Ireland on My Mind.

My screensaver for the month is the Cliffs of Moher; I watched River Dance last night; I am listening to Celtic Thunder at the moment and on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day I am planning to bake Irish soda bread. I have Ireland on my mind.

Cliffs of Moher along Ireland’s western coast

Cliffs of Moher along Ireland’s western coast embrace the power of the sea connecting the island to its destiny.

I think of Ireland and smile. It is known for its friendly people and engaging music plus I know it to be artful, festive, magical, mysterious, quirky, beautiful,  energizing, and welcoming which makes the destination perfect for families on holiday.

For families of all age combinations the choices for having fun and making memories are many. Want to enjoy miles of awesome bike trails, hike into the morning mist, or walk along ancient island pathways?  Want to listen to energizing music, hear local stories, and laugh every day? Maybe the taste creamy cheeses, soda bread, and scrumptious ginger bread sounds appealing? How about sailing lessons or a falconry session at a castle? Ireland with kids is a natural high. The fresh air and ready-made adventures make achieving a healthy vacation balance easy.

Historic Kinsale Harbor

Historic Kinsale Harbor is a stopping point on Thomson Family Adventures Ireland adventure.

For families the vacation options are plentiful from fly/drive circuits to escorted island adventures customized for small groups. Thomson Family Adventures has a quintessentially Irish family vacation experience. The escorted multi-sport tour includes Dublin and focuses on the dramatically beautiful southwestern coast and includes sailing lessons in the harbor of historic Kinsale, biking through the Gap of Dunloe, and kayaking around the shores of Baltimore. Adventures by Disney has a family tour which begins in Dublin, includes a castle stay and concludes at Shannon. For more independent families I very much like the Ancient & Medieval Mysteries vacation offered by Authentic Ireland.

Clonmacnoise Heritage Site

Nun’s Chapel ruins along the River Shannon at Clonmacnoise Heritage Site date from the 10th century depict evidence of Ireland’s rich history.

Of course I have dozens of notes and suggestions posted on our Ireland page. The punch line Ireland is a terrific place to vacation with kids of all ages.

Níos déanaí.

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files.

Remember That Story? Storybook Family Vacations Are the Best.

Stumped for a summer family vacation idea? If sharing a good read with your child or grandchild is part of your family’s personality then it makes logical sense that a storybook vacation will be a hit. Find a story and create a trip around the corner or around the globe. The possibilities for a memorable family vacation are endless.

Paddington Bear Bench London

The story of the orphaned Paddington Bear begins, “Please Look After This Bear. Thank You”.

Some of the most popular and timeless children’s books have real time vacation possibilities and the potential for incredible vacation memories. From living history on the prairie to big city adventures sharing a storybook holiday with a child cannot be beat.

A storybook vacation is a little bit like connecting the dots with the extra effort increasing the “WOW” factor of your holiday. Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox in Minnesota and Little House on the Prairie in South Dakota to Brer Rabbit in Louisiana and Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn in Missouri. There’s Davy Crockett at the Alamo and Pecos Bill in Texas.

A little farther afield there’s Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables on Prince Edward Island.  If you are considering a trip to London then there are many ways to connect with J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter stories throughout the city from interactive walking tours to Leaky Caldron snacks. I am still a push over for the other Potter – Beatrix Potter and who doesn’t love Winnie the Pooh, Paddington Bear (you will find him at the station).

In Paris one of my favorite stories to follow is Linnea in Monet’s Garden add to that the clever Madeleine books, magical carousels, buskers and an unforgettable time at Parc Astérix. There are storybook castles throughout Europe each with more than one story to tell. And for classic connection think about Hans Christian Anderson in awesome Denmark. There’s Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates and the story of the little Dutch boy who saved Holland.

There is always a story to be shared.

Nancy Nelson-Duac Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files

A Family Vacation in Europe – There Is No Substitute for Being There.

If your dream is a family vacation in Europe, jump on it. The latest forecasts for the euro to dollar exchange rate (EUR-USD) confirm that the favorable exchange rate may only be half done. My economist friend and coffee buddy explained that for the first quarter of 2015 U.S. dollar performance has already achieved what might normally achieve for in an entire year. Good news for travelers with kids. My thought immediately, what are we waiting for? Where should we go in Europe?

Sienna Central Market Square Family Vacation Meeting Place

Sienna: There is no substitute for being there on a summer day.

After some research and counseling from friends in the travel industry, I see that I am not alone. In fact according to Dave Pearsall of Short Stay Apartment Rentals, their inventory for the most popular cities, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris, and Rome is already tight for the sought after summer months. I spent a few minutes browsing one of my favorite economical resources, HostelWorld and found promising availability for private (family) rooms Spain, Italy, Czech Republic, and Finland. Planning a family getaway takes buy in but my vote is Cesky Krumlov although Crete still beckons.

Thomson Family Travel still has limited availability on their awesome Celtic Isles adventure and they have added additional teen savvy departures for their Southern Italy tour.

Berlin is a most remarkable city to visit during the summer months. The cafes are family-friendly, street festivities abound, and Legoland Discovery Centre is a bit of heaven for kids. For a less urban yet authentic experience there’s southwest Germany home to Mercedes-Benz Museum and the impressive Porsche-Museum in Stuttgart, Hohenzollern Castle, Black Forest, Lake Constance, and the Swabian Mountains. Or maybe Finland with never ending daylight, marvelous music festivals, and luxurious saunas.  My head is spinning with ideas.

There is no substitute for being there (somewhere in Europe) with your kids on a summer day.

Ciao!

Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files

A Summer Family Vacation in the Greek Isles. Why Not?

Ever dreamed of vacationing in Greece? Now is the time to take action. The dollar to euro ratio is nearing par so a family vacation in Europe is much more affordable than in previous years. I have been researching vacation options feel compelled to pass on an exceptional website, Kids Love Greece, founded by three moms, one wanna-be mom, and supported by more than 100 families living in Greece.

Crete Family Vacations

Crete family vacations always include stories about Zeus, the Minotaur, Daedalus, and of course Icarus.

Their clever, authoritative effort showcases more than 250 kid-friendly ideas for vacationing in Greece. Browse the site and be inspired by delightful images conveying a sense of place and be entertained by unique ideas from parents for parents. Really, if you are not Greek by heritage, you will want to be once you peruse the site.

The good thing is that in addition to suggestions and advice Kids Love Greece has a selection of vacation packages designed to make travel easy. Better yet, to involve little ones they have created an audio guide “Kids Love Knossos” application as a useful companion to a family vacation on Crete. The storyline features Palace of Knossos on Crete and features Glaucus and his little sister Phaedra, the sweet time-travelers of Kids Love Greece, as they travel back in time more than 4000 to the time of the Minoans.

Rent a car if you wish and explore or join a tour and relax. There are gorges to be walked, archaeological sites to visit and history to absorb, fun parks to discover, water parks to enjoy, go-karts to race, donkeys to ride, wonderful scenery to enjoy, and all too tempting dining possibilities.

For more authentic family vacation ideas in Greece the best source is www.KidsLoveGreece.com

I am dreaming of olives, Athena, and the Aegean.

Nancy Nelson-Duac Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files.

Ireland – A Family Vacation on European Island Time

Ireland for families? It makes perfect sense to me. Take the kids and go for the music, art, and shopping; stay for the hiking (so many), beaches (oh the tide pools), and ruins.

Kilkenny Castle Ireland

Goofing off on island time in Kilkenny.

The country offers a uniquely European “island” experience complete with a pace in the countryside that matches a Sunday afternoon from 1952. Ireland is an excellent choice for families with children of any age but is ideal for travel with young adults because the country has a youthful energy. I think caused by the availability of rain.
The respect and support for art and artists is obvious. And while they export plenty it is just possible that the best is saved for the homeland. We did not find Craig Ashurst and Chloey Turner with the cast of Riverdance at the airport but we did find plenty of live music interspersed with laughter. For music the list of artists is long and includes both traditional folk music not just Celtic Thunder as well as contemporary bands including The Script, more suited to teens and young adults.
For art my favorite spots include the remarkable sculpture field at Lough Boora Parklands and the inspiring National Craft Gallery in Kilkenny. The carved crosses at Clonmacnoise are of stone rubbing quality and the stained glass windows at St. Canice Cathedral need no endorsements.
For shopping I love All Saints and fortunately there is a smaller version of Spitalfields in Dublin. And of course there’s a tempting H&M not far away both dare I say in Temple Bar. The National Craft Centre in Kilkenny has tempting, high quality items including delightful children’s clothing, woolens, and beautiful contemporary jewelry. Plus we found an array of clever shops not far from the castle in the city centre. Galway has the Claddagh ring and Connemara’s Sheep & Wool Centre near Leenane has amazing yarn.
The bottom line for families, Ireland is safe, friendly, and fun. For parents or grandparents’ with wee ones there’s delightful folklore to be shared plus plenty of parks, playgrounds, tide pools, and pony trekking. For teens and young adults the list spans castles, cathedrals, ruins, hiking, biking, and surfing to music, falconry, shopping, and pubs. Ireland is the perfect European island experience.

Ireland: Dublin – Getting to Know the Capital of the Emerald Isle.

(Written by my youngest daughter – Jule Nelson-Duac)

My daughter Jule and I are all smiles by the Liffey in Dublin.

It’s Sunday – my first day in Dublin on my own. I have my Lonely Planet (guidebook), my city map, and I just purchased a ticket to the hop-on-hop-off tour. 23 stops in total- sounds excessive but how else am I going to get the lay of the land? As I stand at the starting point or should I say one of the starting points a large Viking ship shaped bus drives past me full of screaming laughing tourists wearing viking hats. Yet another way to see this historical city. Continue reading

Scotland: A Delightful Winter Getaway for Families

View from a Scottish Hillside (Photo taken by my daughter Amanda)

Scotland is one of our family’s favorite destinations – it’s a truly astonishing place, with majestic glens and spectacular lakes, as well as some of the warmest and most welcoming people on any continent. Our family last visited Scotland in the winter and took advantage of the great winter festivals and events that take place every year across Scotland, so we wanted to share some of the details of our favorite Scottish events. Continue reading