No kids means Judge William Lee can make a trip to the 7-Eleven whenever he wants to.
Travel. Who says it can't be done with the kids?
The challenge of traveling with kids can seem like it requires special skills and training. The Roberts family proves that with some planning and patience the European vacation with tykes in tow is not impossible.
Facts of the Case
Carrie and Jeremy Simmons have an insatiable appetite for travel. Before committing to adulthood, they strapped on backpacks for an eight-month journey around the globe. But even in their roles as parents the couple hasn't surrendered their passports. They continue to indulge their love of travel, now with sons Nathan, 7, and Seamus, 5, in tow. Acting as their own producer-director and videographer, Carrie and Jeremy are the creators of the Travel With Kids series of instructional travel documentaries. Sharing their enthusiasm and hard-won experience through their on-screen personas, the "Roberts family" demonstrates how the family vacation can venture beyond Disneyland into exotic locales filled with history, culture and new discoveries.
In their latest travel adventure, the Roberts clan visits Paris, France for three days after crossing over (or under) from London, England via the Channel Tunnel. They take in the sights of the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe, the Pantheon and, of course, the Eiffel Tower. After putting up with endless days of culture and art, Nathan and Seamus are eventually rewarded with an afternoon at Disneyland Resort Paris—so maybe it's unavoidable that the family trip comes back to the magic kingdom after all.
It is said that you really get to know someone only when you travel with them. And after spending 52-minutes with the Roberts family in the City of Light, I can say I like them. Carrie and Jeremy seem a little too casual and unassuming to be teevee hosts, but they are smart and down-to-earth guides for this quick European vacation. Travel With Kids Paris is a road-level perspective of travel filled with practical information that is speaks to parents but is also useful for novice travelers. They don't meet up with insider contacts on the continent and they don't get access to secret places. Indeed, the only special treatment the family receives is the kind won by being good-natured, friendly ambassadors. Their vacation is the cultural experience that normal people are likely to have on their own visits as tourists and that touch of realness makes this travel video a refreshing addition to the genre.
The theme of this series is traveling with young kids and there is a concern is front and center throughout the program: how to keep things affordable and interesting. The parents are also honest about the limitations of traveling as a family but they turn it into a positive experience for all. The travel tips range from savings they find through simple research (planning ahead and buying the appropriate passes) to more creative solutions. To get the boys excited about the Louvre, for example, they make it into a sort of scavenger hunt. The game works but the adults are forced to keep pace with the boys in their rush to find certain works, which goes to show that for every strategy that keeps the kids' attention there is a compromise.
The family's itinerary unfolds in a natural manner, the parents adapt to the boys' changing mood, and things don't always work out as planned. After touring the Louvre, tired little legs decline the challenge of climbing the towers of the Notre Dame Cathedral. Though the worst of the temper tantrums have been edited out, we do get hints of the boys' impatience. For the most part, these seasoned young travelers appear to be having a good time. At ease before the camera, they ham it up occasionally like they know they're just taking part in a big game.
The feature program is packed with information that complements the family's travel route. With interesting facts about the sites visited—including a centuries-spanning history of France in brief—Carrie Simmons's script contains enough information without overloading the viewer and presents it in an elegant and appropriate manner. Practical information, such as prices, is spotlighted through the use of pop-up graphics. A lot of ground is covered and they still find time to explain how to use the Metro, the city's intimidating but excellence subway network.
The supplements on this DVD complete the package to make it a useful vacation planning tool. Presented mainly as text on static screens, there is expanded information on how to plan your trip from what to pack to how to choose a hotel. There are even recipes and movie suggestions meant to inspire interest prior to the trip. Among these supplements, there are a few additional video clips that focus on rail travel and apartment rentals.
Video shot on the road is mixed sparingly with stock footage and the visuals do a good job of showing off the tourist sites while maintaining a ground-level perspective of the action. Some simple animations add a charming scrapbook sensibility to the video diary. Capturing all the right moments with a clean visual style, Jeremy is a decent videographer whose work is miles ahead of the standard vacation video. The soundtrack is a standard stereo mix that works fine for the presentation. A few scenes with location-recorded dialogue sound a little less clear but all the important elements of the script are delivered in a clean voice-over narration.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
With Jeremy serving as videographer for this video, the camera spends a lot of time focused on the kids. While the boys are essentially the featured performers, the adults tend to become invisible to the camera. Consequently we do not see the live reactions of the parents when something does not go according to plan. Seeing them adapt to problems would have been just as educational to viewers as seeing the perfect plan come off without a hitch. Their narration ensures that Carrie and Jeremy are present in every scene and they even provide running commentaries to some of their more memorable moments. But these emotionally flat recollections can't convey the spontaneity and immediacy that a live reaction would have captured.
So, a visit to the Moulin Rouge isn't likely to happen on a family vacation. But this DVD does show how fun times can be had on the family-friendly side of Paris. Travel With Kids Paris is packed with good ideas geared toward helping families prepare for a group vacation, but also useful for young travelers doing it alone. Novice travelers looking for ideas for a manageable and safe itinerary through Paris will do well to brush up with the experience of the Roberts family as a starting point.
Carrie and Jeremy's credibility as smart travelers and cool parents is solid. They are not guilty and free to roam.
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