Lately, I have been thinking about and discussing with friends, family, and colleagues, the delicate balance we seek when managing risk, fear, preparation, wisdom, loss, knowledge and exploration.
Perhaps our formula is different when the situation involves our children.
re you ready for a getaway?
Plan your own classic American holiday. Here are fun-filled ideas to help you create an iconic family vacation:
Take a Road Trip.
A concept often parodied on television and in the movies, the family road trip continues to be a source of fun and happy memories for clans across the country. Play games, sing songs, tell stories along the way. Access the American Automobile Association’s plentiful and user-friendly information on road conditions, weather, deals, discounts, and gas prices. They can also help with roadside assistance, travel planning and maps.
Contact: 1 (800) 332-6119; www.AAA.com.
Make your way to the Mountains.
Fill your lungs with pine scented air. Raft the rivers, wonder at the wild life or travel by horseback into the backcountry. A visit to a mountain destination like Jackson, WY will offer you and your family the best of the great outdoors paired with a glimpse into our western heritage. Take in the rodeo, a cowboy cookout, visit the hot springs and the Grand Teton National Park.
Contact: 1 (888) 838-6606; www.jacksonholewy.com.
Head to the Beach.
You may have a family favorite or build sand castles on the beach closest to home. However, if you are looking for a new sandy spot, consider the annual list created by coastal expert Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, Director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research. For the last 20 years, “Dr. Beach” has used 50 criteria, including water, sand quality, safety and environmental management, to rank seaside playgrounds. Beaches in New York, Florida, California, Hawaii and North Carolina top the lists. Contact: www.DrBeach.org.
Relax at the lake.
With more than 1,000 miles of shoreline, Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks is a family favorite. In addition to boating, swimming, fishing and a wide range of water sports, generations of lake lovers enjoy hiking in the nearby state park, biking, mini-golf and water parks as well as access to plenty of restaurants, music and other kid-friendly attractions.
In Montana, Whitefish Lake is a family favorite. With Glacier National Park in the neighborhood, you can't go wrong.
Visit a National Park.
Celebrate our freedom and the beauty of our land within one of our 392 national parks. With so many historical and natural wonders to discover, consider heading to the National Park Service’s web pages, specifically designed to help regular and first time visitors plan a meaningful trip. There you research park activities as well as camping, back country, lodging and educational options. Across America each day there are special events, institute and field schools as well as volunteer opportunities. Check for fee free days and Junior Ranger programs for the kids.
Get Sporting at the Wintergreen Resort. Wintergreen, VA.
Parents can join their kids for group golf lessons and then head to the course to refine their skills. This is a family-friendly resort on the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains and offers up a range of easily accessible sporting options. With 45 holes of championship golf as a cornerstone, families can enjoy a holiday that includes a children’s program at The Treehouse, hiking, fly-fishing and an award-winning tennis program.
Contact: 800-926-3723; www.wintergreenresort.com
Family adventures abound north of the US border. Visit Canada for outdoor adventure and yet another view of the natural world. Here are five places to explore with our northern neighbors:
Heli-hiking in British Columbia.
Chopper, chopper, chopper. The thrill begins when your crew boards the spacious helicopter bound for your high mountain lodge. Within just a few days every member of the family will push their high altitude limits while rock climbing with world-class mountain guides or simply enjoying colorful wildflowers aside stunning glacier lakes. Designed to engage children of all ages, families can choose to divide by ability and interest during the day and gather for the evening or choose to explore together for the week. CMH also offers heli-skiing adventures during the winter months. Contact: 1(800)661-0252; www.CanadianMountainHolidays.com.
Whistler/Blackcomb, British Columbia.
Olympic alpine ski coverage may have stoked your interest in this pair of charming ski resorts. Throughout the year, families will find plenty of activities to engage each member of the clan. In summer, enjoy kayaking, rafting, and horseback riding. Try out the bungee trampoline, the Core climbing center or just stroll through the village. When the snow falls there is plenty of downhill and cross-country skiing as well as snowboarding, snowshoeing and dog-sledding to keep an active family engaged. Check out deals, packages and last minute offers on the website.
Kids love the chance to ride the rails. A good option for reunions or multigenerational travel, this family owned company offers more than 70 Canadian train vacation packages through British Columbia, Alberta and the Canadian Rockies. Unplug and relax while taking in spectacular scenery from the comfort of your seat. Onboard attendants provide colorful commentary and make sure every member of the clan enjoys the ride. Best known for their two-day, all daylight train excursion and rail tour through the Canadian Rockies, this year the company celebrates their 20th year in business.
Contact: (800) 665-7245; www.Rocky Mountaineer.com
Find your way to the remote community of Churchill for a chance to see the magnificent polar bear, which migrates to this icy seaport on the Hudson Bay in search of the ringed seal. As night falls on the “Polar Bear Capital of the World”, glimpse the amazing aurora borealis or northern lights for an added thrill. During the summer months, Beluga whale-watching is possible in small boats or zodiacs.
Contact: 1(800)665-0040; www.travelmanitoba.com.;
Klondike Gold Rush Route, The Yukon.
Relive one of the most exciting and colorful eras in Canadian history when you step back in time along the route of the Klondike Gold Rush. Be sure to make time for Dawson City, where dusty streets lined with old-time boardwalks and historic buildings evoke a sense of what life was like in the Wild West. You’ll also learn about First Nations cultures, and have plentiful opportunities to view wildlife, fish and hike. Take advantage of visitor centers along the way to maximize your journey. Come winter, snowshoe, cross- country ski or join in a dog sled race.
Contact:1 (800) 661-0494; www.511yukon.ca/; www.TravelYukon.com.
Lynn O'Rourke Hayes is a writer, photographer, and a passionate traveler. She is the Editor and owner of FamilyTravel.com.
Each week, she writes a syndicated travel column that appears in the likes of the Dallas Morning News, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Newsday and many more. She also contributes to other print, online and broadcast outlets. She believes travel has the power to change lives and to serve as a pathway for personal growth and self understanding. She has spent more than 30 years writing and speaking about travel and family issues.
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After more than a decade of providing family travel resources, we decided it was time to update our editorial focus. Whether you are an armchair traveler, a city seeker, a National Park explorer or a global adventurer, we want to be your wellspring of Family Travel information.
You will also note that our definition of “family” has expanded. The game has changed. Combine the geographic spread with the multi-layered demands of the modern family and what do you get? Folks who are time-starved and hungry for connection.
Often the only time we see our extended tribe is when we gather at a beach house, a ski resort or a high mountain camp ground to celebrate a special family event. So we plan to provide plenty of creative suggestions for gathering the clan in ways that will be as much for Aunt Gloria as Baby Ben (and his parents).
In between those multigenerational meet-ups, we hope you take time to plan travel with your children, your siblings, and those friends who are often more like family than…well, you know, those truly treasured friends!
Expect thoughtful travel writing and inspiring photography provided by our intrepid crew of professionals. Browse our pages for tips and ideas for planning great weekend getaways, thrilling adventure trips, traditional summer vacations and off-the-beaten path exploration.
You’ll also find gear and book reviews, luxury and budget booking options, great travel deals and opportunities for trading travel secrets.
We hope you enjoy FamilyTravel.com and will share our news with your friends and family.
We invite you to return time and again to enjoy our window onto an amazing world.
Go far. Grow close.
Lynn O’Rourke Hayes
Editor and Owner
This page is brought to you by Pride of Maui offering fun-filled, action-packed snorkeling/sailing trips to Maui's Molokini.
Snorkeling is a great way to explore the beauty of our underwater world.
Here are six places the family can learn about coral reefs, colorful fish and more:
Join your family in a Northwest coastal adventure. Explore the craggy coastline, the beauty of the saltwater beaches, play a round a golf or spot a tufted Puffin. Here are five ideas to consider:
Bandon Dunes, ORE.
With Oregon’s rugged Pacific coastline as a backdrop, a family holiday or reunion at this seaside resort provides a top-notch experience for avid golfers in the group as well as an extensive menu of other on-property and nearby options. Upon check-in, ask about the mapped trail system that winds through sand dunes to vistas of the ocean and the resort’s four golf courses. Expect to enjoy whale watching, horseback riding, fishing, sea kayaking and kite surfing. Birders will be excited to know hundreds of species nest in the area, including the tufted puffin. Golf lessons, including those for Juniors, are available.
Contact: 1-800-742-0172; www.BandonDunesGolf.com.
Visit the complex landscape that is protected within the Olympic National Park & Forest. For bird watching, including the most significant habitat for bald eagles in the lower 48, beach combing, hiking and fishing, there are few destinations where families will find more beauty and opportunity to bond with nature.
Consider the Kalaloch Lodge as a cozy home base. Serving up rustic yet charming accommodations, the Lodge offers tremendous views of the Pacific as well as the opportunity to spot puffins, sea otters, seals and a long list of other sea birds. Tap into rich history by asking about the dozens of shipwrecks that have occurred in the area.
Contact: 888-896-3818; www.OlympicNationalParks.com.
Four Seasons, Seattle, WA.
Venture off to high-energy Pike’s Place Market where the kids will be amused by the famous ,fish-flinging market crew. Stroll the waterfront, visit the original Starbucks and tour the Seattle Art Museum. It’s all within a few minutes walking distance from the luxurious hotel, which offers stunning views of Elliott Bay and Puget Sound. The hotel’s Kids in the City package insures in-room movies, pint-sized bathrobes, and age-appropriate welcome amenities. If needed, book a second, adjoining room at half price. Kids will also have the sweet opportunity to join the chef in the pastry kitchen to craft their own cotton candy. Contact: 1 -206 -749-7000; www.fourseasons.com/Seattle.
San Juan Islands, WA.
Hop the ferry from Seattle and explore the San Juan Islands. The destination is comprised of three islands; Orcas, Lopez and San Juan, each with its own distinctive character. An outdoor family’s paradise, your active crew can choose from hiking, road and mountain biking, kayaking, sailing and scanning the sea for the more than 85 orca whales that make their home in this northwest sanctuary. Hike to waterfalls, snack on local produce at farmer’s markets, and enjoy regional creative endeavors at local art galleries.
Contact: 888-468-3701; www.VisitSanJuans.com.
Explore sand dunes, coastal forests, estuaries, and trout rich rivers as you sample the delights of the Oregon coast with the kids. The Forest extends from the coastal town of Tillamook to Coos Bay. Dine on local seafood served up in casual settings. Hike on more than 200 miles of low elevation trails, making it more appealing to both the junior and senior members of your family. Consider camping along the way at one or more of 40 developed campgrounds. The sea breeze and overhead stars are complimentary. Contact: http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/siuslaw/ 541-750-7000 For campsite reservations: 1-877-444-6777;
Take a break from work, school and routine. Add a healthy dose of sunshine or snow, or better yet, both, as a quick-fix remedy for those eager to explore. Here are eight great ways to recharge.
Road Trip. If you’d like to cover some country with your kids consider teaming up with the folks at Tracks & Trails. They create custom, self-drive RV vacation packages that take the guess work out of an adventure-filled road trip. Specializing in the western U.S. and Canada as well as Florida, these travel pros make all the National Park and activity reservations and chart your itinerary from start to finish. You’ll receive your own “Adventure Kit” chock full of detailed maps and travel tips as well as suggested family-friendly hikes, points of interest and outings along your route.
Contact: (800) 247-0970; www.tracks-trails.com
Volunteer in the Virgin Islands. Give back during your beach holiday and receive a $100 resort credit. Stay at the Westin St. John Resort & Villas and everyone benefits when you join the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park for a day of beach cleaning and trail maintenance. Junior guests receive a free sports bottle or tippy cup when checking in to the resort. Later the containers will be filled with free beverages. The Westin Kids Club also offers a full range of outdoor activities as well as arts and crafts and movies. Teens have their own special place to convene, a 1,200 square foot Teen Center where young people can make plans to enjoy water sports, watch movies or play volley ball on the beach.
Contact: 888.627.7206; www.westinresortstjohn.com
Barbados Bound. With 3000 hours of sunshine each year and an average temperature in the mid-80s, sun-seeking families will find plenty to smile about when visiting this 166 square mile destination in the Caribbean. Expect history, culture, food, music, beautiful beaches and the chance to see Hawksbill and Leatherback turtles. Book the Take me to Barbados package and receive one free when staying for five nights. Also, children 16 and under stay and eat free at participating hotels. This and other value-added packages are available through travel agents. American Airlines has nonstop service from Dallas-Fort Worth to Grantley Adams International Airport in Bridgetown, Barbados.
Beech Mountain, NC. Visit “Eastern America’s Highest Town” . The resort, which rests at 5,500 feet, offers 13 runs and two terrain parks on 95 acres, as well as views of four different states. If slope-side skiing or snowboarding wear out the younger bunch, head to the free youth sledding hill, sponsored by the Town of Beech Mountain for the benefit of those 12 and under. Check out the tubing park and the 7,000 square foot ice skating rink for more winter weather fun. Receive two free lift passes with a three night stay. Some restrictions apply. In summer, hike, bike and enjoy the natural beauty.
South Beach, FL. After a full day splashing in the surf, what could be more fun than building a tented fort in your hotel room? Loews provides extra in-room sheets plus flashlights so kids can get creative once they’ve emptied the sand from their shoes. As part of their Sundown Survival Kit for Kids, junior guests can also take advantage of movies and enjoy a milk and cookie nightcap. Youngsters will also want to visit SoBe Scoops, a retro ice cream parlor, decked out in vintage style and offering old-time favorites like rock candy, candied apples and crème soda. Kids can invite their parents to join them at SushiSkool, where the whole family can learn how to roll sushi and maneuver chopsticks. The resort also offers camps for kids of all ages, healthy menus and swanky Kidbanas by the pool. Pets are welcome too.
Contact: 1-800-235-6397; www.loewshotels.com/en/Miami-Beach-Hotel
Aruban Holiday. Enjoy family travel specials at this all-inclusive resort where meals, snacks, resort activities and the Kids Club are all included in your rate. The whole clan will also enjoy an Aruban Beach Party featuring live entertainment, festive music and local food. Enjoy snorkeling, sailing, kayaking, tennis, pool play or building sand castles on the white sand beach.
Contact: 1-800-858-2258; www.occidentalhotels.com/grand/Aruba.asp
Big Bear Mountain. Southern California’s Big Bear Mountain sees plenty of the big white flakes during the winter season, bringing smiles to the faces of skiers and snowboarders who always want to make tracks during the snowy season. During the off years, the resort has top notch snowmaking systems providing quality snow for thousands of skiers and snowboarders in the region. Who knew you could enjoy mountain life just two hours from Downtown Los Angeles?
Contact: 909.866.5766; www.bigbearmountainresorts.com
Limelight Lodge, Aspen, CO. Join your college-aged kids and take part in the Limelight Lodge’s Insider Tracks tours, designed for experiences skiers. Professional adventure specialists will show those with intermediate to advanced ski or board skills, the local take on the four mountains that make up Aspen and Snowmass. Participants will find the best powder and the secret chutes along with tips on how to make the most of a day on these famed Rocky Mountain slopes. Back at the lodge, enjoy homemade granola, a soak in the hot tub, a family dinner and the use of multi-lingual computer stations. Ask about the Ski Free package which includes up to two lift tickets per day in the room rate. Pets are welcome. During the summer months, hike into the hills, stroll through town, catch the latest at local museums, check out the mountain biking trails and be on the look out for Hollywood stars who like to relax in the mountains just like you.
Contact: 1- 800-433-0832; www.LimelightLodge.com
The American Civil War, a conflict of considerable scale, was fought on home soil.
Sixty percent of the battles were fought in Virginia. Communities, parks and museums, primarily in the East and South, will continue to offer living histories, lectures, and tours noting this era in our history.
Gettysburg. Gettysburg, VA.
Visit what is perhaps the best known of the Civil War battlefields where many believe the outcome of the war was determined. Free Ranger led tours are available for various areas of the park. You and the kids will enjoy driving tours through some of the more significant areas including Little Round.Top, Culp’s Hill and Pickett’s Charge. This is the well known scene of Abraham Lincoln’s famous address marking the victory and the creation of a new nation. Contact: 866-889-1243, www.nps.gov/gett; www.gettysburgfoundation.org
American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar. Richmond, VA.
Situated on eight acres on the James River in downtown Richmond, this is the first museum to tell the war story from the African American, Confederate and Union points of view. Through multi-faceted education programs, including their signature exhibit, In The Cause of Liberty, the organization seeks to tell the whole story of the conflict that continues to shape the country. A National Historic Landmark, the Tredegar iron works site was the primary armament producer for the Confederacy. Contact: 804-780-1865; www.tredegar.org.
Antietam National Battlefield. Sharpsburg, MD.
In what is deemed as the bloodiest one day battle in American history, more than 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing at Antietam. Join a park ranger for a battlefield talk and learn how the twelve hour conflict ended the Confederate Army’s first invasion into the North and resulted in President Lincoln’s first step toward the Emancipation Proclamation. It was here, in the Maryland cornfields, where the First Texas Infantry lost 82 percent of their soldiers, the highest Confederate casualty rate in a single battle. Kids can earn a Junior Ranger badge and may enjoy taking part in the driving tour scavenger hunt. Contact: 301- 432-5124; www.nps.gov/anti/
Civil War Museum. Fort Worth TX.
Learn about the 90,000 Texans who served in the military in the Battles of Antietam, Gettysburg and beyond. View civilian and military artifacts from the era, including a Confederate flag collection, and Victorian dress. The film “Our Homes, Our Rights”, detailing Texan’s involvement, is shown every half hour. Children under seven are admitted free. Contact: 817-246-2323; Resource: The Texas Historical Commission publishes a brochure noting Civil War sites. It is downloadable at no charge at www.thc.state.tx.us Kids can earn a Junior Ranger badge. Contact: 703-361-1339; http://www.nps.gov/mana
Resource: www.civilwartraveler.com; www.CivilWar.org; www.CivilWarTrails.org.