A is for Attitude: It’s yours to choose. Which one you choose will make all the difference. Enough said.
B is for Binoculars: One of the great benefits of travel is that it shows you new worlds. Binoculars show you new worlds within new worlds. Binoculars are on virtually all “What to Bring” lists for nature travel, but they are almost as valuable for other kinds of travel as well. They are not of much use inside the Louvre, but they are great for seeing the details of the molding above the cornice on the exterior of the Louvre. The same binoculars that work for bird watching work for people watching.
C is for Calm: Things can go wrong when you travel. Getting excited seldom helps.
D is for Don’t Drag Teenagers: The best way I know to ruin a family trip is to drag along a teenager who would rather be home with her friends.
E is for Expectations: Keep them realistic. It is not realistic to expect a family that is not getting along at home to magically bond on vacation—at least not with each other.
F is for Fun: It is the main point of taking a vacation especially with kids. Have it.
G is for Guides: If the purpose of the trip is for you and your kids to learn about a culture, natural or human, other than your own, try to find a really good guide.
I am not talking about the kind of guide who gives canned speeches. I am talking about the kind of guide who asks the right questions: For example, “How do you think families in ancient Rome were different from modern families in your country?” And then, “How do you think families in modern Rome are different from modern families in your country?” Really great guides who can transform a perfectly good vacation into an extraordinary magical experience are trained professionals and they do not come cheap. If money is a factor, skimp on hotels, but don’t skimp on the guide.
H is for Help: Ask for it when you need it.
I is for intolerant: See J.
J is for Judge: Discourage your kids from doing it to other ways of life.
This is a happy child. She does not need pity—or shoes.
K is for Kite: Bring one. I’ve never done this or scene anyone who has, but it does not seem like such a bad idea, and I could not think of anything for K.
L is for Loose: Stay it.
M is Maps: Take as many as you can and pore over them. If there is a difference between the map and the ground. The Map’s wrong.
N is for No Digital Distractions: (except on flights):Game boys, disc men, iPods etc are invaluable for keeping kids entertained at airports and on long flights. However, once they are at the destination the experience will not be very nourishing if they shut out the sights and sounds of where they are with the portable sights and sounds of home. Make the deal before you leave, digital distraction ends when you get there. It will cause serious withdrawal for some kids—which is not such a bad thing.
O is for Others: Teach your kids to be considerate of them
P is for Pace: Make it slow Getting everybody packed up and moving is often the most stressful part of the trip—especially when a favorite toy is left behind at your last destination. Unless everybody in the family is experienced travelers, pick one or two places and stay put.
Q is for Questions: Ask them. It is the best way to meet people. If your kids are bored try sending them forth to ask a question. Any question will do. If nothing else comes to mind, pick somebody and suggest your kid ask her where she got her blouse. If your kid is too timid to do it, you do it. It’s not fair to ask your kid to do something you won’t. Also you’ll find as soon as you ask the question your kid will magically no longer be bored—embarrassed maybe, but not bored.
R is for Retreat: If a particular excursion or activity is not going well, retreat and try something else. The idea of a vacation is to enjoy it, not endure it.
S is for Sunburn: Avoid it.
T is Take em out of School: If you want your kids to truly love and savor travel, schedule your family trip for a time when school is in session. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that because they will not be distracted relating to all the other kids from their country and class who are traveling at the same time, they will be much more able to appreciate where they are. The second is that unless they are fortunate enough to go to one of the roughly five percent of schools that are worthwhile, they will appreciate it that you rescued them from school.
U is for Uncertainty: Embrace it.
V is for Vaccinations: Probably a good idea.
W is for Wonder: It is what travel is all about.
X is for the X-ray machine at the airport security checkpoint: which parents might try to appreciate—tough as it may be—for the crucial life skills it can impart. Your kids get to practice waiting their turn, and tying and untying their shoes.
Y is for Yarns: And yarns are for spinning. Tell each other stories every night. Exaggerate a little. It’s allowed.
Z is for Zest: Have it at all times