FAMILY RESOURCES 101
Sunday, May 16, 2004; Page P02
The secret of a successful family vacation? Other than vast quantities of money, unlimited patience and followup psychotherapy? Preparation. Here are some books, Web sites and other resources that can help you get ready.
We started with piles of unsolicited travel guides sent to us by publishers. Then we stopped by Candida's World of Books on 14th Street in Northwest D.C. for some expert advice on other options, plumped our pillows and settled down for browsing. These drifted to the top of our favorites pile:
• "Exotic Travel Destinations for Families" (Santa Monica Press, $16.95), written by serious globe-trekkers Jennifer M. and Bill Nichols, begins each chapter with an extended family travelogue, plus photos, to help readers visualize the experience. We found especially useful the resource section at the end of each chapter that directs you to tourism offices and suggests books and movies about that country. Best used for picking a destination; once you decide, get another guidebook for more detail.
• "Fodor's Family Adventures" (Fodor's, $16.95), by Christine Loomis, lists outfitters by activity -- for example, cattle drives, dog sledding and RV adventures. Questions to ask the outfitter are provided for each category -- to encourage traveling families to find out ahead of time what exactly they are getting into.
• The "Fun with the Family" series (Globe Pequot Press, $12.95) has an edition for each of 30 states, with more to come. Judging from the Virginia edition, the series doesn't take you far off the beaten track. But if you're heading to a state you don't know as well as we know Virginia, this book will assure you don't miss a major attraction.
• The books in Fodor's series on U.S. and international cities, "Around [Name of City] With Kids" (Fodor's, $11), are just the right size for tucking into a purse or diaper bag. Numerous day-trip descriptions are accompanied by detailed information crucial for traveling with children, such as where to find food after a visit to the Atlanta Cyclorama or the State Capitol. A big high-five to the high-five lists that recommend the five best things in town.
• Our top pick isn't in the strictest sense a travel guidebook. But we think "Catch a Fish, Throw a Ball, Fly a Kite" (Three Rivers Press, $12.95), by Jeffrey Lee, is the perfect take-along Baedeker for the vacationing family. It provides illustrated instructions for teaching 21 "timeless skills," such as those mentioned in the title, as well as building a fire, making a sand castle, playing a blade of grass. Of course, you could teach your child any of these skills without straying far from home, but do you make the time?
At first glance, it seems absurd that the instructions for skipping a stone span 10 pages. Yet knowing a skill is not the same as knowing how to teach it. The step-by-step, non-condescending directions for this particular life essential cover grip, stance, spin and throw, troubleshooting and safety advice. Each chapter begins with a nostalgically sweet essay by the author.
Sometimes it seems there are as many travel Web sites as there are kids. Here are some sites we've found particularly helpful in planning or taking family trips.
• Amusement Parks. As of May 21, you can search for links to 450 amusement parks in the United States at www.ticketforfun.com. The International Association of Amusement Parks will soon begin adding links to 1,000 international parks.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
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Family Travel Fun: Not an Oxymoron. Really. (The Washington Post, May 16, 2004)
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