Never for a second believe that just because you start a family, you can no longer travel the world.
Some of my best memories as a kid were on big family road trips. All five of us would pack into a conversion van with some VHS tapes and a cooler of snacks, and hit the pavement for an adventure. It would take less than 48 hours for the smell of stale potato chips and the onset of cabin fever to get the better of us. Many sibling battles happened at 80 miles per hour in the back of that van. There was no time to stop for a simple argument, we had a country to see.
I was lucky enough to have parents that valued travel so much, they were unphased by the cries, whines, and fights of three kids in the back seat. They somehow knew, or were banking on the fact, that eventually we would tire of complaining and just have a good time. And that’s what we did.
That is why I was thrilled to find that the National Geographic Traveler Magazine June 2016 issue included articles on traveling young children and teens in, How to See the World in a Lifetime. These two articles can offer up some great inspiration for parents who thought they had to put away their wanderlust to start a family.
How to See the World in a Lifetime: North America for Little Kids, By Aaron Huey
Through a Child’s Eyes: Aaron Huey, a National Geographic photographer based in Seattle, U.S.A, opened an Instagram account for his son, Hawkeye, to share a kid’s take on American travels. As of press time, @HawkeyeHuey has 2,01,000 followers. Here Hawkeye captions some of his instant snaps from a recent Southwest road trip. Photo: Hawkeye Huey
3 Southwest American Road Trips
Loop 1: California Curiosities, 4-6 days
Start and end in Los Angeles.
Outsider art and oddballs keep this road trip through desert landscapes offbeat. Head south on Interstate 5, the glittering Pacific Ocean on your right. At the city of Carlsbad (home to Legoland), turn inland to Borrego Springs and the Anza-Borrego Desert (perfect for stargazing!).
Farther east gets you to the surreal Salton Sea, with its remnants of a planned vacation town, abandoned when the lake turned highly saline. Nearby, climb to the top of the heartfelt work of art “Salvation Mountain,” then meet the eccentric characters of the alternative living community at Slab City.
Hike through the desert trails of Joshua Tree National Park in the south, where the eponymous trees look like something out of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax (www.nps.gov/jotr; park entry $20).
Loop 2: Canyons Galore, 7-10 days
Start and end in Las Vegas.
The first stop on this road trip is the engineering marvel that is Hoover Dam on the Arizona-Nevada border (www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam; daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m., last dam tour departs at 3:30 p.m; adults $30; children under 8 not allowed).
Then crank up the tunes and drive old Route 66, stopping at the Hackberry General Store in Arizona for its collection of Route 66 memorabilia (www.hackberrygeneralstore.com).
Onward to the Grand Canyon! Don’t just do the view spots; go out and hike at least a portion of the trails. At the North Rim, spend the night in a cabin at the historic Grand Canyon Lodge (www.grandcanyonforever.com; doubles from $130).
In Utah’s Zion National Park, hike the Narrows, with its towering canyon walls (www.nps.gov/zion; $30). After these natural wonders, head west for a man-made marvel, Michael Heizer’s “Double Negative” earthwork art, in the town of Moapa Valley.
Loop 3: New Mexico Back Roads, 7-14 days
Start and end in Santa Fe.
Breakfast burritos and other roadside eats highlight this superloop exploring back roads of the Land of Enchantment. From Santa Fe head north through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the equally artistic town of Taos. Pie Town, on the Continental Divide, really does have the best pie, from apple to coconut cream.
Nearby, listen in on the universe at the Very Large Array radio telescope facility (public.nrao.edu/tours/visitvla; daily 8.30 a.m. until sunset; adults $6, visitors under 17 free; free guided tours on the first Saturday of the month at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m.).
Still dreaming of the stars? Head south to the site of Spaceport America, near the town, Truth or Consequences (spaceportamerica.com; adults $44.99, visitors under 18 $29.99; entry includes tour). Loop back to Santa Fe through White Sands National Monument, for the experience of dune sledding(www.nps.gov/whsa; daily 7 a.m.-8 p.m.; $5, visitors under 15 free).
How to See the World in a Lifetime: Asia for Tweens and Teens, By Cheryl Knott and Jessica & Russell Laman
Jessica and Russell Laman help their parents track orangutans in Borneo. Photo: Tim Laman
Traveling with children in tow may seem like a challenge, but with a bit of planning it’s doable, even to the most obscure places. If you start when they’re babies, they (and you) will soon be experts. Involve your kids in planning the trip so they’ll feel invested in it. And always carry a big book to relieve the tedium of inevitable travel delays. Last year I read Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings out loud to the whole family, which ended up being a memorable shared experience.
We’ve been lucky enough to have these opportunities to travel to wild places with our children, but the thrill of nature can be as close as your own backyard. Whether kayaking on your local pond or camping in a rainforest in Southeast Asia, there’s nothing that surpasses seeing nature again for the first time in the eyes of your child.
3 Picks for Borneo Wildlife Watching
Borneo includes regions of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. The Malaysian side has ecotourism options and national parks that are more developed. Borneo Adventure can organize itineraries (borneoadventure.com; 8-day, 7-night Malaysian Borneo tour MYR4040 per person).
Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary
A 260-square-kilometre protected floodplain is home to proboscis monkeys, and pygmy elephants. Check in at Sukau Rainforest Lodge, one of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World (www.sukau.com; 3-day, 2-night packages from MYR1,495 per person on a doubles package).
Danum Valley Conservation Area
In this 438-square-kilometre lowland forest, stay at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge. Thirty chalets with outdoor tubs offer prime forest views. Borneo Nature Tours has excellent guides (borneonaturetours.com; 3-day, 2-night from MYR3,158, per person on a doubles package).
Gunung Mulu National Park
No orangutans here, but many other species roam this UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its limestone pinnacles and network of caves, including the largest known cave chamber in the world (mulupark.com; entry adults MYR30; visitors between 7-18 years MYR10, children below 6 free).
Full Story: Asia for Tweens and Teens
Featured Image: Pixababy