The thing I miss most about my backpacking days is this: waking up in a youth hostel, taking a dog-eared travel guide out of my backpack, and heading to a local café to read plan the rest of my day, or to map out my travels to the next destination. The parts I liked reading the best were the interesting facts about each destination: little tidbits of information to help you to get to know a place, before moving on.
Now that I’m all grown up with kids, I still treasure my collection of travel guides which contain precious memories, my own notes in the margin, and the occasional ticket stub, receipt or phone number tucked inside the pages.
For families who love to travel, DK has published a series of Family Travel Guides, for planning fun, stress-free trips with your kids. I checked out a copy of Family Guide London, and Family Guide New York: two cities that know well and have travelled in, both with and without kids.
The London Guide is divided into five geographical regions in the centre of London, but also contains a section highlighting visits to places beyond the city centre, such as Kew Gardens and day trips like Windsor Castle. There’s a complete London Underground map on the back cover, and clear, easy to read street maps too (no need to invest in a London A-Z)! Most of the information in the guide is for parents, except that on nearly every page, a “Kids’ Corner” sidebar contains fun, fascinating (and sometimes truly gross) facts, quizzes and challenges. For example, kids can hunt for the ghosts of Drury Lane Theatre in Covent Garden (p. 91), or test themselves on Cockney rhyming slang. Did you know that “mince pies” means “eyes” (p. 139)?
The New York City Guide is divided into 5 regions on Manhattan Island (Downtown, Midtown, Central Park, Upper East Side, Upper West Side & Harlem), but also has a “Beyond Manhattan” section covering major attractions like the Bronx Zoo, Coney Island and the Brooklyn Bridge. Just like the London Guide, there’s a clear, easy to read Subway map on the back cover, and clear maps for every section. The Kids’ Corners in the New York Guide offer hundreds of fascinating facts. Did you know that when Robert Ripley, creator of Riley’s Believe it or Not! first displayed his collection of oddities to the public, he provided beds for all those who fainted (p. 119)?
In both guides, there are helpful recommendations on where to Eat and Drink, such as the The New York Family Guide’s recommendation to pick up a picnic to eat on The High Line (p. 86). All shops and restaurants are noted with a price category, which denotes how much you’ll spend. The categories are: “Picnics” “Snacks”, “Real Meal”, or “Family Treat”. Another thing I love about these guides is that the Where to Stay section is located as an index in the back of the book, which means that your (exciting) sightseeing information is kept separate from your (relatively boring) hotel information!
DK Eyewitness Family Travel Guides cover other popular destinations such as Washington DC, Florida and Rome, and follow the well-known style of Dorling Kindersley, with bright, clear photos and graphics. My only complaint? Because the pages are so packed full, there’s not much margin space to jot your own notes and reflections. But, I suppose, who has time for refection when you’re travelling with kids?
So, it’s time to order a guide, pack up the kids and get travelling! The only decision now is where to go.
Is London calling, or will you take a few small bites of The Big Apple?
To purchase DK Eyewitness Family Travel Guides visit www.dk.com.ca/travel.