Historic festivals and cultural celebrations provide expansive experiences of a lifetime for travelers of every age. You'll gain insight into what matters to local communities paired with a bit of history.
Here are several to consider:
While many celebrate a New Year with fireworks and frivolity, the Balinese choose to cleanse the spirit, meditate and bask in silence on Nyepi, or Silent Day.
On Nyepi Eve, observe local villagers as they play music, dance and parade colorful, hand-crafted “monster dolls” through the streets, while encouraging evil spirits to join the party, hoping they will then sleep through Nyepi. During the 24 hours of silence that follows, Bali’s airport, seaports, roads and all businesses are closed, steeping the island in a magical, pristine quiet. Lighting and the use of electricity are kept to a minimum and visitors and resort guests are encouraged to join islanders in a day of relaxation and reflection. It’s an ideal time for journaling, napping, quiet conversation, candle lit dinners and stargazing.
Ease into the day with morning yoga at the Four Season’s Jimbaran Bay’s peaceful, ocean-front pavilion. At the Four Seasons Resort at Sayan guests are invited to join in a meditation under the stars aside the roof-top lotus pond. Nyepi falls according to the lunar-based Balinese calendar and thus changes each year. The next Silent Day is March 25, 2020.
Nadaam Festival, Mongolia.
A sophisticated and elegant expression of nomadic culture, the Nadaam festival is popular among Mongols and believed to have existed for centuries. The core of the festival is comprised of “Danshig games” - wrestling, horse racing and archery - once reserved only for men. Today, women and girls participate in some aspects. With spiritual roots – both shamanist and Buddhist – the festival celebrates cultural identity with art, singing, dancing and ceremonies throughout the region in mid- Summer.
The 137-year old, Celebration of Life, an annual, month-long festival of Polynesian song and dance, gets underway each July. Singers and dance troupes from 118 Tahitian islands gather for an annual competition highlighting ancestral traditions and legends. Live music accompanies the contenders, using traditional instruments like the nasal flute or vivo, marine shells or pu, and more recently, the ukulele. With meaningful choreography and costumes, it’s considered the centerpiece of the festival. Visitors can also take in traditional sports and games based on ancient athletic activities. Expect a stone lifting competition, a javelin- throwing event, va’a (outrigger canoe) races, a copra competition, and a fruit carrying contest.
Longs Peak Scottish Irish Highland Festival, Estes Park, CO.
Jousting knights, hoisting athletes and calling bagpipes have been entertaining families for more than three decades in this scenic mountain setting. One of the nation’s largest celebrations of the heritage, sounds, tastes, and the arts of Scottish and Irish cultures gets underway the weekend after Labor Day. You’ll be serenaded by bands - the marching kind, the rocking kind and everything in-between - hailing from Great Britain, Scotland, Ireland, Canada and the United States. Don’t miss the free parade down Main Street, a colorful preview of the festival’s glory. Contact: www.VisitEstesPark.com.
Obon, a matsuri, or Japanese festival, is held each summer to honor the ancestors’ spirits and to welcome
them back for a brief visit with the living. A 500-year-old tradition in Japan, the festival begins as small lanterns are lit to guide the spirits
home. There are offerings of food to nourish the spirits, either at household altars or at food stalls lining the streets. A most memorable
sight is bon odori, the traditional dances that take place around a yagura (raised platform). Thousands wear yukata, a lighter summer
kimono, dancing to the beat of the taiko drums. Many communities in the U.S. celebrate Obon. In California’s Santa Maria Valley, all are welcome for a festival that includes taiko drumming, traditional dancing and bonsai and martial arts demonstrations.
Day of the Dead, Mexico.
One of the world's most lively cultural events, Mexico's Day of the Dead is a tradition that takes place each year from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2. The ceremonies are thought to reunite the living with their deceased relatives with food, drink and other festivities. Intrepid's Mexico City:
Day of the Dead Original trip combines culture and history for an immersive 5-day experience in the heart of the Dia de Los Muertos festivities and includes a visit the Frida Kahlo Museum in Coyoacan, a chance to witness Day of the Dead ceremonies and to help create a traditional Day of the Dead altar.
Diving boards and the deep end have been replaced by daredevil drops and surf zones.
Here are five places where you and the family can splash together in cool pools and waterparks.
Royal Caribbean, Perfect Day at CocoCay.
Visitors to the cruise line’s recently relaunched, 125-acre, private island, CocoCay, can choose to Thrill, Chill or both, while the ship docks for the day at a newly built pier. For those who opt for the Thrill Zone, the centerpiece is Daredevil Peak, a 135-foot high slide, said to be the highest in North America. A dozen other slides, a wave pool and assorted water play areas will keep youngsters and the young at heart busy for hours. Also, in the neighborhood you’ll find a helium balloon ride, a 1,600-foot long zip line and casual hang out zones from which to watch others tackle the heights.
On the Chill side, expect a long stretch of beach, options for snorkeling, wave running, paddle boarding, kayaking and simply soaking up the sun while floating on a royal blue raft.
Don't forget your sunscreen!
JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa, Aventura, FL
This South Florida resort recently opened the Tidal Cove Waterpark, an integral part of a multi-million dollar expansion and renovation project. The new five-acre fun zone includes a 60-foot tower with seven water slides, a 4,000-square-foot kids pool with an aquatic play area, and a triple Flow Rider simulation pool, the first of its kind in the country. The 42-foot wide surf simulation machine incorporates elements of surfing, bodyboarding, skateboarding, skimboarding, snowboarding and wakeboarding. The new water features connect with current facilities that include a Lazy River, a zero entry pool and 25 luxury cabanas for privacy and relaxation.
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Scottsdale, Ariz
A family stay at this Sonoran desert resort is full of fun surprises, beginning at the Kid's Check-in desk. In no time, your gang can dig your toes in the sand at the Sunset Beach pool or join the festivities at the Sonoran Splash pool where water slides, music, games and dive-in movies up the fun factor. Kids can fish in the lagoon, play golf or spend the day at the Trailblazers Kids Club where activities include ping pong, learning about desert wildlife, making s'mores in a solar oven and recreational games. The day ends with an ice cream social. Sweet treats aside, parents will appreciate the Lifestyle Cuisine menu for adults and children that focuses on providing healthy choices.
Grand Wailea Resort, Maui, HI
This island haven may be most famous for its beaches, but don't pass up the chance to explore what this resort has to offer. The whole family will be eager to explore the 25,700-square-foot area that includes nine free-form pools. Travel via a "river" to check out the slides, waterfalls, caves, water elevator, swim-up bar, rope swing and more that are part of this water wonderland. Adventurers will want to check out the 262-foot Lava Slide, a 14-second thrill ride that includes a 30-foot drop and speeds up to 22 miles per hour.
Aquatica, Orlando, FL.
With 42 water slides, rides, rivers, and lagoons, this award-winning water park in Orlando is part of the SeaWorld family. Check out the Walhalla Wave, a family raft ride that includes more than 600 feet of drenching twists, turns, and drops into darkness. Earlier this year, Aquatica Orlando became the world’s first water park to be recognized as a certified autism center with the ability to offer resources and tools for families with members that have autism and other special needs.
Planning your next family vacation?
Turn the tables and try something new and different.
Here are five ideas to consider:
Trade a ritzy resort for the backcountry.
Family camping can help stir a deep and lifelong interest in the natural world. For the purest connection to nature, make your way off the beaten path. Hike, paddle or float into a pristine location where your family can learn or hone wilderness skills. Choose a destination suitable for the ages and abilities of your crew. Encourage each person to take responsibility for the adventure, whether that be early research, carrying a small pack, collecting kindling or serving as master storyteller around the fire.
If you are concerned about the youngest members of your clan, consider a practice round in the backyard or nearby park. That way, if the weather or unforeseen forces create a kink in your plans, warm and dry shelter is nearby.
Trade the country for the city.
For the ultimate New York experience join the Sofitel New York in their salute to Broadway and the Tony Awards. Check in to the Midtwon hotel’s Tony Awards Suite, a luxury space with jaw-dropping views of the Manhattan skyline. You’ll be immersed in Broadway memorabilia and amenities including a Tony Awards songbook, scripts from award-winning plays, photographs, playbills, invitations and a video loop of of footage from this’s season’s most popular productions. Of course, with all that in-room inspiration you’ll want to catch a stage performance yourselves. Head to the TKTS booth in Time Square to snag last minute, discounted tickets.
Put down the clubs. Pick up a racket.
Then head to the Woodstock Inn & Resort in Vermont’s Green Mountains. Their new family programs include instruction at the Woodstock Tennis Academy where families can hone skills and strategies while participating in relaxed games and doubles matches. A team of pros will host sessions at the resort’s world-class facilities which include indoor and outdoor U.S. Open and Hard-tru courts. The program consists of four half-day sessions, Monday through Thursday. (Check the website for dates and details.) While visiting the 2,500-plus acre property, families can also enjoy hiking, mountain biking, fishing and gardening classes. Contact: https://www.woodstockinn.com
Trade terra firma for a boat that floats.
Go all in and commit to a family adventure aboard a Disney cruise ship. Choose from four vessels, Disney Wonder, Magic, Dream and Fantasy, each designed to conjure a bygone era but with plenty of modern amenities. (And, a respectful hat tip to the mouse that got the whole thing started.) Expect top notch service from smiling staff members, character meet and greets each day, movies, performances, pool time and a menu of enrichment experiences. Disney aims to offer an elegant, yet family-friendly, experience on every ship.
What you won’t find: a casino.
Don't fly over. Make it a road trip. Drive through some beautiful country and stop often. Visitors who travel this extraordinary byway, experience the visual trifecta of Montana, Wyoming and Yellowstone Park, home to the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains. The Beartooth Highway, a windy, cliff-hugging 68-mile stretch introduces road explorers to one of the most diverse ecosystems accessible by auto. It’s also the highest elevation highway in the Northern Rockies. Stunningly beautiful, the All-American Road showcases wide, high alpine plateaus, painted with patches of ice blue glacial lakes, forested valleys, waterfalls and wildlife. Plan for many pull overs and perhaps a picnic, so the driver can take in the long views!
Canada, America’s neighbor to the North, offers families a wide range of vacation opportunities. You'll find history, culture and extraordinary natural beauty. And polar bears.
Here are five regions to consider:
Home to super star national parks Banff and Jasper and more than 600 lakes, this massive western province is an outdoor adventurer’s dream destination. As it’s flag advertises, visitors can expect snowy mountains, golden plains, evergreen forests and endless blue skies. All that, plus more than 300 days of sunshine each year, enabling great days on hiking trails and ski slopes.
Canada’s fastest growing city, Calgary, a beneficiary of a cattle and oil boom, offers visitors plenty including the famous Calgary Stampede as well as the Heritage Park Historical Village where period clad staff spin tales of frontier life on the Canadian Prairies. Further north, along the North Saskatchewan River, Edmonton serves as the provincial capital and is considered the cultural soul of the region. Expect galleries, theatre, live music and shopping.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the Inside Passage. It’s that scenic chain of channels, bays and islands that create Canada’s diverse Pacific coastline. It’s popular with kayakers, whale watchers, birders,boaters and adventurers.
You’ll also want to put the cities of Vancouver and Victoria on your radar. Located on the edge of wilderness, both urban areas offer hip dining with fresh seafood and farm to table offerings as well as and museums of interest to every age group. Don’t miss the scenic drive from Vancouver to the mountain ski town of Whistler via the Sea-to-Sky Highway. Along what is also known as Highway 99, you’ll pass sheer rock faces, waterfalls, fjords, alpine forests and the snow-capped Coast Mountains.
If you yearn to see polar bears in the wild, Churchill, in northern Manitoba is the place to be. Located on the migration route between the bear dens and their feeding grounds, the town is ground zero for those who want the chance to learn about and glimpse the animals in their native environment.
Tundra buggies transport visitors into the vast landscape outside of town to photograph and observe the seal hunters. Helicopter tours are also possible. Slot the destination onto your list for viewing the northern lights and Beluga whale watching in the summer months.
Prince Edward Island
Published in 1908, the novel Anne of Green Gables, has played a major role in drawing tourists to Canada’s smallest province.
Today, literary fans make their way to P.E.I to see the sites portrayed in the book and to learn more about is author Lucy Maud Montgomery. Visit the old farmhouse, where much of the famous novel was set and take part in activities at the Green Gables Heritage Place that include ice-cream making demonstrations, safe races, hiking on nature trails, carriage rides and tours offered by rangers dressed as characters from the book.
This fabled territory, wild, mountainous and sparsely populated, attracts adventuresome souls eager for wide open spaces, outdoor adventure and quirky bits of history.
Make your way to Dawson City, at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers, to learn about the gold rush days and the great stampede of treasure seekers who hastened north in search of fortune. Visit the Dawson City Museum and stop by the Robert Service Cabin during the summer months for daily poetry readings. Hiking, fishing, cycling, canoeing and dog sledding are among the popular activities in the region. Contact: www.TravelYukon.com
It’s time to put a family vacation on the calendar.
Here are five ideas to consider:
1. Moab, Utah.
Sample the wonders of red rock country during a four day, multi-sport trip that includes an off-road Hummer Safari through a fantasyland of slick rock and a two day, river rafting adventure with an overnight of pampered beach camping on the banks of the Colorado River. Other nature based itineraries include longer rafting components, jet boating, stand up paddle boarding, hiking, mountain biking, hot air ballooning. rock climbing, canyoneering and horseback riding amid jaw dropping scenery. Many outings are suitable for adventurers as young as five.
2. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
Visit the all-inclusive Grand Sirenis Punta Cana Resort for bronze colored beaches amid a beautiful coconut grove. Families will appreciate child-focused pools, and a kids club as well as plenty of non-motorized water sporting fun. The whole family will want to explore the onsite ancient Mayan ruin, the nearby nature trails and to discover the wonder of the world’s second largest coral reef system. Book now through May 2 for up to a 20 percent discount on getaways that take place through October 2019.
3. American Prairie Reserve, Montana.
Using an innovative model, The American Prairie Reserve, a Montana-based non-profit, is in the midst of stitching together a 3.5 million-acre nature reserve on the plains of Montana. Once completed, the Reserve
will provide a continuous land area, collaboratively managed for wildlife and recreation. It will be the largest of its kind in the Lower 48 states.
Meanwhile, a campground and cabins, opening in late spring 2019, provide access to hiking, mountain biking, fishing, wildlife watching and night-sky viewing far from city lights. Prices start at $15 for tent camping per night. Contact: www.AmericanPrairie.org.
4. Denver, CO.
If your kids love drawing on your driveway or sidewalk at home you wont want to miss Denver’s 17th Annual Chalk Art Festival. Be there for the free, two-day painting extravaganza during which hundreds of artists contribute their talent to turn the streets of Larimer Square, the Mile High City’s oldest and most historic block, into a colorful outdoor museum.
The festival takes its inspiration from street painting traditions that originated in 16th century Renaissance Italy when artists began transforming asphalt into canvas. June 1-2, 2019.
5. Galapagos Islands.
Cruise through this legendary archipelago aboard a Smart-Voyager-certified catamaran.
Visit Santa Cruz, Santiago, Isabela, Rabida, and San Cristobal islands while on the lookout for blue footed boobies and the other unique species of wildlife that inspired Darwin and contributed to science’s understanding of life.
Explore moon-like lava terrain, walk through lush forests teeming with birdlife, and snorkel in crystal waters where sea lions frolic . Contact: www.Surtrek.com.
In today’s world, a little kindness goes a long way. And research shows that teaching kids to be kind has a positive influence on a slew of academic, health and social outcomes including increased self-esteem, motivation to learn and resilience.
Here are five ways to incorporate random acts of kindness into your next family vacation.
1. Pack an attitude of gratitude.
Leave impatience and judgment behind and showcase an attitude of gratitude. Lead with a smile and offer thanks to those you meet along the way. From harried flight attendants, pilots, TSA agents and front desk personnel to tour guides, bus drivers, restaurant servers and room attendants, encourage the kids to say thank you whenever appropriate. Consider leaving a handwritten note or crayon drawing along with your tip, an extra effort sure to garner a smile from the recipient. If you loved your hotel stay or cruise ship experience, leave a note congratulating the whole crew for a job well done.
2. Be aware of your surroundings.
Encourage the kids to take note of the pregnant woman, the elderly or handicapped who might be standing in a crowded bus, airline terminal or hotel lobby while the young and able lounge in chairs. Discuss (and model) how offering a seat, a hand or opening a door can be helpful. Encourage the heavily laden or parents managing a cranky child to go ahead in line. Perhaps a strong teen can assist a frail adult with removing a heavy piece of luggage from the overhead compartment.
In the queue for a soda or coffee? Quietly pay for someone in uniform or an elderly person behind you in line. By simply taking notice, opportunities for extending kindness will multiply.
3. Pack for a purpose.
Reserve a little space in your luggage for books, clothing or school supplies that will make a difference in the lives of others in your destination. The non-profit organization, Pack For A Purpose, works with hundreds of hotels and tour operators in 60 countries to help travelers contribute to those in need. Whether you stow pencils, a deflated soccer ball, a stethoscope or pet supplies in your bags, you and your family will return home knowing you’ve helped spread kindness beyond your own backyard.
4. Walk, run or bike for charity.
Research your destination to determine if there is an opportunity to combine healthy exercise with the chance to give back in your getaway spot. Ask your hotel about opportunities or connect with the local tourism organization for ideas. The Humane Society may be able to suggest events that will help homeless animals. If there is a charity you support or have interest in at home, give them a call to see if they can provide a contact in your intended destination. LiveStrong has combined a list of nationwide events on their website. Peruse the options for a match. Contact:
5. Take a volunteer vacation.
Whether you offer an hour, a day or a week, giving back of your time and resources makes for a meaningful holiday. Spend time reading to kids at a nearby school, help save sharks or turtles, share the gift of language or scoop ice cream and assist with pony rides for kids with life-threatening illnesses staying at a non-profit resort.
Contact the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation for more ideas. https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/
When it comes to making travel plans, the options can be overwhelming.
Five intrepid family travel experts add to the mix with their top picks for a memorable winter season adventure.
Go for a Greek Getaway.
"People tend to stay close to home with kids. But, I firmly believe in opening their hearts and minds early with further flung travel,” explained Becca Hensley, an Austin-based parent and travel and lifestyle writer. “That doesn't mean you shouldn't have support though. You'll manage to relax, spoil yourself and hang with the family in style if you book a villa with Greek-owned, White Key Villas.”
“They're congenial and involved--and they love kids and catering to families,” adds Hensley. “With more than 200 handpicked villas to choose from, in destinations from Paros to Patmos, the homes are all privately owned, and vary in size and orientation. Costing the same as villas in Hawaii or the Caribbean, the Greek villas come with outstanding staff support, VIP experiences, and special treats for children.” Contact: www.whitekeyvillas.com; www.BeccaHensley.com
Chill in Quebec City, Canada
“Unlike many Americans, most Canadians seem to enjoy winter — even celebrate it, “observes Rainer Jenss, founder and CEO of the Family Travel Association, an organization that advocates for
travel as an important part of every child’s education.“That’s why I have often packed up the car and driven north of the border with my kids — to take advantage of all the festivities in a frigid, but fun wintertime destination,” explained Runs, father of two and a New York resident. “Winter Carnival, held every year in early February, has what every kid loves: parades, snow sculptures, shows, skating. and plenty of hot chocolate. It’s also culturally rich, since French is the predominant language, adding another dimension to the getaway for Americans .”
Winter on the Ranch
Vista Verde, a Colorado guest ranch, is a winter wonderland for families with kids of all ages, advises Nancy Schretter, the Founder & Managing Editor of the Family Travel Network. “There are so many fun things to do there - from snow tubing and cross-country skiing to snowmobiling, snowshoeing and fat tire biking in the snow. They also have a great kids program.”
“We went horseback riding along snow-packed trails and riding in a one-horse open sleigh ... something I always wanted to do,” added Schretter, who writes about travel from her home in Virginia.
Downhill skiing and snowboarding are available at nearby Steamboat Ski Resort and one of the ranch's vehicles will take families there, notes Schretter.
Consider Costa Rica
“it’s my favorite destination for families who love nature and wildlife,” explains LiLing Pang the Co-founder and CEO of Trekaroo.com, an independent family travel community.
“This Central American country is safe and easy to negotiate even for those who do not speak Spanish. In a week, you could be bird watching and zip-lining in the Monte Verde cloud forest, surfing and boogie boarding along the white sand beaches of the Guanacaste region, and watching playful monkeys and sloths in the rainforest,” offers the California-based mom and entrepreneur. December through May is the dry season in Costa Rica, adds Pang, which makes exploring that much easier.
“Italy is a great family destination any time of the year,” suggests Susan Pohlman, a mother of two, who’s award-winning book
'Halfway to Each Other: How a Year in Italy Brought Our Family Home, chronicles her family’s adventures during an unexpected sabbatical in the small town of Nervi, near Genoa, Italy.
“Italians are all about family, so we felt welcomed at every turn,” explains Pohlman. “The food, the rich culture and history and the extraordinary landscape make for a great family experience in every season.”
Make family travel memories in the year ahead.
Here are five great family vacation destinations to consider:
The Grand Canyon National Park is celebrating a big birthday in 2019. So why not join the in the centennial celebration? Millions visit this wonder of the world each year to marvel at the mile-deep gorge, exploring by foot, on a mule, or capturing the vast beauty with a camera or the mind’s eye. Stay on the South Rim where year round access is possible and you’ll have access to ranger programs, dining options and stunning views. Explore other regions in northern Arizona for hiking, biking and a history lesson along Route 66. Take in the stunning beauty of Monument Valley, the Petrified National Forest and the picturesque red rocks of Sedona. Pose for a photo while standing on a corner in Winslow, ride horseback at a guest ranch or rent a houseboat on Lake Powell.
Niagara Falls, NY.
Hear it roar. And feel the mist. But, don’t worry. Ponchos are provided when you board the iconic tour boat, the Maid of the Mist, to feel the power of the historic falls. Formed some 12,000 years ago, Niagara Falls, straddling the US border with Canada, has long been a magnet for explorers and adventurers, as well as honeymooners travelers. By day, explore the area from multiple angles, via lush nature trails, a water-skimming jet boat or high-flying helicopter.
Inside the Niagara Falls State Park, visit the Observation Tower for a panoramic view of the three main falls - American, Bridal Veil and Horseshoe Falls. Each night, the park offers an illumination of the Falls, along with seasonal fireworks.
You’ll find lavish resorts in a bustling enclave or quiet getaways on tiny spits of sand, all just 50 miles off the coast of Florida. Choose your preferred sun-drenched environment from among 700 islands, embraced by crystal clear water and the world’s third largest barrier reef. Visions of snorkeling, diving, salt water fly fishing, ecotours, horseback riding, kayaking or just relaxing on soft sandy beaches will provide plenty to compel your family to plan a visit to this breathtaking archipelago. Contact: www.Bahamas.com.
The Volunteer state is within a day's drive of 65 percent of our nation's population. There, in Tennessee, you’ll find natural beauty, great music and vibrant communities ladled with a dose of Southern hospitality. Enjoy the 800-square mile wonderland that is the Great Smokey Mountain National Park for hiking, horseback riding, and fishing. Add a musical note to your trip with a stop by Graceland to see how the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley lived and worked.
Spend time in Music City USA, otherwise known as Nashville, to discover the rich origins of country music. Visit the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to learn how folk, gospel music and front-porch jamming evolved into the sounds we know today.
Nature-loving families may want to consider a hike on the John Muir Trail in the Cherokee National Forest. It’s a relatively crowd-free portion of the state that's said to look much the same as it did in Muir's day.
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
A four-season playground for nature lovers, Michigan’s UP nudges up against three Great Lakes - Superior, Huron and Michigan. That said, water and beach activities are plentiful with kayaking, sailing and fishing as warm weather staples. Inland, visitors venture along rivers that feed the Great Lakes, explore old-growth forests and fly fish small streams.
From the Porcupine Mountains, just a few miles from the shores of Lake Superior and considered one of Michigan’s most wild landscapes, adventurers can hike from a summit to the shore in one day. During the winter months, snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing are popular pursuits. Contact: www.Michigan.org
Managing young children in small spaces can be a challenge. Take that effort to 30,000 feet and, well, doing a little research before embarking on an air travel adventure is advised.
According to a recent report, Best Airlines for Family Travel, issued by The Points Guy (TPG), some airlines are inherently more family friendly than others.
Here are five factors to consider.
TPG examined the ten largest US airlines, looking at ten different, equally weighted criteria relevant for traveling families. Southwest Airlines came out on top.
Its coveted Southwest Companion Pass, no extra fees and family boarding policy nudged the airline to the top of TPG's picks for family travel. Its extensive – and expanding – domestic route and award program are an added bonus.
A Close Second.
When considering seat comfort, snacks and entertainment, JetBlue offers a better onboard experience than Southwest and is consistently a top pick for families, the report determined. Its less than stellar on-time arrival ranking, important when traveling with youngsters, bumped it down just shy of the top spot. Hawaiian Airlines received the best on-time score.
Early Boarding Matters
“While there's some logic to boarding young children on the aircraft at the absolute last second to minimize time on the plane, the reality is that if you need to install a car seat or ensure space for your carry-on bags, being onboard early is crucial, “ explains Summer Hull, the TPG family travel expert. United and JetBlue take TPGs top spot for early boarding, as they allow young families onboard early in the process. In fact, United enables families with children two and under to board even ahead of first class.
Seat Assignments are Key
Have you ever negotiated a seat trade with a perfect stranger so you could sit with your child? Securing seats together is a top priority and families don’t want to pay extra for the privilege. According to the report, the top airlines in this category are JetBlue, Hawaiian and Alaska, which all include complimentary seat assignments for all tickets.
Southwest's open seating policy is also a way to ensure prime seating, as children ages six and under can board after Group A.
Airline Loyalty Program for Families
Making the most of travel dollars and creative resources is key for families. Airline loyalty programs can make a difference. JetBlue offers the most family-friendly policies due to its "free family pooling of miles" option for all members.
For this report, TPG focused on the ten largest U.S. airlines — Southwest, JetBlue, Delta, Hawaiian, Alaska, United, American, Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant — as measured by their total number of domestic passengers.
For more information: www.ThePointsGuy.com
Now anyone can learn from the best adventure photographer in the world. Professional climber, and Free Solo co-director, Jimmy Chin, now offers online classes through the Masterclass platform.
In his class, Chin will teach the essential photography skills he used to capture breathtaking images from the harrowing peaks of Tibet to the unforgiving Antarctic tundra.
As one of the world's most prolific adventure photographers, Jimmy Chin demonstrates an unparalleled mastery of both extreme exploration and visual storytelling. His success is defined by his ability to fold this natural passion into his art, with photos from his harrowing expeditions worldwide appearing on the cover of National Geographic and The New York Times Magazine, and featured in Adventure, Outside, Men's Journal, ESPN Magazine, as well as The North Face and Patagonia catalogues. Chin's work has earned him awards from Photo District News (PDN), Communication Arts, and the American Society of Magazine Editors.
In 2015, Chin took his career to the next level by producing his first feature-length documentary, Meru, which won the coveted Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival and was on the 2016 Oscar shortlist for Best Documentary. He built on that momentum with his second film, Free Solo, which critics hailed as one of 2018's best documentaries.
"Throughout my life, I've been fortunate enough to see and experience a world that most people believe is out of grasp," says Chin. "My hope is to prove to students that they, too, can marry a passion for adventure with their professional pursuits. I want to bring people into my world of photography and inspire them to overcome their greatest challenges, regardless of their level of experience."
In his MasterClass, Chin takes a holistic approach to teaching his style of photography, walking students through the full creative process from finding inspiration to post-production. Employing the help of his friend and mentor, Conrad Anker, Chin takes students on location for a photoshoot in the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. He also shares exclusive behind-the-scenes footage and strategies from past shoots to remote locations across the globe, demonstrating the real-world challenges and solutions associated with capturing unforgettable shots in nature.
The class is designed for photographers at every level, blending lessons in creative decision-making and leadership with more technical processes such as selecting photos and post-processing. Chin's students will walk away with a deeper understanding of shooting outdoors, ultimately taking their photos to new heights – both literally and figuratively.
What better skill to add to your family travel toolbox?
Chin's class is available at www.masterclass.com/jch. Enrollment for the class is $90 for lifetime access, or $180 per year for the All-Access Pass, which grants unlimited access to all new and existing classes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) protects and preserves significant and inspirational places around the world. Locations carrying the important designation of World Heritage site, provide an impressive history lesson as well as a virtual tour of many of the world’s most meaningful places.
Here are six you and your family won't want to miss:
The French city’s old town is an island – the Grande Ile – circled by canals and the River Ill. Families can get a unique view of this historic enclave by paddling a canoe through the canals, including the chance to maneuver through a lock with the help of a trusted guide from Adventures by Disney and AmaWaterways. You can’t miss the city’s Gothic cathedral which rises high above Strasbourg and was said to be the world’s tallest building until 1874. Climb 320 steps to a viewing platform for a bird’s eye view. And be sure to spend time inside the cathedral, taking note of the historic stained glass windows that survived many war-torn years. Also of interest is the world’s largest astronomical clock. Considered a Renaissance masterpiece, it was assembled by a team of artists, mathematicians, and technicians, and also shows signs of the zodiac, equinoxes, and leap years.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
Family members who have seen the Tomb Raider films will particularly enjoy exploring the Angkor Archeological Park, unfolding deep within the Siem Reap province. While hundreds of archeological and artistic temples and ancient structures remain, the most familiar (it’s on the Cambodian flag) is Angkor Wat. Built in the 12thcentury to honor Vishnu, a Hindu God, the temple's bas relief galleries inform modern visitors of life in ancient times. Also of note is the remarkable water system, including moats, canals and reservoirs, that once provided water and crop assistance for the thriving communities. Visitors arrive via river cruises on the Mekong or a stop in Siem Riep where lodging and tours are plentiful. Contact: VikingCruises.com; TourismCambodia.com.
Amalfi Coast. Italy.
Nirvana for artists, photographers and foodies, the picturesque coastal area offers a sensual mix of cultural, natural and historic wonders. While the small communities were once only accessible by mule, modern day train travel makes it easy to visit the enchanting towns that spill toward the sea from their steep and craggy origins. During the warmer months, sail boats dot the watery landscape and boat taxis provide additional access. Contact: RailEurope.com; AmalfiCoast.com.
Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia.
This iconic structure, comprised of interlocking concrete shells, anchors one of the world’s most famous harbors. Visually stimulating and home to a menu of family-friendly performances and programs, the architectural trendsetter debuted in 1973. Whether you take in a walking tour and observe the opera house glinting in the sunlight or aglow after nightfall, you’ll appreciate its artistic vibe and global significance. Contact: SydneyOperaHouse.com.
Machu Picchu. Peru.
Make your way to this extraordinary archeological site just as the Incas did. Choose from two or four day treks along the Inca Trail that culminate in stunning views of the “lost city” where palaces, terraces, walls and plazas cling to the mountainside. It was not until 1911, that a Peruvian guide led Yale Professor Hiram Bingham to the ancient site on the eastern slopes of the Andes. Mysteries remain as to how the Incas were able to construct the complex more than 500 years ago and why it was abandoned not long after. Train trips are also available from Cusco. Contact: www.AustinAdventures.com; www.FamilyAdventures.com.
Taos Pueblo. Taos, NM.
Continuously inhabited for more than 1000 years, this remarkable community remains a pristine example of Native American culture, tradition and architecture. UNESCO makes note of the Pueblo Indians’ ability to retain meaningful and long held traditions despite pressure from the outside world. Close to 1900 Pueblo Indians still live, full or part time within the community, in homes made of adobe bricks, vigas and latillas. Take a walking tour of the area and uncover a rich history, view native arts and crafts and observe a way of life rarely glimpsed in our otherwise high-tech world. Contact: (505 )758-1028; www.TaosPueblo.com; http://www.nps.gov/history/worldheritage/taos.htm
Take advantage of the years when your family travel plans are not limited by school holidays and summer vacation.
Travel with your toddlers! You'll expand their world and plant the seed of adventure early. (And have fun in the process.)
Here are a handful of ideas to consider:
Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa, St Lucia.
At this Caribbean Resort, children will learn about their destination through activities designed for each age group. The SCOUTS program – Seeing, Crafting, Observing, Understanding, Tasting, St. Lucia) is infused in the fun you’ll find headquartered within the 50,000 square foot Cocoland Kidz Club. Expect youngsters to access a mini zipline and rock wall, a petting zoo and plenty of water play. Three of five resort pools cater to kids and include a lazy river and a zero entry splash pool. Savvy youngsters can order colorful slushies and fruity drinks at their own swim up bar. When parents opt for a night on their own, kids can enjoy their own Pirates Night or Movie Night on the Splash Lawn.
FDR Resort, Jamaica.
There is nothing like an afternoon splashing in the surf and building sand castles to wear out an active toddler. At the FDR Resort in Runaway Bay, Jamaica, once Junior goes down, a Vacation Nanny is available to sit by his side, while you enjoy an afternoon playing golf, scuba diving or exploring by kayak. Check in to this all-inclusive seaside getaway, and meet your CPR-trained Vacation Nanny who will assist you and your family in having the most relaxing time possible. Trained in child care and housekeeping, this professional staff member’s goal is to fill in where needed, whether by looking after youngsters in the pool, or making sure the kids’ favorite snacks are on hand in the room. Contact: www.fdrholidays.com.
Loews Miami Beach Hotel, Miami Beach, FL.
This oceanfront resort, the recipient of a recent $50 million redesign, offers a bounty of family enticements via the Loews Loves Kids program. Families can choose to enjoy the benefits of direct beach access (which makes castle building a breeze) or head to the zero entry pool where pop fountains add to the vacation vibe. Celebrate in style by spending the day with access to a SOAK cabana where air conditioning, flat screen TVs, private butler service and rooftop terraces will convince the kids they’ve reached VIP status. Take a pizza-making class together or take advantage of Family Happy Hour during which time kids can enjoy complimentary lawn games while parents sip cocktails, join in or cheer them on.
Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas.
For families that check into The Coral, the resort’s recently revamped, family-centric tower, a new level of luxury awaits. Compare notes with the Kids Concierge and in a flash, the dreams of mini-travelers (and their parents) will soon be a reality. From scheduling family swims with the dolphins to registering for Sea Squirts, an interactive marine program where youngsters can feed baby stingrays, sharks and schools of fish, the concierge is on hand to help create itineraries and smooth any bumps on the path to a memorable vacation. Ask about helping the Atlantis Aquarists guide Green Sea Turtle hatchlings to the sea.
Kids on the Trail.
Getting kids outside early and often is likely to instill a lifetime love of nature. Visit a local trail and watch as your child explores with wonder, turning over rocks and observing small animals and birds. Choose a loop trail or plan a scavenger hunt. Bring along a picnic and plenty of water or juice so that the whole family stays hydrated. After a few close-to-home practice rounds, include nature walks and hiking in your family vacation travel plans. In time, you’ll be scaling heights.