Your family travel questions answered
I want to show the kids a great national park out west this summer, but I don’t want to battle the crowds at Yosemite or Yellowstone. Suggestions?—K.C., Montclair, N.J.
You’re right to avoid the old faithfuls during peak season—there are so many exquisite and less-trod alternatives. Four that we love: Crater Lake National Park, in southern Oregon; Great Basin National Park, in Nevada; Theodore Roosevelt National Park, in the North Dakota Badlands; and Sequoia National Park, in central California’s Sierra Nevada range. At Sequoia, unjustly overshadowed by neighboring Yosemite, you can drive through the carved-out trunk of Tunnel Log (above, on a 1971 postcard), then behold General Sherman, the 2,300-year-old, 103-foot-wide leafy giant that holds the record as the largest living organism on the planet. Check out nps.gov for details about each park, including lodging options. And wherever you go, have your kids learn about forestry and earn badges by taking part in the excellent—and typically free of charge—nationwide junior ranger program.
We’re planning our first trip to Paris with our two daughters, who are 8 and 11. Where should we stay?—M.A., Naples, FLA.
You will only truly understand the expression "Paris is for lovers" after you try to find a hotel room with more than one bed. So do as French families do—rent an apartment. Scroll through hundreds at chezvous.com, nyhabitat.com, and myflatinparis.com—you’ll pay as little as $125 a night for a centrally located pad that sleeps four and comes with a kitchen. Still think you’d be comfier at a hotel?T+L’s Paris correspondent, Tina Isaac, likes the chic Hôtel La Manufacture (hotel-la-manufacture.com; connecting family rooms from $320) and the Hôtel des Grandes Ecoles (hotel-grandes-ecoles.com; doubles from $205), in a building straight out of Madeline.
I’d like to go on a family road trip but feel guilty about contributing to air pollution. How can we minimize our impact?—J.K., Stowe, VT.
Sign on with the Better World Club (betterworldclub.com), a green version of AAA; take mass transit when you hit a city; and try to rent hybrids (Enterprise and EV Rental Cars have them at select locations). You can also make the family car more efficient: 1. Get a tune-up; mileage is hurt by things as simple as poor tire pressure. 2. Haul less and dump the cargo box—drag makes the engine work harder. 3. Go slow and steady; mileage falls rapidly above 60 mph and improves up to 5 percent when you brake and accelerate less. 4. Don’t use premium gas if your car doesn’t require it—it pollutes more. Back home, donate to a carbon-offset program, such as Carbonfund.org—and contemplate a trip to a car-free spot, like Michigan’s Mackinac Island.
"I keep a drugstore night-light in our family toiletry kit, and whenever we stay at a hotel, I plug it in. It saves us from having to leave the bathroom light on, and it helps our kids feel at home—and able to fall asleep." —L.S., Denver, Colo.
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