A family’s vacation plans are not always open to much creativity. When it’s time to visit the grandparents somewhere; well, that’s where you’re going.
On the other hand, when a few days or weeks are available, or there’s time for a detour during a road trip, then it helps to have some ideas for your holidays.
Sunscreen? Check. Beach towels? Check. Warm vs. cold water and sugar sand vs. pebbles? Let the arguments begin.
Before embarking on a beach vacation, talk with your kids about their expectations for a “perfect beach” and whether they want to be doing water sports all day, or just laying about on a beach chair.
Babies, little children and weaker swimmers will need beaches with gentle wave action. Teens will want some nightlife, but parents will want safe versions of evening carousing. Some families are content to spend the entire day, every day, at the shore, while others demand alternative activities. Do you crave desert island solitude, or a bustling Daytona Beach-like scene?
Decide all that before spending any money on tickets to paradise.
The call of the open road, the family road trip, is an iconic part of raising kids in some societies.
Driving from one place to another allows the most individualized travel itinerary, but the drawbacks are the time that it takes and the high cost of fuel. Food and lodging can also really add up on a long journey.
Plan to keep a cooler in the car, to avoid spending too much on junk at convenience stores and rest stops. Lodging that offers free breakfast takes care of at least one meal for the day.
Plan realistic driving times, and include flexibility for serendipitous detours and leg-stretching bathroom breaks.
Cruises are popular for the same reasons that all-inclusive resorts are appealing; one price covers (most) food, lodging and entertainment costs.
Many cruises are specifically geared to families and have dedicated staffs to entertain kids while parents take a break. The Disney cruises are one example; they can be taken as a cruise-only event or combined with a visit to the Florida theme parks.
One caveat to this is very young children; check carefully to see whether the non-potty-trained or less-than-perfectly-trained are allowed into the kid programs. Some are very strict with regards to the number of “accidents” they will allow before the child is barred from using drop-off programs.
Happy campers can range from families who are hard-core backpackers hiking out into the wilderness and pitching a tent, or “car campers” who drive up to an air-conditioned cabin in a state park.
Either way, children are easily enthralled by the special adventures, sights and smells found only outdoors. No need to bring entertainment – it’s all around your campsite or cabin, and the price is right, too.
Let kids help plan menus as well, even if it’s as simple as making s’mores.
Don’t be put off by thoughts of little ones ice-climbing, trekking through jungles or whitewater kayaking; plenty of milder excitement awaits in the world of “soft” adventure travel that is better geared for families.
Cycling tours, for example, might be considered adventure travel but are really not so strenuous or “out there” if the route is safe, the terrain is relatively flat and equipment like “sag wagons” and special adult/child tandem bikes are available.
Ski and snowboard vacations
Whether the whole family is a bunch of snowbunnies or only one or two can get down the slopes, a vacation in the frosty mountains can be fun for everyone.
Many experts recommend starting ski lessons around ages 4 or 5, when lower body development is ready for the sport, although anyone can learn at any age (there is always cross-country skiing or snowshoeing for those older bones and joints!)
Airfare to resort areas can get very expensive, but packages can reduce that bite when combined with lift passes and lodging.
Equipment is often best to rent at the resort, primarily because it has become so expensive to check anything aboard aircraft. If your family is driving, of course, this is less of an issue.