The summer travel season is in full swing. Opportunities abound to escape "normal" life, create cherished memories with the family, and share your passions with your children through a non-school lens.

Guaranteed: No matter where you travel this summer, you’ll be in a place steeped in backstories of historical importance.

So how do you weave that history into your family vacation?



Tip #1 – Find the “way in” that's perfect for you and yours

The key is to make learning seamless with experience. To do that, harness your kids’ own interests and curiosities to lead the charge. Whether you have a sports fan in the family or a budding artist, tap into what already motivates them to find your “way in.” This will make the past instantly meaningful.

If you’re traveling to Rome with a child who loves cars, for example, be sure to check out the ancient roads and bridges and aqueducts. If yours is a budding fashionista, use clothing styles throughout the ages for your unique historical lens. Or organize a cooking class while visiting Tuscany with your young chef.

Almost any interest can be turned into a learning opportunity and a way to link yesterday to today. 


Tip #2 – Look for connections to current trends or events

Are any of your children’s favorite musicians from the country or city you’re visiting? 

Were their favorite movies filmed there? 

Did their grandfather march across your destination country as a young soldier not much older than they are now?

A quick Google search before you leave using keywords pertaining to the history of your destination will help you bridge the past with the burning issues of today. It may even yield more information than you need. 


Travel guides often contain historical tidbits that you can read up on and then share when on site and the time is right. And you'll look pretty darn smart as you do!

You can also consult online sites such as for traveler recommendations. And don’t forget to tap the history buffs and history teachers — as well as friends and relatives — in your own personal circles. They can be rich resources for a quick history lesson... for you!


Tip #3 – Make it fun


Set up a scavenger hunt or a family contest. Search for treasures in the city or museum you’re visiting. To get you started, you can find some great tips here and here. To extend your activity, consider a family contest: 

The first to find the following X things gets to choose where or what the family eats, or the next sightseeing stop.

Challenge your young ones to act as photojournalists. Get them to take pictures and write about the places and things they're experiencing. Then let them share these personal tidbits in real time with their friends and family back home via social media.

I know, I know, you’re on vacation and hoped to leave Facebook and Instagram behind. You can, for most of the day. But then use these tools to get your kids communicating about what they’ve done and seen, thus scratching their itch to touch base with their peeps while also practicing valuable literacy skills.


Tip #4 – Include them in the planning

When Lily was 10, I had her plan out our itinerary for visiting Roman France. All she needed was a destination guidebook including all the potential locations and a map. Another time she helped chart our course through Morocco by seeking out all areas where Berber culture – her interest – is still alive and well.

Including your children in this way not only makes history relevant today, it also puts mathematics and reading skills to real world uses. They won’t even know they are learning.

While on location, task your kids with helping you decipher signs and menus in another language, identify next-stops on the map, and calculate ticket prices. Involve them in setting the vacation budget and/or making reservations for your trip. In addition to reinforcing school-based skills, it will get them further invested in the family journey.


Tip #5 – Teach about the old through the new

At Time Traveler Tours, our mission is to walk young people through history using story-driven mobile app tours. But we’re not the only ones passionate about enriching the travel experience. Search your favorite store for tourism apps and books about the target destination. You might just find perfect one.

Our app tour to Florence is coming soon. You can pre-order it here.

The key is to keep it enjoyable – it is summer vacation, after all – while taking advantage of opportunities to educate along the way. This is how you weave history, and learning, into a family vacation.

This summer, I urge you to invest a bit of time in research before you hit the road. Your reward will be rich memories, closer ties, and educated kids. Plus, they’ll have some impressive “What I Did on Summer Vacation” reports to bring back to school in the fall!



Happy travels from all of us at Time Traveler Tours & Tales.

Special thanks to Diane Krause of WeGrowMedia for helping to craft
and prepare this post while I was on the road... yet again!


Like this post? Please share it with your followers and friends. 

Coming soon...

Reflections on the 21st Century
Children's Nonfiction  Conference

Results of Team TTT&T's First Iteration Alpha Test of

Breakthroughs at the Book Bound Writer's Retreat

Touring La Brea Tar Pits with Melissa Dusette,
TTT&T Museum Liaison

From the Archives:
Testing, Testing, 1-2-3: Seeking Critical Feedback Before Launch
Building a Team to Build Momentum in a Creative Business
On Kickstarts and Finish Lines: What a Difference a Year Makes!
14 Off-the-Beaten-Track Florence Must Dos
Discover Michelangelo's Best-Kept Secret, Revealed After 446 Years
On Creativity, Serendipity, and Gelato

This week Melissa Dusette, Museum Liaison for Time Traveler Tours, shares our first experience of alpha-testing In the Footsteps of Giants. Enjoy!

With just a partly completed first chapter of In the Footsteps of Giants, I had the pleasure -- and privilege -- of taking our app out of the digital garage for its first trial spin.

We wanted feedback on our proposed User Experience (UX) design. So I brought it to a group of Museum Studies students at the University of Washington-Tacoma. Their instructor, Stephanie Lile, was my supervisor when I interned the Washington State History Museum back in my student days.

The goal was to verify whether the navigational flow of our app makes logical sense. Do the button placements, copy, and linkages between screens flow without a hitch to the user? Are the colors, textures, and graphical elements pleasing and effective? Is it intuitive to use?

We don’t want you reaching for an instruction booklet while you are walking around Florence! But while the design makes sense to us, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will to you.

So it was time to put the app into the hands of our target audience and watch them use it, even if 5,500 miles away from the Duomo in Florence.

First, I made a short presentation on UX theory and design – they are future museum directors, after all.

Then I gave the students a tour of In the Footsteps of Giants as it existed at that point. 

Finally, I gave them a test URL of the app to view on their own devices. I asked them to review the app based on the various UX criteria upon which we build the Time Traveler Tours experience. Then, I watched them interact with our app.

It was very difficult to keep my mouth shut and not direct their journey through the story and tour. But it was gratifying to watch them navigate just as we’d hoped and intended.

Their verdict: “Cool!”

I breathed a sigh of relief and then, after the awkward classroom silence when no one wanted to be the first to speak up, ideas and questions started pouring out. The students were extremely insightful. They gave us valuable feedback regarding our first chapter design:

The navigation was intuitive and responsive, but the artwork seems dated.  

We have since modernized the graphic interface.

We think it would benefit from the inclusion of social sharing.

We have now incorporated optional links to Facebook, Twitter, and email, with Instagram on the way.

Learning history through story and treasure hunts and challenges is good idea, but the app doesn’t seem interactive enough. We think you could go even deeper and ask future users to search for historic clues and details.

We have added to our interactive sequence, therefore, an element called History Hack that did not exist in Sarah’s first app, Beware Madame la Guillotine.

Our students-cum-alpha-testers are closer in age to our intended audience and gave us interesting insights into their evaluation process as well:

Can I put In the Footsteps of Giants down and get some pizza with my friends in between stops?


Can I swipe my finger across the screen easily?

The current generation prefers swiping to tapping evidently, but the OnCell platform limits us to the latter. So we agreed if we make long horizontal buttons, someone with a swiping habit will be satisfied.

Can I take a selfie and post my experience on social media?

Now you can!

They also got us thinking about our marketing strategy:

Do you want teens and 'tweens to be accessing and downloading the app, or will it be their adults passing it down to them?

Our answer, BOTH!

Then you better change up your website – it’s too adult looking – and start an Instagram channel for TTT&T because that’s where young people are hanging out. 

Check out what we've done here.

It was great feedback, and we are already implementing their suggestions, as you can see. It was also a great reminder that I’m no longer as young as I feel – and that my view on technology will always be one of an 80s-90s kid whose earliest technology was tethered. These students and our target users are the real mobile technology natives. As a result, their instincts are right on point.

Bringing the fun and joy of history to the student generation is exactly the mission of Time Traveler Tours & Tales – and it’s exactly at the center of the Venn diagram that expresses my passions and skills. I love speaking with museum educators about how we might aid them with their programming; I enjoy chatting via social media with those interested in the work TTT&T is doing to #TurnHistoryOn; and I’m thrilled to be part of the team’s efforts to find new and innovative ways to tell amazing historical stories.

I’m excited to be working with Team TTT&T and I look forward to connecting with all of our supporters in the future! Send me an email, Twitter, or Facebook message today.

What is ONE question you’d like to ask us?
We’ll answer within 48 hours. That’s my promise.


It's official:

is now available for pre-order.


Be among the first to tour Renaissance Florence
at the tips of your fingers.

AuthorSarah Towle

Today's post comes from Dan Blank of WeGrowMedia, sharing his perspective on how stories are made to come to life through Time Traveler Tours & Tales.... 

Deb Shapiro, Emma D. Dryden, Sarah Towle, and me at Kickstarter headquarters, May 2015.

Deb Shapiro, Emma D. Dryden, Sarah Towle, and me at Kickstarter headquarters, May 2015.

The “lone ranger” small business model works perfectly for some creators – those people who can successfully wear all the hats in their creative business and have no need for additional team members. But big visions require more hats – and more people to properly execute.

Sarah had a big vision:

Combine the traditional power of storytelling with the latest in touchscreen technology to create portals to the past and bring history to life at the tips of your fingers.

Her vehicle is Time Traveler Tours, a new generation of tour guides for a new generation of traveler, and Time Traveler Tales, the multi-format cousins of her story tours. Together, they #TurnHistoryOn.

Sarah’s goal is to harness cutting-edge technology for the benefit of educational tourism, bringing history to life for young people through story-driven interactive mobile tours, then turn the same stories into e- and audio books as well as printed matter such as paperback books, maps, and school-based curriculum guides.

Sarah, me, Frank Totaro, and Deb Shapiro meeting while eating, Dec 2015.

Sarah, me, Frank Totaro, and Deb Shapiro meeting while eating, Dec 2015.

This is indeed a big vision. Could Sarah have hacked through it herself? Sure, with months of 14-hour days, no backup, and no strategic or even emotional support. Anything is possible.

But how much fun would that be?

Besides, as the vision grew there were things Sarah had to do that she did not enjoy doing and did not do well. Like marketing. She eventually realized she needed support, that the vision would never be realized without collaborators.

That's where I came in.

Two years ago I joined Sarah's team as Marketing & Messaging Consultant to help cast her view out into the future to craft the strategic road map as well as to hone TTT’s messaging and develop a process of regular communication with her community. We saw the team through two website upgrades, a Kickstarter campaign, and now the launch of our first official company product: the storyapp, IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF GIANTS.

The rest of the team brings their own set of skills and perspectives to support's Sarah's mission:

Community Management quickly became something Sarah could not do alone. The business of managing Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, the group blog and near-weekly newsletter is today so time-consuming that if Sarah only did that, she’d never write another story, never mind fulfill the promise of her mission. Diane Krause now manages the editorial calendar and holds the reins of TTT’s weekly content marketing output.

Just as every writer needs a great Editor, so every publishing endeavor needs an Editorial Consultant. For Team TTT&T this person is Emma D. Dryden. She steers every TTT&T blog post and story to publication.

All of the above costs money, which comes from customers and clients. To help Sarah better connect with her target audience and potential future clients, Melissa Halverson came on board as Museum Liaison.

Sarah and Oliver at Bologna Children's Book Fair, April 2016.

Sarah and Oliver at Bologna Children's Book Fair, April 2016.

Oliver Latsch, Sarah’s literary agent cum business partner, is actively pitching the company and concept to investors and potential partners alike. Frank Totaro, as Financial Advisor, works in lockstep with Sarah and Oliver to ensure the TTT&T business plan and current and targeted.

And then there are all the contributors helping to produce Time Traveler Tours & Tales' future list: Elizabeth Dulemba, Art Director; Cynthia Carris Alonso, Photo Editor; Robert Marino, Copy Editor and Audio Coach; Joe Bianco, Voice Actor and Sound Engineer; Deb Shapiro, Publicist; Marcie Colleen, Curriculum Developer; Debra Kass Orenstein, Legal Counsel; Mary Hoffman and Michelangelo and all the future authors -- and historic characters -- we hope to bring on board!

The key is collaboration. It is the very definition of the growing TTT&T machine. That and the belief behind the effort that enables Sarah to keep showing up day after day after day.

So, as you watch IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF GIANTS come to life, or the next time you view a new movie or read a good book, I hope you’ll appreciate all the talented people who played even a small role in bringing that work of art to life.

Sarah and David, Florence, June 2015.

Sarah and David, Florence, June 2015.

It's official:

is now available for pre-order.


Be among the first to tour
Renaissance Florence
at the tips of your fingers.


Exactly a year ago, you held the fate of a dream in your hands. We were asking for $40,000 to fund our moonshot. And in Kickstarter, if you don't reach your campaign goal, you get nothing. Now, remarkably, we are feeling the gravitational pull of the App and Google Play Stores.

Without you, we'd have never gotten our time-traveling machine off the ground!

No one's taking anything for granted, but a year on from our Kickstarter launch in May 2015, hosted by Julie Gribble and KidLit TV, we wanted to pause for a moment, take stock and recognize all of you who shared the vision strongly enough to reach out and help us cross that first finish line… before we cross the next one — toward which we inch closer every day!

As we like to say at Time Traveler Tours & Tales: It all starts with story. Putting the story back in history is what we're all about, and how we endeavor to #TurnHistoryOn

Our story, Mary Hoffman's In the Footsteps of Giants, provides an extraordinary historical foundation as Michelangelo tours you around Renaissance Florence from his hiding place, a secret cell lost to history for 446 years, until 1976.

It was still 2015 when Mary delivered the draft manuscript, which gives you some idea of how long and hard we've been working on the editorial, technical, visual, and audio elements of our coming story app — the very things that set our tales apart.

I'm not sure our new tech partners at OnCell LLC (Rochester, NY's in the house!) knew what they were getting into when they eagerly agreed to join forces with us. But they have produced what we hope will be a robust and intuitive platform (meaning: the app will be as easy for parents to use as for the digital natives we're targeting). The best part is that together we're building something we can use for future projects from Athens to Zanzibar.

And speaking of getting more than they bargained for: Bob Marino. Anything I write will inevitably fail to express how much he has done these past few weeks to bring our project to the point of publication. 

Which brings us to now:

Joe Bianco, our Michelangelo, is just about to wrap up our English-language narration. We can only imagine what Michelangelo's voice sounded like, but I'm betting if he knew English, it would sound an awful lot like Joe's lovely basso.

As we close production on the audio phase, Cynthia Carris Alonso continues to comb through the history of Renaissance art to pick out the perfect images to illustrate our story on the screen.

And the newest member of our ever-growing team, Elizabeth Dulemba, is working up some serious magic to make everything look as pretty as it can possibly be so we can launch our first iteration with pride. Take a look at our lovely new App Store Icon!

So here we are, a full year since I asked you to join me on this ride. Thanks to you all, fingers crossed, we'll be out with something for you to experience within a matter of weeks.

And we are so very excited, and so very grateful about that!

to time travel to our Live Launch at KidLit TV in NYC
one year ago this month!

My daughter Lily texted today with the news:

Just finished my last exam of the semester!

That can mean only one thing:

Summer will soon be upon us!

For those of you heading to Florence, Italy this year, I hope you'll find the following tips and recommendations useful. You can download a pdf of the same information to take with you to Florence by clicking here

For those of you NOT going to Florence this year, No Fear! This is the first post of many in a coming series: Paris, London, New York, wherever you may be traveling, let us know here and we'll prepare an off-the-beaten-track Must Dos list for YOU too!

*   *   *

14 Off-the-Beaten-Track Florence Must Dos
When You Desperately Need to Escape the Queues...

Florence is one of those places on everybody’s bucket list. It’s a fantastic city to visit with kids. Who doesn’t want to visit the Uffizi, stroll across the Ponte Vecchio, stand before the original David at the Accademia, and climb up inside Brunelleschi’s famous dome?

But great as these experiences seem in the imagination, in reality they draw the biggest crowds and the longest queues, especially if you haven’t booked tickets in advance.  

To keep you from spending precious holiday time standing in line, I’ve created a list of 14 off-the-beaten-track-Florence-Must-Dos with the help of my fellow Florence-loving friends: Susan Eaddy, Julie Hedlund, Mary Hoffman, and Paul Zelinsky.

Oh, and of course there's our app, In the Footsteps of Giants. Which you can pre-order by sending me a Please Inform Me When the App is Ready message here!


The Vasari Corridor, The Path of Princes

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

At the moment you can only access Vasari’s elevated corridor, The Path of Princes, as part of a guided Uffizi tour. But there are moves to make it open to the public. Built for Duke Cosimo the 1st of Florence, it runs above ground from the Palazzo Vecchio to the Pitti Palace via the Uffizi, Ponte Vecchio, and Santa Felicita church. This way, Cosimo the 1st could walk from his offices (uffizi, in Italian) to his palace home without suffering from the smells of the butcher and fishmonger stalls on the busy bridge.


Piazza Santissima Annunziata, Monastery Turned Hotel

"The most beautiful and the least known square in Florence," this piazza is almost entirely overlooked by tourists. The old monastery turned hotel is where da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa. And both the Ospedale degli Innocenti (orphan hospital) and the matching church façade were designed by Brunelleschi. 

Treasure hunt for the “foundling wheel” where one could place an unwanted baby and with a half-turn of the wheel, deliver him or her inside the orphanage without being seen. Also, check out the bees on the equestrian monument, designed by Giambologna.


The Badia, across from the Bargello

A 10th-century abbey boasting over 1,000 years of history, the Badia sits smack dab in city center yet is most often passed by. Treasure hunt for the wonderful Fillipino Lippi painting, Apparition of the Virgin.


Church of San Michele Visdomini, in the Via dei Servi

A much-overlooked church in the Via dei Servi, it houses Pontormo’s mannerist-style Sacra Conversazione.


Museo di Firenze Com'era Via Oriuoli, behind Brunelleschi's Dome

Tucked behind Brunelleschi’s dome, this little museum tells the story of Florence through a series of paintings from the Renaissance through to the 19th century. 


The Piazza del Limbo, outside the Church of Santi Apostoli

This tiny square outside the Church of Santi Apostoli is where babies who had died before being baptized were buried once upon a time. Legend has it that when the rich banker Bindo Altoviti wanted to raze the church and rebuild it, Michelangelo convinced him to restore it. Today it is one of few churches in Florence to have maintained its High Middle Age features.


Image courtesy of Tuscany Arts.

Image courtesy of Tuscany Arts.

Brancacci Chapel
of Santa Maria del Camine

This is where Pietro Torrigiano broke Michelangelo’s nose, disfiguring the master sculptor forever. The two boys were arguing about Masaccio’s frescos, which even today are a revelation!


Toward the Duomo

On your way toward the Duomo from the Piazza Santissima Annunziata, check out this shop housed in a medieval building that makes handmade paper and leather-bound books.


Cemetery at San Miniato
Church with a View

Standing atop one of the highest points in the city, the view from this church is spectacular. It’s also a fascinating place. Join the monks for an evening of relaxing and mysterious chanting.


La Specola, in the Oltrano

A true oddity – this natural history museum boasts wax figures – over 800 of them! -- used for medical education in the late 1800s.


Borgo Ognissanti, The Treasure Hunt

This whole street is quiet and residential. There’s a quirky drug store on the corner called Munstermann’s that has a “guide” to men’s facial hair. They will mix a custom perfume for you from essential oils. But the real thrill is treasure hunting there for the two St. Jeromes, the Botticcelli, and the Ghirlandiao. Good luck!


Fort Belvedere, 16th Century Design

Forte di Belvedere is a rambling fort designed at the end of the 16th century. It’s a great place for views over Florence and marriage proposals ;)


Villa Demidoff, a Small Versailles

An easy bus ride out of Florence, this lovely park – variously described as “a small Versailles” and “a theater of delights, magnificence, and leisure – is home to the wonderful Giambologna giant. 

Gelateria La Carraia, Best Gelato

Don’t forget to treasure hunt for the best gelato in Florence. Our bet is that you’ll rank this one among the best, if not THE best.

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