Books: the Best Family Destinations
By Candyce H. Stapen
Forget about doing the same old thing for your next family vacation. Buy Kyle McCarthy’s new book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Best Family Destinations and peruse nearly 200 choices throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico. McCarthy, co-founder and editor of Family Travel Forum.com, a well-respected family travel site, knows the joys and pitfalls of traveling with kids.
Paring down the travel temptations in three nations known for their diversity of beautiful scenery and engaging destinations is no easy task. Both to organize the options and to appeal to families with different interests, McCarthy wisely divides the book first into regions with the U.S. having the most. McCarthy covers the U.S.’s Northeast, South, Midwest, Southwest, Mountain States, West and the Northwest. Then, within each region, McCarthy focuses on cities, culture, beaches (where applicable), amusement parks and outdoor adventures.
That framework makes browsing easy. Just pick your interest and flip through the pages. Looking for an outdoor adventure within an easy drive of your New York City home? Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, as McCarthy points out, are not just for grandparents and honeymooners. Consider boating and hiking at Lake Wallenpaupack or admire Raymondskill Falls, just four feet shorter than Niagara’s cascades.
Are you going to visit your mother-in-law in Sacramento this summer, but want to sweeten the trip with a San Francisco weekend for just you and your kids? Check-out McCarthy’s highlights. She pretty much lists them all, plus adds telling comments from users on Family Travel Forum’s message boards. The San Francisco post urges visitors to give the somewhat revitalized Fisherman’s Wharf another try and to be sure to watch the kid-pleasing sea lions that lounge near Pier 39.
McCarthy sprinkles Fun Facts through her guide too. Kids always love to read these. For San Francisco she includes the quote from a long-ago traveler “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” She adds a reminder that the constant breezes and fog can make for cool temperatures. We learned that many years ago on our first San Francisco foray when we shivered in our T-shirts and light, cotton sweaters as we watched the July 4th fireworks.
The Complete Idiot’s Guides series--there are books on Mexico, Hawaii, Las Vegas, London, and New York City- aren’t off-the-beaten path trail blazers or in-depth discussions. All of the travel volumes use broad strokes to describe a destination, pinpointing the highlights. McCarthy’s done a good job of presenting a wide range of family travel possibilities. Her writing style is breezy, her details get you interested and her choices are great. After reading The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Best Family Destinations (Alpha, Penguin Group, 2011, $18.95), your kids may insist on planning the next several family vacations right away.