We Had to Ask . . .

By Peter Mandel
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, June 17, 2007

You're on the perfect vacation -- sampling history, adventure, cuisine -- and everything's shared because the kids are in tow.

Then you hear it. Peep, peep. Ba-deep.

No way. They wouldn't dare.

They would. A Game Boy in the Musee d'Orsay.

Is taking the kids along all it's cracked up to be? Despite weird beeps in galleries and sometimes whiny complaints, for many adults the answer must be yes. American families are like roaming packs these days, and kids are now included on more than just the traditional car trips. The Travelers' Health Yellow Book, which tracks trends from year to year, says that the number of children who travel outside their home countries has reached an estimated 1.9 million annually, the highest ever.

Having kids who are adventurous travelers sounds good. Well, at least to us grown-ups it does. We're the ones who make most vacation decisions on where to go, who's coming along and what we'll do.

But are we absolutely sure that our kids feel the same?

It's time, I thought, to get the inside scoop from kids themselves on what they love and hate about travel. Their private warnings. Their secret tips. The stuff they'd say if parents weren't constantly at their side. Would they rather skip most "grown-up" destinations? Do they really think travel is fun and educational? Or is going places basically a bore?

Would they, if it were up to them, really prefer to stay home?

To find out, I talked with 12 kids ages 4 to 14. It's a group with varied vacation experiences and some geographic diversity: They hail from suburban Maryland, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Wisconsin; one panelist lives in Spain. Although most have traveled pretty widely with their families, including visits to Europe, Asia and South America, a few on the panel have been only to Canada and neighboring states.

Parents, get out your pens and notepads. In our admittedly unscientific but nevertheless fascinating survey, panelists are telling you to "lay off the sunblock" and to "stop arguing inside hotel rooms since other people might be able to hear." They wish you'd take them on a boat. And oh, yeah: They want you to "use back roads during car trips" instead of highways, and to tell more jokes in the car -- "good jokes, not duds."

Here are the rest of their likes, hates, tips and demands.

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