Family Travel: A Three-Point Plan

We’re not so good at doing nothing. Take the other morning, for example. There we were, the first Sunday in weeks with not a birthday party, soccer tournament, or home-improvement project in sight. It was the kind of lazy day made for sleeping in and reorganizing the sock drawer. But as soon as the coffeepot had been cleaned, we were already getting antsy.

“Put your shoes on, we’re going out.”

Kids: “Where?”

“Just trust us.”

By now they know the routine. We are not make-it-up-as-we-go kind of people—at least not when there are kids in the mix. It’s not just Sundays at home, though. It’s also on vacation, where we are convinced that the key to successful family travel—like most things involving young children—is to have some structure. Some kind of plan. A three-point plan, to be exact. With summer vacation-planning in the works, we thought we’d share.

STEP ONE: A Culture Hit
We like to start early(ish), while the energy is high, with the kind of activity that a parent might call “culturally enriching” and a kid might call “the most boring thing ever invented by anyone, ever.” The small museum works well here because (1) unlike, say, the Tate in London—and we say this with all respect—you don’t feel as though you’ve been mugged when you’re done, and (2) small museums have awesome gift shops, and kids love a gift shop. (Note: We define “culture” broadly. The Civil War battlefield at Antietam: yes. Hunting for “authentic” Messi jerseys in the Ladies’ Market in Hong Kong: possibly yes. The kids’ section at Book Passage in San Francisco: absofrigginlutely.)

STEP TWO: Something Outdoorsy
One of our friends grew up in a crazily athletic family that vacationed in Maine and would have races every morning—the entire family swimming out to some distant rock and back. We’re not that intense, but we do believe in the value of fresh air, whether it’s a 20-minute walk from our hotel to the farmers’ market or a sweaty hike through the slot canyons at Tent Rocks in New Mexico. It lifts the general mood, we find, giving us a little of the exhilaration that comes from being outside and seeing something beautiful and being reminded that the world is a lot larger than we thought.

STEP THREE: The Reward
Whether it’s lunch at a divey Mission taco stand or an absurdly priced macaron at Dalloyau in Paris, we always aim to impart to our kids a cardinal rule of travel: The best way to feel you’re part of a place is to find something delicious, and to eat it. —Jenny & Andy

This is our “Providers” column for the May travel issue of Bon Appetit. Pick up the issue for travel and food inspiration from Chicago to Paris and everywhere in between. Or head over to their site for the entire Providers archive.

Speaking of travel: Check out Joanna’s awesome family vacation round-up over on Cup of Jo.

Photo above: Block Island, ca 2009

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Jan @ Family Bites

Yes and yes! We’re road trip fanatics and I agree with all three of your points. Especially the food. As we’ve travelled across Canada and parts of the U.S. we’re always amazed at how different the food can be from place to place, and it’s an amazing way for the kids to remember each destination.


Ok, our girls are much tinier than yours (just turned 3 and just shy of 1 at the moment) and we’re short on funds so most of our “vacations” are about visiting family but we’d like to graduate to “real” vacations again someday.

At what age did you find you were able to implement this type of planning with your girls?


Marcy — I should have definitely qualified this by age! Sorry! I would say we could start doing this when our youngest was five. Until that point, we stuck to vacations that centered around the pool and the pool…and the pool.


not a problem. it’s nice to know from other experienced parents when we might possibly expect to, um, rejoin the real world, if you will.


love this column. whenever I travel, I frequent grocery stores. both my kids have joined in this fun and I see it as both a cultural experience and a reward! From France, to Germany, Norway and Arizona, we have found some wild things to giggle about, purchase and/or Instagram. As a Canadian, probably the craziest items have been in U.S. grocery stores (such creativity and excess at once!). The kids always want to try chocolate and gum but also, cheese, crackers, yogurt and wine (that might just be the mom..) and anything we have heard is “authentic”. It’s fun to see how the world lives and shops differently from our own family. It’s usually an inexpensive outing (except in Norway where everything is seriously overpriced).


looking at that picture makes me miss Block Island so much. (I grew up going there as a kid and now I live in SF so it’s not the kind of trip that’s easy.) Thanks for the memories.


Hi! My husband, my 5 month old daughter (she will be 8 months old in August), and I are going to Block Island per your recommendation from Cup of Jo later this summer! Very excited, I have never been to Block Island (or even heard of it before). Thank you for recommendating it! We are really looking forward to it 🙂


I love you guys and have been an avid reader of this blog for some time, but lately it feels like you guys have mission drift and the content is starting to more closely resemble a personal blog/something like Cup of Jo.

I can’t even remember the last time you posted an actual recipe 🙁

Is this just a phase or is this the new world order around here?

A Life From Scratch

This sounds divine! We are still in the whole pack up our entire house, rent a crib, etc stage over here but I can’t wait for it to be easier! Our current fav spots are where we have homes to visit 1. West Palm area in FL and 2. Big Sky, Montana…..have you been Jenny? I feel like you love it. The FOOD, the cowboys, the air, the mountains…’s my favorite place in the whole world.

P.S. Made two recipes from Buvette and LOVED both of them, thank you!


@carrie: Oh my goodness, very exciting! Where are you staying? Are you renting? Please report back and let me know how it goes. And please make sure you have a Dark & Stormy at the Oar for me. Jealous!

@srr: thank you for your comment! I always love hearing from readers. I guess I have a question for you, which is: How have you been reading this blog if not as a personal blog? (The very phrase “personal blog” seems almost redundant to me.) From the beginning, that’s been the mission here at DALS. It has always been about family dinner, but it has also been about “family” and “dinner” separately. (See kid book recommendations, family rituals, lunches with my dad, vacation rules, travel ideas, etc). I love food, and writing about food, but our mission, all along, has been to write about what moves us. As for not posting recipes, there are about 15 posts live on the home page right now and 10 of them include recipes — so please please please clarify what you mean by “actual recipes!” I’m worried! While we like writing about a wide range of things, we also never want to lose sight of the recipe portion of the program. (And also, FYI: There are also more than 600 recipes to choose from in the archives, should you not find exactly what you are looking for in the day’s post

Thanks for the feedback which is always appreciated. And if I’m misunderstanding your question, please let me know.


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