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Travel with Children (Lonely Planet Travel Guides) Paperback – 1 Feb 2002
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...Lonely Planet, the intrepid traveler's bible...' --Los Angeles Times, April 2005
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The second two-thirds of the book is a country-by-country guide to travelling with kids. There are three problems here, one inevitable, two not. The first is space - by tackling pretty much every country, few get more than a page which means advice is pretty sketchy and generally limited to a few words about the capital city. There is no advice on specific hotels or accommodations that are well set up for travellers with kids. It was also dispiriting how few local attactions had been sought ought, generally it was a list of the usual zoos, musueums and commercial playparks, amusement parks or water parks. The final gripe was that the tone was unrelentingly positive, almost as if it was propaganda to make people nervous about travel with kids do it. This is fine up to a point, but there was not one story (the country accounts are interspersed with individual traveller stories about their experiences in different places), that was not totally successful. Given that kids get ill/have accidents more often than adults this seemed ridiculously one sided - where were the accounts of trips spent in darkened hotel rooms ferrying the child to and from the toilet after they ate something dodgy on the first day? The long waits in foreign A&E departments, to be treated for a dog bite, after a child petted a stray? To avoid examples of these simply gave the anecdotal notes in the text a rather unreal air.
Having said all this, its not totally useless. The guide is okay in a general way, the stories make quite good reading. But if you have any common sense or empathy with your kids, then you don't need this book - by a good country guide for the place you're travelling too instead.
It really didn't give us anything new we hadn't gained from the general Lonely Planet books.
Of course you have to plan, of course you need to make certain some standard facilities are near by and of course you need to think about safety - but a standard trip to London would prepare you for that.
We found all the countries we visited geared up to travelling with kids, hotels/restaurants would go out of their way on portion size / healthy eating and most countries have officially sanctioned tourist offices - these were especially useful in NZ and Malaysia.
I would recommend this if you've never taken your kids on holiday or you suffer from nerves at the thought of getting on public transport with them. Also, it is another book to carry - and that weight needs to be signicantly valuable!
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I'm quite fond of this book; in particular, I have found myself with an "Ah Hah!" level reaction on most pages, as a tip or bit of travel advice finds a home. If you are traveling with kids, this book will help.
The book is divided roughly into two sections:
The first is general travel advice for parents with kids, broken down into chapters like "planning" (sub-headings include "Costs and "What to do about School"), "On the Road" ("Toilets", "Laundry" and "Single-Parent Families") and "Health" ("If Your Child Falls Ill" and "After You Get Back").
The second half of the book is destination-specific advice for traveling with your kids, ranging from the popular (London, Paris, Rome) to the obscure (Bhutan, Bangladesh and Kashmir).
Let's tackle the first half, general advice, first.
The travel advice here is general in the sense it applies to anywhere in the world you'd like to take your children. Most tips are sorted out as applying to babies ("portable and easy to entertain [but] require a lot of equipment"), toddlers, older children and teenagers ("how many 'temple days' in exchange for how many beach days").
The regular, important things are covered, such as passports and visas. You also get some been-there, parented-there, done-that advice, such as a suggestion to bring along baby's pillow case or cotton sheet, for comfort in a strange bed. There is also some very nice cultural advice, such as thoughts on how to react to your children's discovery that not everyone speaks English, or that their fourth grade English is better than the Brazilian (adult) bus driver's.
Advice is offered on strolling the neighborhood near where you stay, locating the post office and the dry cleaners, to make a new place seem more like somewhere you now know. Parents are advised to watch their own interactions ("Damn buses in this dump are always late!"), so as not to leave the wrong impression on the kids. Why spend the time and money to travel if you only end up wishing you were home? Our kids watch us closely for clues on how to think and act, even more so in an unfamiliar place, and we can negate the benefits of travel with a misplaced remark, perhaps unaware that despite the treasures of Rome around your family, the kids still see you as the most influential statue within view.
Of particular value are other parents' comments, short one liners scattered throughout the text. Also enjoyable are longer, page-length essays, by parents called "travelers' tales." These document travel successes and failures by other Moms and Dads, in hope that you'll learn from both.
Finally, you get a section on health that covers the Big Three kids' health issues on the go: earaches on the plane, diarrhea everywhere else and cleanliness and safety to fight off Number 2. Most of the advice here will not surprise parents who have successfully raised one child and are now traveling with two or more, but first-time parents will want to slow down and read carefully. There's a short section on "alternative health", stuff like lavender oil for bug bites that you will either find fascinating or weird depending on your mental latitudes.
Turning to the second half of the book, you'll find one or two page parental postcards for a gazillion cities and countries worldwide (think you don't know some of the cities when CNN does the international weather? Try this book.). For most locations you get a thumbnail description of why you'd want to go there, a section on "wild things" that is mostly about zoos, a couple of suggestions under the header "interesting and educational", crucial info on the prevailing attitudes there toward children in general, and a hint at the local view of nursing in public. Many sections also include a couple of age-specific books or movies to look over before traveling to get the kids ready.
For example, for Brussels, you learn of cool iguanodon skeletons on display at the Science Museum, plus a museum full of surrealist paintings school age kids would find, well, perhaps surreal. You're also directed to the famous statue of the little boy going pee-pee in the same sentence that a noted comic and cartoon museum is mentioned.
For Cairo you learn about a huge water park to visit, while for Tunisia it is a camel safari into the desert to see where some of the movie "Stars Wars" was filmed.
It is not a criticism to state that a page or two in this book about an entire city (or country) is not enough-the purpose here is to flag interesting things to do with your kids that might be mentioned in other, "proper" guidebooks, but which you might not immediately connect to. In other words, the book assumes you'll find your way to the Pyramids while in Egypt, but might miss the excellent water park that will offer the children a chance to break the heat and you perhaps to exchange nervous smiles with local parents as your sons go off the highest diving board together screaming "Watch me Mom!" in various languages. That's the real point of family travel, creating those memories and allowing you all to see a new place in a familiar way.
I recommend this book for anyone traveling abroad with their kids. (...) let this book help and inspire you and your children to wring all that's to be wrung out of a trip abroad. There's magic out there if you know how to grab it.
If you are going to travel extensively with your kids, this is a nice book to have in your travel library. It does not get too specific about individual places, but then again it does have some interesting specifics you may not find in other books. The first-hand accounts are great. It is rather short, but it does have some good advice and anecdotes pertaining to travel in out-of-the-way places. I was disappointed it does not refer to the extent English is spoken in various foreign countries. However, if you are a little adventurous and are thinking about planning a trip with kids-in-tow, but don't know exactly where you want to go, this is a good book to use in the decision making process.