I’ve been called a fun hater. By my kids. By my mom. And sometimes by people I barely know. I like to go to sleep at a reasonable hour (I know, that’s a fun-hating expression right there), always stop at two drinks, feel such tremendous guilt when I make a purchase for myself that nine times out of ten I return it, and I tend to prefer reading to just about any activity, other than travel. So after publishing our new e-book, Brussels with Kids, I celebrated in true fashion: I had lunch out with a friend (with a glass of wine!), I bought a fabulous dress on sale at Anthropologie to wear to the TBEX Expedia party (still has the tags on it in case I want to return it), and re-read one of my favorite books: The Accidental Tourist, by Anne Tyler.
The reason I’d been savoring re-reading The Accidental Tourist and saving it for the post-publication hootenanny is that the main character is a guidebook writer. Like me now! This writer specializes in writing guidebooks for businessmen traveling to unknown cities. As he hates to travel himself, he combs each destination for food, lodging, and activities that defy a sense of place and comfort the traveler into feeling like he hasn’t even left his home town.
When you’re traveling with kids, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to recreate your home, the kids’ routines, and their every activity. We bring our own food, for fear that the children are going to refuse to eat the local fare, although to my knowledge, no vacationing child has ever starved to death. We stick to one hotel chain because we know exactly where each piece of furniture will be, what the toiletries will smell like, and what kind of on-demand viewing options will be available.
The other side of the coin—kids, what kids?—also has some drawbacks. While rappelling down a canyon may be your idea of an awesome time, it may not suit the physical abilities of your three-year-old. And watching daddy do it loses its appeal after about a minute. Same with that four-hour modernist architecture walking tour you might have dreamed of. And why take a train when we can hike there, it’s only 142 miles!
It’s the balance between the familiar and the completely new, between comfort and stepping out of our element, that makes family travel planning a challenge. It’s why All Over the Map isn’t strictly luxury. It isn’t strictly off-the-grid hiking adventures. It isn’t strictly chain hotels. And it isn’t strictly street food. Yes, we cover all of those, but in order to make our families happy, we need to mix it up! Doesn’t that sound like fun? Wait, maybe I do love fun. I might just keep that dress after all.