Publications & Reviews

Book Review: "Are we there yet? Travelling More Responsibly with Your Children"

Are We There Yet?Are We There Yet?Are We There Yet? Travelling More Responsibly with Your Children - by Rachel Dodds and Richard Butler
ISBN 978-1-66784-419-0, BookBaby, 2022

The wordplay in the title (combining typical children’s impatience along with “have we attained sustainability”) already indicates that this is both useful and enjoyable reading.

Whereas many parents fear that travel with young children is complicated and dangerous and that young children will not even remember travelling, let alone travelling responsibly, the authors make a convincing case that responsible travel with children is both feasible and meaningful, and for all, not just the elites - it can save money, if planned. And this is the whole point of the book, to help with the planning.

This innovative guide sets out to do many things at once, yet it succeeds! It tries to explain what responsible travel is, what it involves, why it matters, how parents can handle travelling with children at various ages and on different holiday types, destinations and continents, and on top of that how they can travel better, in a more responsible manner. The hard-earned success at the end is no accident as the authors are both leading sustainable tourism academics and seasoned travellers with children! Without sacrificing accuracy, the book is written in plain and engaging English, and this way, many older children may also understand it.

Even though the focus is on parents, the book includes exhaustive lists of responsible travel guidelines which are valid for everyone and everywhere. Some guidelines are common sense, others you may never have guessed unless having travelled to a particular destination (e.g. “wait for your welcome” in a Maori marae) and some could be debated in perpetuity (“Do not give pens, candy or other gifts to local children”).

‘Boxes’ containing interesting and sometimes rather personal stories from traveling parents, including the authors, and others who are also well-known travel professionals and academics, judging from the credits, serve as useful intermissions. Some of the more complicated first-hand accounts could have been analysed from a political, sociological and psychological perspective, but the goal of the authors is to provide a concise handbook for travelling parents, not deep, academic-level analysis.

As expected, the guide takes a negative view of all-inclusives, cruises, and attractions that exploit animals, while zoos are given the benefit of the doubt as long as they support conservation efforts.

Other notable advice includes:

“Most children cannot focus as long as adults, so pick one or two key things you want to visit in a museum or attraction, rather than trying to see everything” (p.53)

“... try to involve your children in the decision-making.” (p.56)

“For children old enough to read, encourage them to read about the place they are going to visit” (p.59)

“If you have school-aged children, consider taking children out of school for a week or two.” (p.122)

The guide is structured so that chapters can be read independently, which is a good decision even if it inadvertedly creates a few repetitions. The more inquisitive readers will also appreciate recommended online resources of various types and a useful index of responsible travel phrases as in “Do you have recycling?” - which in Chinese is Nǐ yǒu huíshōu ma? - and also in Hindi, French, German and Spanish.

This guide is perfect for its purpose. A shorter and simplified, children’s version, with photos and illustrations, questions/quizzes, tasks and empty pages for travel notes, could also be produced perhaps, so that children could read directly and quietly these words of wisdom and stay out of mischief during those long, responsible, journeys!

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