to a plaque that noted the structure’s suitability for kids seven through twelve. I thought it was developmentally important for my children to be physically challenged, so we tended to hang out in pre-renovated playgrounds with equipment intended for older children that had not yet yielded to safety-first legislation.
Enjoying a Tall Slide in NYC’s Ancient Playground
Finally, my instincts have been validated. Experts are now questioning the value of super-safe playgrounds, according to a recent article by John Tierney, “Can a Playground Be Too Safe?” (7/18/11 New York Times), saying that a little danger on the playground can help children conquer fears and develop mastery.
A November 2010 New York Times Travel Section
article, 7 Caribbean Resorts that Go All Out for Families
, extolled the virtues of child-friendly Caribbean resorts that provide nannies as well as plenty of kid-centric activities. This type of vacation was never our family’s style, but we put our preferences aside to take just this kind of family reunion on a cruise boat to Alaska when Allan’s mom’s turned 80.
|Alaskan glaciers seen from the ship
For her present, Lillian had requested a trip with her sons and grandchildren. Because her mobility was limited, we wouldn’t be able to do our typical adventures. She proposed the cruise as a compromise. We could spend time with her at meals and while the ship was moving but once the ship docked at a port, we could go off on our adventures while she relaxed in her cabin. It seemed like as “win-win” an idea as we were going to get. Continue reading
Getting around with young children comfortably takes equipment. Following are our experiences with gear we found essential when traveling with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.
Getting Around with Babies
My husband and I were truly surprised at how happy our three-month-old babies were seeing the city of Vancouver from the comfort of their Baby Bjorns. The padded fabric front carriers left our hands free for securely holding onto a public transit pole or consulting a map and our kids loved looking at tall buildings and the people on the monorail. At the very least, both babies loved being snugly attached to their happy parents!
|Babies Love Looking Out from Front Carriers
My mother routinely took three kids and a large clunky carriage on the New York City subway by herself, waiting at the top of the stairs for kind fellow travelers to help carry it up and down. You would think that taking a compact, twenty-first century stroller on the Muni Metro in “Transit First” San Francisco would pose no problem.
Sadly, even in a city where buses have been retrofitted to carry bicycles on the front, many transit operators (and fellow passengers) act like any parent taking kids on the bus must have left the SUV at home for the day.
The good news is that it is usually far easier to take kids on public transit once you leave the auto-dependent United States. Countries that impose heavy taxes on gasoline understand that citizens of all ages have little alternative to relying on transit, so they are much more accommodating to families traveling via bus, subway, or streetcar.
| Streetcar in Australia
Costa Rica is a great vacation destination with kids. We went for two weeks in 2006 and relaxed on its warm, beautiful beaches; explored the flora and fauna of the cloud forest at Monteverde and the area near the Arenal volcano: and enjoyed thrilling adventures such as zip lining through the jungle canopy.
|Hotel California in Quepos, Costa Rica
With many businesses accepting payment in American dollars and many people in the tourist industry speaking flawless English, the country was quite welcoming to Westerners. This made it harder, however, to reconcile the fact that Costa Rica has a very different idea of customer service than the “customer is always right” philosophy that we take for granted in the U.S. Continue reading
Despite being nervous about flying a few weeks after the Sept. 11th attacks, our family’s 3+ week vacation to Australia turned out to be a huge success.
|First Day in Sydney
My mother-in-law, however, was dead-set against our going, convinced that we were unnecessarily putting her three-year old grandchildren in harm’s way. But, Allan and I did not make our decision lightly. Continue reading
“Turkish people love children!” I was told by the numerous guidebooks we consulted to plan our family vacation. Little did I know what this really meant until we landed in Turkey with our two-and-a-half year old twins.
Many times people stopped us in the street to tell us how happy they were that we brought our kids to their country. A few times, people threw candy for the kids from car windows. But the most amazing evidence was in some of the places we ate Continue reading