Tag Archive for: Keith Bellows

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.

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.

The Book That Will Change the Way You Travel With Kids


Inspiration, Bellows-style.

As someone who writes about family travel for a living, I understand and appreciate how difficult it is to cover the subject in a way that appeals to an audience comprising diverse perspectives.

That’s why I love Keith Bellows’ new book so much.

The book, titled, “100 Places That Can Change Your Child’s Life: From Your Backyard to the Ends of the Earth” (National Geographic, 2013) takes a look at destinations that offer something for everyone. Most of the destinations (Cape Cod, Berlin, etc.) aren’t new; the format in which the book presents certain information, however, definitely is.

Destinations are organized into geographic regions, and each write-up works like a separate magazine feature. The main attraction: a service-oriented mainbar about the most family-friendly stuff to do.

In addition, peppered throughout each chapter are call-out boxes and sidebars with specific information for which any of us would kill while on the road with our kids.

Some of this marginalia includes:

  • “Buy Worthy,” a box that lists authentic products that express a sense of place.
  • “Fast Facts,” which incorporates nutty trivia that will surprise your kids.
  • “Know Before You Go,” a compendium of books, music, movies and other media to give you the sense of a place before you buy the ticket.
  • “Nest,” which comprises family-friendly hotel recommendations.
  • “Yum!” which chronicles where kids will find food (and atmosphere) they’ll actually like.

Additional sidebars include information about insider tips, neat cultural objects, organizations working in the field that can provide visitors with more in-depth information and data about how you and your kids can help change people’s lives when you travel.

These sidebars are great because they’re digestible, easy-to-find and packed with worthwhile information.

They also work because they contain material that most other family travel offerings do not.

No, the book isn’t perfect. Without question, the work would benefit from more images—the only non-text specimens are icons and drawings or sketches. Also, cost is one data point that is obviously absent from the discussion, leaving one to assume that most of the trips mentioned therein cost a pretty penny. (Believe it or not, many families can’t actually afford a trip to see the Pyramids of Giza.)

Still, if for no other reason than to generate family travel ideas, this book is worth a read. Check it out.