If you’ve got a passel of kids (or, of course, if you have any size family) and you’re planning a trip this year, you’re in good company. According to the AAA newsroom, one in four traveling families plan to take three or more family vacations in the next 12 months. That’s up 12 percentage points from 2016.
Pros to family travel
It can be super-tempting to travel as a couple or with a group of friends and leave the kids at home. After all, who hasn’t heard the reference to traveling without the kids as a “vacation,” and with the kids, it’s considered a “trip”?
Jokes aside, there are some real benefits to traveling as a family. Here are the best ones:
- You’ll make memories. It goes without saying that these memories are irreplaceable. Your kids will never again be (insert age) and (insert age) and fly fishing with their dad in Colorado or perched on the top of a glacier in Alaska with mom.
- Traveling can be very educational. Kids love to learn, and what better way to do that than in the great outdoors, or at a museum, or anywhere else you’re going on vacation? There’s no better way to learn about tide pools at Queen’s Bath, Kauai, in Hawaii, for example.
- They “up” the happiness factor. According to 2015 research conducted by the Family Holiday Association in Britain, the happiest memory of 49 percent of those surveyed was vacationing with family.
We get it. Kid-friendly vacations can bring about their own particular stressors. To alleviate stress right off the bat, consider packing a punch into the planning process months before you leave.
- Look for red flags online or ask around. If a particular place seems “iffy” based on reviews, don’t book it, even if the price is right.
- Be sure your vacation destination is age-appropriate. If you have a three-month-old, you might not want to fly from New York to Hawaii, when there are much shorter flights to Florida. And maybe whitewater rafting isn’t the greatest option if you have kids under five.
- Pack well in advance. Packing for little ones isn’t for the faint of heart. After all, if you have really young children, they need an unbelievable amount of stuff. (Some stuff, like diapers, you could buy more when you reach your destination.)
Best overall: Disney World
It’s the best (and most obvious) choice for families seeking a theme park vacation. Here are three major reasons why it’s a great move for a family vacation:
- There really is something for everyone. Whether you’re a foodie, or looking for rides, or just want to feel like a kid again, you can’t miss out.
- It’s magical. It really is. The fireworks shows, intricate costumes, and friendly characters will blow you away.
- Your kids will be overwhelmed with excitement. Nowhere else in the world can kids get the same type of incredible experience. Disney is absolutely one-of-a-kind.
Best national park: Yellowstone National Park
Once you’ve heard buffalo thunder past your car, as long as you’re safely tucked inside, you might never be the same. The awesome power of these animals that are quite literally everywhere is nothing short of amazing. After you see a bear or a wolf on Yellowstone’s rolling hills, forget about wanting to vacation anywhere else after that. A mud pot, fumarole, and geyser will top off your bubbling, explosive vacation. Just be prepared to answer lots of scientific questions. “Dad, why is the earth doing that?”
Best city vacation: Washington, D.C.
You’ll really need to consider the age of your kids before booking a trip to Washington, D.C. For older kids, D.C. is absolutely perfect, particularly if you have a budding political scientist or history major in your household. D.C. is chock full of history, amazing facts and locations that will give you chills right down your spine. Have you ever stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial? Its awesomeness is powerful.
Best beach vacation: Destin, Florida
Kids of all ages love a beach vacation, and Destin won’t disappoint. The cities website heralds stunning white beaches, challenging golf and world-famous fishing in the Emerald Coast city.
Its website also says, “Snuggled against the Gulf of Mexico in northwest Florida, Destin is rightfully famed for its sugar-white sands and emerald-hued waters. It also harbors world-class resorts and rentals – and some of the best shopping and dining anywhere.”
Best family cruise: Disney Cruise Line
We know, we know. We’ve featured a Disney entity already. However, for service and entertainment, Disney Cruise Line can’t be beaten. It’s excellent for multigenerational vacations and entertainment. Babysitting services are available so parents can enjoy an evening out with a romantic dinner for two (maybe that’s why you bring the grandparents along?)
Best road trip: Coastal California (Big Sur)
Travel from Big Sur to Eureka, California, and your kids will be plastered to the car windows. It’s rugged, it’s beautiful, and the road is narrow, so that provides some entertainment. You’ll see seals glistening in the sun, waterfalls, huge, crashing waves and more. Don’t miss Point Lobos and the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve with two adjoining marine protected areas, Point Lobos State Marine Reserve and Point Lobos State Marine Conservation Area.
The family that vacations together, stays together!
Finally, you’re the only one who truly knows what will work best for your family. You might have an eight-year-old who’s intensely interested in history and who might thrive at the Henry Ford Museum. However, other eight-year-olds would rather conquer Splash Mountain. Each family has its own quirks and requirements, so it’s up to you to determine what’s best for all.
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