With spring just a few weeks away, it won't be long before families start planning their summer vacations. Stellar family vacations do not have to cost an arm and a leg. If you're looking for a bucket-list vacation with a budget-friendly price tag, put a national park at the top of your wish list.
By definition, national parks are special places deserving of preservation, notable for their spectacular scenery, unique geological features, or other outstanding characteristics. For families, national parks are the ideal road-trip destination. Visiting a park instills an appreciation for the sheer beauty of our country and an opportunity connect with the great outdoors in a way that may be otherwise difficult in our busy work-a-day lives. Kids can participate in junior ranger programs and ranger-led activities that highlight the special features of each park.
No camping gear? No problem. The vast majority of parks offer a choice of lodges, cabins, or other affordable digs either inside the park or just outside it.
With 60 national parks in the United States, you are likely to live within a day's drive of a spectacular park. Here are some of the most popular national parks and their don't-miss activities for families.
Sometimes a vacation with a baby or toddler can feel like anything but a vacation. After all, when parents are on duty 24-7, there's no such thing as real downtime. Lots of resorts, cruise lines, and getaway providers claim to welcome little ones, yet only a few truly understand how to give parents the support they need to really relax.
Planning a getaway with a child under age 3? Here's a short list of baby-friendly vacations where young families are treated like VIPs.
The brand new Cabana Bay Beach Resort is opening next month at Universal Orlando Resort. With its 1960s-style architecture and retro decor, the hotel looks like it was lifted right out of the set of "Mad Men." Along with two enormous zero-entry pools, outdoor courtyards will offer a waterslide, lazy river, and dive platform.
Cabana Bay Beach Resort promises to be the most affordable of the four hotels at Universal Orlando, offering standard rooms as well as family suites that sleep up to six. Families can choose among multiple budget-friendly casual dining options and also enjoy free wi-fi. Read on for a sneak peek.
February was a busy month here at About.com Family Vacations. Here's what you might have missed:
Disney World and Orlando:
- Coming Soon to Walt Disney World
- Least Expensive Time to Visit Disney World
- Disney World Hikes Ticket Prices
- How to Use Disney's MyMagic+
- Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade: Coming March 9, 2014
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: Opening Spring 2014
- Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World: Opening Summer 2014
- Disney World's Avatar Land: Coming 2017
- Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando Resort: Opening Summer 2014
- Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem Coming to Universal Studios Hollywood
- Great Wolf Lodge New England: Opening Spring 2014
- Cookie's Monster Land Opening at Sesame Place: Opening Spring 2014
- Where to Find Legoland Discovery Centers
- Best Cruise Lines for Families
- How to Plan a Perfect First Family Cruise
- How to Save on a Family Cruise
- What's New in Kid-Friendly Cruising
- Find a Kid-Friendly Cruise Leaving from a Port Near You
- Disney Cruise Line: Profile of a Kid-Friendly Cruise Line
- Royal Caribbean: Profile of a Kid-Friendly Cruise Line
- Norwegian Cruise Line: Profile of a Kid-Friendly Cruise Line
- Carnival Cruise Lines: Profile of a Kid-Friendly Cruise Line
- Carnival Cruise Lines Launching "Seuss at Sea"
More Getaway Ideas:
- Best Family-Friendly Golf Resorts
- Top 20 Family-Friendly Ski Resorts
- Family Getaways for Easter Weekend 2014
- Visit a Winter Olympics Host City in North America
- Winter in Lake Placid, NY: Top Things to Do with Kids
- Review: Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort in Lake Placid, NY
- Maple Sugaring Getaways with Kids
- Quebec's Ice Hotel Teams with Disney for a Frozen Suite
- Baseball Spring Training Getaways in Arizona and Florida
- Winter or Spring Break Idea: Texas Rodeo Season
- Carolina Beach and Kure Beach with Kids
- Free Entry Days at National Parks in 2014
If you're planning an international trip this year, there's no time like the present to apply for a US passport. Be aware that parents or grandparents traveling with kids--and especially when traveling as the sole guardian of a minor--may need to bring additional paperwork. Get the lowdown on the required documentation for international travel with kids.
Note that Americans can opt for the less-expensive US Passport Card if they are traveling to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean. There is no passport requirement to visit US territories such as Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Guam.
Looking for a fun and affordable spring break getaway with kids? You'll find a lot of possibilities in this page of family spring break vacation deals at kid-friendly destinations. Vacations to a beach or theme park are popular choices, but certainly not the only options. Consider these other fun spring break ideas:
- Family Cruise: Find a kid-friendly cruise line that's a good fit for your family, then snag a great cruise deal.
- Spring Training in Arizona and Florida: Got a baseball-loving kid? Plan a trip to watch favorite players at smaller ballparks with a relaxed atmosphere.
- Family Getaways for Easter Weekend 2014: Celebrate the holiday with fun-filled bunny-themed events at these kid-friendly destinations.
- Whale Watching in San Diego: For many, viewing the migration of gray whales is a bucket-list experience.
- Maple Sugaring in the Northeast: If you live within driving distance of New England, this affordable option is a sweet treat for kids and parents alike.
- Texas Rodeo Season: Tap into the Lone Star State's cowboy culture with a visit during rodeo season, a time filled with kid-friendly fun, exciting rodeo viewing, and tons of concerts starring top country music stars.
Planning a trip to Orlando this year? There's always something new coming down the pike. Disney has been steadily rolling out its new MyMagic+ system, which will revolutionize the way we all plan Disney World vacations.
Next month, Disney World will debut its Festival of Fantasy Parade in the Magic Kingdom, featuring innovative parade floats, a 26-foot-tall steampunk dragon, and a cast of 91 performers--some of them on stilts--wearing vibrant and intricate costumes. Later this spring, the highly anticipated Seven Dwarfs Mine Train family coaster will open in the Magic Kingdom. And later this summer the brand new Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World will open with a spectacular family-friendly waterscape playground and nice location near the Magic Kingdom and Epcot.
Meanwhile, the legion of Harry Potter fans will soon be able to continue the adventure at Universal Orlando Resort, with Diagon Alley set to open this summer. Diagon Alley will be located in Universal Studios Florida and feature shops, dining experiences, and a new ride called Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.
Parents magazine recently consulted a panel family travel experts--including me--to compile a terrific roundup of the best Caribbean destinations for families. At the top of the list is Turks and Caicos, with Jamaica and St. Lucia rounding out the top three positions.
Read the article to see the rest of the picks, but don't book your trip until you've taken a look at this list of family vacation deals at Caribbean resorts.
How can I get a great price on a Disney World vacation? For many parents planning a trip to Orlando, that's the Holy Grail.
There are myriad ways to shave down your travel expenses a little here and a little there--and I'm happy to share every money-saving tip in my toolbox. Yet while small savings can really add up, they can only get you so far. If you are determined to snag a Disney World vacation at a rock-bottom price, it all comes down to timing and whether you can score a deal.
We're almost halfway through February with plenty of time to squeeze in a family ski vacation before the end of the season. Looking for a ski resort that is super kid-friendly? Start with this list of the top 20 ski resorts for families.
On a budget? Then let a great deal be your guide. Check out this page of fantastic ski vacation deals for inspiration. Don't assume you have to travel to New England or the Rockies to find a kid-friendly ski resort. This page lists ski vacation deals in nine different states, including Michigan and Virginia. You may well be able to find a great deal within driving distance of your home.
Finally, saving money is easier when you get savvy about the different ways that kids can ski and snowboard for free
I'll be updating those deals through the rest of ski season, so be sure to check back often.