After handling the logistical hurdles of flying with children, perfecting your family packing system and searching out the best bargains available, the main objective is to start having fun once you get where you're going. From transportation to activity access, these tips represent some of my favorite ways to maximize family vacation getaways.
Parks: National parks are often overlooked by parents planning their annual family vacation. If you haven't experienced one lately, you may want to give them a second look. Typical offerings include ranger-led hikes, educational wildlife experiences and in many cases, phenomenal food. That's right, fine dining is an option when visiting a number of national parks, including gourmet rafting trips at Big Bend and lodge dining at Shenandoah with wild mushroom ravioli and blackberry cobbler.
Perks: These days, family resorts face steep competition for your travel dollars, resulting in fab perks that ease your bottom line. For example, at the Isla Verde Beach Resort in San Juan, Puerto Rico, room rates can drop as low as $129 per night. This price includes the resort's complimentary children's programming, which features chef-led cooking lessons, salsa dancing classes, movie nights and more. For parents trying to successfully implement a working vacation, the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Resort and Spa offers discounted pool cabana rentals for hotel guests. The cabanas come with telephone and Internet access, as well as television and food service, making a day at the pool both productive and fun.
Passes: Many hotels include passes to on-site or nearby theme and water parks to sweeten the family travel deal. While Atlantis is the big draw for those traveling to the Bahamas, there other options with great deals. One such venue is Wisconsin's Wilderness Hotel and Golf Resort. Off-peak travel rates here reach as low as $99 per night, and include guest passes to the four indoor water parks and four-story dry foam area. Add-on tickets for access to the resorts other activities, including laser tag, ropes course and bumper boats are only $19!
Transportation: The type of transportation you choose between daily activities can add a significant amount of wow factor for your kids. Teens for example, tend to tune in for a Segway ride much more than a standard walking tour. Hiking through the jungle mud in Thailand has a high likelihood of tears. Riding the same trail on an elephant instead? Huge hit. Ditto with camel riding versus walking in Petra.