Taking the Kids: First Lady Talks Summer Vacations

PHOTO: Sasha Obama and first lady Michelle Obama bike while vacationing on Marthas Vineyard, August 23, 2011, in West Tisbury, Mass.

Ready to let the kids lead the way on vacation?

First lady Michelle Obama suggests that's one way to get everyone more active on vacation this summer. The first lady told Taking the Kids in an exclusive interview, "The key to getting kids moving is to find something they enjoy, and join in." For the first family, that includes biking.

Every traveling parent, including the first parents, of course knows that if the kids are happy on vacation, everyone will be happy. But these days, with worries about childhood obesity and fitness, none of us want our kids to spend vacation sitting around eating fries, playing video games or texting, even if that's what makes them happy.

Neither do we. American travelers recently ranked getting healthier as their top goal this year, according to research from the new Portrait of American Travelers from MMGY Global/Harrison Group.

At the same time, kids surveyed by the U.S. Travel Association said that what they like most on vacation is doing things with their families that they can't do at home, things they'll talk about all year. Why not make some of those activities ones that get you all moving, suggests the first lady. "I'd encourage families to pick activities — no matter where you're visiting — that involve getting active, whether it's walking, biking or anything else you find fun," she said.

Michelle Obama has made combating childhood obesity and encouraging families, including her own, to eat healthier and get more active one of her signature White House initiatives by way of her Let's Move! campaign.

The fact that her daughters, Sasha and Malia, weren't eating enough vegetables was the impetus for the famous White House garden — the largest ever planted at the president's residence. The garden has even encouraged families around the country to plant their own. Last summer, the first lady told Taking the Kids that one way to encourage kids to eat healthier on vacation is to visit farmers' markets.

"Get them involved in buying the food your family eats, at a farmers' market you can let them pick out any three vegetables they want, and then plan dinner around those," she said. (For more tips from the first lady on eating healthier on vacation visit, click here. )

This year, as Memorial Day approaches, signaling the start of the summer family travel season, I was glad that the first lady took the time out of her busy schedule to respond again to questions from Taking the Kids about how we can all vacation healthier. I'm sure you'll find that she has some pretty useful tips.

Q. How can families be more active on vacation this summer, whether they're touring a city like Washington, D.C., or heading to the beach?

A: One of my favorite activities in the summer is biking. Barack and I love to bike with the girls when we can, and it's a great way to explore a new place. And many cities now have affordable ways of renting bikes for a few hours or a few days. Going on a long walk is also a great way to explore a new city or new neighborhoods. You can also choose a vacation spot that will get you active without even thinking about it, like visiting one of our nation's many beautiful national parks.

Q. How can you encourage kids to move on vacation, if they'd rather play video games or text? A. We are our kids' first and best role models, so if we're getting active and enjoying it, they will too. Also, set limits on screen time during vacation. If they aren't moving, they should be reading.

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