Unforgettable Family Vacations

Picture sitting in hours of bumper-to-bumper traffic with a carload of grumpy kids, only to arrive at an underwhelming yet overpriced motel situated conveniently across town from a crowded beach. Sound like the sort of vacation nightmare you’d like to avoid? Here are some tips on planning an unforgettable family vacation.

Find the Trip That Fits

The most crucial element for any great vacation comes down to planning. Some items to consider as you research are:

Budget �” will you opt for a month-long European cruise or maybe a week of camping at a state park?
Special amenities �” is childcare service available so that the deserving parents can go out for a night on the town?
Pleasing everyone �” how’s the golf near that amusement resort?

With a little foresight, the perfect vacation is indeed possible.

Budget Getaways

In this uncertain economic climate, it makes sense for families to go the less-expensive route at vacation time, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to a less exciting or memorable trip. Inexpensive close-to-home options like camping and hiking, or taking day or weekend trips to nearby cities are great choices. But keep in mind that cheap airfare and travel packages are available as well, especially if you purchase tickets several months ahead of time.

Another great strategy for finding a budget getaway is being flexible. Off-season rates can be exponentially cheaper than their in-season counterparts. Sometimes the trick to finding great rates is choosing a vacation destination you find desirable, and then making travel plans for the opposite season. While ski resorts in the Poconos and the Rockies rake in the cash in the winter, they lower rates to coax more visitors in the summertime. Though skiing may be out of the question in July, exciting family-oriented activities like horseback riding, canoeing and mountain biking amid spectacular scenery will leave you just as satisfied.

However, it’s important to remember that traveling off-season sometimes comes with risks of its own; autumn may be the cheapest time for a Caribbean jaunt, but the peaking hurricane season may throw a wrench into your plans at the last minute. In such instances, a safety net of travel insurance is highly advisable.

Cruises

One of the best ways to cover a lot of ground while having the time of your life is taking a family cruise. While they can be great for romantic getaways, many cruise lines cater specifically to families and offer a veritable floating city with options for everyone. While mom and dad catch a show or collect some rays on deck, the kids can spend the day at the on-board water park. Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean’s Nickelodeon Family Cruises are two excellent choices for family voyages.
Contrary to popular belief, cruises can often be quite economical. To find the cheapest rates, try booking trips early and during off-peak travel times �” April and May or autumn for the Caribbean, May or September for Alaska and March through April or September and October for the Mediterranean. Disney Cruise Line offers kids rates for children 4-12 and special packages including certain voyages where kids under 17 can travel for free. As always, narrowing down your options and diligently checking their websites for specials invariably pays off in the end.

On the Road

Of course, the old standby of the traditional family road trip is almost an American rite of passage, never to be brushed aside. The bad clichs of a multi-hour drive to your vacation spot need not spoil the fun, however. A few select tips for the long haul will keep everyone safe and happy. If you foresee your vehicle being a bit cramped, the extra cash in renting a van for a week or two will be well worth it, but bring your own car seats �” they will likely be of better quality than what the rental agency offers.

Remember to appease your children’s youthful attention spans and break up your time in the car with plenty of pit stops. Plan to visit some roadside attractions on the way. An invaluable gadget our forbearing road trippers would have appreciated is a portable video player �” consider packing a selection of your kids’ favorite flicks to keep them occupied. Most importantly, don’t forget the snacks.

Special Events

Yearly festivals like Mardi Gras in New Orleans or the South by Southwest music and arts festival in Austin, Texas are more great reasons to take a getaway. Families can also time their vacations to coincide with sporting events like the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania or holidays like spending Independence Day in the nation’s capital. Booking hotel rooms and making travel plans ahead of time are especially important for events like these, as they draw thousands of visitors, but a little preplanning can lead to some of the most unforgettable family vacations.

The key to arranging the most enjoyable vacation with your family is preventing any major problems before they happen by preparing early and preparing thoroughly. The fewer your hassles, the more time you’ll have to focus on and relax with your family.

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