Tag Archives: travelling with kids

Family travel trends for 2013

Forget planning that trip to Disneyland — according to those in the know, family travel in 2013 promises to get Mom, Dad and the kids to farms, museums and even immersed in foreign cultures, all with grandma in tow. Other trends spotted by AOL TravelParenting.com and Turner PR include super-sized Ferris wheels, leveraging social networking for family-friendly recommendations, more cruising options and volunteer vacations.

Family travel is predicted to increase in 2013.

Family travel is predicted to increase in 2013.

The good news is that no matter where you plan to travel with the rugrats in 2013, you won’t be alone. A recent survey of industry experts taken by Travel Weekly and Family Travel Network found that family travel is on the rise, and it’s expected to increase this year.

Not ones to let on-trend travel opportunities pass us by, Blake and I have the following trips planned:

1. A multigenerational escape to Arizona. “Togethering” — the practice of inviting grandparents along to babysit, er, bond — has been going strong for years. We believe in the importance of a grammy to share experiences from wine tasting to horseback riding, and she will get to experience them vicariously just as soon as we return from our Sedona and Saguaro National Park adventures.

2. Since visits to far-flung destinations are growing in popularity, we will be going to Arkansas this spring. We want to expose our children to diverse cultures and alternative lifestyles, where the laundry room appliances are located on the porch.

3. DIY trips and “friendsourcing” will be popular with families this year. That’s why we plan on showing up in Colorado this summer and staying with friends. (Please stock your fridges with Fat Tire.)

4. Finally, who are we kidding? It’s not really a vacation when the kids are in tow. Perhaps this fall we can live it up child-free somewhere decidedly non-family-friendly, like in Tuscany or Argentina’s wine country. Dare to dream!

Some “Vacation” tips for your family road trip

The very idea of a family summer road trip evokes a curious mix of excitement and trepidation. I remember the annual drive from Denver to Kansas fondly; how Mom would point out every cow in every prairie field (my sister and I would roll our eyes) and then redeem herself by finding the only motel in Salina with an outdoor pool and water slide.

But, when I think about embarking on a similar journey with my kids, I realize I’ll be trapped in a vehicle with them between Calgary and somewhere far away, that the boredom of the miles will turn me into a modified version of my mother (“Look children — another waterfall!”), and then I cringe and wonder why we don’t just fly.

A Family Roadster is not a requirement for a successful summer vacation.

As Clark Griswold will tell you: “Why aren’t we flying? Because getting there is half the fun! You know that.” I recently rewatched the original Vacation movie. Thirty years on it’s still funny if over-the-top. Vacation is also instructive for families thinking of saving some money and bonding in a car en route to the beach/amusement park/national monument this summer.

Here are my takeaways from the Griswolds:

1. For getting there to be fun, you have to actually stop and see and do things along the way. One of Clark’s mistakes is that he didn’t budget enough time to make it from Chicago to Wally World in California. They couldn’t stop to see the St. Louis Arch or visit the world’s largest ball of twine in Kansas. Involve the family in the trip planning and you’ll be able to gawk at the world’s largest truck in Sparwood, B.C., for example.

Daughter posed on giant truck tire = priceless vacation memory.

2. Motels are great; they save you money and often have a pool. Just make sure there aren’t boxes next to the beds that accept quarters.

3. Don’t detour out of the way to visit friends or relatives you can’t stand. Life is too short and besides, your redneck cousins might introduce your daughter to weed, your son to nudie mags and then foist their Aunt Edna equivalent on you for part of the drive (and we all remember how that ended).

4. Don’t make Dad do all the driving. Clark clocked so many highway hours while Ellen, Edna and the kids slept, it’s no wonder he cracked (robbed a restaurant, went skinny dipping with Christie Brinkley, held a Wally World security guard hostage). Still, you have to admire his dedication to family fun in the road trip format.

“This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun! I’m gonna have fun and you’re gonna have fun. We’re all gonna have so much f**king fun we’ll need plastic surgery to remove our god-damn smiles. You’ll be whistling ‘Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah’ out of your assholes!”

5. Call ahead to make sure your destination will be open. Beaches and national parks don’t typically close, but attractions sometimes do, as the Griswolds found out upon arrival at Wally World.

Oh yeah, and since you’ll be spending a lot of time in the car, remember to bring the children’s Walkman equivalents.

Back in the saddle: Horseback riding in Arizona

It had been nine years since I last sat astride a horse when I pulled myself onto Copper — my trusty steed for 90 minutes — at the Koli Equestrian Centre, part of the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa on the Gila River Indian Reservation in Chandler, Ariz. last weekend. It had been three years since Avery “rode” a horse, and Cannonball Bob would be the first horse she attempted to rein herself.

We were in Chandler, Mesa and Tempe (all part of greater Phoenix) as part of a Sunny Arizona media trip. We’d bounced around at Jump Street (a giant indoor tampoline park), held sea stars at the Sea Life Aquarium and fed stingrays at the Phoenix Zoo. But Avery was most excited to ride a horse in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. All by herself!

Copper is ready to roll out.

Guide Emmett Miguel led us out of the corral and it quickly became apparent this would not be like most trail rides. You know, the kind where your horse’s head is smooshed up against the tail of the horse in front of you. Instead, we rode side by side; or, more truthfully, Miguel, myself and two other riders flanked out in front, with Avery trailing far behind on Cannonball Bob.

Possibly the biggest misnomer in Arizona's horse history, Cannonball Bob was, in reality, about as fast as a hand-thrown paper airplane.

At 17, Bob was the oldest horse in the stable and thus deemed safest for a six-year-old greenhorn like Avery. He plodded along, following us at great distance. The reins sat limp in Avery’s hands — though she’d been given instructions on how to use them, she just let her mount do his thing. Which he did. Verrrry. Sloooowly. Every now and then Miguel would ride back and encourage Bob to pick up his pace.

Given Bob’s glacial walk, we probably didn’t cover quite as much ground as a typical 90 minute ride, but it was still enough to see three coyotes, two jack rabbits, four wild horses (it isn’t called Wild Horse Pass for nothing), a circling hawk and some Saguaro cactuses (yes, it’s cactuses, unless you’re Latin) in the distance. As we rode along dusty trails and across parched desert flecked with sage bushes, Miguel recounted bits of native folklore, including the tale of how coyote convinced roadrunner to ride across the river on his back (and guess who ended up in coyote’s belly?): “That coyote, he’s a trickster. He’ll pretend he’s your friend, but he’s not.” “A roadrunner is a messenger. If you see one, turn your hat around backwards so it will be a good message.” And finally, “If a hawk crosses your path, it’s a warning.”

This part of the Sonoran Desert is pretty bleak. I expected Copper to stumble across skeletal remains at any moment (maybe that's why the hawk was circling?).

Right on cue, a hawk crossed our path. I’m pretty sure his warning was this: Beware sore legs and a sore bum after horseback riding. And: beware a very thirsty six-year-old after a 90-minute inaugural ride. And also: beware a sunburn. Noted. And so worth it.