Family Vacation Tips

Price Comparison of Different Family Cruises

[fa icon="calendar'] Apr 4, 2017 8:08:00 AM / by Sally Black posted in Family Cruises, Affordable Family Vacations

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Do you find yourself "lost at sea" trying to compare prices on a cruise vacation for your family?

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Planning an Australia Family Vacation

[fa icon="calendar'] Mar 28, 2017 8:00:00 PM / by Sally Black posted in Family Cruises, Family Vacation, family adventure vacation

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Australia has quokkas, kangaroos and koalas. Kids of all ages (especially grown ups) are enchanted with this idea of connecting with Australian wild life.

That said Australia is SO much more! It's a perfect destination for newbie travelers, intrepid explorers and everyone in between. It's easy to navigated if this is your family's first time traveling overseas and they speak the same language...well, sort of. If your family are experienced travelers Australia offers boundless activities and a world of extreme adventures.

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How Much Do You Know About Visiting The Galapagos?

[fa icon="calendar'] Mar 24, 2017 12:35:47 PM / by Sally Black posted in Family Cruises, family adventure vacation

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A visit to the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador tops the "to do" list of many an animal lover and explorer.  It's such a remote and fascinating destination where you'll see and experience adventures like no other place on earth.

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2017 Family Vacation Plans

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 13, 2017 10:45:25 AM / by Sally Black posted in family resorts, Family Cruises, Affordable Family Vacations, Family Vacation

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Have you made your  reservations yet for your family vacation yet?  

Januaray & February are the most popular months for making vacation reservations. if you're a busy parent juggling homework projects, Karate, dance recitals, work and oh yes...a life, time can whiz by. Before you know it you're faced with another boring staycation.  Let's NOT let that happen!  You and the kids deserve better than that.  We've put together a list of ideas to help inspire you to escape your everyday.

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Vacations with Adult Children

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 21, 2017 2:41:01 PM / by Linda Griffith posted in Family Cruises

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When Can I Get the Best Deal On A Family Cruise?

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 20, 2017 1:09:56 PM / by Sally Black posted in Family Cruises, Affordable Family Vacations

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Say "HELLO" to Wave Season!

In the travel biz, Wave Season runs from January until March. It's during the coldest months of the year when everyone wants to "wave godbye" to snow and set sail on ocean waves.
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Final Payment for Cruises

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 16, 2016 10:10:00 AM / by Sally Black posted in Family Cruises, Affordable Family Vacations, Disney Vacation Planning

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Each cruise line has their own rules when it comes to making final payments for your cruise vacation.  Final payment dates also determine when the cancellation penalties kick in.  These rules also influence the amount of time available for vacation payment plans and the time we have available for vacation layaway.

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Travel Trends from the NY Times Travel Show

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 14, 2016 8:27:29 AM / by Sally Black posted in family vacations, Family Cruises, Affordable Family Vacations

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The New York Times Travel Show is a very anticipated annual event and 2016 was no exception.  It is open to the public and draws close to 30k people during this three day event. This year Vacationkids was humbled and honored to participate in an expert's panel hosted by the Family Travel Association along with Laura Begley Bloom of Yahoo Travel and Elaine Alimonti of Lonely Planet

Besides answering traveling questions for parents and press, the event gave me the opportunity to meet so many clients and social media friends face to face. The NY Times travel show is a prime opportunity to hear about all the latest news, products and trends in travel from all parts of the globe. There is so much to see and learn, even for "experts".  Here's my top 10 of  stand-outs out for 2016....

  • Multi-generational travel continues to be the big buzz word and trend across the entire industry.  There is less and less differentiation between kid specific and Adult only  travel products.  Resorts, cruises and tour companies are offering more and more products to help bring families together and satisfy everyone with a balance of amenities and activities.  We continue to see more kid friendly luxury travel products. One prime example is how River Cruise companies are offering more and more family ships and sailings. Great news for parents and Grandparents looking to share experiences with their little ones.
  • Marriage equality has lead to huge growth in destination gay and lesbian weddings.  The prediction is that as more gay and lesbian couples become parents there will be an increased need for inclusive family vacations for these children.
  • Volunterism Vacations are growing in popularity, especially with millennials and families.  We're seeing more and more child friendly options here with family tours like Gadventures Planeterra and Carnival Cruise Lines new Fathom Cruises
  • The Cruise industry continues to grow and expand. A total of 7 new ships were added in 2015 with a total passenger capacity of 18,813.  From 2016 to 2017, 15 more new cruise ships will come online which will nearly double cabin capacity.  Considering only 24% of the U.S. population have ever sailed on a cruise,  more local ports, more destinations and new on-board/on-shore activities that match demands of consumers.
  • It's not just about the destination...it's all about the experience. Looking for a unique vacation, how about a luxury South Pacific Freighter cruise to Tahiti or learn about Mustangs (not the car - the nearly extincted horses in South Dakota.
  • Parents always worry about keeping their kids happy and healthy, especially when they hit the road.  The Center for Disease control has revamped their Traveler's Health website.  It's now much more user friendly. Parents can search every country on the planet, filter by the type of trip AND get specific pediatric health tips just for kids.
  • Lonely Planet Kids has a whole new library of fantastic titles that will engage and inspire explorers of all ages.  These books are the kind that kids will cherish and parents will enjoy reading over and over again.  This kid can't wait to start filling the shelves for her grandson! Best kid gifts EVER!
  • Tours By Locals is like the Uber of guided tours. Whether by land or by sea connect with locals who are experts in their own back yards.

If there is one criticism that I have about the New York Times Travel show it really needs to become more family friendly.  I would love to see lots more kids specific activities, events and learning.  I believe the travel industry needs to come together to help raise and nurture our next generation of vacationers, travelers and world explorers.  The most exciting thing I heard at the show was a rumor that my wishes just might come true in 2017.  Finger's crossed and stay tuned.....

 

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Why You Should Consider a Caribbean Cruise

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 12, 2016 10:30:00 AM / by Sally Black posted in Family Cruises, Affordable Family Vacations, Teen Vacations

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Sometimes I get weird reactions from clients when I suggest a Caribbean cruise might be the perfect fit for everything they've listed on their vacation wish list....
 
Client: I am NOT a Cruiser!!!!

Travel Agent: What makes you say that? Have you ever been on a cruise before?

Client: NO, I just know I won't like it.

Travel Agent: (Sigh)....You do realize you're giving me the same argument your kids give you every time you beg them to try a new food?...Something you know is tasty and really good for them.
Will you at least consider the benefits of a cruise for your next vacation?

Many people have HUGE misconceptions about cruise vacations. They "KNOW" they won't like a cruise without ever having stepped foot on a ship. They have fully convinced themselves based on their imagination, propaganda or perhaps an experience somebody had 20 years ago.

If you're the type of person who hates everything other than that which you already know, please don't bother reading the rest of this post. This information is not for you. Go and hate your vegetables someplace else.

If you're at least a curious sort of person, then I invite you to read on.

A  Caribbean cruise is not just about a ship, it's about an entire Caribbean vacation experience that offers so many unique choices and options. If you haven't at least considered a vacation on board a cruise ship then you are literally "missing the boat".

Each and every passenger on board a cruise has the personal freedom to create and enjoy a truly customized vacation experience. As the author of "Fearless Family Vacations - Make Everyone Happy Without Losing Your Mind". Offering a vacation option to my clients that truly has something to make every member of the family smile makes me a huge proponent of family cruise vacations.

Cruise vacations are one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry. Ship builders cannot keep up with the high demand for bigger, better, more bad ass cruise ships. This is all very surprising when you consider less than 15% of Americans have taken a cruise vacation.

Most people don't fully understand how travel agents Work. It's my responsibility to offer my clients different options, great values so they can enjoy the very best vacation experiences available. I'm not into twisting any arms here. At the end of the day, the final decision is entirely up to you.

Here is the top cruise "myth list" that we travel agents hear time and again. If your mind is open, you'll understand why we travel agents chuckle sometimes. You'll also learn about the many vacation benefits that cruise vacations offer, especially for families. It might just turn you a believer and a first time cruiser....

"A Cruise would be WAY too Expensive"
- Family cruise prices start around $75 per person/per day. This price includes your cabin, gourmet meals, ship board activities, Broadway style shows, free child care, taxes and port fees. It makes planning and budgeting for your family vacation MUCH easier. 70% of Americans live within a one day car ride to a cruise port. This allows families to visit exciting Caribbean and Mexican ports of call while saving the expense of airplane tickets. A family cruise vacation often works out to be cheaper than taking a family road trip. Cruise lines post their schedules and rates about 1.5 years in advance and we can set up affordable payment plans.

"We're Beach People, Not Cruisers" - Guess what...Cruisers get to spend time at the beach. As a matter of fact, you can visit 3-4 world class beaches all in the same week! Most cruise lines even own their own private Caribbean islands with amazing white sand beaches and crystals waters. We're talking beach nirvana here people and the only way you'll ever get to experience their warm waters and white sand if by cruise ship. Oh and if you want a room with a great ocean view, the BEST ocean views happen while at sea! Don't forget to wave to the friendly dolphins as they spin past your balcony.

"We Don't Want to Stuck on a Boat with Crowds of People" - Most guests on a cruise ship are at the pool, at the spa, skydiving, skating, surfing, shopping, zip lining, swimming, at the casino, eating gourmet meals, watching movies, practicing their putts, water sliding, playing basketball, rock climbing, taking a class, relaxing, dancing, having a drink, getting in shape, enjoying a show, at the kids club, at the movies, listening to live music, having fun with friends...Oh, and some days people actually get off the ship to do a million other things in port. Guests on board a cruise ship are never all in the same place at the same time. This is why you'll never feel crowded. If this sounds like being "stuck" to you then maybe you should consider a "staycation" instead?


"Cruises are for Old People"
- Uh-NO! Well... ok, you probably will see some white hairs skydiving and rock climbing but cruises are not for the nursing home mindset. As you can see from all the activities just mentioned here, family cruise ships don't cater to old people. Yes, there are some luxury ships and sailings for adults only. The activities there are geared for older baby boomers. Family friendly cruise ships offer children's programs for babies right on up. They do an especially terrific job offering a wide range of activities for tweens and teens (often the most "discerning" of all guests). Actually cruise vacation on board a family friendly ship is ideal for a multi-generational vacation because there are so many choices of activities.

Speaking of teenagers, age does matter here. Most resort rates are charged according to the ages of their guests. Generally hotels define "children" as being under the age of 12. Once they turn 13, they are charged full adult rate. Instead, cruise ships charge by the number of guests sharing each cabin - age doesn't matter. The 1st and 2nd passengers sharing a cabin are charged a higher rate (aka "adult" rate) and 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th passengers (depending on cabin size) are charged at a much lower rate(aka "kids prices"). This offers families with tweens, teens and even those 20 something full nesters some really significant savings.

"I Don't Want To Be Trapped at sea with a Bunch of Kids" - Rest assured every family friendly cruise ship, including Disney, offers adult-only activities, shows and areas that are completely off limits to children. Truth be told the kids probably don't want to be trapped at sea with a bunch of adults either. They want to make new friends and have a fun vacation of their own. Family ships offer marvelous kids clubs, separated into age groups that offer supervised activities all day long. Cruise vacation offer families balance. There are plenty of activities that will bring families together. There are also plenty of activities to keep the kids busy so parents can relax and enjoy a "real" vacation of their own.

Speaking of cruise kids clubs, most will provide supervised child care while ships are docked in port. This means parents can enjoy a museum visit in peace, play a round of golf or go scuba diving with the knowledge that their kids are entertained and safe. Resort kids clubs require parents be present on resort grounds whenever their children are at the kids club.


"We Want REALLY Experience a Destination"
- A cruise ship will allow you to "SEA" more. It "travels" while you're comfortably asleep. Each day you wake up in a brand new destination ready to have fun or explore. For example, A Caribbean Cruise allows you to easily visit 3-4  different islands, countries or ports of call. To repeat this itinerary on land, you would lose a vacation day between each stop - getting to the airport, waiting for the flight, hopping to another island, getting a ride/car, checking into your next hotel (hopefully your room is ready), packing/unpacking, find someplace to eat. You would be traveling  and not experiencing it. On a cruise ship you would wake up to a delicious breakfast, spend your day visiting exotic destinations and beautiful beaches, return to a gourmet meal and enjoy a show. If your preferred destination is near water, chances are it's easier to get there by a cruise.

"Cruise Ship Cabins are Claustrophic" - Cruise ship cabins range from budget-friendly inside cabins without windows to palatial, two story suites with glass walls, grand pianos, butlers and wrap around balconies that will sleep a small army...and everything in between. All of these choices can be found on the same ship. Actually many of the newer ships feature "virtual" windows now so you have still have a window without having to pay for one.

Some parents crave a little privacy for "romance" while on a family vacation (if you get my drift here). Cruise ships allow guests to select EXACT cabin where they want to sleep. This way parents can get two side by side cabins/rooms with a door inside to connect the rooms. At a hotel, guests can "request" adjoining rooms but it's more likely parents will end up sharing a room with their kids down the hall from one another instead spending time with each other.

"My ___Gets REALLY Seasick"
- Just about every family has one member who suffering from motion sickness. Sailing on a cruise ship is different than being on a personal watercraft, ferry boat or amusement ride. The new generation of cruise ships come fully equipped with computerized stabilization systems that make for incredibly smooth sailing. Please consider the source here... I say this as someone who is very sensitive to motion sickness. Recent sailings have left me nausea free, even during stormy days at sea! As mentioned above, you can choose a cabin mid-ship that offers the lease amount of motion. Choice of destinations can also minimize this concern. Rest assured there are plenty of remedy options to help alleviate any discomfort and have you ready for fun. In addition, medical staff is always on board. If your still worried, consider a River Cruise which will keep you far away from open waters.

"We Hate Dressing Up" - Great, cause you don't have to. Years ago cruise ships required formal attire and even captain's dinners complete with tuxedos and beaded ball gowns. Yes, these experiences are still available should you choose, but the key word here is "choice". If you don't want to dress up, it's not required. Grab a slice of pizza in your bathing suit. Bite into burger on the pool deck in your shorts. Enjoy a casual dinner in a theme restaurant or peruse the buffet...I would highly suggest that you DO dress in at least a robe when your room service order arrives!

"Hurricanes!!!" - Hurricane season in the Caribbean runs from June to October. Bear in mind the "Caribbean" covers a HUGE geographical area. A storm in one area does not affect every port of call. That would be like saying you shouldn't travel to Texas because New York is getting hit with a major snow storm! If you have any travel concerns regarding hurricanes, cruise ships are a much safer bet! Cruise ships can move. All ships closely monitor the weather. A captain can change course with the flick of a switch. Resorts are stuck in one place. If there is a storm on the horizon, hotel guests must either to evacuation or hunker down and hope for the best.

"I'll Get Fat" - Cruise ships are known for their food, delicious food. Just about every ship offers restaurants or menus created by celebrity Iron or Rock-star chefs. Many of these menus now offer healthy, organic choices in addition to cupcake shops and the chocolate midnight buffet. There are fully outfitted gyms, sessions with personal trainers and you can always opt to take the stairs instead of the elevator. The choices are all up to you.

"Cruise Ships Are Not Safe" - Parents naturally worry about safety when it comes to their children. Cruise ships often sensationalize in the press. If there is a an outbreak of norovirus on a cruise ship it's all over the 6 o'clock news but you NEVER hear about anything like that happens at your kid's school or at "the happiest place on earth". Do you honestly believe bad stuff never happens at Disney? Think about it people - Disney owns ABC news. Just saying!

Cruise ships must constantly undergo Coast Guard inspections. They follow strict international rules, known as Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). Everyone must participate in a "muster drill" for safety. This includes instructions on locating and putting on life jackets and finding your assigned lifeboat. The odds are much higher that something bad will happen driving your kids to school than while on a ship at sea.

"I've seen the movie Titanic"...
- Me too, great movie! If you're worried about icebergs I might suggest a Southern Caribbean sailing instead of Antarctica or the north Atlantic. You might want to pass on any destinations like Alaska or Northern Europe with their Glaciers. Last time I checked Aruba doesn't have any icebergs, or hurricanes for that matter.

I still dunno....? - It's true, seeing is believing. Many major family friendly cruise lines offer 3 day itineraries. These are shorter cruises are wonderful opportunity to experience a cruise ship without a huge investment of time or money. This too is a great way to test the waters for a long weekend or to get a "real vacation" after spending a few days in a Florida theme park. Just please know cruise line use their older ships for these shorter itineraries and usually start beginner service staff on these sailings.  They save the best ships with all the most amenities and their best service teams for the 7 night sailings and longer.  A 3 night cruise will work for a test but just know it falls short of being the best of the best.

If you're still a bit leery when it comes to trying new things, sometimes having some moral support helps. Invite friends and family along to help build your confidence. Cruise vacations are IDEAL for creating group camaraderie. As mentioned earlier, it's a great way to bring the entire family together with multi-generational vacation. PLUS...if you invite a enough people along and you can benefit from the power of group buying power and can quickly earn yourself a free cruise!

Hopefully your mind has a least been opened to a new world of cruise possibilities. If you have a dream destination in mind and it's located near a body of water then a cruise vacation may just be the perfect vacation for you. Be sure to speak to a travel agent who can help you navigate the waters.

 

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How To Plan A Family Wedding Cruise

[fa icon="calendar'] Dec 9, 2015 3:24:32 PM / by Sally Black posted in Family Destination Weddings, family group travel, Family Cruises

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 Cruise destination weddings are one of the hottest trends in travel.   Couples simply need to decide on a date, their favorite destinations and the style of event they prefer. The rest will handles of by their travel professional and the cruise line. Couples avoid all the stress of having to deal with reception halls, catering contracts, florists, multiple deposits and all the planning that quickly turns into a full time job.

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