When I had the opportunity to get a review copy of the newest edition of this book, I was quite ecstatic. I have 3 small children and would love to take them someplace else other than the typical Disney World, Sea World, Six Flags, Wisconsin Dells, and a myriad of other theme parks that dot the American landscape. I thought this book was the answer.
When I received the book and began flipping through it, the first thing that I noticed is that this book is definitely not geared to a particular audience other than people traveling with children. Having traveled the world for work early in my career, I had a pretty good idea what it costs to travel to Asia, Europe, and most of the Western Hemisphere. The first thing that I noticed is that the trips ranged from very cheap with easy access to the insanely expensive requiring extensive planning.
Flipping through the pages, I counted about 30 of the destinations that I have been to. I spent a good portion of my childhood living in one of them and over 10 years of my adult life living very close to a handful of others. What the author describes of the destinations seems relatively accurate. I spent my childhood in SE Alaska (Scouting Alaska's Inside Passage in the book). The author's description of utilizing the Alaska Marine Highway system (ferry boats) is excellent. However, no where did it seem to mention that many times the ferry terminals tend to be out on the middle of nowhere. The Juneau ferry terminal is a bit less than 15 miles from downtown Juneau and around 1 to 2 miles from the nearest bus station. Personally, I would not have found this to be a nice surprise if I was traveling with kids and no car. Throughout SE Alaska, the terminals are varying distances from the downtown areas. While a person could always call a cab, it seems that a cautionary note would be in order. It made me wonder if places I am not familiar with would have similar issues. Calling a cab in Alaska is a simple affair for an American, but the same person may not know a safe way to travel in Zimbabwe, Ecuador, or Peru.
When I read the book, while I found it interesting, it seemed to go incredibly slow. Each attraction is given a page or two that outlines what the attraction is, a short history of it, advice on hiring guides and transportation, and many times tips that will help maximize the experience and save time by directing you to the highlights of the attraction. The book is divided into 17 chapters of attractions, each chapter divided into sub chapters. The topics cover most interests that range from animals, nature, ancient civilizations, wars, holy places, science attractions, sports, and amusement parks to name a few.
The book can be a great asset for the rich and not so wealthy alike. There are tons of great ideas that can be tailored to any family. While I would not rely on the book as the sole source of information for a destination, it is a great starting point. If you are looking for a list of Disney knock-offs, this is not going to be the best book. If you are looking for destinations you may not have been aware of (some in your own backyard), then the book is definitely worth a look. Many destinations will be out of your reach financially. Other destinations made me question if the kids would really value the experience. However, flip through the suggestions and you will find something great for you and your family.