Every parent knows that the right type of family vacation depends on the age of the children. This Web Guide to Family-Friendly Travel can help make family travel decisions easy. For resources and information on where to go and what to do with babies, toddlers, school-age kids and teens; for gear and services to make the going (and returning) easier; and for family vacation planning tips and tricks on how to navigate all types of travel with your kids, use this Web Guide to the world of family-friendly travel.
Having young ones in tow changes everything, from how and when you travel to where you go and what you can do there. Before you plan your trip, it's a good idea to see what practiced veterans and industry experts have to say.
- The Web's top family travel sites are the perfect place to begin your research. Each has a wide selection of trip ideas, resources, and articles.
- If the world is your oyster and you haven't decided what type of trip you want to take, these are the best places to start for general information on everything from pamper-yourselves-silly exotic resorts to down-and-dirty volunteer vacations. Once you've narrowed your choices, or if you have specific requirements or limitations, you can head to a more subject-specific site like the ones listed in the other sections of this guide.
- Using a service can take a lot of the guesswork out of planning a trip with your family, something especially helpful for not-so-seasoned family travelers. But with tour agencies, as with any other business or service you're using for the first time, ask for references or check with the Better Business Bureau before you make a commitment.
For travel Web sites and blogs ...
Kids Can Travel
has designed a slick site that's easy to navigate and a fun place to browse. There are destination guides you can select from a clickable world map, real-life family vacation photos, and a great "Family Favorites" section, where you narrow your search based on preferences like culture and adventure, or the fact that you're traveling with kids in several age groups. The tips page goes beyond the usual "pack a change of clothes" advice to thoughts on wildlife safaris and how to buy snorkel gear for kids.
Family Travel Forum
endeavors to be true to the motto "have kids, still travel." Founded by travel industry professionals, the membership-based site offers a custom travel-planning feature, travel agent resources, tons of useful tips, and links to some other useful sites. Fees start at $3.95/month, but nonmembers can still access the site's "News & Deals" page and message boards (under "Guest Resources" on the right side of the page), or sign up for the free e-newsletter.
Travel + Leisure Family
magazine is parent to a site that contains a trip planner and a "Tips, Tales, Advice" section loaded with lists of top picks for everything from the best family eats across the globe to age-appropriate vacations.
Taking the Kids
is the column of syndicated travel journalist Eileen Ogintz as well as where her past articles are archived. Ogintz discuss everything from squeezing in romance on family vacations to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with the little ones, plus daily travel tips and an "Ask Me a Question" feature.
hosts travel advice from families who have shared their experiences online. You'll find resources or suggestions for everything from trip planning and choosing destinations to "How to Raise a Travel Bug" and "Volunteering in New Orleans." Click on the "Tip Sheets" tab for dozens of helpful articles on money savers, flying with kids, packing, and more. You can also browse photos or read the "Insider Guides," loaded with helpful information for select cities. Been somewhere and want to share with other parents? Create and post your own "Insider Guide." Registration (it's free) is required to access much of the Web site.
Travels With Baby
is led by author Shelly Rivoli, a traveling mother of two. The site is an excellent resource for parents of infants and young children, offering reviews of gear and products like car seats and travel beds, as well as gear specifically for air travel and cruises with little ones. The "Trip Planning Resources" section contains links to baby gear rental agencies in the U.S. and abroad, as well as tips and advice on travel with babies and toddlers directly from other parents. Rivoli also maintains a Travels With Baby blog
with daily advice for traveling parents.
For family travel agencies ...
Fun Time Family Travel
is a full-service travel agency specializing in family vacations for parents with children age 6 and under). Destinations range from dude ranches to tropical islands, from all-inclusive resorts to big cities.
Rascals in Paradise
offers higher-end family vacation packages around the world. Browse the destinations and packages or just click on the region you're interested in for an itinerary and contact information. Rascals vacations are tailored to be rich cultural experiences-the company claims that "our vacations are classrooms without walls." In addition to what you'd expect from a travel agent, Rascals arranges programs for the children so that you and your spouse can get that much-needed time to yourself and know that your kids are enjoying themselves, too.
When you're traveling with the family, don't think of yourself as limited; there are many types of vacations for you and the crew to enjoy, including cruises, family bed and breakfasts, disney vacations, and European journeys. Use these sites to explore the possibilities.
- If you're a history buff as well as an amusement park fan, you'll love the Web site for the National Amusement Park Historical Association, where you can find all kinds of facts and figures, plus lists of the oldest operating amusement parks and roller coasters.
- Keep weather in mind when you're planning your cruise. Hurricane seasons seem to be starting earlier and ending later than they once did.
- If you haven't been to a Disney park since you were a kid, be prepared for a souped-up experience that requires a lot more attention to detail. Case in point: the Princess Storybook Breakfast at Walt Disney World, where little girls get a chance to dine with Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc. Reservations are taken up to 180 days in advance-and are normally full within five minutes of the phone lines opening up each day. The silver lining: the mega-park that is Disney World is no longer just for kids. You'll find world-class gold courses, luxury spa service, and fine dining here, too.
- It's true that many B&Bs don't welcome small children. Be sure to be upfront about your needs when booking a stay so there are no surprises for anyone once you arrive.
- For information on traveling in Europe, check out the official tourism sites for individual countries and larger cities, in addition to the sites listed below. And do your part to dispel the stigma of the ugly American by being sensitive to different cultures' attitudes toward families and children.
- Thanks to the EU and the convenience of the Euro, traveling from country to country within Europe has never been easier. Take advantage of this and make it a multi-cultural journey.
- When most people think of family-friendly destinations, Disney is one of the first things that jumps to mind. We've included four sites here that will help you plan your Disney trip, and you'll find far more tips and sites for Disney vacations in our findingDulcinea Disney Travel Guide.
For amusement parks ...
Theme Park Insider
posts user ratings and reviews of amusement parks around the world. It also has a section with reviews of hotels in and around the parks, and the "Discussion" section features a pretty active message board.
isn't pretty, but it's super-easy to navigate this comprehensive U.S. amusement park directory. Click on a state on the map for a list of links to amusement parks. Some of the links are "broken," but it's still a valuable resource if you're planning a visit to an amusement park.
For cruises ...
Cruises for Families
has everything you need to research and book a family cruise vacation all in one place. The one-stop-shopping features include information on discounts and last-minute deals for trips on most major cruise lines, a booking service, up-to-date reviews of kids' programs aboard the ships, and suggestions for traveling with kids from newborns to teens.
is considered by many to be the best go-to site on the Web for comprehensive information about cruising. The independently run site, which bills itself as an "unbiased Internet cruise magazine and guidebook," has extensive "Family Cruising" and "Teens and Kids" sections that contain everything and anything you'd ever need to know, from a cruise Q&A for teens to up-to-the-minute passport requirements for you and your kids.
For Disney vacations ...
Tour Guide Mike
charges families $21.95 to map out custom itineraries to Walt Disney World based on answers to a pre-trip online questionnaire. The site is maintained by Mike Hewell, who once worked as a Disney World VIP host. Michael's VIPs
offers more deluxe service: for $100 an hour, one of Hewell's guides will get you a coveted seat at the most exclusive character breakfasts, and even wait in lines for you.
Walt Disney World
's official site has everything from online vacation package price quotes to tools that help you create and order customized park maps. This link is for the original Disney World in Orlando; if you're interested in heading to Disneyland in California, check out the link below.
's official site is a California version of what's described above.
The Planning Strategy Calculator
helps you navigate all the reservation rules for things like the aforementioned Princess breakfast, as well as tee times, shows, and other events. Enter your e-mail and address, and you'll get an alert when there's a change in priority seating rules. There are also links to other useful information, like height requirements for rides and even a character location spreadsheet. You can thank us later.
For bed and breakfasts ...
's search engine allows you to type in the location where you want to stay, then browse through homepages to find inns suiting you and your family.
has an extensive directory of family-friendly B&Bs and country inns, as well as hotels and vacation rentals. The comprehensive listings include photos, directions, contact information, reviews, age ranges of children, and much more. A particularly helpful feature: scroll to the bottom of the inn's description and you can get a "Print N Go" page that summarizes all the essential information in a one-page document for quick and easy reference.
For European vacations ...
France 4 Families
has everything Francophiles young and old need to plan a bon voyage, including currency and passport information, destination guides, suggestions for kid-friendly day trips, a booking engine for transportation and accommodations, and an extensive list of links to more sites that help you prepare for your trip.
Kids in Spain
is geared toward foreign, English-speaking families living in coastal Spain, but there's plenty of useful information for tourists as well. Search for family-friendly beaches, parks, and restaurants, find babysitters, and get a list of important phone numbers and contacts for emergencies. You'll also find basic Spanish phrases and even Spanish children's songs.
, England's official tourism Web site, has a "Family Fun" section that has games, printable activity sheets and reviews for kids, plus an easy-to-navigate map where you can find family-friendly activities according to region and preference. This site is geared toward kids (not just parents looking for kid-friendly activities), so it's a good chance to get your children involved in the planning stages of the vacation.
is indispensable for families traveling to England, Spain, France, or Italy with kids of any age, from babies to teens. Either browse the handpicked, carefully screened directory of accommodations, which you can sort by your child's age, or have Ciao Bambino plan a custom vacation for you, in the "Travel Services" section. The company plans vacations at partner properties, stocks your space with toys, snacks, and gear, and even provides you with a mobile phone and puts you in touch with screened babysitters. The "Travel Tips" section includes a comprehensive list of links to other family travel Web sites, plus other helpful resources for planning your trip.
For some, traveling together is all the strenuous activity they need. But if you want to bond with, or simply exhaust, your children, a vacation rich in outdoor pursuits, entertainment, and adventure may be just what you need. The sites below outline trips suitable to your family's specific needs.
- Volunteer vacations with families are doable, but take some extra care and planning to ensure the trips are appropriate and worthwhile for everyone in your family. Ask for references from other families with children who are similar ages before booking a trip to work with a particular volunteer group.
- Bringing the kids doesn't mean your vacation can't be luxurious. ForbesTraveler revealed that upscale family travel is an emerging trend, recently naming the top ten family friendly hotels in the U.S. chosen by travel industry experts and journalists. View the photo slide show for a glimpse of each property.
- Campsites you've known and loved before you had a family may require a second look to ensure they're kid-friendly. Keep in mind rough terrain, access to restrooms, and proximity to places where you can stock up on extra supplies like diapers if necessary.
- Make sure children unfamiliar with the great outdoors are versed in the hazards that come along with camping, like poison ivy and wild animals.
- For bonus points, see if your trip can be applied toward your child's school credit for volunteer hours.
- Don't overlook foreign travel for a ranch vacation-there are plenty of places outside of the Old West where you can chow down by the chuckwagon.
- Farm trips can be especially educational for young kids, providing them a connection to their food source. Be sure young children in particular are ready to be in an environment with live animals.
For the adventurous family ...
Family Adventure Magazine
carries listings of adventure travel trips across the globe designed just for families. There's also a library of articles, a suggested reading list, and links to outfitters and suppliers for travel gear and sports equipment.
has won numerous awards for its adventure travel Web site, through which the company organizes tours and publishes travel guides. Here you can find details on hiking, biking, and diving vacations, plus information on safaris and cultural expeditions. A section of the site focuses exclusively on family travel, and includes a trip finder feature, destination and activity information, and community message boards. You can also contact one of the company's family travel specialists.
Thomson Family Adventures
, the trip outfitter, specializes in guided family trips to exotic locales from Alaska to Tanzania. Trips are planned for school vacation periods, and free travel insurance is provided. There's also a section devoted to adventure trips for teens
arranges adventure trips for families with kids ranging in age from toddlers to teens, striving to break down barriers between travelers and local cultures to achieve an authentic experience. Trips include African safaris, treks to Machu Picchu, and boat trips to the Galapagos Islands.
For volunteer vacations ...
provides a directory of eco-vacations. The "A taste of volunteering holidays" section helps you find grassroots projects around the world that your family can participate in, such as working with a conservation society tracking sea turtles in Seychelles. A perk: some of the volunteer holidays offer discounts on accommodations and airfare.
The Volunteer Family
's Web site has information on volunteer agencies that welcome families, including Habitat for Humanity, the Global Citizen's Network, and Wilderness Volunteers. Although the site is not specifically a travel site, it has a section devoted to volunteer vacations
For camping ...
has a directory of camps that families can attend together, broken down by geographic region.
The Camping Resource
has a comprehensive database of campground listings throughout North America, in addition to gear reviews and price comparisons, packing checklists, RV manufacturer and rental information. Click on "Tips: Family Camping" to be linked to useful articles and tips on camping with your family.
Kampgrounds of America
's Web site has a "Camping with Kids" section that contains trip tips, plus campfire stories and recipes, and packing checklists just for children.
Go Camping America
's "Fun for Kids Pages" are a great way to get kids involved in trip planning and help them learn about camping safety. There are also printable coloring pages, state-by-state fun facts and even kids camping recipes here.
For dude ranches ...
Guest Ranches of North America
's main feature is a search engine that helps you find a ranch that suits your needs by entering information on location, activities (like children's programs), price range, and month of travel you're interested in. A useful feature here: next to each selection is a number letting you know how many ranches are in that category-giving you an idea of how much variety you'll have in your selection.
, a site run by author Gene Kilgore, lists worldwide resources for dude ranch, cattle ranch, and fly fishing vacations searchable by criteria as detailed as whether there are air strips on the property and what sort of yoga classes are offered. For a comprehensive list of dude ranch vacations with children's programs, click on "Ranch Programs" and then "Children's Programs".
For farms ...
has a carefully edited list of farms offering family-friendly vacations.
Traveling with seniors and teenagers requires special planning and consideration. You'll want to keep them interested and safe at the same time. This section features trips and planning advice for travel with teens and grandparents, from trusted sources.
- Get teens involved in the planning by encouraging them to do Web searches and participate in teen discussion pages on many of the family travel sites.
- You'll all have a better time if you give your teen some of the privacy and leeway that adults are afforded when they travel, rather than doing things like relegating them to kids' tables come dinnertime.
- In addition to online travel sites, associations like the AARP may offer more resources for seniors interested in vacationing with their grandchildren.
For teens ...
's travel pages include teen travel reviews, discussion forums, and travel diaries written by teens. Registered users (it's free) can post their own travel diaries. Click on the "Links" tab for several useful links for teen and budget travel.
The Independent Traveler
is a thorough travel resource site that has an article chock full of great tips for traveling with teens, plus links to lots of family travel resources.
For grandparents ...
specializes exclusively in vacation tours specifically for grandparents and their grandchildren. They run about 10 trips each year to domestic and international destinations, including Kenya, the Galapagos Islands, and U.S. national parks. You can look at the daily itineraries for each tour on their site.
, a not-for-profit educational travel group, specializes in trips for adults over 55, and offers more than 150 intergenerational trips among its programs (enter "intergenerational" into the search engine at the upper right of the homepage). Options range from one-day excursions with toddlers to the Atlanta Children's Museum to week-long ski vacations in Sundance, Utah, with teenagers. All can be booked online.
The Sierra Club
offers "Just for Grandparents and Grandkids" trips to do with kids that include light hiking and family-style meals. Enter "Grandparents" into the search tool to find these types of trips.
Generations Touring Company
offers guided trips for kids, parents, and grandparents in any combination. The easy-to-navigate site lists tours categorized as either "journeys" or "adventures" (which require more physical stamina). Tours run the gamut-from "Baseball's Sacred Grounds" tour in the United States to exotic locales like Vietnam and Peru. If you have a group of 10 or more, you will be assigned a SAGE (a private tour guide). There are FAQ pages geared to both adults and kids on the site, as well as videos detailing the tours.
You've booked the trip-now what about all the logistical details? The Web is a great tool for finding information about kids' passport regulations, airline rules, and everything you probably didn't think about before you had children. The sites in this section help you cover all of the bases.
- To prevent undue stress and added surcharges, don't wait until the last minute to research what sorts of gears and documents you need to travel with your kids. The Web is a great tool to help you manage your trip and set a timetable to get all the things you'll need in place.
- On the Web you'll find helpful tips and packing lists, product recommendations, and agencies that can rent, ship, and sell gear for families with babies and small children. If you opt for to use a service, be sure to ask for references or check with the Better Business Bureau before you hand over your credit card information.
- Keep in mind that less is more. Small kids and babies don't need every travel accessory that's geared to them, and you'll all be happier if your load is light. If you feel that they really need something that you may only use once or twice, search sites like Craigslist and eBay for the sale of gently used items.
- To find more agencies in a particular locale, check with that area's tourism office or your hotel concierge.
- Parents know what works best-and what doesn't. Look for advice from people who've road-tested products and travel frequently with their own families.
- Review safety concerns with kids before you travel. New and different environments can be disorienting to kids.
For kids of all ages ...
The U.S. Department of State
site contains the latest information about passport requirements for minors, application fees, foreign entry requirements, and processing times.
Family on Board
is an online retailer specializing in all manner of travel gear for families, from safety items like car seats that pack into easy-rolling luggage cases to travel games and portable DVD players. There's also a page of links to other helpful family travel Web sites.
The Jet with Kids
site is dedicated to helping make air travel easy for families. You'll find lists of air travel tips, travel gear reviews, and a great links page with resources for information on everything from birth certificates to travel insurance.
For babies and toddlers ...
's travel section is a one-stop shop where you can find answers to all of your questions about traveling with little ones, from when your child is old enough to fly to where the best baby-friendly destinations are. You'll find checklists of questions to ask the airlines, money-saving travel tips, message boards, polls, you name it.
Jet Set Babies
ships supplies like diapers, baby food, infant formula, and even blankets and nightlights to locations around the world. The company confirms receipt of the order and lets you know where your package is stored and how to retrieve it once you arrive at your destination.
stands out from other sites because of its thorough selection of car seats, strollers, and health and safety gear that work especially well for traveling families. There's even an assortment of pet-travel products for your other baby, plus useful advice and information on subjects like major airline policies regarding children and airports with areas for kids to play.
The New Parents Guide
has a state-by-state directory of baby equipment rental companies, as well as information on companies in Canada, Mexico, Europe, South Africa, and more.
For older kids ...
, written by father and music aficionado Stefan Shepherd, has developed a loyal following among parents who want to enjoy music along with their kids instead of just tolerating it. Look here for fun suggestions for music for your trip.
offers countless creative idea for keeping kids busy in the car, from games you've probably thought of yourself (the license plate game) to more unique suggestions, like renting/downloading classic radio broadcasts. There are also suggestions for entertaining babies and toddlers on the road, and articles written by moms on topics like traveling with kids with disabilities and flying tips.
is a blog created in October, 2007 that has already amassed a sizable chunk of travel editorial content. This page outlines 27 free games to play with kids on road trips; most games require nothing more than creativity, memory, and car widows to look out of.
Family travel raises concerns about keeping the kids safe. Whether it's securely buckling car seats, making sure roads are clear, or having proper international travel identification, you've got a lot to think about. Use the Web sites below to ease your mind.
- Traveling off the beaten path is exciting, but if you're going abroad, especially if you're visiting Third World countries, be sure you have taken all the necessary health precautions. Be up-to-date with vaccinations, and prepare any gear and supplies you may need for your family.
- Be sure everyone is up to date on vaccinations and you're aware of possible allergies in an unfamiliar environment. Bring along extra prescription medications, too, if you need them.
- The Web is a great tool for the latest, most up-to-date information on everything from gear recalls to travel advisories. Use it to your advantage.
The U.S. Department of State
's Web site has an up-to-date list of government-issued travel warnings and advisories, as well as specific international travel tips for families and children, information on passport and other documentation requirements and contact information for U.S. embassies worldwide.
is a super-helpful, easy-to-navigate site that allows users to plug in the year, make, and model of their vehicle for the latest information about auto recalls and consumer complaints.
and SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A. Web sites are reviewed and moderated by certified child passenger safety technicians, instructors, and advocates, providing up-to-date safety info and recall information. There are also forums where you can post car seat and vehicle questions.
The Federal Highway Administration
's "National Traffic and Road Closure Information" page has links to the transportation department Web sites for all 50 states, providing the latest road condition information. There are also links to other traffic and weather Web sites.
sells kits that travel well, including car emergency, first aid, and disaster kits.
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