What to do: Fly into Cancun and then immediately head to Playa del Carmen: the perfect launching point for all of Quintana Roo’s adventures. Float the underwater river at Xcaret Eco Theme Park and stay late for the cultural musical show, “Xcaret Mexico Espectacular.” Then, take a taxi or bus to Dolphin Discovery in Puertos Aventuras where the kids can splash and play with dolphins, manatees and even sea lions! Finally, lather on the sunscreen and explore the clifftop ruins in Tulum. They are some of the best preserved Ancient Mayan ruins along the coast. Further inland, you can take a day trip to Chichen Itza! And for beach time, check out Aloha Paddle Club's water sport rentals in Playa del Carmen or take the ferry to nearby Cozumel.
Charlotte’s Carowinds, a combination amusement park and waterpark, is a big hit with families. Weekdays offer shorter lines than weekends, and themed events are scheduled near year’s end. Young park-goers will discover mini-rides just for them, while teens will be thrilled with the likes of Intimidator and Fury 325. The park offers free water at multiple stations, but parents consistently recommend purchasing cups with free refills for the day. Count on $20 for parking, and budget extra for food, or consider at least one combo ticket, which includes food throughout the day.
The Whitewater rafting on Kicking Horse River, in Banff, is awesome. Choose from a variety of family packages; options include passes to Banff Hot Springs, a ride on a gondola for a 350-degree view of Sulphur Mountain and the Canadian Rockies; a canoe ride or a tour of a grizzly bear refuge. Packages can also include certified rafting guides and equipment. Kicking Horse, which flows from a glacial lake, is considered one of the most exciting whitewater runs in the Canadian Rockies, with a drop of about 50 feet about every 6/10 of a mile.  You’ll enjoy stunning scenery as you journey down this Canadian Heritage River. 

Using a website like Hotels.com or TripAdvisor, set your minimum guest rating level high (start with four stars and above) and be open to hotels at any star rating. Once you’ve eliminated all but the highest-reviewed hotels, sort by price from low to high. As long as the hotels on the list have a reasonable number of reviews – around 100 or more – it’s a fair bet that the hotel makes the best of whatever amenities they have.
An inexpensive way to visit the Caribbean can be aboard a cruise ship. The cruise industry is constantly coming up with bigger ships packed with activities for vacationers of all ages. You can cruise Bermuda and the Bahamas with Regent Seven Seas, take a Nickelodeon-themed family cruise or pick one of the many affordable itineraries offered by the Royal Caribbean.
Why you’ll love it: As the hot air balloon capital of the world, the skies of Albuquerque are always filled with colorful inspiration for kids with a love for things that fly. Kids will really enjoy a ride on the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway—North America’s longest double-reversible aerial tramway—that travels to the top of the 10,378-foot Sandia Peak. (Kids under 5 are free; be sure to print out the $5 coupon from the website for you.) And exploring the ABQ BioPark, a unique environmental museum comprised of an aquarium, botanic garden, and zoo is always a hit too, as is the free fishing lakes at Tingley Beach.
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.
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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Last Minute Deals and Packages: If you decide to take a last minute trip with the kids, look for savings and special offers, especially in the off-season. Lately we've been seeing major resort discounts even during high season, so once you decide where you want to go, call the hotel or resort directly and don't be afraid to ask for a package deal before you book. Offers can include room discounts, dining and activity credit, free transportation to and from the airport, and other perks. Most hotels will let you book connecting rooms so that you can keep an eye on the kids while still enjoying some privacy on vacation. If you are taking a weekend trip to a major city such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco or London, hotels usually discount rooms on weekends because there are no business travelers on weekends, so it's quite easy to find a last minute deal. In the Caribbean, look for all-inlcusive packages and affordable rates in the summer. Keep reading for more best family vacations.
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.
“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
Twelve-time winner of "best cruise line in Alaska" from Travel Weekly's Readers Choice Awards, Princess Cruises recognizes that different ages have different needs. Kids clubs are divided into two age groups: 3-7 and 8-12, while teens 13-17 have their own space at Remix, with DJ workshops and hip-hop dance classes. The whole family can come together for the Klondike Festival (with sled-dog presentations) and the Midnight Sun Party (an all-ages gathering on the top deck under the Midnight Sun). Excursions include visiting a gold mine and watching a lumberjack competition. Princess has even teamed up with the Discovery Channel to present adventures tied to the popular Deadliest Catch franchise.
Tulum: As Playa del Carmen has been the site of some troubling violence of late, the coastal town of Tulum to the south may be a safer alternative at present. It is also less touristy than other resort towns on the Yucatan Peninsula, offering well-preserved ruins of the former Mayan city walls and other historic structures right in town. The State Department has explicitly stated there are no restrictions on travel to Tulum or to Chichen Itza, the magnificent archaeological site just an hour up the road. Getty Images/iStockphoto

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.


Where to stay: If your pup is coming along on this iconic road trip, consider a pet-friendly boutique property like The Laurel Inn in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood. Breakfast is free, and so is afternoon lemonade and cookies! In Southern California, opt to stay within walking distance of Disneyland. The Four Points by Sheraton Anaheim is pet-friendly and has a pool.
Weekend getaways – leaving Friday and returning Sunday – are awfully convenient if you work a Monday through Friday job, but you can expect to pay handsomely. According to Expedia, which releases an annual Travel Trends White Paper, you’re likely to pay 20% less for a flight that departs on Thursday and returns on Monday than one that departs on Friday and returns Sunday.
San Antonio: Embrace the summer heat with an affordable summer vacation to Texas’ emerging city, San Antonio. Plenty of free attractions, including the Alamo, plus low costs for food and drink make it an affordable summer vacation. Round-trip airfare averages around $300 round-trip from both Los Angeles and New York City for the summer months. Sean Pavone, Getty Images/iStockphoto
Why: Okay, you may be thinking, “Isn’t Saint Martin/Sint Maarten destroyed?” Yes, this unique Caribbean island, which is half French (Saint Martin) and half Dutch (Sint Maarten), was devastated by Hurricane Irma. But now it’s on the mend. Saint Martin’s famed Princess Juliana International Airport has been open since late October 2017. The majority of the island’s electricity has been restored, and many beaches, bars, restaurants and businesses have reopened their doors. Because tourists are still wary, many hotels have discounted rates (like Hotel Mercure for $169 night) as well as gorgeous Airbnb properties starting at $50 a night. It’s a win-win. Not only will you save money, but your money will be spent on businesses and people who really need our help.

What to do: Fly into Cancun and then immediately head to Playa del Carmen: the perfect launching point for all of Quintana Roo’s adventures. Float the underwater river at Xcaret Eco Theme Park and stay late for the cultural musical show, “Xcaret Mexico Espectacular.” Then, take a taxi or bus to Dolphin Discovery in Puertos Aventuras where the kids can splash and play with dolphins, manatees and even sea lions! Finally, lather on the sunscreen and explore the clifftop ruins in Tulum. They are some of the best preserved Ancient Mayan ruins along the coast. Further inland, you can take a day trip to Chichen Itza! And for beach time, check out Aloha Paddle Club's water sport rentals in Playa del Carmen or take the ferry to nearby Cozumel.


Not only are you promised plenty of Disney-themed fun, you'll also never have to worry about your child's food allergies. You'll get a separate menu, plus the staff (often the chef) will stop by your table to explain how they can assist with any dietary needs. Says one mom: "My son ate his very first 'ice cream' on a Disney Cruise thanks to their allergy accommodations. He was so happy to join in."
Wonderful humor is applied to the actual challenges faced if you consider traveling to other worlds in our solar system. Information and science from 50 years of space exploration is used to provide a planning guide for visiting our solar system neighbors. The result is a thoughtful look at what manned exploration of other planets requires, and it's presented in the context that the reader would actually make the trip.

What to do: Sign up for a lesson at one of the Star Beach Boys stands, located on the sand in front of the statue of Duke Kahanamoku. (This Hawaiian hero is considered the father of modern surfing.) Or try one of the local surf schools, like Big Wave Dave and Surfer Girl Academy where instruction is pricier but more personalized. While you’re on the island of Oahu, visit the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites including the USS Arizona Memorial.
St. Augustine’s picturesque and historic center appeals to all sorts of visitors. Many families come here for the St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum, a fabulous swashbuckling resource offering interactive exhibits, treasure hunting, and more. For some outdoor fun, you could see the town on one of Ripley’s Red Trains, hit the play areas at Davenport Park or Project Swing Park, or turn towards the beach for a kids’ surf session. And for a truly unforgettable introduction to the locality, there’s always a helicopter tour over St. Augustine and Fort Matanzas.
Weekend getaways – leaving Friday and returning Sunday – are awfully convenient if you work a Monday through Friday job, but you can expect to pay handsomely. According to Expedia, which releases an annual Travel Trends White Paper, you’re likely to pay 20% less for a flight that departs on Thursday and returns on Monday than one that departs on Friday and returns Sunday.
Take your vacation to the next level at Universal Orlando Resort™. Explore three amazing theme parks: Universal’s Volcano Bay™, Universal’s Islands of Adventure™ and Universal Studios Florida™, featuring the new ride Fast & Furious – Supercharged™, plus spectacular on-site hotels and more. It’s days and nights of endless, high-octane fun for every member of the family.
Does your family thrive on challenges? Multiple escape rooms now pepper Charlotte, and near the intersection of the city’s two interstates, you’ll find Escape Kings. This family-friendly attraction lets those over 10 years of age test their collective wits by escaping from Aztec Ruins and Kings Quest rooms. The puzzle clues are for all ages, and escape is neither too hard for kids nor too easy for adults. To avoid disappointed faces, pick up tickets for escape rooms, Segway tours and other family-friendly activities in advance.
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.
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