Travel Guide Review: 100 Places That Can Change Your Child’s Life

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100 Places That Can Change Your Child’s LifeTravel is one experience that holds the power to change a child’s perspective on life. And the sooner your child starts to travel, the better.

My background has made this perspective particularly important. Growing up in a communist Eastern Bloc country where visits to “westernized” countries were limited or impossible, my parents did what they could to provide their children with a glimpse of the outside world. When the borders opened, I traveled as much as I could as a young adult.

What does travel provide that can be so important to a young child’s life? Just like any early experience, it helps to shape his vision of life and the world, expanding his experiences well beyond home turf. A child learns about

  • new languages
  • new cultures with their own food, music, customs
  • new lifestyles including sports, art, games, daily activities

Travel–especially international travel–can represent a significant expense to young families, so the options may be limited for many. But even leaving your hometown for a day or two can feed your child’s imagination and curiosity and expand his communication and social skills. A new travel guide, 100 Places That Can Change Your Child’s Life: From Your Backyard to the Ends of the Earth (National Geographic, $18.95), aims to open up new worlds for kids. In the words of author Keith Bellows, “The world is the greatest classroom we have.” Bellows, editor of National Geographic Traveler magazine and father of three, offers a well-curated overview of 100 places not to be missed on all six continents and suggests why visiting them can influence your child’s vision of life and the world.

Each listed destination offers an introduction to the history, key spots and important landmarks, places to stay and eat and local tourism offices (which can be of a great help, especially in remote or less-developed countries), plus literature and other resources to check out before your trip. The only thing the guide lacks is more visual references (there are only a few illustrations) which would be quite helpful, especially when selecting places to travel with children.

From the 100 places mentioned in the book, we’ve picked 10 to inspire parents for their next family trip. Of the many great places to visit, some are more accessible than others. Antarctica, for example, is a continent of natural wonders that would take anybody’s breath away. However, a trip to this southernmost part of our planet is an expensive venture.

1. Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada: 

travel with kids

Photo courtesy of miss604 via flickr

Located in the valley of the Red Deer River with its remarkable badlands, this park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its rich dinosaur fossils. About forty dinosaur species have been discovered there (and what child isn’t fascinated by dinosaurs?). Walking the land they once walked is a good bet to fire up a child’s imagination.

 

 

2. Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, United Sates: This national memorial featuring 60-foot faces of four American presidents–George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln–will make a lasting impression on a child of any nationality and spur his interest in history.

3. Guatemala:

travel with kids

Photo courtesy of Forum of World Cultures

This Central American country is one of the last places in the Americas where remnants of a native Mayan population–albeit with cell phones and iPads–still conform to the way of life that guided their ancestors thousands of years ago. A chance to spend some time in remote mountain villages with the natives provides a rare opportunity to reflect on our modern lives; for children it may be a profound experience. Note that Guatemala is by no means an easy place to travel, let alone with children. If you decide to undertake such a journey, it is safer to hire a local guide.

4. Machu Picchu, Peru: Children won’t get to see the native Incas here, but their lost city located high in the Peruvian Andes (about 8,000 feet above sea level) will take anybody’s breath away. The hike itself is a challenging–but totally unique–experience; that and the many mysteries surrounding this ancient civilization will spark a child’s imagination as well as pique her interest in unfamiliar history and culture.

5. Helsinki, Finland: 

Magic places to visit with kidsMany kids around the world dream of visiting Disneyland, but few have heard of  Seurasaari, a fairy-tale island based in reality not far from the center of Helsinki. This wonderland of culture, history, and enchantment set in a rich natural environment turns back time for kids of all ages. If you visit in June during the midsummer festival, you’ll get to experience a real slice of Finnish culture including massive bonfires and traditional food.

6. Stonehenge, England: This prehistoric monument consisting of 150 enormous stone blocks holds seemingly endless mysteries regarding its origin, purpose and construction. Its simplicity can be overwhelming, making it a great place to reflect and enjoy the setting at different times of the day while discussing its possible historical background with your kids.

7. Kerala, India: 

kids and animals

Photo courtesy of 19r Yoga Pilates

If you want to really experience India with your kids–the dizzying variety of colors, food, cultures and nature–but be safe at the same time, Kerala is the place that puts all the best parts together in a unique way. The best way for families to experience it all is to observe life here from a boat or a houseboat.

 

 

 

 

8. Hong Kong, China:

100 Places That Can Change Your Child’s Life-Hong KongVisiting this hyperactive city for the first time can be almost too much stimulation for some adults, yet the same energy overload can be fascinating for children. And the fact that in 30 minutes you can leave the skyscrapers and be on the beach or hiking in the surrounding mountains is a rare combination. Though overpopulated and buzzing with the business of business and daily life, it also offers an amazing balance of nature and tranquility, with all public places like temples, museums, bird, animal and plant pavilions offering free access.

9. Serengetti, Tanzania:

100 Places That Can Change Your Child’s Life Serengetti

Photo courtesy of AppiaFilm

Tanzania is one of the last unspoiled ecosystems on Earth with a huge diversity of wildlife. To see herds of wild animals and their predators on a vast open plain from dawn to sunset is a spectacle like no other. Serengetti also hosts a large lion population and is one of the best places left to observe them in their natural habitat. For children it’s like a huge zoo, but without bars.

 

 

10. Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia:

100 Places That Can Change Your Child’s Life Great Barrier Reef

Photo courtesy of AppiaFilm

This large marine park is among the most biologically diverse places on our planet. It is home to about 400 different types of coral, 1,500 species of tropical fish, 20 types of reptiles, and 5,000 species of mollusks. Children can swim or snorkel right next to dolphins, rays and other colorful marine life all in one place.

 

 

 

Before taking any trip, always check travel advisories and security updates to avoid unnecessary problems.

Check out our checklist for stress-free traveling with babies and toddlers on board.

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Author:Katka Konecna-Rivera

Katka Konecna-Rivera, co-founder and host of Living Green with Baby, is an architect focused on sustainable design as well as a filmmaker, writer and personal wellness coach.

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