Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

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Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby dianna » Tue Apr 30, 2013 1:37 pm

I can think of few better places than bogleheads.org to turn to start to collect data on favorite family vacations. Please share some of your favorites (within the US and outside the US).

Also, how old should the child(ren) be to optimally enjoy this trip?
Do you have any tips to make the trip fun and affordable?

I'll start:
Almost anywhere in Florida in March is better than where we live at that same time of year. Last year, we rented a small apartment near Orlando for a week in a complex that had multiple pools and playgrounds. Found the apartment through friends of friends; it's their apartment and they were going to be elsewhere for a time, so it was fully furnished including with kid toys and WIFI for the adults. How ideal. We shopped at the grocery and ate our meals inside or poolside, and didn't do anything Disney/Sea World because our kid was too young at the time to last the day and the queues. Got up each morning, played outside for a few hours, back to the apt for lunch and child (sometimes adult) nap, wake for snack and then back outside to play, back to the apt for dinner/bath/bedtime. Awesome. Child actual age: 2.5 years. Parental mental age on trip: 8-10. Priceless.

Many thanks -
~dianna
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby wesleymouch » Tue Apr 30, 2013 2:12 pm

The Riu Vallarta in Nuevo Vallarta (North of Puerto Vallarta). The food and facilities are divine and the best dollar value I have encountered (value for price). Surprisingly most guests were Mexican which tells you that the Mexican economy must be booming.
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby snyder66 » Tue Apr 30, 2013 2:18 pm

Topsail Island, NC. Very little to do but hang out at the beach. Just don't tell anyone...
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby rjsob58 » Tue Apr 30, 2013 2:47 pm

We do best with the all-inclusives (Jamaica, Mexico). It includes everything so I know exactly what we are spending. For a family of 4, that helps a lot. Also, we don't have battles with the kids about where to eat or what to eat. Plenty of variety. Finally, the resorts are typically enclosed, so the kids can't go off campus. They can have their fun, we can have our privacy and we can do family time too. This has been more important as they've gotten older (now 12 yrs old). When they were about 4, we went to a resort in Jamaica that included a "vacation nanny". She watched them through-out the day and they loved it.
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby btenny » Tue Apr 30, 2013 3:02 pm

Kid Ages 3-14ish. We went to Mission Bay or Pacific Beach in San Diego and stayed in condos almost on the water every summer for a week. We took the kids swimming every day on the beach and built sand castles and watched them boogie board and then went back to the room for swimming in the pool and for lunch and dinner. We also went to the Zoo and Sea World and sailing most trips and at least one night downtown for dinner and music with wife. Twice we also went to LA to go the Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm for 1-2 days as part of these vacations. These were totally wonderful vacations and were great until my oldest got too "big" for the beach with parents. Five hour or so trip via car....

Kids ages 5-present. We have always had a condo/home in the mountains in addition to our main home in the desert. We use it half time now. Back when, we rented it to others to control costs and then used it ouselves for vacations. We use it in the winter for skiing and in the summer for cooling off and fishing and mountain biking and hiking and four wheel driving, etc.. We used to go to Colorado but now we go to northern California. The kids went with us when they were little and we taught them how to snow ski and build snowmen in the winter and fish and 4 wheel and hike in the summer. Now they still come and bring their kids and friends.

Kids age 14 and 18. One time big trip all over Europe. We did the guided bus trip all around to 10ish countries for three weeks and saw all kinds of churches and country side and had meals and fun all over the place. We saw the Pope and the Sistine Chapel and Rome and Florence and Venice and Paris and London and the Black Forest and all kinds of other places. It was life enhancing and changing for all of us.

KIds 8-12 ish.... We took long car trips a few times to the National parks and the beaches and red wood trees of the west. We went to Yellow Stone and Wyoming Tetons once. We went to northern California and the beaches there and into Oregon and the red wood trees once. We skiied Salt Lake ski areas and visited some cousins a few times.

Have fun with your kids, they grow up fast and then you miss them.....
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby EternalOptimist » Tue Apr 30, 2013 4:06 pm

While I have taken many vacations over the years both in the US and outside, our trip to California is still among my favorites. We landed in LA and drove up the Pacific Coast Hwy (US 1). The views a driving up were spectacular and we made some nice stops at San Simeone and other nice towns. I live on the East Coast.
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby dm200 » Tue Apr 30, 2013 7:28 pm

We live on the East Coast. In the 80's, when our son was young, I had several employer-paid trips to California conferences in the fall. Since my travel to and from California was paid for, my wife and son flew out either before or after the conference for a one week vacation. One year we took a week driving from Los Angeles along the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco, then over to Yosemite for a day, then down the center of the state and back to L.A. We had a tour of S.F, saw the Coastal redwoods, the Sequoias in King Canyon and lots of other nice stuff.

Another year, they flew to San Francisco and we drove to Yosemite and stayed there for almost a week.

California is a wonderful vacation destination.
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby backofbeyond » Tue Apr 30, 2013 9:14 pm

When the kids get older, like +10, my recommendation for adventure include:

- Cost Rica/Belize - you can go white water rafting, cliff repealing down waterfalls, swim in volcano hot springs, check out ancient Mayan ruins, jungle walks, tube down lava tunnels in the dark and go scuba/snorkeling in some of the best diving spots in the world

- Visit the Great Barrier Reef. The best day of my life was snorkeling in those reefs. The color are so vivid, they look like they are cartoons. And talk about wildlife: sharks, rays, turtles and clams large enough to swallow a small car. Plus you can see the various marsupial that exist nowhere else in the world. Hurry before they are just a memory.

- Hawaii- took our 15 year old daughter there last Summer (we live in New Zealand, so it would be your winter) and she admitted it was the best vacation of her life, tons of beaches and again, very good snorkeling (but not as good as the two above). Saw lots of water wildlife: dolphins, sharks, seals and even whales

- Austria - absolutely beautiful Alps to hike...and the best part is there is a beer hut around every other bend...of course they serve lighter drinks for the kiddies.
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby lwfitzge » Tue Apr 30, 2013 9:25 pm

we are from CT and last year (July) was one of our favorites family trip w kids - Yellowstone, Wyoming trip.....

kids- 10 and 15 yrs old

Jackson Hole -city excursions, Snake River rafting, ski lifts to amazing views
Grand Tetons - nuff said
Yellowstone -stay in park at lodge, crazy natural sites I never knew existed
Amazing 3 days at Brooks Lake Lodge in Wyoming, http://www.brookslake.com/ (active ranch in an amazing mountain setting - fishing, horseback riding etc...)
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby Blue » Tue Apr 30, 2013 10:03 pm

We have fallen in love with Adventures by Disney

We did their Italy trip last year and China this year. Both trips were among the most memory creating family experiences we've shared.
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby psteinx » Wed May 01, 2013 10:13 am

We live in the St. Louis area. Far from beaches and mountains, and not even that many other major cities within reasonable driving distance.

Recent trips:

* Branson (2 times, kids aged about 5-11 when we did these).
Fun trips. We rented a condo in the same place each time, but got a nicer condo the first time than the 2nd. Also got some exceptionally hot weather the 2nd trip, reducing the enjoyment.

Key attractions:
Table Rock Lake (boat rental, small man-made beach area)
Silver Dollar City (nice amusement park with a down-home vibe)
General family touristy stuff (Go kart places, Ripley's Believe It Or Not, etc)
Shows (We didn't binge on these, but liked what we saw)

* Memphis (2 times, kids about 6-13 when we did these).
Fun trips. First time we stayed in eastern fringe/suburb of the city. Second time downtown. I recommend staying downtown).

Key attractions:
Mud River Island - Neat park/museum thing, with large scale replica of lower Mississippi.
Civil Rights Museum - Nice museum. Beware though that it may be under renovation at the moment (I think finishing sometime this winter, and thus rather discombobulated this summer).
Graceland - Even my dad, in his 70s and not an Elvis fan at all, liked this.
Downtown area - Restaurants, interesting stuff to see. Smaller attractions like the Cotton Museum. Restaurants and Beale Street.
Pink Palace - A nice kind museum with a mix of city history, natural history, and eclectic stuff.
Gibson factory tour - You get to see beautiful guitars being made, close up.
There's also apparently a pretty nice zoo, but we didn't get to see it.

* New Orleans
Not a big hit with our kids (6-13 at the time). OK, but kinda creeped my 11 year old son out (the French Quarter was a little too wild). Maybe it was too hot when we were there (it's awkward to drive, and when you're walking you're obviously subject to the weather.

* St. Louis
OK, this is our home town, so not a vacation, but I think there's a lot here for families. Some recommendations:
The Magic House
Zoo
City Museum
Art Museum
Botanical Garden
Six Flags
Riverfront area (the Arch, the Old Cathedral)
Cardinals game at Busch Stadium
Cahokia Mounds (Indian site and museum across the river a bit in Illinois)
Grant's Farm

Lesser attractions (for families, anyways):
Laumeier Sculpture Park
The History museum
Anheuser-Busch Brewery
Forest Park
Tower Grove Park
Apple picking at Eckert's (seasonal)
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby chaz » Wed May 01, 2013 11:49 am

Cruises are nice for all ages.
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby dm200 » Wed May 01, 2013 8:01 pm

chaz wrote:Cruises are nice for all ages.


Yes! I have been on 2 cruises - both to Bermuda. I have zero interest in going on a cruise that has stops nearly every day and all that type of thing. I liked the sever days at sea, several days in a very nice destination and several days coming back. Others, certainly, may have different likes and dislikes.
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby dm200 » Wed May 01, 2013 8:01 pm

chaz wrote:Cruises are nice for all ages.


Yes! I have been on 2 cruises - both to Bermuda. I have zero interest in going on a cruise that has stops nearly every day and all that type of thing. I liked the sever days at sea, several days in a very nice destination and several days coming back. Others, certainly, may have different likes and dislikes.
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby dm200 » Wed May 01, 2013 8:02 pm

chaz wrote:Cruises are nice for all ages.


Yes! I have been on 2 cruises - both to Bermuda. I have zero interest in going on a cruise that has stops nearly every day and all that type of thing. I liked the sever days at sea, several days in a very nice destination and several days coming back. Others, certainly, may have different likes and dislikes.
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby dm200 » Wed May 01, 2013 8:04 pm

chaz wrote:Cruises are nice for all ages.


Yes! I have been on 2 cruises - both to Bermuda. I have zero interest in going on a cruise that has stops nearly every day and all that type of thing. I liked the sever days at sea, several days in a very nice destination and several days coming back. Others, certainly, may have different likes and dislikes.
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Postby steve roy » Wed May 01, 2013 8:39 pm

Vacations the tribe and I have enjoyed over twenty years:

Avalon, Catalina Island. A funky little beach town off the California coast. Great snorkling among the glass bottomed boats where they throw out lots of chum and you have to fight your way through the fish. (Related: the beach towns north of San Diego and in southern Orange County: Carlsbad, Del Mar, La Jolla, Oceanside, and Laguna Beach -- almost an island to itself.)

Disney World. Particularly around Thanksgiving, early December.

Yosemite, California. And lots of other places in and around the Sierra Nevada.

The shell beaches of southeast Florida (Sanibel Island!)

Oahu. Surfing lessons at Waikiki. Endless snorkling.

All kinds of low-cost cruises, particulalry repositioning cruises. We've done Alaska, the Hawaiian Islands, Spain and across the Atlantic, New England and Canada. Enjoyed them all. (Nice to have your hotel take you to the next venue. No packing and unpacking.)

I am blessed with a spouse who LOVES to travel. Loves to plan. Loves to book tours in advance. All I have to do is tag along.
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby Dandy » Wed May 01, 2013 9:48 pm

I'm pretty frugal but having a nice family vacation each year was a must. It really served the higher purpose of a vacation i.e. to enjoy things as a family. My children are adults now and they have fond memories of our vacations. While children of all ages enjoy vacations if you want them to really remember them they need to be 8 or 9 at least. Keep that in mind when springing for the dream vacation. It is tough if their ages are far apart - usually defaulted to the older child's age.

Ages up to 8 or so we rented a motel with a pool by in a nice beach town. (Stoneharbor NJ). Kids love the breach and the pool and often to get them to leave the beach we suggested the pool. Riding the gentle waves, building sand castles, etc - one or two trips to the Wildwood boardwalk for the rides seemed to fill the bill. We were lucky to have Grandma and Grandpa and some cousins of around the same age join us.

After that, Disney (including a Disney cruise when the oldest was 15), several trips to Clearwater Fla, A cruise to Bermuda with Grandma, 2 Trips to the Virgin Islands, St Lucia and about 5 to Aruba. Both children should join us in a return to Stone Harbor this year and one will go to Bermuda with us later.

No regrets in this spending. We had a ball and all cherish the memories. You can't get those years back - can't wait until your retirement or education savings are fully funded. Time marches on.
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby Steelersfan » Wed May 01, 2013 11:06 pm

Number one favorite when the kids were younger - Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. Nothing else came close, and we did a family vacation every year.
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby Peter Foley » Thu May 02, 2013 4:56 pm

When our children were young, 8 and 6, we began taking car trips. The first was a five day trip to the Black Hills (leaving from St. Paul) with later longer trips to the National Parks in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Montana/Canada. These were all great trips and combined physical activity, sightseeing, camping and meeting up with cousins who drove up from Arizona to meet us. Our two daughters, now 30 and 28 still remember the trips well.

We did a couple trips east as well, but they were not as memorable as the trips west.
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby zebrafish » Fri May 03, 2013 12:08 am

Rainbow Trout Ranch

Best family vacation I've ever taken. Spent a week at all-inclusive Colorado dude ranch. Amazing. Well worth the cost.
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby noyopacific » Fri May 03, 2013 3:42 am

Reaching out and touching, literally petting the wild Gray Whales :thumbsup on Magdalena Bay, Baja California, Mexico was the #1 most memorable trip we took when our daughter back when she was 5 (and we took her to at least 20 U.S. States & a dozen countries while she was growing up.) Our kid is an animal lover so this was a factor. Whale watching season is January until early April. You can also see (& often touch) whales up close and personal at Laguna Ojo de Libre (Scammon's Lagoon) and Laguna San Ignacio but if one were flying down to Cabo, Loreto or La Paz, I think Mag Bay is probably the easiest to get to. If you drive down from San Diego, you can drive to Laguna Ojo de Libre in a long day. San Ignacio is the most pristine but is also the most challenging to get to. After you are done with the whales, there is plenty to do around Cabo. It might be more of a challenge to find things to interest a kid elsewhere in Baja.
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby schnoodlemom » Fri May 03, 2013 11:36 am

Our girls are currently ages 13 & 16. We started visiting the national parks when our youngest was 8 and capable of doing longer day hikes. By far my favorite family vacation was to Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks, Wyoming. We've been for two weeks in June two years in a row. I'm totally in awe of the natural beauty there!

I'm not sure where the girls would rank their favorite family vacation. One girl loves big cities, art museums & cultural diversity and another is an outdoorsy, animal lover who doesn't feel comfortable in big cities. So we try to get a mix in there with our travel.

Other notable destinations:

Ages 3-12: any major city with zoo, hands-on museums, aquarium, amusement and/or swim park. Visited Indianapolis, Chicago, Orlando, San Diego, Long Beach, San Francisco.

Ages 8-16: national parks, amazing outdoor experiences. Visited Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Badlands, Zion, Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Acadia, Shenandoah, Great Smoky Mountains, hopefully Glacier NP this August.

Ages 10-16: historical, cultural and international travel. Visited Washington, D.C., Colonial Williamsburg, Monticello, Biltmore, Montreal, Quebec City, will be in London & Paris this June.

No matter the age: relaxed time spent together, exploring, hiking, biking, beach-combing, eating locally, visiting with extended family. Mackinac Island, Florida Keys.

Cost savings: Using hotel points earned through business travel for free nights, companion travel tickets from rewards credit cards, combine work & pleasure trips, grocery shop & fix simple meals on the go, limit souvenir buying, use combination passes to local attractions or buy family memberships that have reciprocity or discounts. Most important of all budget & save in other ways elsewhere so a vacation splurge isn't guilt or debt producing.

The kids are growing up too fast!!!! I dread the day when we don't vacation together due to different schedules, other interests or our health.
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby cheese_breath » Fri May 03, 2013 12:11 pm

Cape May, New Jersey. An old fashioned Victorian town on the Atlantic Ocean at the southern tip of NJ. Stay in one of the Victorian hotels or B&Bs and enjoy fine dining. For those with different tastes there are also standard motels or home rentals and less expensive eateries. Spend the day at the beach. Take a whale watching or evening cruise. Shop, shop, shop. Take the car ferry across the Delaware Bay to Lewis, DE for the day. Head a few miles up the coast to Wildwood to enjoy the boardwalk and amusement park rides. Atlantic City is only about an hour up the coast.
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby Rodc » Fri May 03, 2013 1:17 pm

Age 6 or less: any hotel with a pool. :)

Best age for a vacation is whatever age your kids are today's. :)

It really depends on what you want to do. Any place with serious elevation gain works for me. :) My wife and kids like that, but like other things as well.

Super touristy stuff like Disney World is not my thing, but my 11 year old twins and older daughter really liked it.

National parks are always great (more my speed). Can stay in a hotel, rent a cabin nearby or just go camping. Our Wyoming trip to Tetons and Yellowstone when the twins were 6 or 7 ranks as one of the best family trips ever for us.

We spent two weeks in Italy (Rome, Sorento, Capri) when the twins were 10 and they still rank that as the best vacation ever. Far more interested in historical stuff from ancient to Renascence, the Vatican than I would have imagined.

But it is very personal. A week sitting on the beach does nothing for me, but for others it is a dream vacation. I could hike 8 hours or more a day in the mountains while someone else would much rather be in a big city.
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby sesq » Fri May 03, 2013 2:13 pm

This thread is really interesting. Thanks for posting it OP.

My kids are 7.5 and 4.5, they are just starting to get their legs under them for travel. We caught disney at the right moment when my daughter was 6 and the dinner with the princesses were really exciting. We have San Diego (Seaworld, legoland, zoo, beach, midway) on tap in about a month.

A favorite of mine of mine when it was just me, my wife and ~20 months old daughter was a week at Martha's Vineyard (could be anywhere, we lived close-by in SE Mass at the time) with the beach and bikes.
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby lwfitzge » Fri May 03, 2013 2:26 pm

Blue wrote:We have fallen in love with Adventures by Disney

We did their Italy trip last year and China this year. Both trips were among the most memory creating family experiences we've shared.



+1, me too, I've been a Disney Vacation Club owner for more than 10 yrs but it was the first time I did Adventure by Disney... the Yellowstone/Wyoming trip..... it was truly wonderful.
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby Travel Bug » Fri May 03, 2013 2:54 pm

My wife and I travel extensively so I have a lot of ideas about great destinations. I'll suggest our most recent trip, which we just returned from a couple of weeks ago - a self-guided safari in South Africa's Kruger National Park. We don't have kids of our own but we encountered many vacationing families while we were there and can see why it would be a great destination with young kids when they get to the age where animals are interesting to them.

The nice thing about Kruger is that it is safe and easy to do on your own (no expensive tours, package deals, etc.). We had a small rental car and were free to drive throughout the park on our own. It is also very affordable - other than the airfare, of course. The wildlife experience is amazing and we had many (safe) close encounters with animals. I can see kids having a great time with binoculars searching for animals and ticking them off their animal guidebook as they spot them - which is exactly what I enjoyed doing! This is definitely a place that we will return to when we have kids of our own.
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby Atilla » Fri May 03, 2013 3:27 pm

For domestic locations only - never been out of the US except for Canada and that doesn't count.

Vacation with no kids:

#1 - Las Vegas. 99% guaranteed sun, gambling, the sights, people-watching, excellent restaurants, shopping for the missus, the pool scene, entertainment, cheap rooms (relatively for the quality you get) and cheap flights to get there. Every level of spending and fun for every budget. If you're into nature, there's Red Rock Canyon, Grand Canyon, etc nearby.

#2 - Key West. Same as above but more rain and no gambling.

Vacation with kids:

#1 - Orlando. Theme park palooza. Love Universal Studios as well as the various Disney parks. Stay at a Disney resort and free transpo to and from the airport as well as from your resort among all Disney attractions. Recommended kid age range for maximum fun and minimum fussiness: 5 years up to 14 years.
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby MathWizard » Fri May 03, 2013 3:41 pm

We started when our youngest was 5, old enough to do most of the walking himself.

Rocky Mountain National Park and Yellowstone were our favorites in the US.

We also liked the Columbia Icefield in Jasper Natl. Park in Canada.
Where else can your kids walk on a glacier? You can even pay to get bussed to the top
of the Athabasca Glacier and walk around for 15-30 minutes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_Icefield
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby texasdiver » Fri May 03, 2013 4:06 pm

We've done many exotic family vacations....Costa Rica, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, and so on.

But one of the absolutely most memorable was the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park Colorado. It is a giant old historic lodge sitting on the border of Rocky Mountain National Park that has been expanded with new cabins and lodging. Most of the lodging is family style rooms with balconies. Dining is buffet style in a central cafeteria and dining room so it's great for kids because they have a large selection and the picky eaters can get what they want. But what makes it great is they have an endless variety of activities you can do with kids. A big stables with horses so you can go on day-long rides into the high rockies, the biggest and best arts and crafts center you have ever seen, several pools, hiking trails everywhere, fly fishing and fly fishing lessons, even miniature golf.

We go every year or so for a medical conference that is held there so I do stuff with the kids in the mornings while my wife goes to conferences then we go out and do adventures in the afternoons and evenings. The town of Estes Park is right next door as well for more restaurants, parks, and such. And you are right next door to Rocky Mountain National Park so you can head into the park for more hiking and sight seeing any time you want.

They have two locations. One in Estes Park and another in Winter Park. I've only been to the Estes Park location. Highly recommended if you have kids younger than HS. There is less perhaps for HS age kids but they'll likely still have lots of fun.

http://www.ymcarockies.org/estes-park-c ... orado.html
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Re: Family Vacations: Your Favorites, ages + tips requested!

Postby dm200 » Fri May 03, 2013 4:30 pm

A lot depends on how your child(ren) travel, and how (as parents) you deal with it. In our case, our son traveled well, especially on planes and cars not our own. While he was, in many/most respects a "difficult" child, even into young adulthood, he was (almost), at a young age, always charming and outgoing to folks on planes, restaurants, hotels, etc. We went to Disney World twice, once when the was 2 1/2 and once a few years later. NOT shy -- AT ALL!!!

I am not sure how you judge this, before spending money on airline tickets, hotels and so on -- only to experience that your child(ren) are not into such travel.
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