Tropical Family Vacations In The Caribbean, Hawaii, South Florida, and Mexico, by Laura Sutherland
This is a rare travel book that delivers more or less exactly what you are looking for. It gives the precise locations where it provides travel information for families and it does exactly what it sets out to do, no more and no less. Although they tend to age poorly , books like this are immensely entertaining. As someone who has traveled to many of the locations discussed here (South Florida, Kauai in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and Trinidad & Tobago in the Caribbean, and Tulum and Xel Ha in the Yucatan of Mexico, all of which are discussed here in some detail), I found a great deal of humor in the author’s approach and although a lot of the information is out of date considering this book was published in 1999, there is a lot of worth in understanding the approach of the author to what makes a worthwhile family vacation. Even if the prices and options are likely to be far different for a family vacationing in these tropical locations, and even if one wishes the author had included Central America as well, the author does a good job at figuring out what fairly adventuresome children would enjoy about these areas, and that alone makes it a worthwhile read even after all these years.
This is a book whose contents reflect a particular time, and the sort of book that would provoke a lot of commentary about what was considered appropriate for families and what political realities existed at the time the author wrote this book. The book begins with the author discussing planning the trip, urging ways that one could pack less and help to protect against problems of theft and illness in one’s travels, and then covers four different areas: South Florida (defined as the area from about Sanibel to West Palm Beach and south), Hawaii, the Caribbean (organized in alphabetical order: Anguilla, Antigua, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Curaçao, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, St. Barhèlemy, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St., Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos and the US Virgin Islands), Mexico (specifically the Mayan Riviera, Pacific Coast, and Baja California). The book leaves out a lot–most of Mexico like its touristy north, the capital, or the port of Veracruz, it leaves out Cuba (for understandable political reasons) as well as St. Martin/Saint Maarten, and it doesn’t cover any of America’s other tropical areas (like American Samoa or Guam). Even though the astute reader will wonder why certain things were not included as the book’s length at a bit less than 300 pages is by no means overwhelming, what is included is of interest–a variety of lodging from expensive to moderate to bargain/inexpensive, and a lot of varied activities including food, sports, and historical/cultural visits. The author has a pretty expansive definition of what children could enjoy, and is interested in culturally broadening and historically significant activities as well as that which is ordinarily considered to be fun.
So, what would a family get from reading this book, given that its comments about cost are somewhat obsolete? For one, they get a sense of what the author enjoys from travel, something that they might share for themselves. Do parents and their children have a sense of adventure? Do they enjoy trying new foods (assuming they aren’t deathly allergic to them) and enjoying beaches, horseback riding, sports, museums, fortresses, and swimming and other related activities? Are they fond of either expensive resorts, moderately priced hotels with some amenities, or roughing it by camping or trying to balance between safety and access to the beach? There is a lot to like here, and the author combines honesty and kindness in impressive ways, pointing out continually the need to be proactive against sunburn as well as diseases and also pointing out the dangers of traveling to a place like Jamaica. The author is at pains to remind the reader that in some places the intense difference between the standard of living of tourists and residents places certain areas under considerable strain, trying to get the intended reading audience to have a sense of empathy for those whom they see, and the author’s wide-ranging approach to what is fun allows the reader considerable latitude in choosing their own adventure tourism, which is precisely as it should be. This is a book that deserves to be updated and expanded.
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