In the know
Outspoken PBS travel host Rick Steves tells you exactly why & where your family should travel.
One of the early pioneers of travel television, Rick Steves is widely credited with getting reluctant American travelers off their couches. It started with one, self-published guidebook, Europe Through the Back Door, in 1980. Today, Steves has authored more than 50 guidebooks. He hosts his own podcasts, a public radio program called Talk with Rick Steves, and public television show called Rick Steve’s Europe.
Rick spends nearly five months of the year in Europe. As he told KidTripster editor Shellie Bailey-Shah, “Europe is my beat.” So it should come as no surprise that his favorite trips with his children, Jackie and Andy, have been to that continent. Andy has followed in his father’s footsteps, starting his own travel company, Weekend Student Adventures Europe, and authoring Andy Steves’ Europe: City-Hopping on a Budget.
Do you still travel with your kids, and if so, how do you get them to go with you?
“Well, we traveled with our kids for the first 20 years of their lives. As a parent if you can afford that, I think that it’s very good parenting. It exposed the kids to all these different things. The kids don’t always seem to enjoy it, but as adults, you realize that they got a lot out of it; they were listening and absorbing more than I ever realized. And now that my kids are adults, I make a point to take a one-week vacation with them every winter. My daughter is sort of scarred by the experience of having to do all the museums with me in Europe, so we promise no museums.”
Through all your years of travel, where’s your favorite spot that you’ve gone with your family?
“One summer, we went to Venice and Cinque Terre. It was a 10-day vacation with the family - five days in Venice and five days on the Riviera. Another trip that was really good was going from Vienna to Zurich across the Alps, doing all sorts of fun things for kids: hiking, mountain biking, rafting, all of that stuff.”
“Another trip: Ireland. Their mom is from Ireland, so they’ve got my Norwegian heritage and the Irish heritage; it was so much fun for them to see their Irish heritage. And Dublin is a great place for teenagers who want to be a little wild and crazy.”
One thing that you may not know about Rick Steves is that he’s a social activist. He’s donated money to causes from homelessness to marijuana legalization to the arts. And Rick is outspoken about the need for Americans to broaden their perspectives through travel. He believes that travel can be a vital force for peace.
“There’s 96% of humanity outside of the (U.S.) borders, and if we get to know the (wider) family, then we have an empathy for the people beyond our borders. We become not only more thankful Americans but better citizens of this planet, and I think that’s more important than ever. For a caring parent to let their kids know that 'hey, different people do things differently, and let’s all give each other a little wriggle room' - I encourage parents to do that.”
Steves’ company runs tours, sells travel gear, and employees 100 people in his hometown of Edmond, Washington. (In fact, his office window overlooks his old junior high.) Around 18,000 people travel with Rick Steves Tours every year.
“As part of our tour program, we’ve got tours for families. And I really love that - to have a tour that makes special accommodations on the itinerary for kids. It’s not all museums! There’s two guides: one who organizes the tour activities and one that’s special for the kids’ activities. (They're) experiences that people are really having fun with. (For example) you can make your own tiramisu, and it even tastes better if you make it yourself!”
Photo courtesy: Rick Steves