A family vacation is no longer about loading the kids in the car and heading to the nearest beach. Today's families are looking to stretch their imaginations, sharing their passion for travel with their loved ones. Organized by age group, our guide shows the best destinations and activities for kids of all ages. Find the right getaway for your crew, no matter who's tagging along for the ride.
What to do: Book Trafalgar Tours' Contrasts of Canada trip. It's a two-week itinerary stretching across the Canadian Rockies from coast to coast. Begin in Vancouver where the kids will be wowed on a drive along the Sea-to-Sky Highway. Then, travel by rail across the country, watching the glaciers turn into cowboy country, wheat fields and finally, the cosmopolitan city of Toronto. Here, the older kids will demand extra time to see the Stanley Cup at the Hockey Hall of Fame and get their hearts rate up at Sharks After Dark at Ripley's Aquarium of Canada.
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For accommodations, look to save by staying in a Tahitian Guesthouse, or pension. These family-operated lodgings provide a more authentic glimpse into Tahitian culture without an expensive price tag. Many prepare meals in the house kitchen and offer excursions, like pearl diving with a local guide. With only a few rooms or bungalows onsite, you get a more intimate (and less expensive) experience than you’ll find at larger resorts.
Why: Made up of 15 islands and less than 100 square miles, the Cook Islands are everything you’d hope to find in the South Pacific — lush tropical beauty, vibrant reefs and a Polynesian vibe that is both traditional and modern. Its rich Maori culture is still very much intact and hospitality exudes through the friendly locals. Think: Hawaii half a century ago, but with 21st century conveniences like WiFi. Take your pick on where to stay — you’ll find reasonably-priced luxury alongside Airbnbs, beach shacks alongside boutiques, all with a rustic, island-chic appeal. The largest island, Rarotonga or “Raro,” is made up of rugged mountains, unspoiled beaches and the national capital of Avarua, where you’ll find boutique hotels, quaint shopping, rare pearls, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, coffee shops, a distillery that makes banana vodka by coffee pot and even a Friday night party bus. The island is easily accessible by bus and being only 20 miles in circumference, you can easily conquer the entire island in a day. Note to Type A travelers: Bus timetables are on, well, island time. Aitutaki Island to the north, is home to what many refer to as the world’s most beautiful lagoon, thanks to its crystal clear turquoise waters, coral reefs and sandy islets that allow for world-class snorkeling and scuba diving. When visiting the Cook Islands, it's not to be missed.
Why: The Golden City of Jaisalmer is often overlooked by travelers because of its distance from Delhi (a 14-hour train ride), but it is absolutely worth a visit for its stunning architecture and magical atmosphere. Situated in the heart of the Thar Desert, the Jaisalmer is made entirely of yellow sandstone and looks like an enormous sandcastle rising out of the desert. A visit to the Jaisalmer Fort costs 50 rupees ($0.80) and offers sweeping views of the city below; aesthetes will appreciate the intricately carved and painted havelis (homes). Don't miss stopping by the picturesque Gadisar Lake, dotted with beautiful temples, and taking a camel ride in the dessert.
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.
No. 2. Siesta Beach, Siesta Key, Fla. Just south of Sarasota, Siesta Beach on Siesta Key is renowned for its eight mile stretch of sugar-fine, quartz-white sand. It’s also a great spot for kids to collect seashells and sand dollars. “It is a very large beach that accommodates lots of people — it has lots of parking, picnic tables, BBQ, there is also a snack shop. It gets very crowded so timing is important,” added a TripAdvisor reviewer. • Beachfront bargain hotel nearby: Tropical Beach Resorts, from $295 per night on TripAdvisor • Great airfare found on TripAdvisor: As low as $238 round-trip from EWR (Newark) to SRQ (Sarasota) aiisha5, Getty Images/iStockphoto
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.”
Where to stay: If you don’t want to bother with a rental car, stay at Stonebridge Inn, A Destination Hotel where everything Snowmass-related is within walking distance and you have a heated pool to look forward to returning to in the evenings. If you prefer to stay where Aspen’s action is, reserve a room at the town’s only ski-in, ski-out property, The Little Nell. Sometimes you can get two complimentary ski passes for each night you stay!
Barbados may be known for luxury, but that doesn't mean it's not affordable. Inexpensive hotel options can be found all over the island, but especially if you're willing to stay somewhere other than the famous Platinum Coast. Barbados is also an up-and-coming foodie spot, making it the perfect place if you want to book a cheap hotel and spend your travel funds on amazing cuisine. (Getty Images)
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!
Located on the southern edge of Lake Erie is chilled-out Sandusky. This place is home to the Cedar Point amusement park, which draws rollercoaster-crazy visitors each year. It’s mostly for the thrill-seekers, but there are also gentler options available for younger children. Alternatively, you can take jet skis out on the lake or enjoy a stroll with stunning views along the Sandusky Bay Pathway.