Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Book Review: Around Boston with Kids

My husband has often commented that he thinks I enjoy planning our trips more than actually going on them. He's wrong, but he has a point. I think it's fun to dig in to a new location in advance, learn about its attractions and what makes it special. While I certainly don't plan our vacations down to the minute, I like to have a general sense of some things we might do once we get there, what attractions might be good to do in one day together, and some restaurants we might want to check out.

But when it came time to plan our trip to Boston, I was still pretty under the weather until just a few weeks before leaving. That left me with not as much planning time as I'm used to having. While the trusty internet provided some general ideas, I was searching for a more comprehensive source, and something that might be geared toward kids. Fortunately, my local library had a copy of Around Boston with Kids by Lisa Oppenheimer.* It's from Fodor's, a popular publisher of travel guidebooks.

Around Boston with Kids, 2nd edition, by Lisa Oppenheimer
The version my library had was from 2003. So I definitely still needed the web to confirm admission prices (ooh, it would have been nice if the prices from 2003 were still valid!), hours and such. (An Amazon search shows that a 3rd edition was published in 2007.)

What I loved about Around Boston with Kids:
  • There were an abundance of ideas (a total of 68) and they ranged from the typical (aquariums and children's museums) to unique (arboretums and art parks).
  • While all the attractions listed are kid-friendly, they're not all kid-exclusive. The inclusion of George's Island is a great example--it's actually more geared toward adult visitors, but kids have a blast running around the grounds of Fort Warren and playing on the small playground. I share this approach to traveling planning since becoming a mom. I don't think travel should completely revolve around the arrow. I think he can have fun at places adults find interesting, too. And he usually does.
  • For each attraction listed, the author provides at least one or two kid-friendly restaurants nearby. Sometimes when traveling with a toddler, our biggest challenge is figuring out where to eat on the fly. We visited one of her recommendations and it was spot on--not only was it a great place to take the arrow, but the adults had some wonderul food as well.
  • The attractions are listed and described in alphabetical order, making them easy to find if you know what you're looking for. But the book also contains some general groups and listings in the back that make sorting our your ideas much easier. Categories included the usual "Free Activities" and "Rainy Day Ideas," along with lists for specific interests like "Sports" and "Animals." I really liked her ideas for "Tiniest Tots" and "Tire Them Out." You can also search by neighborhood, which was helpful when we made a somewhat spur of the moment trek out to Cambridge.
  • I especially appreciated the inclusion of specific age recommendations. As the parents of a toddler, we often find that just because a place is listed as "great for families," it's not so great for our family. What a 10-year-old enjoys has very little to do with what a 2-year-old likes. And vice versa.
  • If you're renting a car during your visit to Boston, she includes lots of ideas outside the city as well.
Since my far-fetched dream is to someday write a family travel guidebook of my own, I can't help but point out what I might do differently.

What I'd Improve:
  • I wish the author had included a few sample itineraries. It would have helped me to formulate how I might combine some of the attractions in one day.
  • Along that note, a map with each attraction marked by number would have been helpful, to get a sense of what was near what. (I read a review of the 2007 version* which praised the maps found in it... so I bet they worked that issue out in the newer version.)
  • The inclusion of each attraction's nearest T stop or public transporation directions would also have been of great help and saved me a little time in additional research.
  • I'm always a bit dismayed when I see national chain restaurants recommended in a guidebook. Am I the only one who prefers to eat in local establishments when traveling? (Or frankly, even when not!) The author didn't include many chains, but there were a few listed. Just a little personal pet peeve of mine.
If you're planning a trip to Boston with kids, I'd definitely seek out Around Boston with Kids* (even if you can only get your hands on a 2003 version*). A quick search on the web suggested that Fodor's has also published similar guides for San Francisco, Washington DC and New York.* If you're a little more 21st century, Amy at Pit Stops For Kids wrote the Ultimate Boston with Kids Guide... Lots of great suggestions here.

What are you favorite go-to guidebooks when trip planning? Or am I the only old school enough to still be cracking open books and visiting the library?

This post is a part of Works-For-Me Wednesday at We Are That Family.

*Links to my Amazon Affiliate account. A small portion of any sales made through this link will come back to support this blog, but this does not in any way increase the cost of purchase for you.