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PHOTOGRAPH BY LUCA ANTONIO LORENZELLI, ALAMY STOCK PHOTO
By Amy Alipio, TRAVEL Assistant Managing Editor
My kids never touch a video game when we’re traveling—said no parent ever. Even though we threaten to take away their electronic devices if they don’t look out the window occasionally, adults themselves often approach travel as if it were a video game where you go around gobbling up destinations and racking up the highest number of passport stamps. And how many of us have stressed ourselves out strategizing and scheduling every minute of our family trip, in order to ensure we check off all the to-do items on our itinerary?
But COVID-19 caused many of us to rethink how we travel. We want to travel more mindfully and more slowly, and make less of an environmental impact—whether we’re exploring Portofino (in Italy, pictured above) or Portland. With the lifting of pandemic restrictions, writes Amy Brecount White, parents have a unique opportunity “to help kids develop a healthy mindset around travel—one based on values of engagement and empathy, rather than achievement and acquisition.”
One way to do that: Ditch the bucket list. “The idea that you must itemize destinations to see before you die, and that those select destinations will have a grander impact on your physical being or mental health than others seems silly,” says Jacqui Gifford, the editor-in-chief of Travel + Leisure.
Pre-trip, discuss with your family what their interests and passions are and use those to design a more personalized, authentic trip itinerary, rather than what some guidebook says you must see. If your kids want to hang out at the nondescript local pool instead of visiting the oldest/best/newest attraction nearby, maybe that’s OK.
During the trip, do more listening and learning, rather than just viewing your surroundings as a spectacle to be consumed. Consider taking a destination pledge, such as the Sedona Cares Pledge, which encourages visitors to respect the Arizona region’s trails and heritage.
Exploring more mindfully not only benefits a destination but, studies show, it also boosts our personal health and happiness. “On a physiological level, travel is very good for the brain,” says neuropsychologist Paul Nussbaum, founder of the Brain Health Center. As your kids face problems or challenges to solve in their travels, their hippocampi keep forming new neural networks, and their brains thrive.
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TRAVEL TIPS FOR FAMILIES
PHOTOGRAPH BY ERIKA LARSEN
Yellowstone at 150. On March 1, Yellowstone marks 150 years since its establishment as America’s (and the world’s) first national park. Some ways families can celebrate: Explore Lamar Valley (above) on horseback; learn about the long history and vibrant contemporary culture of the Indigenous peoples who have stewarded this land for millennia; and browse some of our favorite images of Yellowstone from National Geographic’s photographic archive. If you decide to avoid the crowded summer season (good idea!), find tips for exploring in the off-season here.
We asked, you answered. In our last Family Travel newsletter, we asked about your pandemic activities. Some readers continued with outdoor activities they’d always enjoyed, like kayaking. Others began doing things they hadn’t done before, such as camping or RVing. “But the new normal,” writes Dirk Durstein, “means sussing out COVID protections: Basically we’re good with any place that requires everybody to be fully vaccinated, and not OK with any place that takes a casual attitude toward health.”
DESTINATION OF THE WEEK
PHOTOGRAPH BY IVAN ROMANO, GETTY IMAGES
Naples, Italy. If the saying “you are what you eat” were true, my kids would be walking slices of pizza. Which is why one day I want to take them to the home of Neapolitan pizza: Naples, Italy. The 2,000-year-old city isn’t known only for tasty pies, of course. There are archaeological treasures, Renaissance art, creepy-cool catacombs—and nearby, the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum (pictured above), two ancient Roman cities that were preserved in ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79. Naples may be old, but check out this article to learn about some of the new finds that pop up all the time—including a recently discovered ancient Roman snack bar in Pompeii.