Family travel can play a strong role in the education you offer to your children and grandchildren.
Here are six ideas to consider:
1. Reflect your values.
The travel choices you make can send a strong message to your loved ones about what matters most to you. Consider the bucket list as a thoughtful and deliberate reflection of your own values, hopes and dreams. So before you begin listing desired destinations, ask yourself what aspects of the world - geographically, spiritually and culturally - you want to share with your children, grandchildren and perhaps other friends and family members.
2. Identify Priorities and Passions.
Are you a nature, history or art lover? Do you want your children or grandchildren to learn how to ski, photograph or scuba dive? Do you hope to share your love of baseball or botany with the next generation? Will volunteer vacations or heritage tours be an important part of your mix? Take time to consider these ideas that will expand your family’s horizons and weave them into your travel plan.
3. Identify places.
Americans get low marks for knowledge of geography. Begin with a good map or atlas and consider studying the globe an important part of your family travel education. While your list will most certainly change over the years, think about which destinations you hope to visit while your children are in the nest and beyond? And, when it comes time to involve the children in creating the bucket list, remember that kids don’t know what they don’t know. Certain theme parks and resorts will likely be on their radar screens. But they may not be aware of the glories of Yellowstone or Yosemite or the historical significance of Gettysburg or Montpelier.
4 About the money.
Choosing to make travel a priority is a decision that may require foregoing other luxuries or experiences. But the quality bonding time and lifelong memories are sure to be worth it. Consider creating a travel savings account. Opt for travel related gifts for birthdays, graduations and holidays. Encourage the children to establish their own travel fund. Saving for a specific trip can be an important part of the overall experience.
5. About the time.
Whether you begin by tossing up a tent in the backyard or strategizing to experience a safari in Africa, there is no time like the present to begin planning family travel. As children get older, their schedules become more complicated by their own commitments. Take advantage of school breaks. Consider off-season adventures when you will experience fewer crowds and lower prices, even if it means missing a few days of class. Is a month, summer or year abroad on your family wish list? If, so, begin the research now.
6. And now.
You’ve planned and prioritized. Now, have fun. Take pictures. Repeat.
Escape the bright lights of the city and introduce your family to the night sky. Here are five places to experience a star-filled landscape:
1. Arizona Skies.
Expect stellar stargazing as well as the chance to tour the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, which was the first city to be designated a Dark Sky City by the International Dark-Sky Association. See the telescope via which Pluto was discovered in the 1930s and peer through the century-old Clark Telescope. Head south to Tucson, often noted as the astronomy capital of the world. Check in to the Westin La Paloma, where families can learn about the celestial world in the foothills of Arizona’s Santa Catalina Mountains. A “cosmic concierge” will provide an educational preamble while you enjoy fireside s’mores. Bolstered by your new information and the fresh night air, go forth to identify the sea of constellations above.
2. Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.
Home to some of the darkest skies in the country, this scenic landscape was the first to receive the International Dark Sky Park certification. Massive natural bridges form star-filled windows through which you can observe the skies as the Pueblo people did some 800 years ago. Among the most spectacular sights is the river of Milky Way brilliance observed rising over Owachomo Bridge.
3. Death Valley National Park, Calif.
The park’s 3.4 million-acre expanse and the region’s clean, dry air combine to provide an ideal vantage point for observing shooting stars, meteor showers and constellations galore. The conditions have earned the park Gold-Tier Dark Sky status. The area shares a strong commitment to avoid light pollution and keep the night sky visible. Stay at the Oasis at Death Valley and join the Las Vegas Astronomical Society for Star Parties on selected evenings or enjoy the gem-studded sky on your own.
4. Waikoloa, Hawaii.
Relax on the beach by day and learn about the Pacific sky after the sun sets. This Hawaiian island is home to one of the world’s most important observatories and inspires the hotel’s interactive kids’ camps. During Cosmic Night, your youngsters will gather with astronomers for educational stories of the night sky. Each week, they’ll also have the option to join “A Camping We Will Go” and can learn to pitch a tent, stargaze, play flashlight tag and sample s’mores.
5. Costa Rica.
Discovered by Magellan in the 1520s, his namesake dwarf galaxies are best observed mid-December through April. And Costa Rica, the home of pura vida, is one of the few places in the Northern Hemisphere where it’s possible to view the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. Visit the Arenal volcano region for stunning vistas or relax in a jungle or seaside resort, where guided walks through lush flora and fauna are paired with observations of the night sky.
It’s easy to allow financial stress, busy schedules and a hectic lifestyle to get in the way of putting dates on the calendar.
Here are seven reasons to flag a family vacation as a top priority:
No one is getting any younger.
Not you, the grandparents, or your children. Family life is hectic and it can be difficult to carve out time to even plan a vacation, let alone takeone. Yet, before you know it, the kids will be otherwise engaged with school or team responsibilities, summer jobs and college internships. That means the opportunities to get away as a family will diminish even further. So, get planning!
It’s only money.
Sure, budgets are tight. We’re all trying to save more. But a hefty bank account is no substitute for a memory bank brimming with great visuals of your kids running on the beach, hiking in the mountains or climbing in the saddle for the first time. Allocate the dollars you can. Then be on the lookout for deals, promotions or creative low-cost options.
Keep it in the family.
Those busy work and school schedules often mean we seldom see family members about whom we care deeply. Add the geographic spread that is common in most clans and get togethers can be rare. Make this the summer you reconnect with grandparents, that favorite uncle or your long lost cousins. Share stories. Trade photos. Extend the limbs on your family tree.
A visit to a national, state or regional park can provide a bonanza of historical and natural insight and experience. Take to the trails, the streams or the hillside and enjoy nature’s bounty. Camping along the way provides a low cost opportunity to learn outdoor skills and tell tales around the camp fire.
Make it a photo opp.
We tend to remember those moments and events that we capture on film or on a digital memory card. Be deliberate about gathering the kids, friends and relatives together to snap a photo or a few moments of video. Be sure to capture those candid moments too. Then, share and enjoy!
Write it down.
Whether you keep a journal or notes with your photos, scribble a few sentences about your planning process and the trips you take. In time, memory seems to fade the details like dialogue, what people wore, jokes and stories told or memories shared. Save the individual strands of the experience. You’ll be glad you did.
Make a plan together.
Gather your family and get their input on your travel plans. Seek volunteers for researching possible destinations or low cost opportunities. Consider house trades, villa rentals, last minute getaways or just a weekend in a neighboring city. When the time comes, share packing and last minute detail responsibilities. In the end, it is the shared experience that creates the lasting memories and strengthens the bond.
Finding the right spaces at the right price can be a challenge when traveling with the family.
Here are sleeping styles to consider:
1. Steamboat Grand Resort and Condominiums, Steamboat Springs, Colo.
This resort hotel offers easy access to mountain activities including gondola rides, biking and zip lining. A free shuttle makes it simple to sample downtown dining and shopping with the kids.
Relax on a float tube and meander down the Yampa River or visit the nearby Strawberry Park Hot Springs for a unique experience.
Choose from spacious hotel-style rooms that open to living areas designed with futonlike sleeping spaces and pullout sofas.
An in-room kitchen makes family dining and snacking easy and affordable.
2. Bethany Beach Ocean Suites, Bethany Beach, Del.
Recently opened in an award-winning mid-Atlantic beach destination, the 112-suite property is the first and only lodging option directly on the historic boardwalk. Direct access to the beach makes it easy for families to manage nap schedules, snacks and all the gear required for a day of sea, sand and sun.
Settle into your suite with balconies, views, a kitchenette and pullout couch. Add connecting suites for additional space. If you need a break from the sand, spend time at the saltwater pool.
3. Radisson Blu Warwick Hotel, Philadelphia.
Book the Kids Kamping package for extra sleeping space with a twist. While the adults climb into traditional bedding, kids can snooze inside a full-size tent that welcomes them with cozy pillows, blankets and a teddy bear. The landmark hotel, located at Rittenhouse Square, also offers s’mores as a treat before bedtime.
4. Vacation rentals.
If you need plenty of room to roam, vacation rentals may be the right fit. With more companies making it easier to review the experiences of previous guests, compare and book, it can make sense to choose a loft, cabin, condo or home with the number of beds, baths, amenities and the location that works for your crew.
Confused as to whether multiple hotel rooms or a vacation rental make the most sense for your brood?
Hipmunk’s search engine includes vacation rentals, and new functionality makes it possible to easily compare the amenities, sleeping spaces and price for both options without toggling between screens.
Take a hike — and take the whole family with you.
Here are five scenic destinations to consider:
1. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.
For jaw-dropping beauty, lace up and explore the jagged peaks of the magnificent Teton Range hear Jackson Hole. Trails that hug the shores of String, Leigh and Trapper lakes are ideal for families. With little elevation gain, the flat terrain provides ample opportunity to photograph the Tetons reflected in the water, wade into the shallow lake and picnic along the shoreline where the views will astound your entire crew.
Contact: wyomingtourism.org; http://www.fourseasons.com/jacksonhole/
2. Tackle a Colorado 14er.
The Centennial State is home to dozens of 14,000-foot peaks that beckon residents and visitors alike. Whether you make it to the summit or simply relish the high-altitude views, several of the trails are viable for adventuresome and fit families.
At 14,060 feet, Mount Bierstadt is both the closest peak to Denver and considered among the most approachable. Plan to arrive early, hydrate well and be off the mountain by midday to avoid dangerous thunderstorms that can roll in quickly.
3. Shenandoah National Park.
More than 500 trails snake through this National Park in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, just 75 miles from Washington, D.C. Access family-friendly trails via the 105-mile long Skyline Drive, a historic National Scenic Byway that traverses the park. The highway also offers 75 scenic overlooks to stop and appreciate the region’s natural beauty. The 3.5-mile Lewis Springs Fall Loop is popular with families and offers scenic views and waterfalls. The Stony Man Summits and lower cliffs is the same length, offering stunning vistas with only 500 feet of elevation change.
4. Southern California’s Backbone Trail.
Not far from the Hollywood action you’ll find the 68-mile Backbone Trail, extending the length of the Santa Monica Mountains. Choose from a handful of day hike options. Try the Ray Miller Trail, accessed through Point Mugu State Park.
Scenic views of Ventura County can be seen from the 6-mile loop trail, starting at the trailhead off Yerba Buena road. Either way, you’ll be worlds away from the urban hustle.
5. Canyonlands, Utah.
For long views, sunny days and unique land formations, consider a hike into the history-rich Canyonlands. It’s a photographer’s dream landscape, so keep your camera handy as you choose among short strolls, longer day hikes or more strenuous outings.
The 2-mile Grand View Point trail offers panoramic views of the Island in the Sky Mesa. To learn about how the Anasazi lived in the area, consider the Aztec Butte Trail, where some of their rock structures are still visible.
Contact: utahscanyoncountry .com/index.html
Contemplating a family vacation? Don’t let concern about the challenges of travel keep you from taking off with the kids.
Remember, attitude is everything.
During a recent outing I was reminded why they call one of my favorite sports “fishing”.
And not “catching”.
“Travel has a way of stretching the mind. The stretch comes not from travel's immediate rewards, the inevitable myriad new sights, smells and sounds, but with experiencing firsthand how others do differently what we believed to be the right and only way."
- Ralph Crawshaw
(US sociologist, 1864 - 1929)
How will your family stretch?