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Listen up! iPod and audio travel guides and tours

An iPod toddler (courtesy GoonSquadSarah at Flickr CC)Are your kids like mine – often with some sort of headphone or earbud plugged into their aural sockets?  Take advantage of that tendency by looking for available iPod/audio guides and tours when you travel.  Kids can keep looking plugged-in and “cool” but may actually learn something on your trip.

As a parent, of course, your job is to never seem too “Squeeee!” happy when they occasionally admit that something is informative or educational.

Where do you find these tours?

First, if you use iPods, do a search in the iTunes store; Apple recognizes the value of their audio tour podcasts although the iTunes Search function is not particularly good.

There are many well-established general travel podcasts (think of them as little radio shows) from Indie Travel Podcast (latest topics as of this writing include Christchurch, New Zealand and Tasmania) the Amateur Traveler (latest episodes are about the Republic of Georgia, London and Easter Island) Frommers.com and Rick Steves who covers Europe.  An iTunes search for Disney informational podcasts returns a bunch of options too; just make sure they’re fairly recent since things can change quickly at the parks.

You can also find location-specific offerings on iTunes like LAWithKids for Los Angeles and audio/video podcast offerings from VisitLondon.com.

Some companies focus specifically on audio offerings – AudioSnacks, for example, has a big section for audio tours, and the company SoundWalk has some very unique walking tours that place special emphasis on New York City, although they do have a few other cities as well. The media company ARTineraries has professionally-produced tours of mostly Italian historic sites.  LearnOutLoud has a kid’s audio section, too.

The UK’s Guardian, always a good source of worldwide travel information, has a small selection of free audio tours called Sounds of the City (Athens, Rome, Nice, Marseille, Valencia and Granada) plus an eclectic collection of very personalized audio travel guides, featuring people like musician Franz Ferdinand taking you on a tour of his hometown of Glasgow.

Some travel guide companies also produce audio – I like the DK (Dorling-Kindersley) Eyewitness guides for their clean layout and liberal use of photos and graphics, so I was pleased to find that they also have a few DK Travel podcasts.

Finding these things is a classic Google search problem, but I’ve had best results when I query search engines about tours for a specific location.  As I always advise, start with the tourism board/Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB) for the place you’re going to visit.  For example, the Chicago Office of Tourism has free downloadable guides including Chicago for Kids and a blues tour narrated by Buddy Guy.  Even smaller towns may have them; Astoria and Warrenton, Oregon have audio tours guided by locals and sponsored by the local Chamber of Commerce.

Don’t forget that most museums have had audio tours for a long time, including big places like Chicago’s Field Museum and New York’s Museum of Modern Art, plus smaller ones like the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, which has tours in English and Spanish.

Let us know in the comments if you have any favorites!