I had the good fortune of taking a rambling round-the-world trip with my family when I was eleven years old. My parents set my brother and I the task of each researching a country so that we could play ‘guide’. It’s why I know so much about Liechtenstein.
Half the thrill of a holiday is in the planning – the anticipation, researching your destination and choosing activities is fun. Plus with your family in tow, a little planning goes a long way to making a successful holiday. Now kids can tell their parents ‘where to go’ with kidsGO!, a new series of travel guides aimed at tween travellers.
There are six books in the series so far, covering New York, London, Hong Kong, Bali, Sydney and Phuket. Each guide is segmented by activity type – everything from “Get Wild & Wet” in Bali to “Museum Mania” in London. As well as sections relevant to specific locations, the guides each include chapters on top sights and ‘must-do’s’, culture, food, shopping, reference maps and a range of both indoor and outdoor activities.
The kidsGo! guides are concise – each book is between fifty and sixty pages which is just the right amount of information for planning a week’s worth of family activities. The information is a clever blend of practical and educational. For example, the ‘Culture Vulture’ chapter in the Bali guide describes the differences between the traditional dances of Bali and lists the notable temples (including a reminder that a sarong must be worn to cover your shoulders and legs).
To be perfectly frank, I like that these books tell kids what to do – in more ways than one. Ever try to tell a nine-year-old to be adventurous at a restaurant and try something new? As a parent, you don’t win points for these kinds of suggestions but it’s quite okay when kids read things like “…don’t just eat burgers – try some Balinese food too. Some good examples are sate lilit (minced seafood or meat mixed with herbs and spices, wrapped around a skewer and grilled)…” – before you know it, they’ll be ordering babi kecap for themselves. Likewise, each book contains a section on local ‘Dos and Don’ts’.
Special mention must be made of the groovy illustrations by Tania Willis. Some would think it a little risky to publish a travel guide without a single photograph but for this audience, it’s a master stroke (plus there’s nothing more disappointing than arriving at a destination that looks nothing like the picture-perfect-postcard-photo in your guide book). Willis has a distinct style – the drawings of simple, bright, stylised characters, landmarks and activities are much of the appeal of these books.
The kidsGo! series doesn’t stop with the books. A supporting website includes useful travel information about each destination (like what clothes to pack), accommodation suggestions for families and a section for young travellers to contribute their own ideas and photos of the places they have visited.
The kidsGo! series is available from Amazon and each book is just US$8 (a sound investment for the mileage you’ll get!).