Larounis also advised making a beeline to an airline club; if you don’t belong to one for your flight, buy a day pass. “When there’s a delay or cancellation, everyone rushes to the terminal agent’s customer service desk. But the airline clubs rarely have lines and they have the same capability—sometimes they’re more empowered than the agents downstairs and can bend the rules to get you on flights that look sold out.”
With new babies, booking a one-way flight is essential. Think about renting a vacation house or apartment for maximum space and flexibility. Or go the all-inclusive route: resorts and cruises handle the meals and sometimes also the child care too. Some luxury hotels have amenities jut for babies, such as chic cribs or infant-only toiletries. With school-aged children, consider traveling with another family whose kids are your children’s age. Companionship goes a long way towards engaging—and delighting—young ones. (Pools go a long way in this department, too.) Disney World and Disneyland are big players at this age, as is camping. The National Park System is probably the best bang for your vacation buck anywhere in the world, being consistently stunning and always affordable. Kid-friendly resorts can provide a variety of on-site activities, such as pizza-making or baby shark feeding or mini science camps, all while giving parents a break.
If you’re tempted to make a vacation-related purchase but are a little put off by the price tag, add the item to your electronic cart – but don’t go all the way through with the purchase. Before doing this, be very careful to make sure that it’s not a one-click purchase or a website where your payment details are stored, or anything else that will rope you into a purchase that you’re not ready to make.
What to do? Don’t get out of town without visiting Denver’s top attraction, The Denver Zoo. It’s more than 100 years old! Today, kids can get hands-on in the 'Be a Zookeeper Zone' (open Spring through Fall), marvel at swimming elephants and sign up for more than a dozen different behind-the-scenes animal encounters. While in town, take the younger kids to the Children’s Museum of Denver where they can experiment in a test kitchen, cool off in an outdoor splash zone and live out their fantasy of being in a room dedicated to bubbles. Older kids will appreciate the interesting exhibits and the Phipps IMAX 3D Theater at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. When their feet get tired, take a ride in the free open-air Denver Trolley to learn about the city’s founding and its famous Gold Rush.
Summer is arguably the best time for a European vacation because of the great weather and easy accessibility, but popular cities are crowded and expensive. Check out Albania as an alternative to pricey Mediterranean destinations. While direct airline routes are hard to come by from the U.S., Tirana (the country’s main international airport) recently opened up routes with Wizz Air, and has affordable fares from London-area airports for under $200 round-trip.
Where to stay: Housed in the historic former Baltimore & Ohio Railroad headquarters, Kimpton Hotel Monaco Baltimore Inner Harbor (from $109) is a kid’s dream with 14 Bunk Bed Suites (not to mention the warm cookies we’ve had at check-in). The Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel puts families right next to two other kid favorites, the fascinating fish-filled National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center, starting at $134 a night. Don’t miss these top family travel destinations in every state.
Chosen By: Amie O’Shaughnessy, founder and CEO of Ciao Bambino. After having her son, Amie searched extensively for credible resources to provide family-focused advice, direction and useful accommodation information. She quickly realized that there were no relevant resources available, particularly for a discerning traveler, so she decided to help solve this problem and started Ciao Bambino.
Where do we go on the West Coast? Explore California’s scenic coastal towns, have fun at Disneyland, tour Hollywood and check into a full service spa resort for a few days of pampering and relaxation. Some family-friendly ski resorts to try on the West Coast include Mammoth, Badger Pass and Snowmass. San Diego is a popular destination for families with kids, offering amusement parks, beaches, the New Children’s Museum, Maritime Museum and a zoo which will keep little ones busy.
Why: Moab, Utah is a great place to travel to if you are looking to explore the outdoors. There are two national parks in this town — Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park, along with state parks and lots of recreational land all over. You can camp for free in many different areas around town, or there are also hotels and Airbnbs. If you like to camp, then like I said, you can camp for free in a beautiful place with a mountain or canyon view. An affordable way to see Moab is to stay in one of its many cabins. For example, you can stay at Archview RV Park in a basic Camping Cabin with two beds for just $78 a night. In Moab, there is an endless amount of activities. You can go rock climbing, rafting, kayaking, explore the national parks, skydive, off-road (you can rent Jeeps and go off roading if you don't have your own), camp and more. My favorite tour is the river raft trip with Canyon Voyages.
Sure, Iceland is cold, but there’s still plenty to do on a Winter Iceland Family Adventure. Kids age 12 and up can snorkel with you in the crystalline waters of the Silfra fissure, an opening between the North American and Eurasian continents. Explore the old harbor and famous Hallgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik, the capital city, and then venture into the largest man-made ice cave in the world, at Langjokull Glacier. The whole family can learn how the island’s natural phenomena were formed by volcanic and geothermal forces when you hike at scenic Skaftafell National Park.
This Oregon city is a haven for outdoorsy families. During the warmer months, travelers with kids can offset pricey room rates by sticking to free attractions like Forest Park and Tom McCall Waterfront Park – the latter boasts a large water fountain for children to play in. Another option: Peruse the 2 million volumes on sale at Powell's City of Books. Read More »
“We wanted to spend time at the Grand Canyon so I looked for a place that could accommodate all 9 of us (this included some children). Rather than rent numerous hotel rooms I decided it might be fun to all stay together in a house. The description of this house made it sound interesting and close to town so we chose it. Best decision ever!” — TripAdvisor Reviewer
Travel Auctions. There are two kinds of travel auction sites. One allows you to enter your preferred travel dates, destination, and class of service (such as economy or business class), and travel companies compete to offer the lowest-priced trip that meets your criteria. Flightfox is one site that operates this way: It charges a per-trip fee, and while the exact price depends on the trip itself, you can expect to shell out around $30. The other type of travel auction operates the opposite way: Companies offer flights, hotels, or packages, and users can bid on the trips. When the auction closes, the top bid wins. SkyAuction.com operates using this model. It’s free to bid – though you should be aware that additional taxes and fees are unlikely to be included in your bid price, so you will end up paying more than your bid if you win.
These deals are different from fare alerts in that they don’t correspond to a locale of your choice – instead, it’s a company-curated list of deals that may include locations all over the country and the world. Signing up for these types of emails is particularly valuable if you aren’t set on a certain destination or time-frame and simply want to go somewhere and get a good deal on the trip.
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.
Bacalar: Gerardo Tanaka Pacheco, senior account executive for MSL Group, the public relations firm for VisitMexico.com, says that Bacalar, also on the Yucatan Peninsula, is “an amazing place, kind of unknown and definitely uncrowded. This is one of my favorite secrets spots in Mexico; the lagoon there is unbelievable.” Called the Lake of Seven Colors, the lagoon stretches for 42 kilometers and is fed by underground rivers. Bacalar holds the official designation as a “Pueblo Magico,” or Magical Town, due in large part to the lagoon. In addition to being one of the safest places in Mexico, Bacalar is also very affordable. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Where to stay: The Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon is only one mile from the popular South Rim entrance. You’ll love the luxury (it’s quite nice for a national park accommodation) and the kids will love the indoor pool. If staying at the bottom of the canyon is on your bucket list, or you want the kids to experience a time machine, check into a cabin at the historic Phantom Ranch.
Menorca is an oceanfront paradise with a prime setting along the Mediterranean Sea. Here, you'll find lower prices on food and lodging (as well as fewer tourists) compared to other nearby Spanish islands. Simply put, Menorca is perfect for frugal travelers who want to avoid the party scene of Ibiza and the tourists of Mallorca, and worship the sun in peace. (Getty Images)
The most well-known family attraction in Huntsville is the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Here, you’ll find an awe-inspiring collection of rockets (including a rare Saturn V), a space shuttle, and plenty of NASA memorabilia. This is an understandably popular attraction, so it’s a good idea to book your tickets in advance. If your kids are more interested in natural phenomena, they’ll be enchanted by the 1,000s of butterflies, along with turtles and frogs, in the Purdy Butterfly House at Huntsville Botanical Garden.
Where to stay: The Westin Playa Bonita is just minutes from the bustling downtown on a mile-long stretch of golden sand surrounded by lush tropical rainforests, and rooms start at just $120 a night. The resort’s Kids Club offers destination-focused experiences including native songs and dances, talent shows, and treasure hunts. Families can also book the Sand, Sloths, & Skyscrapers package, complete with a visit to the area’s new sloth sanctuary, and a walking tour of Casco Viejo. These are family vacation destinations even picky teenagers love.
Why you should go: Because nature and mild danger make you feel alive. Victoria Falls has a bungee jump, one of the world’s most high-octane whitewater runs, and the Devil’s Pool, a natural rock pool at the literal edge of the falls. Forget TLC’s admonitions: Inching your body out over the precipice and looking down into one of the seven natural wonders of the world is one of the most unforgettable things you’ll ever do. - Sarah Theeboom, Thrillist contributor
What to do: Climb the dunes, of course! But, don't expect kids to walk. Running (or rolling) down these majestic sand mountains is part of the fun. Cool off with a swim at Esch Road Beach where you'll find the pristine Lake Michigan water is brisk but refreshing. There's great kayaking and tubing on the warmer Platte River (gear up with Riverside Canoe Trips). Or, sign the kids up for their first freshwater surf lesson. Sleeping Bear Surf & Kayak hosts daily lessons by the lighthouse.
Akumal is a snorkeling and diving haven with numerous lagoons and natural parks. Mayans referred to this spot as the "Place of the Turtle" and today it draws droves of tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of these creatures in their natural habitat. Like the rest of the Riviera Maya, Akumal features a slew of affordable hotels, motels and all-inclusive resorts. (Getty Images)
Of course, “top-notch guest services” is subjective. You could stay at a five-star hotel where the concierge is snooty and there’s constant construction, whereas you could find a gem of a two-star hotel where you’re treated like royalty by a warm, welcoming staff. That’s why it’s so important to value guest reviews over star ratings. Guest reviews give you an indication of what it’s actually like to stay at the hotel.
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.
No. 10. Lanikai Beach – Kailua, Hawaii. Located on the Windward Coast of Oahu, the name Lanikai means “heavenly sea,” and travelers rave about this small half mile strip of beach. Beachgoers often take advantage of the many water activities, such as canoe tours, kayak rentals and snorkeling. “Another beautiful Hawaiian beach with golden sand, gentle breeze and surf, and amazing coral reefs just offshore,” wrote a TripAdvisor reviewer. • Beachfront bargain hotel nearby: Lotus Honolulu at Diamond Head, from $242 per night on TripAdvisor • Great airfare found on TripAdvisor: As low as $356 round-trip from SFO (San Francisco) to HNL (Honolulu) TripAdvisor
Virginia’s Historic Triangle extends to nearby Jamestown and Yorktown, where innovative exhibits and educational experiences depict America’s first permanent English colony and guide visitors through the battlefield where American independence was won – advance 7-day passes are available, so you can return with the family to explore time and time again. Merchants Square, an 18th-century-style village, includes more than 40 shops and restaurants ranging from family-style to fine dining.
With four-color illustrations and packed with real-world science, The Vacation Guide to the Solar System is the must-have planning guide for the curious space adventurer, covering all of the essentials for your next voyage, how to get there, and what to do when you arrive. Written by an astronomer who presents at the Hayden Planetarium and one of the creators of the Guerilla Science collective, this tongue-in-cheek reference guide is an imaginative exploration into the "What if" of space travel, sharing fascinating facts about space, the planets in our solar system, and even some moons!
For example, a writer for The New York Times searched for a long weekend getaway in Washington, D.C. and found a vacation package that looked like a tremendous deal. However, the hotel was 22 miles away from Washington. In other scenarios, the hotel might be fantastic, but your flight might have two stops and a 12-hour layover in Topeka. The bottom line is that it’s worth exploring package options, but be sure to scrutinize the individual components of the package to make sure you’re not compromising too much.
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