Below are some stand-out Christmas Tree Lighting ceremonies. If you're visiting NYC, DC, Chicago on the right date, be sure to take your kids to watch the Christmas Tree light up.
- Holiday Lights
- Holiday Events in many cities
- Christmas Train Rides
- Disney Christmas
- Christmas Break - getaway ideas
* Photo courtesy of Uptown Houston.
Europe Trips: every four years, our family cashed in airmiles and headed off for an underfunded but wonderful journey. Budget travel in Europe is totally respectable, and those willing to consider options such as family-friendly hostels - with family rooms, and often in character buildings - can find Europe with kids affordable as well as rich in culture, food, and history.
Disney World: I'm not sure my family would ever have visited if I hadn't started this site, but we've done many trips and find this vast destination not only super-fun but also a place that -- as the saying goes -- truly has something for everyone. Even a culture and food snob can enjoyably tour and dine their way around Epcot's World Showcase, and ticket price includes parades, Broadway quality shows, parades, concerts, fireworks extravaganzas and more.
Club Med All Inclusive Resorts: I've visited many excellent all inclusives, but Club Med is one-of-a-kind. Kids programs are amazing, with so many creative activities and always an emphasis on active fun; teen lounges and programs are outstanding too. Above all, Club Med has a unique ambiance thanks to its G.O.'s, the enthusiastic staff who socialize with guests -- which works so beautifully with kids, who immediately have "friends" all around the resort.
Other favorite getaways are too many to mention: ski vacations, Utah, Hawaii, Yellowstone, Colorado in summer... many are on this list of Twenty Top Family Vacation Spots.
I hope you'll find useful suggestions for your own travels, either among these top destinations, or perhaps as an out-of-the-box idea, or a summer or winter or fall or spring break idea... Or have a look at ideas by regions. Wishing you happy -- and long!-- travels: there's much to be said for a getaway long enough for family members to really move into a relaxed mode.
Long ago and far away... beach in Greece
It's been my pleasure to offer family vacation ideas and tips to so many visitors at the website, and I hope that those of you reading this will return in coming months and welcome a new Guide for the Family Vacations topic.
For those who want to keep in touch: some of you are already connected with me via Twitter, where I have the travelwithkids handle. (Meanwhile the official Twitter handle for the Family Vacations site is AbtFamilyTravel.) And there's Facebook, too.
Photo © Teresa Plowright.
I'd like to encourage you to check into the background of places that, for example, offer dog-sledding: some places really cherish their animals, others treat their "second string" dogs not so well... (Read more.) Similarly, think before signing up at a place to swim with dolphins. And any time you have qualms on-the-spot, please do express them! We are the customers, and business is about pleasing customers; if we silence our misgivings, companies will think that everything is all-good. In Thailand, I heard about visitors who actually dismounted from an elephant ride -- that sends a message.
Giving praise is good too. I'd like to give kudos to the beautiful new Aulani Disney Resort and Spa in Hawaii, for not offering an experience with captive dolphins, and to Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park and other progressive attractions who provide large habitats for animals, which in turn makes visiting a pleasure.
Photo courtesy of Sandra Hermle.
Volunteers can get up-close and personal with these amazing animals. Many have been rescued after years in logging and the tourist trade; some, happily -- like baby elephant Navann, in the photo above-- have been born at the Park. Visitors can feel good about supporting an alternative to the usual "elephant tourism", while they enjoy a week at the Park: the setting is lovely, the food is delicious... The daily schedule includes tasks such as preparing elephant food or gathering up poo (--actually pretty fun, and not gross--) and plenty of time for relaxing. Plus there's a bonus for dog-lovers: Elephant Nature Park has 200 happy dogs -- rescued from the Bangkok flood-- who love visitors.
Thailand is a very affordable destination once you get there -- see the previous post for Reasons to Visit Thailand with your Kids.
The fees at Elephant Nature Park are reasonable --especially compared to some volunteer vacation organizations that have large administrative structures or may even be for-profit -- and are the economic engine that supports the Park.
Families can also visit on day-trips from Chiang Mai, or on multi-night trips.
Whether you're traveling on a budget or going higher-end, you'll find excellent value, and budget-travel is extremely easy thanks to the extensive range of "guest-houses", some of which offer hotel-like amenities at an admirably low price point. Meals and the ubiquitous fruit shakes, smoothies, and coconut drinks are all affordable, too.
Thailand has centuries of history, with ancient kingdoms, and spectacular temples to visit; families can also take treks or day trips from Chiang Mai to learn about fascinating tribal cultures. And of course a major draw for many are the beautiful beaches... See Six Reasons to Visit Thailand with Kids.
Photo © Teresa Plowright.
Check out a live camera stream from the Magic Kingdom's Main Street USA (until 6 a.m. on May 25).
Yet often, travelers feel hesitant about trying out the subway or a skytrain-type of transport... Will it be easy to buy a ticket? Will we be able to navigate the system and find the right line to take? Is the subway safe? These are some of the questions that can cause a pause.
So I'm happy to read these Travel Like a Local tips posted by the American Public Transportation Association, to encourage visitors to use local transport in Boston, Chicago, DC, New York City, Seattle and San Francisco.
Likewise in London, Paris, Montreal, Bangkok -- be sure to try the subway or skytrain transport! See tips for using the London Underground, How to Use Paris Public Transportation (and for this system, reading tips is advisable!), advice for using Montreal's Metro, and an introduction to Bangkok Subway and Skytrains. In Bangkok the subway is so well organized that people line up super-efficiently just to the side of the doorways, as these signs on the platform floor indicate (in the photo above.)
Photo © Teresa Plowright.
However house guests should always be considerate of their host(s), and this golden rule is doubly important when the house guests have kids in tow. About.com's Guide for Honeymoons and Romantic Getaways has an excellent set of tips for How to Be a Good House Guest. Be sure to help out, bring a small (or large! gift), treat your hosts, respect their usual habits and schedules... These are all great tips, especially when kids -- yours, and your hosts' kids-- are part of the picture.
I especially like the tip, Have Fun Together: "The point of visiting is to spend time together, but that doesn't always happen spontaneously. So plan on activities that everyone can do together. If you're a house guest in warm weather, offer to plan a picnic or suggest everyone visits a county or state fair together. And take lots of pictures to remember the good times." Take the time to plan in advance for fun activities together: these needn't be costly outings, and any outing will offer an opportunity to treat your hosts as a thank-you for their hospitality.