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.

Part of something very special

FTA logoYou don’t have to read many of my posts to understand that a) I think pretty deeply about family travel and b) I’ve got ideas for how to change public perception about traveling families overall. You also don’t have to dig too deep to discern that even though I’m a man of words, I also am a man of action.

This is precisely why I’m proud to announce that I’ve joined the Board of Advisors for a brand new organization, the Family Travel Association (FTA).

The mission of the organization is simple: To inspire families to travel and to advocate travel as an essential part of every child’s education. In short, the FTA emphasizes the role of travel in the development of our children, and prioritizes travel as an important activity for family bonding and development.

These all are concepts I embrace wholeheartedly.

In the beginning, my role will be to help guide the organization in terms of policies and procedures. I’ll probably do some writing for the group, too, and hope to put together some original pieces for distribution through traditional channels. Over time, this role likely will grow (though I’m not sure how).

I’m honored to be on an all-star team of advisors; a team that includes Keith Bellows, senior vice president and editor-in-chief of National Geographic Traveler magazine; Laura Davidson, president and founder of Laura Davidson Public Relations; Lynn O’Rourke Hayes, editor of FamilyTravel.com; Kyle McCarthy, editor of Family Travel Forum; and Amie O’Shaughnessy, editor of Ciao Bambino (to name a few).

Of course I’m also delighted to work with the organization’s founder, my friend (and a former publisher at National Geographic), Rainer Jenss.

Stay tuned for more updates about my work with the FTA and some of the projects we’ll launch in the first part of 2015. In the meantime, check out this video that Rainer made to help newcomers understand what we’re all about.

Wandering Pod Surfaces on Another Major Site

A peek at the Smart Family Travel site.

A peek at the Smart Family Travel site.

Another month, another new content partnership for Wandering Pod.

This time, the partnership is with Smart Family Travel, a new family travel site published in conjunction with Scholastic’s Parent & Child magazine. The site debuted in June but didn’t really go live until this past week.

My inaugural piece serves up five stress-free tips for traveling with a toddler. To report the story, I pulled insights from this blog, my now-stagnant “Are We There Yet??” blog from Parenting magazine, and (of course) our own experiences on recent long-haul trips to Hawaii and other locales.

I’m excited to be working with other contributors to the site, many of whom are bloggers I’ve admired for years (especially Rainer Jenss and Mara Gorman).

I’m also delighted to have the opportunity to write more original content for the site on a recurring basis over the next few months. You can stay tuned for updates or follow @WanderingPod on Twitter for all of the latest news.

Learning about Learning on the Road

Who needs classrooms when you have this?

Who needs school when you have this?

Nothing embodies my perspective on education quite like the line from Springsteen’s “No Surrender” (off Born in the U.S.A., of course): “We learned more from a three-minute record, baby, then we ever learned in school.”

I certainly held this philosophy in journalism school; even then, I knew my parents were paying to hook me up with an alumni network, and that the real education would come on internships along the way.

Now, as a parent, my wife and I embrace the same sentiment with regard to family travel.

Yes, we regret pulling our kids out of their respective schools (click here for some tips). Yes, we recognize that, in terms of our nation’s standards-based curriculum, these absences create additional challenges (both for our girls and for the teachers). We even acknowledge that there are some social ramifications of our girls being “those girls” who jet off to Yosemite or New York or the Cotswolds.

Despite all of these issues, we still think exploring through travel is the best way to teach our kids about their world.

I’ve been pondering this subject a lot lately.

My wife and I are moving the girls to London for four months this fall, and, this week, we signed a lease on a fabulous two-story flat (it’s in Maida Vale, for those of you scoring at home).

Then, earlier this week, my buddy, Rainer Jenss, wrote this thought-provoking story for AFAR magazine about his experiences on a one-year round-the-world journey with his wife and sons (who were 8 and 11, respectively, at the time).

In the story, Rainer explains his rationale for pulling his kids out of school for the trip like this: “One of the primary reasons we chose to take a yearlong sabbatical with our kids was to enhance their education; to help them learn things no [school] could ever teach them.” Then, he offers this:

    “We all want our children to excel academically. One surefire way to improve their chances for success is to get them more engaged and interested in what they’re being taught. Science: Check out the glaciers at Yellowstone, hike a volcano in Hawaii, or snorkel in the Caribbean or the Great Barrier Reef. History: Visit Colonial Williamsburg, vacation in Rome, or tour Egypt. Social Studies: How about China, India, or, of course, Washington, D.C.”

To be clear: Turning family vacations into learning experiences takes hard work.

You can’t just sloth by the pool all day; you need to be engaged with your kids for pretty much all of their waking hours. You also often need to be engaged well after they’ve gone to bed. The day before I introduced L to Muir Woods National Monument near our home, I was up until 2 a.m. studying stuff to tell her about redwoods. I’m sure I wasn’t the first dad to play that game.

All of this effort usually pays huge dividends. My older daughter still talks about the Sequoia sempervirens she saw that day at Muir Woods. Rainer writes about how one of his sons fell in love with photography after being exposed to it on their year-long trip.

Heck, I think even The Boss would agree (that first record led to a few others).

So get out there. And embrace that learning can happen in any place, at any time, about any subject. Recognizing these truths arguably is the most important education your kids ever will get. It’s also not a lesson they’ll ever learn in the traditional classroom environment.

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