What's not to love about the Caribbean? So many resorts, so little time. To help you make the most of your precious family vacations, we conducted the first-ever data-driven survey looking at the family-friendliness of Caribbean resorts. We worked with the Caribbean Tourism Organization and the Caribbean Hotel Association to compile our initial list of 159 resorts. Then we dug in. We looked at the quality of the children's programs, staffing and safety, and a multitude of other factors to come up with our final 10. These are the best of the best!
Travel rewards credit cards are specifically designed to let a user earn points by making purchases and applying those points directly toward flights and hotels. Some travel rewards credit cards, such as the Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express, are limited by affiliation with a specific travel company. If you’re not keen on sticking to one provider, there are others – including the U.S. Bank FlexPerks Visa Cards – that allow you to apply points toward a wider range of travel services. (FlexPerks is affiliated with 150 airlines, as well as many hotels, cruise lines, and rental car companies.)
Soar through towering trees on a zip line, raft down a whitewater river, hike a section of the Appalachian Trail, and go camping on a Great Smoky Mountains Family Adventure. This park has an incredible variety of plant and animal life, so look for old-growth trees, salamanders, black bears (do not feed or approach them!), wild turkeys, and, for a short period each spring, fireflies that blink in unison. Take selfies at Cades Cove, a popular stop for visitors, where you’ll see historic homes and churches. Go in the spring to enjoy the butterflies and wildflowers, or in the fall, when the trees turn brilliant orange, gold and scarlet.
CheapCaribbean offers an All-Inclusive Sunscape Bavaro Beach Punta Cana 4-Night Flight and Hotel Vacation for two in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, with prices starting from $1,060.06. That's the lowest price we could find for this package by at least $26. This price is based on departure from Miami, FL, (MIA) on November 26; other departure cities are available for an additional cost. Book this travel deal by December 13 for stays through December 22.
The 22-acre Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort complex, set on the widest strip of beach in Waikiki, is a family-entertainment mecca. You can swim, surf, snorkel and paddleboard right from the hotel. Ideal for little ones is its beachfront lagoon, which lets them experience salt water without the big waves. Four nights of the week, the hotel stages Waikiki's only outdoor luau, with traditional food, Polynesian dancing and music, and fire dancers. The resort's Spirit of Aloha snorkel tours include a visit to Turtle Canyon. Sea turtles come to a spot where fish "clean" them before the turtles push off, making way for the next ones in line. If you don't want to get wet while experiencing the ocean, descend 100 feet in an Atlantis Submarine to see reefs, sunken boats and planes, along with fish, sharks and turtles. — Todd Pitock
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua: If you’re looking for an affordable but exotic beach getaway, check out Nicaragua’s Pacific Coast. Often overlooked by U.S. travelers, Nicaragua is only a three-hour flight from Atlanta and has a very favorable exchange rate ($1 USD to C$31 NIO). You’ll find San Juan del Sur about an hour-and-a-half drive from the main city of Managua. Getty Images/iStockphoto
There is another way that the practice of almost purchasing can pay off. You’ve probably already noticed that, after conducting a web search for a specific item, the advertisements on the Internet pages you visit are chock full of that very item. Those ads might annoy you, but they also might contain tailor-made discounts on the exact hotel, cruise, or vacation package you were looking for. It’s worth a second glance.
What to do: Visit Panda Trek first or last in the day, when crowds are lightest, to see the zoo’s black and white superstars, as well as red pandas. Don’t miss: Elephant Odyssey, where the pachyderms often have pool parties; and Northern Frontier, to watch polar bears swimming underwater and see playful arctic foxes. Also noteworthy is the Africa Rocks exhibit (baboons, leopards, blue-eyed lemurs, etc.) that opened in 2017.
Washington, D.C., metro area: D.C. is WalletHub’s top destination for summer travel this year, and with average domestic airfare at $300 to DCA for the season, you can travel to the city cheaply from almost any U.S. city, with the least expensive month for airfare in September. An abundance of free attractions — including all of the Smithsonian museums and the zoo — keep costs low without sacrificing fun. Getty Images/iStockphoto
If you’re looking to save money when going to Orlando’s amusement parks, look to travel in September during midweek and stay at a non-affiliated park hotel or one of the area’s campgrounds. Other money-saving tips for the parks include budgeting in a non-park day and instead relaxing at your hotel’s pool. If you’re a AAA member, you may also be entitled to hotel discounts and special packages with Universal Studios.
Although this Playa del Carmen hotel includes “liquor drips” with free tequila right in your hotel room, it’s not a destination for spring breakers as no parties are allowed in rooms, and no wild partying can happen on the property either. It does, however, offer a good time at a budget price, surrounded by tropical palms on a beautiful powdery white sand beach. The buffet restaurant serves up a wide variety of dishes, and there are also themed international restaurants and live cooking shows, included in the all-inclusive packages. Guests can also enjoy swimming in the freshwater pool set right next to the sea, and indulging in a variety of treatments and massage at the Renova Spa. Entertainment is offered daily and includes dancing, live music and shows.
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Why: A genuine bucket list trip for many, a visit to Australia and New Zealand can be super-pricey. Cities are spread out, way out, which means a lot of hopping on planes to get from one place to another. And for top level accommodations, not to mention simple daily necessities like a flat white, you’ll shell out big bucks. What’s good about a cruise itinerary that includes visits to both countries is that the big expenses are included in fares – onboard meals, accommodations, entertainment and transportation from place to place. On Oceania Cruises, which offers a New Zealand/Australia itinerary, for instance, the per diem is $350 a night, but you pretty much don’t have to whip out a credit card beyond that (do note that it’s priced at per-person, based on two sharing a cabin). Consider that in super-expensive cities like Auckland and Sydney, a hotel stay at a four-star place like the Hilton and Westin respectively will run you $350 or so. And that’s for the room only — you’ll pay out of pocket for food, entertainment and bars. One tip: Look for a cruise line that arranges its itineraries to spend maximum time in port, whether it’s long days or plenty of overnights, so you can have as much time to explore as possible. As well, you’re better off, in most cases, avoiding cruise-line shore excursions, which can be overpriced and epitomize group cattle travel, and engage a travel agency specialist in the region to plan private tours for your days in port. Bottom line, though, is when experiencing Australia and New Zealand by cruise ship, especially on your first visit to the region, the biggest plus is not just the convenience of unpacking once and keeping short-hop plane trips to a minimum. It’s also that, depending on the itinerary you choose, you can visit some pretty special somewhat off-the-grid places in between marquee stops at Auckland and Sydney. New Zealand’s Akaroa, Dunedin and Wellington, and Australia’s Eden, Burnie and Melbourne, might otherwise be missed — and shouldn’t be.
Satellite Beach is a lesser-known but equally lovely section of the Atlantic coast. If you’re planning on visiting in June or July, you can enjoy sea turtle nesting season. Check in with the Sea Turtle Preservation Society for a guided tour. Once booked, you’ll be led out by expert guides equipped with the knowledge (and turtle-friendly lighting) to find mama turtles as they venture onshore to lay their eggs. Truly amazing!
Why: Encircled by massive stonewalls, this Adriatic gem is hard to resist. With its old-world charm, the city’s streets are paved with limestone giving it a cool feel during hot summer days. Its well-preserved homes and monuments range from baroque St. Blaise Church to renaissance Sponza Palace and Gothic Rector’s Palace. It’s a perfect day excursion when island hopping along the Adriatic coast. Oh, and you won’t want to miss the stunning medieval fortresses, Lovrijenac and Bokar, which tower over Dubrovnik.
Just how cheap is it? The aftershock of the debt crisis can still be felt at plenty of Greece’s tavernas, restaurants, and supermarkets (though not so much in touristy areas). On a popular island such as Mykonos, you’re likely to spend at least €25 or more on a lush evening meal -- but you can also get a bottle of godly nectar and cook at your Airbnb or hotel kitchenette for a sliver of that. On smaller, less touristy islands and in some parts of Athens you’ll feel less of a wallet pinch, especially when it comes to accommodation.
Why you’ll love it: The largest alpine lake meets the biggest little city in the world in Reno Tahoe. This quirky city on the rise has incredible street murals, the Nevada Museum of Art, and the Guinness Book of World Records Tallest Outdoor Rock Climbing Wall at the Whitney Peak Hotel. Summer is the time for festivals: Artown in July features musical performances, interactive workshops, and art exhibits; the Shakespeare Festival, at Lake Tahoe, puts on multiple traditional Shakespeare plays—including versions for kids; and then there’s the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook Off, the country’s best rib competition. Take a drive over to North Lake Tahoe to enjoy the sun, beach, and water sports.
St. Augustine, FL: Strolling through St. Augustine, you will sometimes have a hard time believing that it belongs to the 21st century America. From the 17th century Castillo de San Marcos on the western shore of Matanzas Bay to the lavish historic Hotel Alcazar that today hosts the Lightner Museum of Victorian times, St. Augustine has retained the elegance and charm of its past and preserved its historic treasures with lots of love and care. Stroll through the cobblestoned streets of the Old City, St. George, Hypolita and Charlotte Streets, and have a cup of coffee in one of the many quaint shops. Visit the Ximenez-Fatio House built in 1798, an architectural gem that showcases the life of 19th century Florida. A visit to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park and pristine beaches of Anastasia State Park will show you that some things are timeless and never change.
Where to stay: Panama Jacks Resort Playa del Carmen is located on prime beachfront real estate (steps away from the shop-lined Fifth Avenue) and home to the Camp Jack kids club, so it gets our vote. Outside of town, Barcelo is the brand to look for with everything from its impressive Barcelo Maya Grand Resort (five family-friendly hotels in one) to its more intimate Allegro Playacar where babysitting is always available. Finally, if you want to overnight in Cozumel, Allegro Cozumel has a Pirate’s-themed water park on site.
Budget tip: Reno Tahoe is an awesome place to be outside, so take advantage of free entry to the area’s great hiking and biking trails. Rent bikes for only $45/person/day, and ride along the Truckee River, starting in Reno and ending up at North Lake Tahoe. Stop for a picnic brought from town and enjoy it over great views of the Sierra Nevadas and the Lake.
What to do: After learning all about the game America loves, take the younger kids to The Farmers’ Museum and Tractor Land at Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard. Then, practice those swings at Barnyard Swing Miniature Golf. For some relaxing sightseeing, climb aboard the Cooperstown and Charlotte Valley Railroad or cruise Otsego Lake on the Glimmerglass Queen.
Why: Zanzibar may sound like an expensive, bougie honeymoon island, but take it from this solo affordable adventure traveler; it's more budget friendly than you think. Not to mention, absolutely beautiful. You can take the ferry from mainland Tanzania to Zanzibar for only $35 ($50 if you want a VIP seat), but flights to and from there are usually less than $100. Yes, there are many luxury resorts like Tulia Zanzibar and Melia Zanzibar that you should definitely splurge on if you can. (Tulia has a jungle waterslide and pool floaties. Enough said.) But there are also budget options. In fact, I found an Airbnb called the Surf Escape that was only about $40 per night, right on the beach, and had on-site surf, paddleboard and wind-surfing lessons.