If you're seeking the answer to this question online, you're probably sorting through hundreds of millions of answers and suggestions. It's overwhelming! And every time you see photos of another all inclusive vacation option that could be a contender, it looks even more enticing than the last one.
Disney Cruise Line is considered a premium cruise compared to other family friendly cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian. It's obvious that Disney cruise ships are full of fun features for children and adults but the pricing difference also translates into things that might not appear initially obvious like menu and entertainment quality.
Disney does not discount-period! Frankly they are a beloved and recognized world-know brand. Their ships and theme parks are in high demand and they don't have to discount. If you see online enticements for any kind of Disney deal run the other way!
The good news there are ways to make that dream Disney cruise more affordable. Here are 10 tips to help your family save on a Disney Cruise....
Back in 2001 I had one of my first travel agency meeting with one of the national sales directors for Royal Caribbean Cruise lines. She mentioned that she had visited almost all of the 250 ports that her ships call upon. Of course my natural next question was..."So which port of call was your absolute favorite?" Her answer was immediate, enthusiastic and a bit surprising..."Dubrovnik, Croatia!"
With an experienced recommendation like that, Dubrovnik was immediately put high atop my own personal "to-do" list.
Thankfully interest in families visiting Croatia has been gaining more popularity recently thanks to a little TV show called "Game of Thrones". A stroll around the walled city of Dubrovnik will reveal many familiar film scenes fans of the show will recognize as "King's Landing".
Dubrovnik is actually located in southern Croatia along the Dalmatian Coast. The Adriatic seas provides some spectacular beaches to enjoy. Here your family will swim in crystal clear aquamarine waters. The coastline is spotted with 1000 islands, one more beautiful than the next. In addition the Biokovo mountain range is just a few miles from the sea providing the backdrop for spectacular scenery.
Besides glorious beaches, mountain trails and island hopping, adventurers will love exploring the 8 national parks. Plitvice National park with its waterfalls is one of 10 UNESCO World Heritage sights found in Croatia. It's no wonder Hollywood loves filming the history and beauty here. Foodies may be surprised by the farm to table freshness of the food here, not to mention the wines and coffee.
Croatia is very family friendly. Because it's so popular with European families, there are many easy flight connections to Croatian airports from most major European airport hubs.
So what are the best vacation options for American families?...it all depends on what is best for your children's ages and the particular wants, needs and wishes of your family....
Family Cruises to Croatia
Most of the major family friendly cruise lines offer cruises that visit ports in Croatia and other stops along the Dalmatian coast. Many leave from Venice, Italy and go on to visit Greek ports of call too. A family cruise means your family unpacks once and your cruise ship conveniently sails at night while you're asleep. It's a great option for families with younger kids or for larger families of all different ages traveling together.
Family All Inclusive Resorts in Croatia
American families are familiar with all inclusive resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico. Did you know that Croatia offers plenty of family friendly all inclusive resorts in their most popular tourist areas? This means all of your family's food, drinks, daily activities and even kids camps are included in the price of your hotel room. Just like in the Caribbean, resort options run the gamut from actual kid-themed hotel rooms to luxury accommodations. Of course local sightseeing to "must see" sights can be arranged as additional day trips.
Guided Family Tours of Croatia
For families with older children who enjoy a more active style vacation this is a great choice. You'll have a professional guide that will be with you every step of the way. Your guide enhances your experience by pointing out local history, cultural points of interest and facts you may not know. In addition, having a guide takes worry off the shoulder of parents so they can enjoy their own vacation. Generally these tours offer activities like hiking, biking and kayaking. Pricing usually includes the services of your guide, hotels certain meals, activities and sightseeing. Escorted tours likes this usually come minimum age requirement so again, guided tours are a good fit for families with school age children, tweens and teens.
Private Guided Tours and Ship Charters
This is a great choice for groups traveling together. Private land tours can be arranged and organized so that you can do and visit the exact places you want to go. You'll have a private tour guide just for your group. If budget is not an issue then no worries. Private tours generally become comparable in price to regular tours when there is a minimum of around 10 people traveling together (but every company is different). With a private guided tour there is no age limit for children. This is a wonderful experience for when Grandparents, Parents and Grandchildren want to create family memories together.
Croatia offers so many islands and gorgeous beaches to explore. Private, small ship charters can also be arranged for families and friends traveling together. This is a really fun option for families who love to explore and love the water. Pricing is determined by the size of the ship and the size of the group. It's recommended to make your plans far in advance, especially for popular family travel times and school holidays.
Private Villas Rentals
Another great option, especially for families and friends who like to vacation together. Not only are city apartment stays available, Croatia offers many small private island rentals. This is a wonderful options for traveling families looking for fun, sun and plenty of togetherness.
Remember, your travel agent can help you combine options to create the perfect vacation experience for your family. Perhaps it's a short cruise combined with an all inclusive resort stay? Maybe it's a guided tour followed by an apartment city stay for a few extra days? There are so many great vacation options to choose!
Over the years, Vacationkids has built our list of contacts in Croatia. Whether you're headed to Dubrovnik, Zagreb, Split or a private island paradise, we look forward to helping your family discover one of the most beautiful and fascinating spots on the planet.
If you've landed here, chances are you'sure overwhelmed by all the family cruise information out there and you need help.
First, congratulations on making the best decision to work with a travel agent. An experienced travel agent can serve and benefit your family in countless ways. Their job is to insure that your family has a fun and memorable cruise vacation. The tricky bit now is to find the right travel agent.
Full disclosure here, I hope you decide to work with our great team of travel agents here at Vacationkids. We like to build relationships with our clients and become their trusted travel partner for years to come. Just like you're looking for the right travel agent, we always love connecting with the right families.
Honestly, we may or may not be the right fit to work together. There is plenty of folks out there who need help and out team only has so many hours in each day. Either way we'd like to help insure you get the right vacation help and guidance. So here are some tips to make sure you partner with the Travel Agent that's the right fit for you....
Is Your Travel Agent Legit?
The Cruise Line International Association and the International Air Transport Associations are the two main governing bodies that license Travel Agents. Travel agencies and agents have to meet their strict credentials and regulations to maintain these annual standards. Vacationkids is a member of both. If you don't see these credentials on an agents website or displayed in their office, ask!
Sadly there are many travel multi-level marketing scams out there that lure people in with the promise of free travel. These people market themselves as agents without any formal training or credentials.
Have They Personally "Been There & Done That?"
Remember what it was like when you finished studying your Driver's Ed Manual? Now remember how you felt the first time you drove a car on a highway or on a congested city street?
Research and book knowledge are COMPLETELY different from real life experience!
If you're considering working with a new travel agent, ask them about their cruise experiences and if they themselves have visited the destinations you're considering.
On our web pages and blog posts, you'll see pictures of our Vacationkids agents all over the world. It's not because we all love sharing our silly selfies. Our team travels so that we can share first hand knowledge, experience and insider insights so that our clients can trust our recommendations.
Size Does Matter
Every travel agent has their specialty or their favorite destinations to sell. One agent working from a home office may be very professional at their job and have a wealth of experience. The hard truth is, no one person can know the entire world. Most agents are very competitive and don't collaborate with others for fear of losing business for themselves. Even agents that work for the same agency.
At Vacationkids, we believe clients come first. We've hand-picked our team of agents based on their varied travel experiences. We work, as a team to benefit our clients. For example, I recently handed over a family that I've worked with for over 10 years to one of my colleagues. Why? They wanted to visit Australia. I've visited Australia once but my colleague Tamara was born and raised there. Who do you think will better serve that family? Recently we have a family who wanted a cruise and they had a child on the autism spectrum. Even though I'm a former pediatric nurse, I recommended them to my colleague Nicole Thibault who runs her own travel agency. Nicole has a son on the spectrum and this is her specialty. I knew this family would get peace of mind and the very best care.
It's true, big travel agencies do have huge buying power and clout. They can offer far more competitive pricing than a single home based travel agent. This is why Vacationkids partners with Dream Vacations, one of the worlds leading cruise and leisure companies. Thanks to this partnership, we can leverage their collective 5 billion dollars in annual cruise sales to be able to offer our clients the best deals, perks and credits. Meanwhile our clients enjoy our team support and personalized service. Make sure the travel agent you choose to work with is not too small, not to big but fits just right.
Right now you're planning a cruise. You're looking for a travel agent that you can trust. What happens next year if your family wants to go to Italy, Japan or Outer Mongolia (I seriously want to go hunt dinosaurs in the Gobi desert - sorry, I digress)....do you want audition another set of travel agents. Make sure you select a travel agent that can be your future travel partner, not just sell you a cruise today.
Do They Understand The Needs of Families?
Parents would never want to be stuck at sea for a week with unhappy kids. That's not a vacation, that's a nightmare! It's not about finding the "best family cruise"....it's about booking the ship, cabin(s) and port experiences that are the best fit for your family. Families come in all ages and stages. Their wishes and needs are multiplied by each member. Ask the travel agent you plan to work with what type of training and expertise do they have working specifically with families and multi-generational travel.
If you're planning a family cruise then you'll want to work with a travel agency familiar with family travel. Vacationkids has specialized in family travel for close to 20 years. Not only are we certified in family travel, I'm director of the Family Travel Association. I'm the one that created the training and certification test for travel agents who want to specialize in family travel.
Cruise Line Connections
It's never about what you know, it's always about WHO you know. A good travel agent is constantly networking and acquiring new knowledge to keep their skills current. Agents need an excellent overview of the entire cruise industry so that they can fit their clients with the cruise that perfect for them. Ask agent about recent industry events they've recently attended or updated training they have accomplished.
Many agents specialize in a particular cruise line, a specific destination or one type of vacation product. These agents tends to fit a square pegs in a round holes. They try to sell clients into products they know and are often rewarded with sales bonuses.
For the past few years, I've been asked to teach family travel to other agents at major industry conferences. People will often ask me why I would want to go and help competitors? First, I never mind giving back to an industry that has been so generous to my life. Second there is plenty of business out there for everyone. Third, I get to learn and update my skills by taking classes taught by leaders in our industry. It gives me a great perspective of new travel opportunities and broad options to help me serve our clients. Last but certainly most important I get to create personal, face to face relationships with the presidents of all the major cruise lines and all the heads of major travel companies.
Are You Sympatico?
Many people will agree the excitement and anticipation of planning a vacation is often the best part. Planning a family vacation is suppose to be a fun, collaborative experience! Make sure you chose a travel agent that you genuinely like.
Do you look forward to your conversations together? Do they "get" you? If listening to your travel agent is comparable to the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard then you are not sympatico.
Remember, the relationship goes both ways. Good travel agents know there is plenty of business out there. If you act disrespectful, shady or try to bully your agent to get your own way you'll get fired in a heartbeat. Yes, travel agents do fire clients. Ain't nobody got time for drama.
Listen, you don't have to be besties with your travel agent. It's just that creative, collaborative relationships work best when there is open, honest communication and genuine respect. Post an online recommendation after an awesome vacation, refer a friend or send a box of thank you chocolates...I absolutely guarantee you will have a travel agent for life that will go to the ends of the earth for your family.