Just wanted to share some resources I've come across that might not be on the usual backpacker's reading list.
First of all, and more specifically geared to travel with children are (scroll down for more general interest suggestions):
Innocents Abroad: Traveling with Kids in Europe
, by Valerie Wolf Deutsch and Laura Sutherland.
While it's not a comprehensive list of things to see and do with kids (I compared my Paris list with theirs, and found mine more extensive), this book has the right attitude, in my estimation (that means, I mostly agreed with them), about taking the kids along. They even nailed the trials-by-age that we have experienced, although I've never traveled WITH a teenager, only AS a teenager. Also, though they describe it as a "complete country-by-country guide", they only treat 12 European countries, so it's not as thorough as claimed. But still, if you're looking at taking the kids overseas, it's definitely got the right spirit.
Fodor's Family Adventures
, by Christine Loomis.
This book offers "more than 700 great trips for you and your kids of all ages", and has listings ranging from archaeology and biking, covered wagon trips, dogsledding, houseboating, Native American experiences, rock climbing, sailing, to llama trekking and wildlife adventures, so there's definitely a suggestion for every taste. However, the vast majority are in the US and Canada, which is great if you happen to be there, but less helpful if you're looking for something cool to do on your son's birthday in Luxembourg. There are a few overseas suggestions (wildlife safaris in Kenya, for example) but these would tend to be higher budget...
Japan for Kids: The Ultimate Guide for Parents and Their Children
, by Diane Wiltshire Kanagawa and Jeanne Huey Erickson.
I guess books have to advertise themselves as "complete" or "ultimate" in order to sell, but I do take issue with them! We lived in Japan for three years, and my husband gave me this as a present early on - a lot of the info was useful (clothing size conversion charts, washing instructions, department and book store chains, etc), but this book primarily focusses on the Kyoto/Tokyo/Osaka triangle. Naturally, this is where most foreigners live, and the details in the book are fantastic if you happen to be living (or visiting) that area, but farther afield, there's not a great deal of practical information.
We lived way up north, and found all sorts of cool things to do with the kids - a science museum in an old naval vessel, wild horses, great beaches and beach combing, tons of colourful festivals, but not with the help of this book. I did use it for trips to Kyoto and Tokyo, and since that's the focus of most visits to Japan, I would still recommend it on that basis, but if you're looking to travel further afield, you'll need to do some additional research. If you happen to be heading north, Exploring Tohoku
by Jan Brown and Yoko Sakakibara Kmetz is well worth checking out. My copy is well-worn!
Have Kid, will Travel
by Claire Tristram.
Written by a well-traveled mother of a toddler (at the time), this book has some great survival strategies and general information, though it focuses chiefly on small children and more on the nuts and bolts of actually getting around, not on what to do in particular places. There are some good resources listed in the book, so again, it's worth taking a look at, particularly if you're planning your first long trip with a baby or small child and want to get the nitty gritty on what to expect/anticipate.
Of more general interest, though also inspiring for/with kids:
by Jan Brown and Yoko Sakakibara Kmetz.
An excellent guide to history, culture and things to do north of Tokyo, if you have the chance to get out of southern Honshu. Much more comprehensive than any "Japan" guide book I've ever seen, which all seem to focus on the many attractions of the south, and give the north short shrift. If you head north, you'll see Japan as it used to be, and it's absolutely gorgeous. Beaches, mountains, gorges, lakes - all the nature you never associate with Japan.
One Year Off
, by David Elliot Cohen.
Our dream. The Cohens, mom, dad and three kids under 9, sold up and took off for a round-the-world journey for a year. Very inspirational, funny and with some practical advice for would-be nomadic families. And they didn't go to Europe. Well, I mean, they did, but they also went to Costa Rica, Turkey, Zimbabwe, South Africa, India, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Australia. Good general interest traveler's tales for anyone, really.
Finally (for today), a surprise hit in our house is the Cultures of the World
At our library, it's in the Juvenile (Young People) section, and offers an overview of the history, geography, politics, language, religion, art, music, etc. of a range of countries. They're similar (though more extensive) than the school reports we used to have to do about countries back in grade school, with straightforward text, a fair amount of facts and figures, lots of big pictures and interesting fun facts that you wouldn't necessarily pick up in a traditional guide book.
For example, did you know that in southern Ghana, children are named after the day of the week on which they were born? This means there are only 14 names possible (7 male, 7 female). Kofi Annan was born on Friday - you can tell by his name. If two sons are born on the same day, they'd be called Kofi and Kofi Manu (second Kofi). How about that. My kids would be called, Yaa, Adjoa, Kwajo and Adjoa Manu (or whatever the feminine form of two is in Ghanaian) - all three of my younger children were born on Mondays, how weird is that?
Anyway, there are about 120 different titles in the series, and for a broad general overview, I think they're useful both for older children (my ten year old pores over them) and for adults looking for a quick but reasonably thorough look at the countries they're contemplating visiting. Though not specifically geared toward people traveling to that country, they're definitely designed to give an idea about the place that would be helpful to travelers wanting to know about the culture before they arrive.
Well, hope this info is helpful to someone - now I have to go find something to do in Luxembourg for my son's birthday tomorrow!