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Martha's Tips on Traveling with Kids

Martha's Tips on Traveling with Kids

  • By Martha Stewart
  • Photos by Courtesy of Martha Stewart

Every year, Martha travels with her grandchildren, taking them on an adventure that she’s planned. This month, she recalls highlights from a few family trips, and offers advice on how to keep kids entertained, excited, and ever curious while on the road.

I am a really lucky grandmother. My two grandchildren, Jude, age 7; and Truman, age 6, have become such avid travelers and adventurers that planning new family trips is both a joy and a challenge. I never would have guessed seven years ago that I would be scouring travel magazines for more amazing places to visit. A few years ago, we flew to Ecuador and went to the Galápagos, where Jude and Truman practiced their Spanish and discovered so much about these fascinating islands. We photographed iguanas and blue-footed boobies; mourned Lonesome George, the giant Pinta Island tortoise who had died since my previous visit, 20 years prior; and learned about environmental stresses on the wildlife, which, sadly, had been much more plentiful when I was last there.

The following year, we went to Africa, where our friend and guide, Marlon du Toit, escorted us on a safari through Botswana. The children got quite close to herds of elephants, prides of lions, pods of hippos, solitary leopards, and other extraordinary animals in their own environment.

Not all of our trips have focused on nature in its pristine state (although those are my favorites). On our recent excursion to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, we visited towering buildings in crowded cities, ate unique foods, and marveled at avant-garde architecture; the new Louvre Abu Dhabi museum, designed by Jean Nouvel, was equally fascinating to the kids and adults. In London, we witnessed the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and rode on the London Eye.

Planning is all-important when one is traveling with children. I make sure to do my research and consult both friends and experts who have ventured to our destinations before. I have learned to make sure that Jude and Truman’s schedules are not too disrupted, that their meals are timely and their clothes comfortable, and that what we’re discovering about places is illuminating. A few more tips: A great guide is worth the investment. A comfortable car with big windows is invaluable. And a careful itinerary with enough—but not too much—to see is essential.

In addition to being fun and making lasting memories, I hope traveling instills in Jude and Truman an appreciation for natural wonders, antiquities, and fantastical places, and an endless curiosity for learning about different cultures. I have loved our trips together and can’t wait for our next one. Where should we go?

Above Left: Jude and I rode a camel in Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, the first national park in the United Arab Emirates.

Above Right: My friend Kevin Sharkey snapped photos.

Take in the Culture

Wherever I travel, I always visit a museum or cultural venue. At the Louvre Abu Dhabi, I loved this piece by the artist Maha Malluh, featuring the charred bottoms of pots and pans.

Meet the Locals

I discover some of the best spots to eat, see, and experience by spending time with the people who live in a place. Here I am with Saif Saeed Ghobash, the undersecretary of Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism (left); and our guide at the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

This photo was taken by Truman, who loves architecture, at the top of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building (left).

Jude, Truman, and Kevin took in the view aboard an abra, or small water taxi, on the Dubai Creek (right).

In the Galápagos Islands, we swam with this Galápagos green turtle.

On our safari, we came upon a herd of beautiful elephants grazing in Abu Camp, Botswana.

Martha's Travel Essentials

  • 1
    Snacks

    For long plane trips, my daughter, Alexis, packs healthy food for all of us, like berries and other fruits. I also take yogurt and hardboiled eggs from my chickens.

  • 2
    Creature Comforts

    I travel with a warm, lightweight cashmere shawl that’s large enough to use as a blanket, and a U-shaped neck pillow from Muji.

  • 3
    Pick-Me-Up

    On the plane, I spritz myself with Mario Badescu’s facial spray with aloe, cucumber, and green tea. It’s hydrating and refreshing.

  • 4
    Cameras

    I bring two—a compact Sony RX100, and the larger Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV—so I can document our trips. I also take photos with my iPhone to send to friends and post on Instagram. (Follow me: @marthastewart48.)

  • 5
    Books

    Before we go somewhere new, Alexis buys a few for the children, so they can learn about the destination in advance. Then they pack a suitcaseful to read while we’re there.

  • 6
    Entertainment

    I fill my iPads with movies and books (and educational games for the children) for downtime.

  • 7
    Pop Quizzes

    To pass the time on long flights, I give the children math tests, which I make up. They love them!