Where will you venture this year?
What sounds appealing? A warm, sandy beach? An active, alpine adventure? Here are seven ideas to consider as your family plans for the year ahead.
1. Consider Costa Rica.
More than a quarter of this Central American country is composed of natural and conserved territory, making it an extraordinary destination for nature lovers. Surfers give the richly diverse nation top marks as do adventure lovers who visit the small country for river rafting, hiking, biking, canopy tours and volcano watching. Families can take advantage of wildlife or culturally-focused volunteer vacations, clan-friendly resorts and beachside boutique accommodations. Pura vida, the local’s friendly attitude and approach to life, provides a hospitality-rich backdrop.
Contact: www.visitcostarica.com; AustinAdventures.com.
2. Amazing Alaska.
Still America’s last frontier, our 49th state offers year round adventure for families. Scope for whale tails while cruising the Inside Passage, celebrate more than 100 years of sled dog racing on the Iditarod Trail or explore the far reaches of Denali National Park. Learn about Alaska’s native culture, hike and bike in the backcountry or make wildlife watching the centerpiece of your adventure. A favorite among anglers, wade the state’s rivers and streams and you’ll return home with amazing fish stories and pictures to prove your prowess. A free vacation planner is available to help get you started.
3. Float The Grand Canyon.
Whether you travel by raft or dory, for a few days or a few weeks, the majesty of the Grand Canyon may well provide a transformative experience, as it does for many visitors. This national treasure stretches 277 miles across northern Arizona, and plays host to more than five million visitors each year. From your craft on the Colorado River, geologically diverse canyon walls rise as high as 9,000 feet toward the western sky. Hike the side canyons, plow through storied rapids, relax on sandy beaches and revel in the grandeur of one of nature’s finest accomplishments. You’ll want to go back for more.
4. Cruise the Caribbean.
Now rated fourth in the country in cruise traffic, the addition of Galveston as an important point of departure, offers sea-faring travelers expanded opportunities. Four cruise companies – Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Disney and Princess – offer itineraries ranging from four to eight nights on board ships bustling with activity and entertainment.
Cruise companies eager to lure parents with young children as well as multigenerational clans, provide a smorgasbord of kid-thrilling options ranging from wave machines and super slides to teen lounges and zip lines. Deals abound, particularly for those with flexible dates.
5. African Safaris.
Multigenerational families celebrating a “milestone moment” are among those seeking the excitement and adventure found on safari. And more tour operators, eager to capture this growing segment of the market, are creating itineraries that cater to both ends of the age spectrum. The chance to observe a lion stalking his prey, a wildebeest migration or to learn the customs of the Masaii people are experiences more families are putting at the top of their lists.
Contact: FamilyAdventures.com; AustinAdventures.com; Wilderness-Safaris.com.
6. The Bahamas.
You’ll find grand resorts in a bustling enclave as well as small getaways on tiny spits of sand just 50 miles off the coast of Florida. Choose your preferred environment from among 700 islands surrounded by crystal clear water and the world’s third largest barrier reef. Visions of snorkeling, fishing, ecotours, horseback riding, boating or just relaxing on soft, sandy beaches will provide plenty to compel your family to consider a visit to this breathtaking archipelago.
7. Get some altitude!
Are you ready to embrace winter sports? Perhaps this is the year to push beyond the local sledding hill and expand your winter sports experiences. Lace up the skates, strap on the snowshoes, learn how mushers round up their sled dogs or consider an ice climb. Go downhill, cross-country, into the back-country and then warm up in a steaming hot spring. Skate ski to dinner served in a yurt or ride aboard a horse-drawn sleigh headed to cozy cabin where you and your family can savor supper served fireside.
More hotels are catering to large families. Here are five places that offer space and services for your clan:
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. Orlando, FL.
As many as six can comfortably stay in themed suites at this Disney Resort. Your clan will be immersed in décor featuring favorites like Finding Nemo, Cars and The Little Mermaid. The suites include a bedroom with a double bed, a table that cleverly transforms into a double bed and a double sleeper sofa. A kitchenette and two bathrooms add to the family appeal. Finding Nemo fans will appreciate the expansive pool with state-of-the-art underwater speakers. Contact: 407- 938-7000; https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/art-of-animation-resort/
Residence Inn by Marriott.
Check into a two-bedroom suite that also includes a pull out sofa and six people can rest comfortably. Three bathrooms, a full kitchen, plus free hot breakfast each day means families choose to cook or head downstairs as the day gets underway. A grocery delivery service and Wi-Fi are also complimentary. Pets are welcome.
Contact: (800) 331-3131: ResidenceInn.com.
Omni Kid's Fantasy Suites.
Families checking into some Omni hotels will enjoy accommodations that provide extra space as well as colorful décor, toys, games and other amenities designed to thrill young travelers. For example, the Omni Mount Washington Resort serves up a 1,250 square foot environment that includes a master suite as well as two separate rooms designed for children. In Boston, the Freedom Trail suite includes a children’s sleeping nook with colonial style costumes to inspire historical play. Ask and the kids will receive a milk and cookie delivery before bed time.
Contact: 800-843-6664; www.OmniHotels.com.
Homewood Suites by Hilton.
With more than 300 hotels to choose from families can check into one or two bedroom suites, some of which sleep up to eight. Expect a full complimentary breakfast, free Wi-fi, an onsite convenience store plus free grocery shopping services. If your packing strategy was flawed, not to worry. Laundry services are available at most locations. Current and retired military families receive a 15 percent discount.
Fisher Price Family Suites. Riviera Maya, MX.
The Karisma seaside resorts offer oversized suites developed in partnership with Fisher-Price toys. A private, queen-sized bed is separated by a sliding door from a sleeping area for the kids that includes a double and single sofa bed. Take advantage of a toy lending library plus games targeted to specific interests (think music or space) and age groups. Leave your kiddie gear at home; the resort makes available everything from cribs to bottle warmers.
Contact: 1-888-280-8810; www.karismahotels.com.
Considering a family cruise?
Here are ten tips to consider:
1) Know your cruise specialist:
According to a report from the
Cruise Lines International Association, 68 percent of cruise vacations
are booked through travel agents.
When researching a travel agent to book your cruise , make sure they are knowledgeable about the
cruise lines and destinations and have access to the best pricing and
promotional offers such as onboard cash, spa treatments and reduced
deposits. Make sure your specialist is the right fit for you and your
2) Book your cruise early:
The saying "the early bird catches the
worm" certainly applies to booking cruises. Booking early will provide
you with benefits such as more stateroom choices, dining options, special perks and
3) Be cautious about last minute deals:
While the prices may be lower
with last minute deals, the room selections are not prime. You must also
remember that airfare is not included in the price of the vacation and
booking last minute airfare can be costly.
4) Carefully review the itinerary:
If an itinerary doesn't address
your needs, it may not be the right cruise for you. For example, if
someone wants to spend more time relaxing onboard, the itinerary should
include more sea days than ports-of-call. To maximize your experience in
every port, each stop should last a minimum of eight to ten hours.
5) Research the identification needed for each country:
While a passport is always needed, visa requirements may be tricky. Some
countries require visas, but others do not. To check visa requirements,
6) Understand what is not included with the cruise:
When booking a family trip that includes a cruise,
vacation goers must pay the government fees. Remember to take
the price of tipping, alcoholic beverages, spa treatments, kid’s activities and shore
excursions into consideration, as they are often not included in the
7) Be comfortable with your accommodations:
Make sure to research all of the stateroom options before making your ultimate selection.
Accommodation choices on ships include an interior room, which has no
window or natural light, an oceanview room, which has one large window
that cannot be opened, a balcony room, regular suites and a penthouse
suite. Ask about rooms that are best suited for families.
It is also important to know that the cheapest and most expensive options typically sell out first.
8) Get to know your cruise line choices:
Choosing the wrong cruise line for your family vacation is a common mistake.
Sometimes, consumers will make a decision based on their familiarity of the name without investigating the type of people that typically take vacations on that particular line. For
example, some cruise lines cater more towards families with plenty of great programming that will interest your clan, while others cater to seniors or a younger demographic. Make sure you make the right
choice for your vacation needs, suggests Geraldine Ree, Senior Vice
President of Sales and Marketing for Expedia CruiseShipCenters.
9) Take time to see the city you embark and disembark from.
When booking a cruise, people make the mistake of arriving in the city a few
hours before the ship sets sail and making flight arrangements to leave
as soon as the ship docks. The embarkation and disembarkation cities are
an important part of the vacation experience and it is worthwhile for
you to arrive a day before the cruise leaves and stay for an extra day
after the cruise docks. Your cruise specialist can help you plan your
10) You don't always need the ocean for a cruise:
Consumers can book a cruise to almost any place where there is a body of water. As a matter
of fact, river cruises continue to gain in popularity as the smaller ships
offer a more intimate cruising experience.
Popular destinations for river cruises include Danube (Austria),
Rhine (Germany), France and Russia.
No matter where your travels take you, new mobile apps can lighten the load and add to the fun.
Here are five to consider:
Postcards On The Run.
Tap into the graceful tradition of tea. Here are five special places to consider:
Alice’s Tea Cup. NY, NY. One family’s affection for sharing stories over a steaming cup of fragrant, fresh tea spawned these three neighborhood refuges for tea lovers. Children of all ages are happily perplexed by the nearly overwhelming list of specialty teas as well as temptations like fresh-baked blueberry, raspberry and pumpkin scones,
Gather the extended family and share a travel experience.
Here are five ideas that will appeal to multiple generations:
1. The Family Cruise. Choosing to sail as an extended family is a great way to see the world together without decimating the family budget. Whether your idea of a good time is relaxing poolside or tackling the high suspension rope course, there are options for every energy level on board the modern cruise ship. Access water parks and kids’ camps by day. Then check out teen clubs, plus family and adult entertainment by night. Spa lovers can schedule treatments, and often casino gaming is available for adults. Gather for dinner where dining options are designed to satisfy the picky and the piggy eater in your gang. Design your time together to suit your family’s unique interests. Consider using a travel agent to help wade through deals, itineraries and cabin configurations. Contact: 1-800-764-7419; www.RoyalCaribbean.com; www.CruiseCompete.com
2. College Bound. Include multiple generations in the college search. If grandparents are grads, consider a visit to the town where they earned their degree. Encouraging senior family members to revisit this important time in their youth will be meaningful for all. Include elders when visiting your own college town and encourage grandparents to share memories of delivering their teen to the dorm decades ago. Make plans to take the University tour, and then explore the surrounding area. By planning this time as a multi-generational experience, a bit of family history may emerge that has long since been forgotten. Contact: www.CollegeBoard.org
3. Eco 3G Getaway. Leave the wired world behind and gather your family deep in the rainforest on the banks of the Moho River in the southernmost region of Belize. Choose the solar-powered eco-lodge’s all inclusive package and enjoy birding, horseback riding, biking, kayaking and nature walks on 100 private acres. Tour nearby Mayan villages and linger to learn how chocolate is made at a cacao farm. Explore caves and waterfalls. Environmentally inquisitive family members will want to visit the organic garden and discover the local sustainability practices that include a reforestation project. Family-friendly cabanas are gathered around a central boardwalk. Contact: 866-480-4534; www.cottontreelodge.com
4. Bike the Danube. The active, extended family will enjoy a bike trip along the Danube River that enables speedy riders to scope out the best bakery in the town ahead while others linger along the scenic pathway. The route showcases medieval towns, castles, vineyards, cathedrals and magnificent scenery. With the cities of Passau, Germany and Vienna, Austria as bookends, the trip offers a storybook itinerary. Following an ancient towpath, there is little traffic and riders have the option to bike for as long as they wish. Once tired, they can hop on a train or boat and wait for the remaining bikers at the inn where the group will spend the night. Children’s bikes available. Contact: 1-877-462-2423; www.BikeToursDirect.com.
5. Explore Colorado Springs. Visit a high mountain zoo, the Garden of the Gods Park or tour the US Air Force Academy together. In the weeks ahead, this sunny Colorado city and the surrounding Pikes Peak region make it easy for your whole family to explore the area with their “Tank Full of Summer Savings” promotion. Travel industry partners, including tour guides, lodging establishments, restaurants and attractions, have extended discounts and offers designed to take the pain out of the higher gas prices at the pump.Contact: 800-888-4748; www.visitcos.com/fuel
Multigenerational travel is more important than ever.
Families are living geographically farther from each other than at any time in history.
A multigenerational trip is often the only option for today’s modern and mobile family to gather in one place.
The hyper-fast pace of life in the 21st century means evenings and weekends are no longer untouchable family time, creating a greater need for the escape that only travel can provide.
Baby boomers are trading in their briefcases for a roller bag.
Boomers now have the time, health and disposable income to make travel with their families a top priority.
Put a road trip back on list. Here are five beautiful drives that will make the whole family smile:
Going to the Sun Road. Hop aboard the historic red touring cars or go on your own. This engineering marvel spans 50 miles through Glacier National Park’s wild interior, winding around mountainsides and treating visitors to some of the best sights in northwest Montana. www.nps.gov/glac; 406-888-7800
San Juan Skyway. Sometimes called the million dollar highway, this extraordinarily spectacular drive through southwestern Colorado will stun the visual senses. Appreciate jagged peaks, pastoral valleys, waterfalls and colorful canyons as you wind your way along this 265 loop. Contact: 1- 800-463-8726; www.Durango.org.
Pacific Coast Highway. For majestic coastal scenery and seaside breezes, pile in the car for a trip up ( or down )our western shore. Begin in ultra hip Santa Monica, California and wind your way past the Hearst Castle. Push north to Carmel and then on to San Francisco. If you have time continue on to the dramatic Redwood forests. Contact: 1- 877- 225-4367 www.VisitCalifornia.com.
Monument Valley, AZ – You’ve seen the skyline in the movies and on television commercials. Your entire family will marvel at the 250 million year old red rock formations, the magical light and the native American history that is part of the iconic landscape. Contact: 435-727-5870http://www.azcentral.com/travel/arizona/northern/travel_monuvalleyindex.html;.
Skyline Drive. Meandering along the crest of the mountains through the woods and past spectacular vistas, Virginia’s Skyline Drive begins in Front Royal and twists and turns southwest through Shenandoah National Park. Hike in the shade of oak trees along the Appalachian Trail, discover the stories from Shenandoah’s past, or explore the wilderness at your leisure. Contact: 540-999-3500; www.nps.gov/shen.
How about turning your next time away from work into a travel sabbatical – a real break from work?
With a one or even a two-week vacation we barely get relaxed and stop looking at emails before it's time to go home and back to work. A longer break allows you time to reflect, to get to know yourself, to reconnect with family and friends and your dreams.
While you are away on your next vacation, spend some time dreaming about a longer one. Assume there are no boundaries. You have the time, the money to do anything or go anywhere. Answer the question “if you had two or more months off, how would you ideally like to spend that time?” That’s the beginning of your plan. You will have to shape it, but start with what you really want to do.
According to the 2011 Fortune Magazine survey, 21 of the best companies to work for offer formal, paid for sabbatical programs. Even if your company doesn’t offer one, you too can do it. I have taken four “Reboot Breaks,” as I call them, and I have interviewed over 200 men and women of all ages and from many different types of careers who have had the courage to request time off from their work. Each person said they came back better professionally and personally.
Start by giving yourself permission. Did you recharge your cell phone yesterday? What about your laptop? Have you taken your car in for a check up lately? When was the last time you took time to recharge your battery? Not just for a day, a week or even a month - when was the last time you took at least two months for yourself? Think of this not as ‘time off’ but as ‘time on’…investing in one of your companies most important assets – you!
Now that you have given yourself permission, here are seven tips on how to fund your travel sabbatical:
1. Create a Reboot Break account. There are several ways to do this. You can approach your company and ask them to pay you ¾ of your salary for now. They, in essence, defer paying you that money until you are on your travel break. This helps with tax flow as well.
2. Create your own savings account. Fill it with a monthly deposit out of your paycheck. This should not strap you, but should be a commitment that you stick to over the time before your break.
3. Ask family and friends to contribute in lieu of birthday and holiday gifts and deposit that savings to the account.
4. Use a "windfall," such as a bonus, tax refund, or inheritance. Sell assets you don’t need, such as a second home or car, and use it as a windfall.
5. Make money while on your break:
• Writing your own travel blog and getting it sponsored
• Working as a travel companion
• Being a guest lecturer aboard a ship
• Getting a grant for research while you are off
• Teaching English as a Second Language
• Offer to drive a car across the country
• Rent your home for a year
6. Cut expenses while you are on your vacation sabbatical. Examples include:
• Trading your home or apartment for one in another area if you are going to be away.
• Selling your car - or park it and cancel the insurance temporarily.
• Stopping your cable service and cancel club fees temporarily.
• Exploring ways to entertain yourself that are free while you are at home or on travel.
7. Learn to live light. Simplify your life so your load is lightened both financially and psychologically. The concept applies to packing light when traveling, to reducing the dependence on material things, to focusing on personal growth.
About the author:
Rita Foley is a co-author of Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career and Life by Taking a Break. She is a Corporate Director, retired Fortune 500 Global President, and a committed leader in numerous organizations dedicated to improving the health and lives of individuals. She has taken 4 sabbaticals and loves to travel. For additional information please visit her website: www.rebootbreak.com.
Learn to sail or relax and let the wind ( and your ship’s captain ) set your course. Spending time on the water gives family travelers a chance to reconnect and see the world from a different point of view.
Here are seven ways to set sail with your family on board:
1.Out The Front Door. Beautiful resorts like the Palau Pacific Resort, in Micronesia, offer colorful sailboats for the use of their guests. Relax on the beach, then invite one of your family members to share time on the water. (Go ahead. Race! ) This enchanting 160-room resort opened in 1984 on the site of a WW2 Japanese Seaplane base. Abiding by Palauan law, it was constructed no higher than the tallest coconut tree on the property and provides a picturesque, natural setting for a family holiday. Plan to spend time at the spa, snorkel, dive, kayak, hike nature trails and of course, sail! Contact: www.palauppr.com.
2. Hop on a Maine Schooner. Uniting their passion for historic windjammers with delectable food and top side fun, this “mom and pop” entrepreneurial pair (mom is the gourmet chef, pop is on deck) will share their love for the Maine coast with you and your family aboard the J&E Riggin. Book three, four or six day outings. Pitch in or chill out – the choice is yours. Contact: 1-800-869-0604; www.MaineWindJammer.com.
3. Darwin’s Destination. Have you seen the blue-footed boobies? If not, set sail through the Galapagos Islands where the water and islands are teeming with exotic and colorful wildlife. It’s a trip of a lifetime. Contact: 1-800-941-8010; www.BoundlessJourneys.com
4. Turkish Delight. Wander through small coastal villages. Explore hidden rock coves, wooded inlets and magnificent ruins from the Roman, Greek, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Guests explore the coast and learn from local guides. This 15-day adventure is hand-crafted by ROW founder, Peter Grubb, and provides active exploration on the Aegean Sea and Lycian Shore. Departures: June, September, October. Contact: 800-451-6034; www.RowInternational.com
5. On Your Own. Sail from Tortola , St. Martin , St. Lucia , Canouan , Belize , Baja or the Bahamas and enjoy relaxing days on tranquil seas. The Moorings provides sea worthy vessels, enabling families to sail on their own or hire a crew. Contact: 1-888-952-8420; www.moorings.com.
6.Small ship. Big luxury. Board a small ship and set sail for the Mediterranean, Greek Isles, Caribbean, Costa Rica, or through the Panama Canal. Windstar Cruises operates three sailing yachts known for their pampering without pretense and their ability to visit the hidden harbors and secluded coves of the world’s most treasured destinations. Best for older children. Contact: 1-800-258-7245; www.windstarcruises.com.
7. Great Lakes Getaway. Spend a few hours or a few days aboard a charming, but floating “bed and breakfast”. Sailing from Traverse City, Michigan, you’ll enjoy the grandeur of the Great Lakes from a majestic sailing vessel. Contact: 1-800-678-0383; www.TallShipSailing.com
When I’m traveling on my own or with family, I always learn something. That’s part of the thrill for me.
In an era where politics and history are playing an important role, why not fold the notion into your travel planning.
Here are a few places where you and your clan can learn about some of the people and events that shaped our nation.
Mount Rushmore, SD -
Tucked within the Black Hills of South Dakota, Mount Rushmore is among the more famous monuments in the country. The whole family will
enjoy seeing the faces of four of the most important presidents -George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln -ever to hold the office, carved into rock for the ages. Hiking, biking, wildlife and other tourist sites are nearby.
Contact: www. www.nps.gov/moru/; 1 (800) 732-5682.
Monticello, the mountaintop home of Thomas Jefferson is the only home in America on the elite World Heritage List of the United Nations. There are numerous tours available including one designed for children ages 6 to 11. The 30-minute tours feature hands-on opportunities and a glimpse of what life was like for the children who lived at Monticello in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
Contact: www.Monticello.org; 1(434) 984-9822.
In this historical city, known as the birthplace of democracy, the whole family can stand on the ground where the Liberty Bell first tolled and the Constitution and Declaration of Independence were signed. Visit Independence Hall, see the famous bell, George Washington’s chair, and check out the Betsy Ross house. Take in the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Constitution Center.
Contact: www.philadelphiausa.travel; (215)636-3300.
Stop by for the Peanut Festival and get to know the town made famous by former President Jimmy Carter. Visit his boyhood farm, shop for antiques and learn about his Nobel Prize winning programs. Ride the SAM shortline excursion train.
Contact: www.PlainsGeorgia.com; (229) 824-5373.
Hyannis, MA – With miles of beautiful beaches and bike paths to explore, visitors will enjoy this community known by many as home to the Kennedy family, a clan famous for decades of political involvement. The picturesque coastal haven served as the backdrop for the now famous images of President John F. Kennedy sailing the local waters with his young family. Contact: www.Hyannis.com; 1 (877) 492-6647.