Remember those carefree travel days before you had kids? The
days when all you needed was a backpack and a passport and you were
ready for another adventure to another exotic corner of the
Travel might not be so carefree these days, but it still can be
exotic. These three destinations will give your kids a flavor of
the world outside the confines of LEGOLAND, Disney and other
standard family fare.
This is the island for nature lovers. Whether you're into
building sand castles on the expansive beaches, hiking through the
tropical countryside or whale watching in the waters off the coast,
Kauai has what you need.
Known as the Garden Island, this lush spot is mostly rural and
laid back. Great portions of the island are inaccessible except by
helicopter, (you'll recognize the view from the Jurassic Park
movies), although the 3,000-foot cliffs of the Napali Coast are
breathtakingly beautiful when seen from the water aboard Captain
Andy's Sailing Adventures. This trip is not for weak stomachs,
though. On our visit in early summer, the surging waves decked more
than half the passengers. The rest of us munched on our lunch and
marveled at the whales that swam alongside the boat and the tiny
spinner dolphins that regularly jumped out of the water to show off
Don't miss the drive to the top of Waimea Canyon, the Grand
Canyon of the Pacific. Assign the kids the job of "waterfall
spotter" and "rainbow spotter." It shouldn't take them long to find
one or both.
A cruise is the easy way to introduce kids to Europe. My
daughter and I discovered the joys of the Adriatic Sea on board a
Royal Caribbean ship that left from Venice and stopped in Bari and
Ravenna, Italy; Koper, Slovenia, and Dubrovnik and Cavtat,
We got a taste of three historic European countries without ever
having to unpack and repack, we returned to the ship each night to
eat food familiar to even the pickiest of American eaters and had
all the amenities of a world-class cruise ship to entertain us
during a long day at sea.
While the Costa Concordia accident earlier this year gave some
cruise novices pause, cruises are a great way to travel. And, as
cruise lines have expanded their markets beyond the traditional
senior citizen clientele, the offerings for kids of all ages is
remarkable. On Royal Caribbean, there's the Royal Babies program
developed with Fisher Price for tots 6 to 36 months, a kids' club
play space that rivals the Chicago Children's Museum and
entertainment created in partnership with Dreamworks.
This uniquely American spot in the southwestern United States is
the home of the iconic vistas of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal
Park. The red rock buttes have served as the backdrop for John
Wayne westerns and many a family photo. The key is to get everyone
up in the pre-dawn hours so they don't miss the majestic sunrise,
best seen from a room with a view or, more specifically, from The
View, the only hotel inside Monument Valley.
There's a three-mile trail you can hike without a Navajo guide,
but the best way to see Monument Valley is with a kid-friendly
Navajo guide who can take you into the parts of the park that are
off-limits without a guide. Our guide shared the Native American
legends attached to every rock formation, explained the Navajo
religion in terms kids could understand and imparted a bit of
Native American culture to middle class city kids who might
otherwise have pitied the family who lives in the run-down
Our tour stopped in the valley, where we were treated to a
Native American dance performance and got a chance to learn a few
dance moves and test our own native rhythm on the drums. It wasn't
a very successful lesson, unless you measure success by the giggles
we elicited from the audience.
On your way out of Monument Valley, stop at the Burger King in
Kayenta, Ariz. You can grab a burger if you like, but the stop is
really a way to learn one last bit of Navajo history. The walls of
this fast food franchise are covered with a display honoring the
Navajo code talkers of World War II. These Native Americans used
their native language to create a code the Nazis couldn't break
because the language didn't have a written alphabet.
Cindy Richards is the mom of two who gets her muse from traveling the world, usually with kids in tow. She also writes for TravelingMom.com, where she also serves as editor.
See more of Cindy's stories here.
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