Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Family Planning (no, not that kind)

Back when my youngest son was a toddler (he's now 38, so we're truly talking "back when"), our little family of four drove from Chicago to New Mexico to visit my parents and do a little skiing. Even after all these years, here's a few "highlights" I remember about that trip:

  • Our diaper-wearing toddler experiencing "stomach distress" on the drive out there, back before the days of "family changing tables" in every public restroom. As I recall, he--all of us, including the car--needed a bath by the time it was over, not just a diaper and clothing change.
  • How good it was to laugh and share with my folks; how glad they were to see us.
  • The pristine beauty of the ski slopes.
  • The hospital where they put the cast on my leg.
  • Watching my husband pack the car--ski equipment, suitcases and our oldest son--for the drive home without me. There was no way I could endure the trip.
  • Sitting in the bulkhead seat, battered leg extended in front of me, toddler trying to slide down my cast, PAIN, and the utter lack of help anyone (flight staff or seatmates) were willing to extend.
FACTOID: a toddler and a straight, casted leg do not both handily (or unhandily) fit in the lavatories in airplanes. Unless you've experienced this contortion, you can only imagine .... But don't. It will give you a headache.

My, how things have changed for family travelers. (Not including airline lavatories.) Sure, toddlers still get stomach distress in inconvenient places, and so do we. But these days, there are so many family-friendly resources--right down to those handy-dandy changing tables. Now, I marvel as I watch that same son disappear into the men's room with his daughter, who needs a diaper change, and think, HURRAY for PROGRESS! (Take that any way you like.)

If you travel with family (and even if you don't), check out this truly unique resource with an interesting concept: Not only do the seasoned traveler founders of the site (the Shonts and the Bergrens) offer superb and detailed first-person experience as it relates to their own family travels--complete with pictures, tips and a few warnings--but they also collect first-hand information from families who've ventured to all kinds of places (Petra, Nevis, Dracula's Castle to name a few), and from those who live in those places.

Opening words on their "About Us" page: "We’re the Bergrens and the Shonts's, friends who dared to venture to Italy together and returned home better friends than ever (a feat in itself!). Our trip in Fall 2005 from Rome to Venice was fabulous, and only whet our appetite to travel more—and show our kids what it means to be a global citizen."

WORTH A REWIND OF A REREAD: " our kids what it means to be a global citizen." Now that, dear reader, is a worthy goal in and of itself!

Examples of helpful family hints in the travellogs [sic] section:

HOW TO HELP GROW THE NEW SITE: The Trip Advice page accepts shorter input from readers such as, "Share Knowledge. Think: Recommendations ('Do this!') & Warnings ('Avoid this...') Post as many as you would like." There's even a place to tell out-of-town visitors what they might want to do when they visit your home turf. invites you to send "postcards" from the best day of your trip and, like I said, to upload full-fledged family travellogs [sic]. Those posted are always well thought out and interesting (hint-hint); I haven't yawned once during a read. The folks running the site then vet and organize them.

Real people helping real people. Seems especially important when traveling with your family, and much more reliable than some of the come-hither information contained in glitzy brochures and souped-up travel sites that make everything appear so remarkable. Yes, I know, I KNOW that brochures and websites can also be highly spot-on and helpful, but when you're taking your munchkins along, you want to make sure.

So, you submit, the site organizes and grows, and we all read and benefit. You read before you travel, and maybe not only find a few out-of-the-way and uncommon gems, but you save yourself some headaches.

As they say, it's all good.

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