x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

The write advice

Travelling with children still attracts attention. Perhaps that's why there's been a spate of books out advising exactly how to go about it.

The first travel piece I wrote was on a journey I made to Nigeria on my own, without a man and before I had any children. It appeared in a collection called Women Travel, published by Rough Guides. This was almost three decades ago, and it seemed revolutionary. Men might trample to the lesser-known areas of the world, but women who travelled were, even then, thought a bit odd - so odd that there was a whole book dedicated to the unusual adventures we'd had. Just 25 years later, that idea seems ridiculous. Women wander everywhere.

But travelling with children still attracts attention. Perhaps that's why there's been a spate of books out advising exactly how to go about it. Veteran family travel writer William Gray, like me a parent of twins, has published Travel with Kids: The Definitive Guide to Family Holidays Worldwide, which jollies us around the safe world suggesting family-friendly spots such as "Northern Italy's water wonderlands" or "Magic Melbourne and penguins on parade" like a big fat brochure (www.footprintbooks.com). In Travel with Babies and Young Children, Rough Guides takes a very practical approach, instructing us on rejecting offers of food ("eating what's offered could interfere with mealtimes") and coping with queues ("ask those in front and behind to save your place, explaining you have children to look after"). Lonely Planet has updated Travel with Children, Your Complete Resource to include sections on travelling with teenagers, long-term travel and living abroad sections for the first time. Of course, none of these are destination-specific. If you want to know about London or France or many other destinations for kids, you have to turn to Rhonda Carrier's fabulous guides in the Frommers With your Family series, which accompany you up each street to find the best family-friendly cafe and direct you towards the nearest playground.

But the real problem with all these general family travel manuals is that, just like women travel books did decades ago, they presume we have a problem. Their starting point is that having a two-year old or a 10-year-old and wanting to wander is a challenge to be conquered, not a joy to be had. William Gray's first chapter is headed, "Have baby, won't travel". Rough Guides opens with: "The idea of getting away from it all with your kids in tow can seem anything but relaxing." Well, no. It seems like a great idea to me and thousands of other families who go on holiday at least once a year.

So I wonder if, within a quarter of a century, the idea that you don't travel when you have children will seem so old-fashioned that every parent will shrug their shoulders and say: "Stay at home with kids? How absurd!" And family travel guides - like the book Women Travel - will all be out of print. Do you have family travel tips that you'd like to share? E-mail Dea at dbirkett@thenational.ae