This elegant book compiled by author Susan H. Magsamen for National Geographic pays homage to the whole institution of family travel and is laid out like a buffet of vacation ideas that can easily keep you planning sample itineraries for months.
Succinct and to the point, the first section of the book (Part One) breaks down the entire US into manageable chunks of travel spots.
From the Best 10 local farmers’ markets to buy fresh strawberries to favorite pastimes like amusement parks, focused within each region of the country.
It also includes top 10 ice-cream spots and other regional specialties to try such as Po Boys and Key Lime Pies when visiting the Gulf Coast, along with mouth-watering, instant hunger-inducing photographs.
I quickly flipped to the section on Mid-Atlantic travel to see if they’d missed anything and was pleasantly surprised to see local favorites like Rita’s Ice in there.
Chapters are broken down into interests such as sports, parks, and outdoors including best of lists like the Ten Best Beaches and Shorelines, Ten Best Bike Trails.
There are tons of vacation ideas for planning family reunions, extreme adventures, or even workout vacations.
Part Two focuses on personal enrichment through travel with emphasis on “traveling to learn” with chapters such as the Ten Best Peaks, Ten Best Depths, Ten Best Deserts, etc. Was definitely happy to see the dramatic Na Pali Coast on the island of Kauai, Hawaii under the Ten Best Coastal Cliffs.
The Chesapeake Bay also gets its very own chapter.
In addition to travel information, there are resource chapters from preserving memories using photography and video to scrapbooking, writing journals, and making photo albums. There are packing lists, planning and wishlist worksheets, and every (well, almost) imaginable family travel tip you can think of.
What I Liked
Besides the fact that the book is square (my favorite shape), like with all National Geographic publications, it’s aesthetically pleasing in its layout with lots of photographs and a clean presentation.
It can be tricky when trying to sum up the rest of the world under a Ten Best list, but Magsamen and team approached it sensitively, breaking the interests down by culture and not necessarily pitting one culture against another.
For example, Ten Best African Gatherings, Ten Best Hispanic Experiences, and Ten Best Native American Ways focuses on where to experience these within the United States.
There is also a short “See the World” section which focuses on what to see on each continent, and I’ve definitely added a few to my running list from the book.
Lots of countries were left off the list and I had to constantly remind myself that the book is geared towards family vacations especially with young children so classics like trekking the Inca trail were rightfully left out.
Under Africa, Kruger National Park wasn’t included which made me wonder if there are age-limits.
Intermittently sprinkled throughout are also random travel quotes and vacation stories from everyday folks which definitely answered my initial questions about how the book was compiled.
As if already anticipating this question from their reader, the entire compilation and research process is laid out in detail at the end.
Because it tries to be an all-in-one resource, it does jump around in terms of information delivery.
Finding a random recipe for making s’mores under the “Ten Best Ranches” threw me a little, and then I found more randomly inserted pieces of information (though important) like “Safety Rules for Biking” squeezed in under the Ten Best Bike Trails.
So I would have to specifically bookmark that page if I needed to find that random tip later on.
Short biographies of local personalities are also randomly inserted in various sections, so initially, I wasn’t sure if they actually contributed to the book, were being spotlighted as regional celebrities, or both.
With this book, you’ll definitely be flipping back to the table of contents every time you open it up for reference because it’s literally chock full of pretty solid information.
But then again, with an all encompassing title – “Best of Everything” – I guess that was the point all along.
If you’re planning on some family travel this summer, rest assured, this is all you’ll need (besides plane and hotel reservations) to plan your most memorable family adventure to date.
Giveaway – The Book
Have a favorite family vacation tip or favorite travel location for your family? Share it with us below by Friday, May 22, 11:59 PM PST and a winner will be randomly picked to get the review copy of this book.