You've seen her on the Travel Channel gallivanting around the world to the most exotic of locales, but when it comes down to the best vacations for families, Samantha Brown says sometimes the simplest trips are the best ones. While we'd all love to dash off to stay at a five-star resort, that's not a realistic scenario for many families, and she says it's not necessary to create lasting family memories
I caught up with Samantha recently to talk about her current involvement with our nation's national parks and to get some tips for traveling on the cheap with kids in tow.
What are some of your fondest memories of traveling as a child?
My childhood memories involve loading up into station wagon and going to Canada or Pennsylvania. We had a cooler in the back with sandwiches my mom packed, and stayed in motor lodges. Now you see me staying in five-star hotels, but my beginnings are much more nostalgic.
What mistakes do you think parents make when traveling with children today?
There are so many children’s groups and teen groups and other options for kids at various hotels, but maybe we shouldn’t keep them that busy. Vacation is the time to really tune in to your kids and not overschedule them. Spend time with them. It’s also more affordable that way if you don’t have to sign up for that $75-a-day kids’ club.
And make sure you unplug. Vacations are a time to talk, so when you’re in the car, find facts about states as you go through them to discuss, play games, enjoy one another.
You’ve teamed up with Nature Valley to help raise money and awareness for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). Why do you think our national parks make such great destinations for families?
I’m so proud to be involved in this project. Our national parks teach our kids about our beginnings as a country, how we affect nature, and what our presence means. There are almost 400 national parks in the United States, and trips to them are both educational and fun and can really instill a sense of curiosity and wonder in kids from a young age. I really wonder about kids today – where’s that curiosity if they just sit in front of a video game. This country was hard fought for and it’s never too early to learn that.
Also, national parks are extremely inexpensive -- admission is about the price of a movie ticket, if even that. The system is there for the people no matter who you are.
Why are vacations important for families?
What makes travel so special is that it marks a new beginning. We all need it in our lives. It doesn't have to be going across the continent; it can be in your own state. Though I don’t believe in staycations, I believe you need to get away.
What tips do you have for traveling on the cheap?
Look at your own state -- state tourism websites are fabulous. Local business will advertise for cheaper hotel rates and coupons for restaurants; it’s a great portal of information and budget deals. Also, always make breakfast your biggest meal. it’s the cheapest and most important, then have a lighter lunch and dinner.
What are your family's vacation plans this summer? Which national parks have you visited?
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