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.
(Photo: 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.)