Want to double your travel pleasure? Cut your itinerary in half

Sailing with the family. Eileen Ogintz (center) with her family in the British Virgin Islands. From left to right, with husband Andy Yemma, son Matt Yemma, daughters Melanie and Regina Yemma and Regina's fiance, Dan Foldes.
Sailing with the family. Eileen Ogintz (center) with her family in the British Virgin Islands. From left to right, with husband Andy Yemma, son Matt Yemma, daughters Melanie and Regina Yemma and Regina’s fiance, Dan Foldes.

Eileen Ogintz started traveling with her kids Matt, Melanie and Regina, when they were babies, and she never looked back. She took her children everywhere, from exploring the Galapagos, to hiking in Montana, to sailing the Caribbean. Along the way, she not only created the popular syndicated column Taking the Kids and a travel guidebook series written for children, but also became a role model for other families who want to give their offspring the gift of travel. Ogintz sees herself as a bridge-builder, showing families how they can get there and “helping the travel industry appreciate and better meet the needs of family travelers.” Her latest project is co-creating a series of conferences which bring together those who write, blog and influence family travel.

What makes her the world’s smartest traveler? Her ability to listen — especially to kids. “Whenever you’re traveling with kids, you have to make sure they are helping to plan the itinerary,” she says. “Too often, parents and grandparents think they know what kids like. But they don’t.” Ogintz says when when kids lead the way, you’ll discover places you never would have otherwise. “It really is a beautiful thing to see the world through a child’s eyes,” she says. And don’t cram too much into your itinerary, otherwise your vacation will become a chore. “Slow down, relax and enjoy the ride. Cut your itinerary in half and leave time to linger at a café, join a pick up soccer game in the park or chat up some locals,” she says. ” Those can be some of your most memorable travel experiences.” Indeed, they can.

The World’s Smartest Traveler is a weekly series about the visionaries who inspire us to travel smarter. Its curator, Christopher Elliott, is the author of the upcoming book, How to Be The World’s Smartest Traveler (National Geographic Books). Want to nominate someone for this feature? Send Chris a note.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • omgstfualready

    Very refreshing. When I travel I narrow my itinerary to two (maybe three) ‘must do’ items over a couple days and the rest is unplanned. If I want to linger, no worries. It’s supposed to be fun! My day to day life is a series of to do and must do and whoops forgot to do. I certainly don’t want to vacation that way. I think asking the entire family to pick one “must’ that everybody will do together is fantastic.

  • Mark Cuban

    I refuse to generate an itinerary. I ask locals when I get there….

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I agree with her points…for me. But I also understand that different people have different ways of travel and I am very skeptical of a one size fits all approach

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That’s what I do. But I found that some things that I would have wanted to explore required advance planning. For example, in DC, you can get an extra special tour of the White House, but it has to be set up in advance through your congressman’s office.

  • bodega3

    For travel, there is a trip and there is a vacation. A trip is where you do things, making the most of the day to see it all. A vacation is where you don’t have to do anything unless you want to and is generally more low key and relaxing. Now a trip and be a vacation for some. While the title of this article sounds good, there are times that you want to make the most of the time you have as you may never get back to that destination again. There is no right way, just your way. You have to figure it out, not pay someone for a seminar to do tell you what you should do or not do.

  • Matt Blumenfeld

    Yes, a loose itinerary is my favorite way to go, too. On my trips to Paris I had very few specific “things to do.” I knew that I wanted to see the Louvre and Eiffel Tower but really didn’t have any other specifics when I arrived. That allowed me to pick one destination for the day and see what other stuff was along the way. In a place like Paris you end up finding all sorts of cool stuff. I ran across a couple of street markets that probably weren’t listed in the guide books, found a sidewalk vending machine that would squeeze oranges and dispense fresh juice, discovered that a bunch of the cafes have pinball machines, and just generally found things that I couldn’t possibly have planned for. the one hazard of this approach is that you might not ever actually make it to some of the places you think you are going to see. I tried on three separate days to get to the Picasso museum and got sidetracked into other stuff, instead. It didn’t bother me in the least. Now I have a place to see the next time I am in Paris.

  • bpepy

    I have a friend who has taken her three kids on driving trips in their RV (named Harvey) around different parts of the US for the last four summers. Her husband joins them for parts of the trip, but most of the time she’s driving this RV, towing a small car, by her self! She has a blog and I’m amazed at all they do. She decided to do this because the kids were growing up too fast, she wanted them to know more about our country, and spend more time with them. Really a great thing to do!

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Wow, a down vote for that comment? I had no idea there were people that pro-itinerary!

  • Joe_D_Messina

    This advice works for any sort of trip, I have found. Best advice I ever got about Disney World, Universal and all the big theme parks is to not try and see everything. If you have kids (and even if you don’t) it’s wonderful to take a break in the middle of the day and just chill, rather than trying to check every item off in the guide book. You see so many families by the end of the day who just look miserable because they’ve pushed themselves too hard. Much better to leave some things for the next trip and get in a nap or enjoy the pool than to see absolutely everything but not enjoy it.