Lynn O'Rourke Hayes

Lynn O'Rourke Hayes

Heading into the holiday season, Trafalgar, a leading global guided travel company surveyed 2,500+ parents across the U.S. to discover just how stressful, costly and time-consuming the holidays are for them.

 

The results?  Many American parents admit they would rather cancel Christmas this year… and travel instead:

  • Over half of parents (66%) say they would cancel Christmas this year to travel instead, with majority (78%) noting they would rather spend their money on a vacation instead of holiday gifts
  • According to the findings, parents’ stress doubles during the holidays and they can nearly eliminate that stress by traveling instead. Trafalgar’s guided trips remove the stress from family vacations, view the itineraries here.
  • Spending the holidays at home can actually be more expensive than a week-long family vacation in Europe with Trafalgar, with 56% of parents planning to spend $5,000+ on the holidays this year
  • Parents spend 1-2 months prepping for the holidays, and 1 in 3 parents have had to take a day off from work to prep for the holidays

Are you crafting a travel plan?

Reviewing your bucket list for new family vacation ideas?

Consider this collection of epic adventures to put your family travel plan in motion!

 

There are family vacations. And, then there are epic adventures that may qualify as the experience of a lifetime.

Here are five to consider now. 

Resized guide photo

Plan a family safari.

Visit northern Tanzania’s Serengeti for a wildlife viewing and cultural extravaganza. Home to more than 3,000 lions and1000 leopards as well as zebras, wildebeests, warthogs and waterbuck, it’s a magical sanctuary best known for the great migration.

With the Four Seasons Serengeti as your basecamp, choose to explore via half and full day jeep tours, walking safaris, or from the basket of a high-flying, hot air balloon. The excitement doesn’t end when you return to the Lodge, where a watering hole, just beyond the Infiniti pool, serves up hydrating sustenance to elephant families on a daily basis.

Dine on the veranda, with sweeping views of the plains, where giraffe, eland and topi graze in the distance. Kids can visit the on-site discovery center to learn about Maasai history and culture, the significance of the Serengeti Cheetah Project and life in the bush. Relax at the spa, take a family cooking class and be amazed by a live performance of tribal dance and song offered by local Maasai.

Contact: https://www.fourseasons.com/serengeti/

https://www.tanzaniatourism.go.tz/destination/serengeti-national-park

 Adventures by Disney through the heart of Europe

Revel in a river cruise.

Unpack. Settle in and let the adventure begin.

Explore the Rhine, Danube or Seine river valleys with your family or multigenerational group from aboard a luxury AmaWaterways ship. With itineraries crafted to your family’s preferences, each day you’ll take part in active adventures or culturally immersive experiences in compelling destinations.

Well-trained and knowledgable Disney adventure guides, paired with local storytellers, combine talents to insure each member of the family gets maximum enjoyment from the trip. Wander through medieval castles, sample local cuisine, pedal along the river bank and enjoy private tours and  insider access to popular attractions. Adventure guides are at the ready to engage youngsters in evening activities so the adults may opt for a fine dining experience or a musical performance. (Food and wine trips are also possible when it's time to leave the youngest travelers at home.)

Expect an all-inclusive, backstage pass-style adventure through the heart of Europe. 

Contact: www.adventuresbydisney.com/europe/danube-river-cruise/

 Windstar is back in Alaska

Explore Alaska.

Our sparsely populated and endlessly captivating 49th state lures those who yearn for epic scenery, spouting whales and glaciers the size of small countries. Experience family travel in rugged Alaska via boutique yachts and expedition ships that set sail for adventure beginning each Spring.

Aboard smaller vessels you’ll have meaningful cultural experiences, find your way to natural nooks and crannies, opt for hiking and kayaking and discover rarely visited wilderness areas, increasing the chance for up-close wildlife viewing. Those who venture to America’s last frontier will be rewarded with Mother Nature in all her glory.

Contact: www.Uncruise.com ; www.Windstar.com

Explore Minnesota Boundary Waters 

Discover Minnesota’s Boundary Waters.

Ease your canoes into the pristine water near Ely, MN and look forward to peaceful days of paddling amid a sparsely populated, one million-plus acre expanse of wilderness. Listen to the waves lapping against the shoreline and the haunting lullaby offered by local loons as you drift to sleep in one of 2,000 secluded campsites that dot the lake region. Wake to the sounds of birds chirping in the birch trees and enjoy breakfast over a campfire. Then set out to explore more of the 1,500 miles of canoe routes that crisscross the waterways.

Contact: www.boundarywatersoutfitters.com; www.ExploreMinnesota.com

 

 Austin Adventures in Galapagos

Immerse in Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands.

Given the island’s location on the equator, air and water temperatures remain relatively stable, making the Galapagos Islands a desirable destination any time of the year. Within this pristine and diverse eco-system, your family will thrill to the site of cliff-diving blue-footed boobies and the waved albatross known for an elaborate courtship dance that can include 20 minutes of bowing, honking, whistling and bill clacking. You’ll want to know about Darwin’s 13 finches, creatures that were central to the scientist’s evolutionary theories. Learn more about the volcanic island’s winged population as well as the abundance of sharks, sea lions, mantas and iguanas via a live aboard vessel (popular with scuba divers), a cruise or a hotel-based tour. Contact: www.Expeditions.com ; www.AustinAdventures.

Did you know that one of Santa’s favorite pastimes is actually surfing? 

Floridian’s were the first to uncover St. Nick’s secret, which is why, each Christmas Eve, Cocoa Beach (the Surfing Capital of the East Coast) hosts its annual Surfing Santas event.

This fun and free event has proven to be a big attraction (and photo opp!), pulling in more than 800 Santas and 10,000 spectators annually. It gets better though - Surfing Santas has also raised more than $60K for local charities, most notably The Florida Surf Museum and Grind for Life.

Check it out!

While students find intellectual challenge in the formal classroom, here are five places where families can expand their knowledge through experience:

Denver Museum of Science & Nature. Denver, CO.

Through film, lectures, demonstrations and hands-on activity, your family will learn about ancient Egyptian civilization through clues scientists share from their mummy research. Tap into the latest information about our universe and our place in it through a Space Odyssey exhibit. Gain a greater understanding of Native American cultures. Plus, discover how precious gems are recovered from mines and the role they play in various cultures. All this, plus a permanent discovery zone where hands -on fun provides interactive educational opportunities for the youngest explorers. Contact: 303-322-7009; www.dmns.org.

Musical Instrument Museum. Phoenix, AZ.

This unique museum enables families to see and experience more than 3000 instruments and artifacts from around the world. Live performances, family-friendly festivals and a wide array of lectures and classes are available. Check out the Steinway piano on which John Lennon composed “Imagine” as well as the instruments of Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana and George Benson. Wireless head-sets allow guests to see and hear exhibits throughout the museum. Kids will enjoy the Experience Gallery where they can touch, play and hear instruments from far away cultures. Contact: (480) 478-6000; www.TheMim.org. 

The Alamo. San Antonio, TX.

Located in downtown San Antonio, more than 2.5 million people visit each year to learn why it was suggested we “Remember the Alamo!”. Representing three centuries of history, families can learn the roles played by David Crockett, Sam Houston and James Bowie as they tour the 4.2 acre complex where beautiful gardens provide a backdrop for the old mission and exhibits detailing the Texas revolution and the state’s colorful history. Admission is free. Contact: 1-866-769-8419; www.thealamo.org

Glaciers and Climate Change.

Trek to Alaska, our largest state, but at number 49 among the last to join the union. Here you can team up with one of many companies that will introduce you to the mysteries of glaciers and how our changing climate is affecting them and the surrounding areas. Tours offer the opportunity to dog sled, hike, and ice climb all while learning about regional geology and geography and its importance to the rest of the world. Contact: www.flyk2.com; www.travelAlaska.com.

Monterey Bay Aquarium. Monterey, CA.

Founded in 1984, this world-renowned organization’s mission is to inspire conservation of the world’s oceans. Through a variety of interactive activities and exhibits designed for young children and families, your crew will learn about the delicate balance that exists in our seas today. The youngest visitors will be drawn to the 40-foot-long touch pool for an up close look at curious creatures like sea stars, urchins, kelp crabs and abalones. Contact: (831) 648-4800; www.MonterayBayAquarium.org

There's nothing like a family getaway packed with fun, laughter, and experiences of a lifetime. It's always sad when these times come to an end, and you often times will find yourself wishing you could go back the following year and relive it. Fortunately, there is a way that you can vacation affordably with your family year after year when you purchase a timeshare! Timeshares allow you to travel annually for less, especially when you shop timeshares for-sale-by-owner. Reputable independent timeshare resale websites like VacationOwnership.com offer a wide inventory of timeshares advertised by private owners for thousands of dollars in savings. 

When you buy a timeshare, you aren't buying a physical property, but rather you are purchasing a slot of time at a resort. There are different timeshare ownership types you can choose from when shopping for a by-owner advertised timeshare. Consider all the options and determine what will work best for your family's needs.  

Marriott Vacation Club

The different vacation ownership types include: 

  • Fixed week - This is when you purchase a set week at a particular resort. For example, if you want to travel during a certain holiday or school vacation week annually, this allows you to own that slot of time for your vacation.
  • Floating week - Purchasing a floating week lets you buy during a specific season. Whether this "season" is determined by an actual yearly season or a color, you can reserve your vacation week anywhere within your season of ownership.
  • Points - Points-based timeshares have become more and more popular as many travelers crave flexibility. Utilize your annual allotted points like currency to determine when, where, and how long you wish to vacation.
  • Fractional ownership - Buying a fractional timeshare, you will actually own a piece of equity in the property. Not only that, but fractionals are usually sold at higher end resorts and allow you to visit the property multiple weeks during the year.

Disney Vacation Club

Why Choose Ownership? 

Timeshares are great for families for a variety of reasons, including: 

* The accommodations offered are large and homey. With a timeshare, you can enjoy a multi-bedroom suite equipped with a full kitchen, living room, dining area, multiple full bathrooms, TVs, and WiFi access.Timeshare resorts have an incredible number of on-site amenities and services to enhance the value of your vacation.

* Typical on-site features include swimming pools, restaurants, sports courts, fitness centers, scheduled activities, spa services, and more.

* Additionally, many families choose to buy timeshares at resorts closer to home, so they can enjoy all the benefits of resort living, without having to purchase plane tickets!Another perk to vacation ownership is the ability to exchange your timeshare week or weeks for a vacation elsewhere. This is done through vacation club internal exchange, or leading external exchange companies like RCI and Interval International. Both these companies feature thousands of affiliated timeshare resorts in destinations across the globe.

* The best part about owning a timeshare is the lifetime of memories you'll make with your family. For an extra special family experience, a Disney Vacation Club resale can give you access to the magic of the Disney parks and attractions while also providing plenty of special, family-friendly amenities on-site. 

Make the most of your family time together by considering a timeshare ownership. Visit VacationOwnership.com and browse their extensive inventory of by-owner timeshares located at great brand names such as Marriott, Hilton, Westgate, and more.

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Are you looking for an alternative to traveling over the river and through the woods for Thanksgiving?

Happy Thanksgiving

Here are five ideas to consider:

Kingsmill Resort. Williamsburg, VA.

Leave the holiday bird preparation to the pros at this Virginia resort where you and your family will enjoy all the seasonal trimmings. Get settled in one of 425 recently updated guest rooms or stretch out with the clan in a three-bedroom suite. Either way you’ll enjoy views of the James River landscape and access to championship golf, tennis and world-class spa facilities.  When you’re ready to expand your holiday horizons, hop aboard free shuttles to both Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens.

Contact:   www.Kingsmill.com. 

Macy’s Parade, New York Hilton, NY, NY.

Have you always dreamed of capturing a bird’s eye view of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? More than three million people gather to see the iconic floats, bands and entertainment each year.

Choose from one of several parade packages that will provide you and your clan the opportunity to enjoy the seasonal show from the comfort of you room.

Contact: http://newyorkhiltonhotel.com 

Snow Mountain Ranch, Winter Park, CO.

Plan an active holiday weekend that begins with a pre-feast Turkey Trot to get your clan warmed up. Other options include taking part in the Turkey Olympics, Noodle Jousting, Flag Football and even a pie-throwing contest (the staff has volunteered to serve as targets). Wind down the night with a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving moviefest.

There are plenty of snow-centric activities as well including dog-sledding, snow tubing and Nordic skiing.

Contact:  http://snowmountainranch.org 

Thanksgiving at Sea.  

Give thanks for sunny days and adventures at sea when you set sail during the Thanksgiving holiday. Expect live entertainment, a kid-friendly Thanksgiving cooking class, holiday focused scavenger hunts, talent shows and costume parades as well as the traditional dinner you won’t want to miss. 

For some, the holiday is not complete without a healthy serving of gridiron action. Catch your favorite football match ups on large screens throughout the ship.

Contact: http://www.msccruisesusa.com 

Visit a Dude Ranch

Round up your family and friends and saddle up for some fun at a ranch where there will be plenty of fixins' and a large helping of outdoor  activity. There will be no shortage of memories to be made for every member of the family no matter how young or young at heart. Contact: www.DudeRanch.org 

 

The freedom to explore the world around us is something to savor.

Here are five reasons to be grateful for family travel:  

1. Travel broadens our perspective. 

Whether you travel to the next county or around the world, moving out of your comfort zone or everyday routine will enhance your family’s understanding of our world. Appreciate the language, dress, recreational and culinary differences and similarities of your fellow global citizens when you venture into new territory. Make an effort to see the view through the eyes of others. And observe how a friendly smile is welcome currency in nearly every corner of the world.

Contact: www.Intrepidtravel.com

2. Travel builds character.

Travel provides parents and grandparents the opportunity to model what matters most.  Will you exhibit patience when the line snakes around the corner, your hotel room is not ready, or the restaurant server accidentally spills a drink on your table? Delayed flights, weather changes, poor service or a rocky road help all of us learn to live in the moment, share resources, manage unexpected consequences and see the bright side of the occasional travel mishap. How the adults respond to challenging scenarios will influence the developing character of young adventurers.  

Contact: www.TSA.gov.

3. Travel serves up nature’s bounty. 

A super moon rising over the mountain tops, eagles lofting in a barren tree, the gentle mist from a nearby waterfall, the crunch of the trail under hiking boots. Awe-inspiring experiences in the natural world are nurturing to the youngest of souls. Make time to travel to nature preserves, national parks, deep canyons and shimmering lakes, where dark skies allow the starry expanse to light your world.  

Contact: www.NPS.gov;www.Wildernesstravel.comwww.DarkSkies.org.

4. Travel is inspiring and educational.  

Feed your children’s natural curiosity through travel. Do they yearn to learn more about art, history or science? Is there a burgeoning chef, musician or engineer in your midst? How about a language immersion class? Are your kids curious about other religions, cultures or lifestyles? Whether you opt for magnificent museums, nature’s classroom or immersive experiences, expand their knowledge (and your own) by exploring new ideas together.

Contact: www.RoadScholars;www.Globeaware.orgwww.nationalgeographice.com

5. Travel enhances connection.

Leave the laundry, homework and to-do lists behind and reconnect in a cozy cabin, on a blustery beach or on a small ship at sea.  Keep technology and the news of the day to a minimum and enjoy each other’s company and conversation. Take walks in the woods, listen to the birds sing, the owls hoot and the wind whistle. Remind yourselves that the best things in life are free. You’ll return home knowing your time well spent will last longer than the latest gadget or a trendy fashion item. Because time flies, be “glad you did” rather than “wishing you had.” 

Plan a snowy getaway with your family.

Here are five escape-worthy spots to consider:  

The Sebastian, Vail, CO. 

Splurge on a ski vacation and let the resort pros make sure your high altitude holiday goes off without a hitch. The Sebastian’s amenities-on-demand program can deliver ski and snow essentials to your room along with an energy-filled breakfast. Order up an extra pair of toasty socks, hand warmers for the kiddos or another round of sunscreen. Guests can also arrange to have a steaming bubble bath drawn prior to a return from the slopes.

Team up with the adventure concierge to plan a moonlight snowshoe adventure and ice-skating for the older kids while the littlest one plays in the Tykes Room. Should the kids need a break from the mountain they can also opt for hosted crafts in the Upper Lobby where creating hand puppets, finger knitting and experimenting with snow slime are possibilities. Should grown-ups need a break, the hospitality team is on hand to make restaurant reservations and scout for a babysitter. 

Contact:www.Snow.com  www.thesebastianvail.com

basecamp

Basecamp Hotel, South Lake Tahoe, CA. 

Clever and cool, your kids will love the cozy options available at this boutique hotel, where exploring the local mountain community is encouraged. The Great Indoor Family Room sports a King bed for the grownups, adjacent to a wall tented room featuring bunk beds, a faux campfire, a picnic table and camp chairs. Designed as an alternative to a cookie cutter hotel, owners have repurposed “under-appreciated” buildings and infused them with “soul”.  Happy hour includes homemade soups and stews. No surprise: s’mores are served nightly.

Contact: www.Basecamphotels.com.

The National Park Inn. Mt. Rainer National Park. 

Leave your technology behind and immerse yourselves in the beauty of this majestic setting in the Park’s Longmire Historic District. Check in to one of 25 rooms in the two-story lodge. Relax in the lounge and sip hot cocoa near the massive stone fireplace while enjoying stories of the day and making plans for the next. Visit the general store, a circa 1911 log cabin, for access to cross-country and snowshoeing rentals and other goodies.

Contact: http://www.mtrainierguestservices.com/accommodations/national-park-inn

Sundance Resort

Sundance Resort, Sundance, UT.

You’ll find it difficult to emerge from the cozy lodge warmed by a roaring fire or your cabin crafted from indigenous materials. But when you do, choose from cross country and snowshoe trails that run deep into the woods or sunlit downhill runs on the slopes of Mount Timpanagos. Founded my film maker and conservationist Robert Redford, the resort offers family-friendly pottery, beading and printmaking classes in the Art Shack, winter fly-fishing and dining menus with an emphasis on organic and locally sourced ingredients. 

Contact: www.SundanceResort.com

  Devils Thumb

Devil’s Thumb Ranch. Tabernash, CO.

Stay in a cozy cabin or opt to sleep in the High Lonesome Lodge where ranch guests steep in expansive views of the Continental Divide and the Ranch Creek Valley while channelling the pioneering spirit of early homesteaders. The centerpiece of the lodge is a reconstructed Civil War-era barn.  Choose from 31 guest rooms and four suites, each with private outdoor patios and Adirondack-style rockers. Grab the binoculars to catch a glimpse of wildlife roaming on this 6,000 acre expanse of Colorado beauty or set out on the Nordic trails for an up-close view of winter scenes.

Contact:  www.devilsthumbranch.com.

Kids and their parents know it’s cool to be smart.

Here are five places that will supercharge your family’s brainpower.  

1. Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, IL 

Encouraging curiosity and celebrating questions, this is the place to see a German submarine, understand how tornados and avalanches happen and discover the process behind Pixar’s popular films and characters. 

Explore the mathematical patterns that surround us every day in the natural world—from the delicate nested spirals of a sunflower’s seeds to the ridges of a majestic mountain range in a compelling exhibit called Numbers in Nature. Then make your way to the Whispering Gallery to understand how sound travels in different environments. A theatre and hands-on exhibits further enhance the experience.  

Contact: www.MSIChicago.org.

2. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Indianapolis, IN. 

With more than 472,900 feet of exhibit space on five floors and covering 29 acres, this extraordinary nonprofit institution has been entertaining and educating families since 1925. Considered the largest children’s museum in the world, kids can learn about the day to day duties of astronauts and discover how dinosaurs lived in the Dinosphere. Families are charmed by an historic carousel and inspired by exhibits that explain how plant science can help the world by cleaning up oil spills and cultivating healthy food. 

Contact:  www.childrensmuseum.org/

3. Exploratorium. San Francisco, CA.More than 600 exhibits encourage every member of the family to see the world differently. A scientific funhouse, the learning lab encourages creativity and “tinkering” as a means of expanding our perceptions. Young children and toddlers are engaged by shadow, light, bubbles and color as a means of exploration and discovery. Kids can create a marble machine, dance with their own shadow, study plankton populations, or check out an “upside down world”. 

Contact;  www.exploratorium.edu

4. Explora Children’s Museum.  Albuquerque, NM. 

How do you make a green chile pepper appear black? Find out during a visit to this family-friendly museum that mixes art and science to spur creativity and discovery within the worlds of physics, math, biology and beyond.  Investigate the properties of bubbles as you blow, pop and float them in a dedicated exhibit space. Kids can also use their own bodies to study the concepts of ratio and proportion in the Math Moves exhibit. 

Contact:  www.explora.us

5. National Aquarium.  Baltimore, MD.

Did you know that an octopus has a highly developed brain and is a master of camouflage? Collect the details before you check out Black Tip Reef, a coral filled exhibit replicating Indo-Pacific underwater landscapes. Learn about the wild extremes of Australia in an award-winning immersive exhibit featuring freshwater crocodiles, turtles, fishes, snakes, lizards, free-flying birds, and flying foxes.   The kids will love their visit with bottlenose dolphins where they’ll also observe training, feeding and playtime with trainers. Before days’ end discover the importance of jellyfish, observe sharks in an open tank and see more than 500 exotic species in an Atlantic Coral Reef Exhibit.

Contact: www.Aqua.org.  

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