Book Review: Lonely Planet's Travel with Children

Robert Todd Felton's picture

I am sure that the author who wrote this sentence:  “One of the greatest advantages of travelling with children is that you appear almost normal to the locals” has never met my family.  From the time my oldest son (age four at the time) was afraid to go in the water in the north of Sweden but was totally comfortable on dry land parading around in full snorkel gear (complete with mask over his face and snorkel in mouth) to my youngest son’s tour of the best ear infection doctors of the western world, we often appear as anything but “almost normal.”  That said, Cathy Lanigan, author of Lonely Planet's Travel With Children, has it spot on with her following observation that “people give up seats, help you through a crowd and generally make allowances.”  She’s right - traveling with kids is not nearly as hard as you might think, and is definitely worth the effort.

There to help you through the planning and thinking stage is Lanigan’s Travel With Children.  The book was originally published in 1985 and the 4th edition was released in 2002, so the information is a bit out of date and not at all helpful for the actual planning of a trip with kids.  However, the real worth of the book is in the inspirational stories that make you agree to the trip in the first place.  Sprinkled throughout the books are a series of “travellers’ tales” with sentences like this one from the section on Nepal:  “The moment we stepped out of the car and into the streets of Kathmandu, I could immediately tell that this trip was going to be a little different to our usual holidays.  In a few days my family would be trekking alone and unaccompanied in the Annapurna Ranges.”  Most of the stories leave you with the thought:  “hell, if they can do that, I can certainly get my kids to a state park for a weekend of camping.”  That is a great first step towards changing that weekend at Disney World to something more exotic.

Particularly helpful in this book, if not in details, then in the calm reassuring tone, is the first 60 pages of general advice on everything from how to plan a trip to how to handle medical situations abroad.  For example, in the section on eating, Lanigan points out “there may be days when you think they (your children) are living on air, but they probably do that at home as well.  Children eat when they are hungry, so don’t start worrying that this trip will end with starved, malnourished children.”  She displays a practical, can-do attitude that helps put most situations in perspective.

Following this section is “Part 2…Where To Go.”  This listing of destinations and activities covers each of the continents and details some of the more salient points about travel to that area with children.  This is by far the weakest section of the book.  Although including information on places like Pakistan and Lebanon makes that trip to Michigan you’ve been considering seem that much more doable, I would like to see the space used for more detailed descriptions of locations that most parents might actually go to.  Instead of the brief notice that “despite on-going political tension, there is much to experience in Myanmar with children,” the book would benefit from additional resources on how to travel with children.  For example, I would like to see the two sections that end the book, travel games and internet resources, greatly expanded and updated.

My family falls somewhere in the middle of travelers.  We’re not afraid to leave the continent and head into the more remote areas of a country, but we’re not quite at the “take the kids out of school for three years in Malawi” stage…yet.  However, this book has me reconsidering that upcoming trip to visit my parents at Thanksgiving.  Hhmm, I wonder what Thanksgiving in Prague is like?


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Robert Todd Felton is the Literary Travel Editor for Wandering Educators.

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