Most family travel Web sites serve up deals, discussions, and destination reports and the four sites featured in this post are no exception. You’d likely be able to plan a decent family vacation by using any one of them or, I might suggest, by just lingering at ShermansTravel.com. But as a traveling parent I’m often looking for a voice – not of one particular person with whom I agree, though occasionally I find one – but a collective, genuine voice that in its own unique way knows what it’s talking about.
Hotel reviews are the backbone of Ciao Bambino, where a short list of hotels has been vetted by the site’s staff. “Our template-driven format ensures content between reviews is consistent, comparable, and search-friendly,” says editor Amie O'Shaughnessy, and it’s not only handy to be able to search by one of four age ranges – babies (0-1), toddlers (1-4), school-age kids (4-13), and teens (13-18) – but it’s also useful to read why the reviewer thought a particular property was toddler-friendly or good for teens or whatever the case.
Property reviews are also a strong suit at WeJustGotBack.com whose tell-it-like-it-is approach comes through in discussions of children’s programs, about which “we not only provide pricing but we do value analysis,” says editor-in-chief Suzanne Rowan Kelleher. A review of the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando, for instance, noted that parents paying a flat per-child fee for a Ritz Kids evening drop-off session should be aware that during that session, dinner is ordered for the kids from the hotel’s room service menu and that the charge “shows up later as an additional charge to your room.” Says Kelleher, “our aim is to help parents make good decisions.”
Likewise, helping families make decisions and “solve all sorts of problems” is key at Family Travel Forum, says editor Kyle McCarthy. The site addresses such issues as what documentation you might need when traveling with minors and a pediatric medicine column, Travel Health, is also a worthy feature. There’s a free custom trip planning tool that enables registered community members to submit a questionnaire, yielding a suggested itinerary from the site staff. The site also provides advice for “all types of families,” McCarthy says, “whether they have special needs, are same sex couples, multi-generational groups, or are traveling with the family pet.”
This effective stab at diversity is also one of the things that works best at TravelingMom.com, where founder Kim Orlando has assembled a group of more than 50 blogging moms with such niches as Adventure TravelingMom, Autism TravelingMom, Military TravelingMom, and Vegetarian TravelingMom. “We understand that moms are not one monolithic group,” Orlando says, noting for instance that “our Special Needs TravelingMom, who writes about the challenges of traveling with a medically challenged child, touches a chord in other moms who have children with medical challenges but who still want to take a family vacation.” The site covers travel, but also addresses the lifestyle of moms who travel. The food section, for instance, takes up feeding your family on the road as well as meals a busy traveling mom might make at home.
Disclosure: I know the principles of these four sites and this blog does a monthly post exchange with Ciao Bambino. In my mind that doesn’t change what differentiates these sites from the many other voices out there, but visit them for yourself. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the helpful voices you hear.
You can also find for great bargains on family vacations right here with our Family Travel Deals.