Books are an essential part of the vacation planning process.
Today Great Britain and Ireland are marking World Book Day so it seems like the perfect day to talk about books and travel. In my experience, books are essential to the planning of any successful holiday. There are four different categories of books that I look for before embarking on a family vacation.
My planning often starts with general travel books and magazines in order to get ideas and choose a destination. Some of my favourites are: Frommer's 500 Places to Take Your Kids Before They Grow Up; Take Your Kids to Europe by Cynthia W. Harriman; National Geographic's The 10 Best of Everything: Families; Travel with Kids by William Gray; and my new favourite National Geographic's 100 Countries 5000 Ideas. I love to flip through these books periodically to find inspiration for our next trip.
Once we have selected a destination then I start to read guide books that are specific to the destination. Browsing the travel section of my local bookstore to find an interesting guide book is one of my favourite ways to while away an hour or so. There are a lot of incredible guide books out there to choose from. I often use both Fodors and Frommers which publish specialized guide books for families traveling with children. Their general guidebooks also include sections for family travel that can provide you with pertinent information about family-friendly accommodations and places of interest.
The third category of books that I refer to is general fiction and literature. I love to read books that are set in my destination in order to get a feel for the city or country. I particularly enjoy historical novels in order to gain some understanding of a nation's history in a memorable way. I love Edward Rutherfurd's historical novels and read London, Russka and New York before going to each of those places. Currently, my pile of books to read include: J'Adore New York, Roma, The Oracle of Stamboul and A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveller.
And finally (and sometimes, I think, most importantly), I look for children's books in order to get my children excited about where we are going. We have gotten a lot of mileage out of the Magic Tree House adventure series (by Mary Pope Osborne) – Jack and Annie have traveled to so many amazing places that it is easy to spark the interest of young readers with their adventures. There are also companion research guides that provide additional factual information. My 7 year old is currently absorbed by Vacation under the Volcano and the Hour of the Olympics (as well as the research guides about Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome and Pompeii) as we prepare for our Mediterranean trip this summer. DK Eyewitness Books also publishes children's books that are relevant in some cases – we have used Russia and Vikings in the past and are currently using Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece. Children's Atlases provide a great deal of country information and art books can also be very informative if you will be visiting an art gallery during your travels. We have also recently acquired The Everything Kids' Geography Book which is a great country guide for grade schoolers intended to inspire them to want to explore the many regions of the world.
Every great trip starts with a trip to the bookstore or library. Happy Reading!!!