Are you ready for summer vacation? If you’re thinking of yet another trip to a crowded theme park, it might be time to ‘think outside The Mouse’ and consider some of the theme-park-free options local travel experts suggest to create wonderful memories for all ages.
“When traveling with kids age 4 and younger, your choices are very limited,” notes Julie Jones, owner of TopFlight Travels. “It’s most relaxing and enjoyable for parents to take their children to a beach. Children under 4 years old are most likely not permitted in kids’ camps, so parents hire a nanny in the afternoons during nap time and adult dinner time. At 4 years old, kids enjoy the camps, while parents relax.”
Luxury beach resorts in North and South America and throughout the Caribbean cater to families and offer a wide range of activities. “Families with kids of all ages love all-inclusive and beach vacations, especially villa rentals,” says Nancy Stein, owner of Aldine Travel. She recommends Half Moon or The Tryall Club in Jamaica, Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic, and Grand Velas Riviera Maya in Mexico. “Kids of all ages love Atlantis Paradise Island (in the Bahamas), or for that matter, just about any resort with a water park,” she adds.
By renting a resort villa, families enjoy resort amenities but have extra space and the flexibility to prepare simple meals themselves, avoiding the hassle of restaurants three times a day. Separate bedrooms allow everyone to take time to themselves, as needed.
Another great option for parents with young children is a cruise. “The absolute very best cruise line for families where the kids and the parents have fun is Disney Cruise Line,” says Jones. “I don’t recommend them when grandparents are also traveling, because they can’t stomach the Disney part as easily as young moms and dads.”
This summer, Disney Cruise Line is traveling for the first time to the Norwegian fjords and Iceland. Your family can discover the majestic fjords, steaming geysers and scenic mountain ranges of Norway, while hiking, glacier walking, fishing and cycling. (If you can handle all the references to Frozen, that is.) Disney also transports families to ports throughout the Baltic, visiting Copenhagen, Denmark, Russia, Sweden, Norway and Finland.
“Once children are at least 6 years old, they are ready for grander adventures,” Jones says. “When traveling with children of this age range, it’s important to travel with a company focused on the needs of children. If your kids aren’t having fun, you won’t have any fun.”
Jones recommends Abercrombie & Kent’s family luxury small group journeys. “For example, your family can have the adventure of a lifetime in China,” she says. “You can cruise on the Yangtze River and through the amazing Three Gorges on a three-night cruise; visit the ancient Great Wall of China, then ride a toboggan back down; see the Terra Cotta Warrior army and make your very own clay soldier; meet panda bears in person at a special sanctuary for the bears; and see Shanghai from the tallest building in China.” If that doesn’t interest you, maybe a similarly customized tour of Russia or Australia would be more your family’s style.
Traveling by train in Europe is another popular option, Stein says. “Itineraries can be customized to include sights and activities that kids would enjoy, such as a scavenger hunt in a city, a mask-making class in Venice, or learning to make pizza in Rome.”
Options for exciting family travel are almost endless. And while considering your options, don’t overlook the splendor right on our own doorstep: America’s national parks.
“If you are looking for a most unique experience, nothing beats Amangiri, an ultra-luxurious resort located in a secluded Utah canyon in the middle of the Grand Circle of national parks and monuments,” Jones notes. “It offers customized outdoor adventure activities, such as hiking, rock climbing, slot canyon tours, rafting, mountain biking, boating and hot-air balloon flights. It also has a 25,000-square-foot Aman Spa for Mom and Dad.”