The World Awaits
An international vacation? In this economy? With our exclusive travel deals to four amazing, affordable destinations, the magic is within reach.
Close your eyes for a minute and imagine your family nibbling on crepes as you wander down a cobblestone street in France. Think of how thrilled your little one would be to see London’s Big Ben up close from the top of a shiny red double-decker bus. How might it feel to walk into a house built thousands of years ago by the Romans? While there’s no shortage of U.S. destinations with international flavor, there’s simply nothing like experiencing foreign cultures in the places they originated.
According to the Office of Travel & Tourism Industries, the number of Americans traveling internationally is on the rise, and TripAdvisor’s annual family travel survey revealed that 32 percent of traveling families plan to go abroad in 2011. It’s no wonder. There are countless benefits to a vacation that requires a passport. The chance to explore other cultures, for example, and to instill a sense of open-mindedness in your child are just two. Kids already sense the world is smaller now thanks to the Internet, multicultural toys, and TV shows. If you can afford it, a trip abroad brings that learning to life while creating a mental scrapbook for a lifetime.
We won’t deny that the prospect of long flights, jet lag, and expenses can make you shudder. “Do it anyway,” says Carrie Roberts, the mom of two in the Travel With Kids DVD series. Carrie and her husband, Jeremy, have taken their children to more than 24 countries. “Many families put it off, but there will never be a perfect time,” she explains. “Often, parents want to wait until their child is older so he’ll remember more, but it’s not about that — it’s about the family bonding, the learning you can’t get anywhere else, and doing something that fulfills you. Plus, you’ll be surprised at what kids retain.” Rhonda Carrier, a mom, travel blogger, and author and editor of two Frommer’s travel guides, adds that plane and train rides can enchant kids and set the stage for some of the most memorable moments.
Think about going abroad this summer or, if not, this fall, when prices typically drop and destinations are less crowded. Where to go? How about one of the four spots you’ll read about here? We checked them out for a first family trip abroad. They fit the bill so well, we brokered deals to make each more affordable. Bon voyage!
The largest county in England and birthplace of famed authors the Brontë sisters offers lively cities, craggy coastlines, and rolling hills steeped in history.
Family friendly: Excellent county-wide public transportation; perfect balance of city and country activities; English is the primary language
Learn about it: Literary heritage, Viking legacy, and fossils. Make York, a walled city founded by the Romans in 71 AD, your base camp. It’s home to the largest gothic cathedral in Western Europe (York Minster; yorkminster.org) and known for its charming character. A tourist favorite here is Jorvik Viking Centre (jorvik-viking-centre.co.uk), a museum located where the remains of 1,000-year-old Viking houses and artifacts were discovered. Hop on their gentle ride through a re-creation of a Viking village. Visit the York Castle Museum (www.yorkcastlemuseum.org.uk), where you can stroll through a Victorian street, watch ghostly projections of imagined prisoners — in real jail cells — tell their tales of woe, and more. Two free sites: the Shambles, a 700-year-old street that looks like Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter series, and the city wall, which you can walk on top of. Bring paper and crayons and make rubbings of the plaques along the way. Combined, they form a map of York.
Take a day trip. In Leeds you’ll find the Royal Armouries Museum (royalarmouries.org; free), which houses historical weapons and protective gear, including King Henry VIII’s jousting lances and elephant armor. Explore the World of James Herriott (worldofjamesherriott.org), home of the famous veterinarian who wrote the All Creatures Great and Small series, in Thirsk. Take a drive out to the coastal town of Whitby to search for fossils and eat the tastiest fish ‘n’ chips you’ll ever have at Magpie Café (magpiecafe.co.uk). We suggest buying Yorkshire Passes (yorkshirepass.com); they earn you free entry to over 70 of the county’s top attractions. Take 15% off the price of 2-, 3-, and 6-day passes when you enter the code SCHOL2011 at checkout on the website. (Valid June 1 to December 10, 2011.*)
Where to stay: It doesn’t get more convenient (or posh) than the Royal York Hotel (royalhotelyork.co.uk), located directly next to the York train station and a quick walk from the city center. Take 10% off the Best Available Rate when you use the code PC10 at checkout at principal-hayley.com/scholastic-offer. (Valid June 1 to December 31, 2011; must be booked by August 31, 2011.*)
Before you go: Read a bit of the All Creatures Great and Small series and browse www.whitbyfossils.co.uk.
About an hour north of Montreal by plane, this rugged region is a wonderland of wilderness adventure with French flair.
Family friendly: Easy to get around by rental car; great value on food and accommodations; English widely spoken; relaxed pace of life
Learn about it: Wildlife, roughing it outdoors, and a touch of France! Start at the Musée du Fjord (Museum of the Fjord; museedufjord.com) on the Baie des Ha! Ha! (The name means Bay of the Ha! Ha! The HaHa are a Native Canadian tribe that used to live in the region.) They offer excursions that take your family for a walk on the bay floor during low tide to collect a variety of live specimens you’ll examine under microscopes back in the museum. During the summer months, it’s common to see beluga whales swimming here.
Next stop: Okwari Adventures (okwariaventures.com), a tour guide service that leads you through the forest to learn about fur traders, beavers, and moose — and to (safely) see wild black bears. For another one-of-a-kind wildlife experience, visit the Zoo Sauvage (Wild Zoo; zoosauvage.com) about a two-hour drive west. It focuses exclusively on animals found in the boreal forest, the northern part of the globe where the ground freezes more than three months of the year. They offer awesome overnight camping trips complete with a wildlife bus tour, canoeing, and a delicious dinner cooked over the fire. Reindeer hang out around the campsite!
Where to stay: Two accommodation options really stand out to us. The first is Parc Aventures Cap Jaseux in St-Fulgence (capjaseux.com), an activities park that offers kayaking, hiking, and a wild ropes course. It provides three unique lodging options: camping ($21 and up per night), rustic log cabins ($82 and up per night for four), and tree houses ($250 and up per night for four; above at right). Take 10% off the nightly rate of any accommodations you book when you use the code 007PACJ11 by phone (888-674-9114), e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), or in person. (Valid now through October 10, 2011.*)
The second is Village Historique du Val-Jalbert (Historic Val-Jalbert Village; valjalbert.com), a 1920s logging town frozen in time at the base of a magnificent waterfall. Now a preserved village that serves as a museum, it’s a quiet and unique place to spend a night or two. Stay in a period house or above the original general store. While the building exteriors are antique, the recently refashioned rooms inside are chic and bright and feature all the modern amenities you could hope for. Save big when you use the code Scholastic2011 at checkout on their website or by phone (888-675-3132) — for about $293 per night (that’s a savings of about $64 per night!), you’ll get a room for four (two adults and two children), admission to the village site, and breakfast and dinner at the newly renovated Restaurant du Moulin in the cool, cavernous stone building that used to be the paper mill. (Valid June 4 to October 9, 2011.*)
Before you go: Learn a few French words. We recommend the charmingly illustrated French Flash Cards by eeBoo ($12). Pump up the excitement (and knowledge) about getting out in the woods with the new book Survivor Kid: A Practical Guide to Wilderness Survival by Denise Long (Chicago Review Press, $13). It covers everything from packing a first-aid kit to starting fires, avoiding pesky bugs, and more.
The largest city in Ireland, Dublin has more green spaces per square kilometer than any other European capital. The beautiful Georgian doors adorning the streets are a Dublin treasure.
Family friendly: Many parks to relax in; easy to get around on foot or by bus; most major museums offer free admission; direct flights from East Coast cities; English speaking
Learn about it: Vikings (they settled the city thousands of years ago) and the rich Gaelic culture. Start with a stroll around the campus of Trinity College Dublin (tcd.ie), the city’s iconic university and home of the famous Book of Kells (c. 800 AD) on which the 2009 animated film The Secret of Kells was based. Any science enthusiasts in the family? Download the Science Safari podcast (best for older kids) from their website and take a guided walking tour to learn about famous inventors and discoveries associated with the college. Next, wander over to the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History (museum.ie; free). The ground floor houses a fantastic collection of indigenous animals. A short walk away, the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology (museum.ie; free) offers up an astounding array of Irish artifacts to explore, from Stone Age axes to medieval jewelry. Since the city is so famous for its green spaces, you can’t vacation here without visiting a few. Three that left impressions on us: Dubh Linn Gardens (below), a small, gorgeous space hidden behind Dublin Castle that used to be the black pool (“Dubh Linn” in Gaelic) from which the city got its name; Phoenix Park (www.phoenixpark.ie), one of the largest city parks in Europe, home to a medieval tower house and a great place to learn about wildlife; and The Iveagh Gardens, one of Dublin’s most secluded and least-known parks. One more attraction we simply must recommend is Dublinia (dublinia.ie; below), a kid-centric museum of the country’s Viking and medieval history.
Like Yorkshire, Dublin offers a pass that can help you save big in admission fees. The Dublin Pass (dublinpass.ie) provides entry to 32 major attractions (including Dublinia, the Dublin Zoo, and Number Twenty Nine, a Georgian House Museum) plus other perks. When you plug in the code US2011 at checkout on the website, you’ll get one free child’s pass of the same duration for every adult pass purchased! (Valid June 1 to September 30, 2011; valid for one year from date of purchase.*)
Where to stay: The Regency Hotel Dublin (regencyhotels.com) is right between the airport and the city center, about 15 minutes from each. The rates are great, the rooms are quiet and comfortable, and a bus that goes straight to the city center stops right out front.
Before you go: Get a quick family-friendly overview of the country by reading the books Ireland by Libby Koponen (Scholastic, $7) and S Is for Shamrock: An Ireland Alphabet by Eve Bunting (Sleeping Bear Press, $18).
Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas
Larger and less crowded than Nassau, the most visited island in the Bahamas, this bright and soothing spot is a slice of vacation paradise.
Family friendly: Laid-back pace; quick flights from the East Coast; visitors go through customs in a more relaxed atmosphere before leaving the Bahamas rather than back in the United States; everyone speaks English
Learn about it: Tropical wildlife! Think dolphins, rays, curly-tailed lizards, and more. Get around either with a rental car or by guided tour. Grand Bahama Nature Tours (grandbahamanaturetours.com) offers a variety of packages that take your family to historic spots (like the Pinder’s Point lighthouse or Ocean Hole, the entrance to a series of underwater caves explored by Jacques Cousteau) and beaches where you can snorkel and kayak. A five-hour tour costs $40–$79 per person, but with our P&C Exclusive Deal, you can take 20% off when your family purchases tour tickets for at least two adults and one child. To book, call 242-373-2485 and mention the code Scholastic. (Offer valid June 1 to October 31, 2011.*) Fun fact: Scenes from two of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean movies were filmed here!
Where to stay: Through the Club Grand Bahama Island program, run by the island’s tourism office, your family can book a travel package that includes hotel, airport transfers, dining, and a variety of activities (such as a trip to Unexso, the Underwater Explorer Society, where you can take a boat ride to meet dolphins and watch them perform.) Rates range from $45–$85 per person per day, but you can take 15% off when you call 800-545-1300 and mention Scholastic. (Valid June 1 to December 10, 2011.*)
Before you go: Read the new children’s books Amazing Animals: Dolphins by Kate Riggs (Chronicle, $6) and In My Ocean by Sara Gillingham (Chronicle, $9) together.
Samantha Brody is the senior editor of Scholastic Parent & Child.