Planning Your Greatest Family Vacation
The tricky thing about family vacations is that they include your family. And with your family comes school and work schedules, video games and cookbooks, rock concerts and the big football game that can't be missed. With these conflicting schedules and widespread interests, you'll definitely need time to map it all out.
The goal is simple - make everyone happy with an unforgettable trip to the perfect destination. Achieving that goal can be daunting, especially when all the travel planning falls on you. But it is obtainable, as long as you know what your family enjoys and what travel options you have at your disposal. In the end, seeing your children's faces light up makes it all worth the effort.
Before planning your family's next vacation, check out this advice from ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents). Some of the most travel-wise people in the world, ASTA members know that planning the perfect vacation is easier with time and good advice on your side.
Great Family Vacations Start with Great Family Planning
At the heart of every good, stress-free vacation experience is the perfect plan. If you want a perfect plan that your entire family will love, then get them to help you make it. The more input you get from each family member, the better. Your children may surprise you with some of things they suggest to do on vacation. If the destination or activity is already set, have your kids research online or at the library for exciting things to do while you're all there.
Once the family plan is in place, keep your kids involved by putting them in charge of at least one aspect of the trip. If they're good with maps, make them the navigator. Do they have an eye for photos? Make them the official vacation photographer, in charge of not only taking photos during the trip, but also of compiling the album once you return. They will enjoy the responsibility of the project and the trust you give them to accomplish it.
Setting Your Sights - Where in the World Will You Go?
In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda says, "Adventure, excitement a Jedi craves not these things." Well, a Jedi might not crave them, but your kids do. The good news is that there are millions of exciting adventures in this world for you to choose from. The bad news is that there are millions of exciting adventures in this world for you to choose from.
Paring down the list is priority number one. Consider your budget, timeframe and expectations. Are beaches calling your name? How about something in the park variety, be it an amusement, theme, water or National one? Is international travel in your future? Family friendly cruise or resort? With all those in mind, check out these options below sent in by travel agents around the globe.
Follow Your Sense of Adventure at a National Park
America's 388 National Parks are not just the great outdoors, they're the greatest outdoors, and always a family favorite. From glaciers and geysers to canyons and deserts, there is something that will wow every age group. At the tip of your travel tongue may be Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, but dig a little deeper and you will find many surprises.
Your children will actually enjoy learning at a National Park. They'll become minor geologists in the dark depths of Kentucky's Mammoth Cave. Watch their eyes erupt with wonder at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. History comes alive by tracing footprints at Antietam National Battlefield or watching oil droplets bubble to the surface of Pearl Harbor above the USS Arizona Memorial. Experience white water action over class V rapids through magnificent gorges and valleys at Gauley River National Recreation Area. Or, conquer the ice age as a family by hiking along Glacier National.
National Parks are perfect for kids. Most of the larger parks run Junior Ranger Programs, allowing kids to participate in fun activities while learning about the area's natural habitat and historic significance. Other parks offer nature walks and wildlife talks specifically geared toward children to show them that nature has more to offer than video games.
All Aboard! Cruising Family Style
Cruise ships are a family vacation planner's best friends. Picture a floating, mega-resort with tons to do for everyone in a confined space where you know your kids are supervised and safe. Many cruise lines offer voyages designed specifically for families, with expanded activity programs and shore excursions for all age groups and waterslides, ice rinks and climbing walls that keep kids and parents happy for days.
Some cruises have even developed onboard programs that not only feature family together time, but also arrange crucial alone time for parents. Together, parents and kids can participate in mock game shows, story hours, treasure hunts and other activities. Later, adults can schedule a massage or spend time on the sun deck knowing their kids are enjoying a host of supervised games and activities. To find a family cruise line to your liking, talk to a travel agent who specializes in cruises.
Something Wild This Way Comes - African Safaris
For something a bit out of the ordinary, many travel agents rave about African safaris. There's a long list of wilderness adventures available in every degree of comfort, adventure and budget. Safaris range from luxury holidays, where elegant lodges and fine wines share time with tracking giraffes from a sturdy, open-roof vehicle, to mobile camping safaris where you follow predators or stake out the great wildebeest migration, sleeping in tents at a different locale each night.
Just mention the word "safari" to your kids and watch their eyes grow as large as a lion's as they roar with approval. Each safari is judged by the thrilling wildlife it encounters, and many come through with high marks as they safely bring your family into the playgrounds of zebras, lions, elephants, hippos, rhinos, gorillas, cheetahs and a whole ark-full of other animals. So many beasts roam these lands that the ground itself feels alive.
Travel Agents - Your New Favorite Aunt
When you're ready to make the most of your next vacation, open your arms to a new member of the family - your neighborhood travel agent. Your travel agent can save you so much time and money while relieving stress that you may want to invite him or her over for next Thanksgiving.
Money is a big part of any travel experience, and the more value you feel you're getting, the more you'll enjoy yourself. Travel agents understand this principle more than anyone, which is why they work within your schedule, budget and expectations to produce an incomparable vacation experience.