Wandering Pod hits the LA Travel Adventure Show

What to look forward to at the show.

What to look forward to at the show.

I’m taking the family travel show on the road this coming weekend, representing the Family Travel Association on a panel at the Los Angeles Travel & Adventure Show.

My fellow panelists: Jen Miner from The Vacation Gals, Colleen Kelly from Family Travel with Colleen Kelly, and Margalit Sturm Francus, from Autistic Globetrotting (you can read more about our panel here).

The subject of our discussion is a subject near and dear to my heart—yes, we’ll talk about family travel, but we’ll serve up “real talk” that doesn’t sugar-coat the challenges of exploring the world with kids. If you’ve spent any time reading this blog, you know I’m a big believer in keeping it real. I’m excited to hear what my fellow panelists have to say on the subject, especially given their different areas of expertise.

(For those of you going to the show, again, our panel is Sunday at 2 p.m. PST in the Savvy Traveler Theater.)

In advance of our panel, Jen is participating in a Twitter party during which she’s giving away four pretty cool prizes. The party starts at 6 p.m. PST Wednesday. To get involved with the Twitter party—and to qualify for the giveaways—use the hashtag #LATravelShow and follow @TravAdventure on Twitter. I’ll be participating as well, so be sure to direct at least a few of your Tweets my way!

Furthermore, on Sunday, Tweet your questions to me at @mattvillano (again with the hashtag, #LATravelShow) and I’ll answer them live on stage.

See you there (virtually)!

Update on Families Flying Together

Earlier this month I shared some news about Family Travel Association (FTA) involvement in advocating for legislation to require airlines to keep families together on commercial planes. Well, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has marked up the FAA Reauthorization Bill. And we have both good news and bad news to share.

The good news: Legislators managed to include in the bill an amendment requiring that families with children are notified, before tickets are booked, when they are assigned seats that are not together on a selected flight. The bad news: Legislators were NOT able to include an amendment directing each air carrier to establish a policy to ensure, to the extent practicable, that a family that purchases tickets for a flight with that air carrier is seated together during that flight.

The next step at this point is for the full House to consider the bill, which will allow for additional amendments. According to Ethan Gelber, the FTA’s editorial director (and also my friend), the failure of the Committee to approve the language means it is unlikely to move on the floor of the House should it be proposed there again.

As Gelber wrote in a blog post on the FTA site, “Another attempt could be made to get the language included in the Senate FAA bill, but there’s apparently little certainty about when they will move such legislation.”

Stay tuned.

Farewell to a friend and family travel advocate

So long, old friend.

So long, old friend.

Keith Bellows was a luminary. In 17 years as Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic Traveler, he pushed his writers to write better, dream big, and allow themselves to be moved by travel. He also took a stand as a staunch advocate of family travel, writing books and essays about the importance of introducing kids to the world.

I never had the privilege of working with Bellows as an editor, never worked up the courage to pitch him a story. But I always dreamed of the day when I would.

Then a funny thing happened. We both joined the board of the Family Travel Association (FTA). Suddenly, we were equals with the same mission: To change lives through travel. We sat in on the same calls, opined on the same issues, even chimed in on each other’s Facebook pages about desultory stuff.

We were starting to become friends. Then Bellows died Saturday after a battle with liver disease.

To say I was shocked by this development would be understatement. I didn’t know he was sick, didn’t really know he was suffering. I also didn’t *really* know the guy at all. Reading the kind eulogies our mutual friends wrote on Facebook was almost voyeuristic—our colleagues poured their hearts out, and with each piece, I got a slightly more complete perspective of the man Bellows was.

Encouraging. Spontaneous. Free-spirited. Worldly. These are just some of the adjectives I took away from the essays. The list could go on for screens.

Fellow writers shared stories of Bellows enabling them to report travel features from just about anywhere, anecdotes about Bellows helping kickstart their careers because he valued hard work and determination.

Some of our mutual colleagues also shared stories of Bellows on the road with his kids—here, there, just about everywhere in the world.

One friend reminded me of this piece Bellows wrote for the FTA’s own Website.

Indeed, above all else, Bellows was a true family traveler. He cherished the relationship he had with his kids, and was committed to taking them places to put them in the position of experiencing the unfamiliar. He was undaunted in this perspective—perhaps his own upbringing in foreign countries cemented in him a love for the magic and wonder of traveling the world. In this belief, this unflagging support of exploring as a family, Keith Bellows inspired me to be a better writer, better father, and a better family traveler myself. I’m just sorry he won’t be around to read these thanks.

Family Travel Association broadens its reach

Together now. Later: Grown-up time.

Together now. Later: Grown-up time.

A few months back I announced my involvement as a board member for the Family Travel Association (FTA), a group dedicated to advocating for family travel around the world. At that point, the organization opened its doors to businesses—hotels, airlines, outfitters, etc. Tomorrow, the FTA reaches another milestone: It opens its doors to consumers—people like you and me.

This is noteworthy for two reasons. First, it means that anybody can come to the FTA’s website and get information about how and where to travel with a family. Second, it means the site is jumping head-first into the consumer-oriented content business, curating original and repurposed stuff every day.

To commemorate this occasion, the organization debuted a new (and expanded) website with an article by yours truly.

The piece takes a look at the importance of preserving grown-up time when you’re traveling with kids. Technically, it’s a totally new post. If you’re familiar with this blog, however, you’ll recognize the premise from a post I wrote in these pages (about sex!) back in 2013.

Regardless of where the idea for the post originated, the key message of the story is the same: Family trips with kids shouldn’t be exclusively about the kids.

Mine isn’t the only story on the site—the FTA also has published original content from fellow board member Keith Bellows and Kyle McCarthy, editor of Family Travel Forum. The volume of content on the site only will grow in the coming weeks. If you’re interested in a host of fresh and expert perspectives on family travel—as well as some great information and (eventually) deals—check out the site today.

Great tips for improving family vacations

Tip: Have kids do research before a big trip.

Tip: Have kids do research before a big trip.

I enjoy many benefits of being on the Board of Directors of the nascent Family Travel Association (FTA). One of my favorite perks: Getting to know people such as fellow Board member Keith Bellows.

Keith, emeritus Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic Traveler, has been an advocate of family travel for years. Covering it was a priority of his when he headed up editorial coverage at Traveler. He also wrote books and longer articles on the subject himself.

His most recent piece, which appeared today on the FTA blog, might be my favorite of his family travel pieces ever. In it, he lists 10 very simple tips for improving our family vacations. Some of the tips are straightforward—most of us traveling with children likely would share experiences with them and regale them with stories and myths about our destinations before we go. Other tips are new and life-changing; Keith’s expertise changed my entire perspective on how I’ll approach our next family trip.

My favorite tips of his promote individuality in kids. No. 1 on my list: His tip to give each kid $10 to spend on whatever he or she wants every day, so long as the purchase is a tangible good that is difficult to find at home.

Other highlights IMHO include giving kids destination-specific challenges to solve on the trip, and encouraging them to make and/or tell their own stories about the experience.

I won’t steal all of Keith’s thunder; for a more complete POV on his tips, read the whole piece here.

Once you’ve read it, feel free to add some tips of your own in the comment field below. I’ll make sure Keith sees them before our next board meeting. Who knows? Maybe you can change his life the way he has changed mine.

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