Review: The Family Traveler’s Handbook

Family Traveler's HandbookOne of the aspects of being a travel writer that I enjoy the most is the community of  people who don’t just love to travel…they revel in the experience. This week I’m delighted to share a new book from one of my favorite travel writers, Mara Gorman–aka The Mother of All Trips–who is raising the bar when it comes to family travel. The Family Traveler’s Handbook: Inspiring families to see the world not only covers the basics of what you need to plan great family vacations, it goes beyond to help you make the most of the opportunity.

I met Mara several years ago at a TBEX travel blogging conference in Canada. In its early days, TBEX was a bit wild as was Vancouver during the hockey finals, but Mara stood out as one of the professionals. Her commitment to not just do, but to do well has always impressed me. I’ve long admired her family travel blog,, as well as her freelance work in USA Today, AOL Travel, and the like. Most recently, I’ve been privileged to work with her on Passports with Purpose, the nonprofit organization begun by the travel community to give back to the places we visit. When Mara explained why she accepted a position on the PwP board, I appreciated all of her reasons, but one stood out in particular, that “with the freedom to travel comes responsibilities.”

As a parent, I think that with all the benefits and rewards of family travel, there is also a responsibility to make the most of these opportunities. That’s why I love The Family Traveler’s Handbook. Not only does Mara sum up all the great travel tips and astute observations that she has shared over five years and 800 posts on her blog; she supplements this wisdom with tips and advice from the wider travel community toward a “new definition of family travel:

Many families get locked into the idea that there is one way to travel because kids are involved – they think they can’t go backpacking, check out art museums, dine in restaurants, or visit other continents because those are activities reserved for adults or because it will be too challenging.   This book redefines family travel by showing parents that with planning and flexibility they can do almost anything they did before they had children. It encourages them to use day trips and weekend getaways as practice runs and to consider outdoor adventure travel and extended travel as viable options for family travel.  

Mara Gorman sleds on snow.

While promoting all kinds of family travel, Mara emphasizes including cultural attractions and outdoor adventures–clearly, my kind of travel! Last year, she launched the groundbreaking Back to Ski promotion; she draws on this as well as her many posts on getting kids outdoors in the book. But as an example of what you can expect in The Family Traveler’s Handbook, I’ll share what she says about cultural attractions:

We take very few trips that don’t involve at least one museum. While it’s not great that many museums and cultural institutions are struggling to keep up their attendance numbers, the fact that they are struggling is a boon for families. Even small museums now realize how important it is to engage children in their exhibits, and they strive to offer interesting experiences for their youngest visitors. When you arrive at a museum or historic site, make sure to ask if they have any programs or self-guided activities for families.

Family program at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The section “Making the Most of Museums and Cultural Attractions” continues with specific tips and anecdotes under the following headings: do your research in advance; don’t feel that you have to see the whole thing; make connections and ask questions; have a scavenger hunt or play ‘I-Spy’; share opinions; take advantage of family programs; and take a tour.

You could find much of this advice by digging through for posts like this one on how to take kids to an art museum. However, isn’t it wonderful that you don’t have to? All this and more has been condensed into the best of the best family travel advice! And just in time for the holidays.

The Family Traveler’s Handbook is available for about $15 (paperback) on Amazon orBarnes and Noble. And now through November 20, you can enter to win one of five signed copies of the books from Mara’s family travel blog.

P.S. I can’t resist sharing my contribution to the book, if only as a much needed reminder in times when the going with teens gets rough.

My 17-year-old daughter Kayla is a travel-savvy young woman who recently flew to Austria on her own to attend a week-long ski camp and a month-long engineering internship. She doesn’t speak German. But she is confident in her ability to communicate and navigate whatever comes her way. I believe that a lifetime of family travel to Europe, Asia, South America, and most of the United States, with all kinds of activities, has prepared Kayla to handle whatever life has in store for her. And I was lucky enough to get to share many of those enriching experiences, while building bonds and bridges that will connect us even when she is all grown up. Sandra Foyt, founder of Albany Kid (

In Category: Travel Resources

Sandra Foyt

Sandra Foyt is a storyteller, photographer, and road trip junkie. A veteran of six cross-country road trips, she drove Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the fossil freeway, the extraterrestrial highway, and even “the loneliest road in America.” Find her on, an award-winning destination guide to weekend getaways in and from Northeast USA, on her photography portfolio site at

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