Behinds the scenes here at Vacationkids, our travel advisors answer this question about week long family vacations in Europe almost every day. I'll be brutally honest, when I hear this question the above picture immediately pops into my brain.
Family personalities and dynamics can be tricky on any given day. Confine siblings to a car for several hours and you'll quickly see the rivalry come out. Put several family members into one hotel room or cruise cabin for a week and watch how fast you can get on each other's nerves. Add parents, in-laws and perhaps a few outlaws, kids from previous relationships and you can quickly start to hate the people you are suppose to love.
AS A FAMILY-TRAVEL WRITER…friends are often asking for advice about where to travel with their kids.
Whenever hard working parent plan a vacation, they want to be certain they are getting the best vacation possible for every penny they spend. Often from the outside looking in, people think vacation planning is an easy DIY project that if they invest the work, they will save some coin. This is especially true when deciding to hire a tour guide.
Before I worked in the travel business, I’d research our family vacation for months – hoping to uncover the places that locals loved. I would crowdsource vacation ideas and try to connect with locals that could offer up some secret intel.
I’ll be honest with you, back then I was on a very tight budget and was trying to scrimp every penny so that my family could take a vacation. I didn’t see the value of hiring a guide or working with a destination specialist. I was convinced I could do it all on my own - without the help of a trained professional.
I was a single mom with 3 kids at the time. The first trip where I acted as a tour guide was our summer road trip to New England. It began as a disaster on several levels.
With the best of intentions, I was trying to prepare my kids for their American history classes the following September. I tried cramming my U.S. history facts into their sweet little brains with engaging car conversations that fell upon deaf ears accompanied by sarcastic eye rolls. The Freedom Trail in Boston instantly deteriorated into a bickering fest that was only interrupted by the trauma of a pigeon pooping on the head of my youngest. By day two of our 7 day historical odyssey, I was out numbered, overwhelmed and exhausted. This wasn't fun for any of us.
As a parent, it's hard enough to get your kids to listen to you on any given day so why did I think they would want to listen to me playing tour guide?
By day 3 I surrendered and bought us guided tour tickets in Salem, Massachusetts. I really didn't want to spend the money but I was defeated. To everyone's delight, our guide was incredible! He walked us through town, told us stories about folks buried in the cemetery and pointed out fascinating facts in the witch museum that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. He took us to Nathaniel Hawthorne's "House of the Seven Gables" and showed us hidden bookcases and rooms where people hid during the witch trials. My kids were so engaged, hanging on his every word.
My kids loved listening to him and guess what? They didn't have to listen to me for a couple of hours. Instantly I became a participant in my own vacation. I could relax and enjoy my kids learning what I had intended from the very beginning. They could enjoy me having fun with them!
I immediately booked us into guided tours for our next three stops of Plimoth Plantation, Martha's Vineyard and a mansion tours of Newport, Rhode Island. I spent more than I had originally budgeted for this vacation but the result was the vacation that far exceeded what I had originally envisioned.
1. Save Money!
This is the reason parents love most. Cruise ships, unlike hotels, charge by the number of passengers sharing a cabin - period. The cost has nothing to do with age. At many resorts, once your child turns 13 they will need to pay the "full boat" adult rate. On a cruise ship, the first two passengers in the cabin (aka - mom & dad) will pay first and second passenger rates. No matter how old your children are, if they are sharing the cabin with you they will pay 3rd, 4th, 5th passenger rates which are lower (aka - kids rates). Of course the number of passengers sharing the same cabin is dependent on the occupancy limits of your particular stateroom. Also be aware that when a cruise line offer "perks" like free drink or specialty dining , this discount applies to the first and second passengers only. Any additional passengers sharing the cabin would need to pay for the cost of these perks.
The Caribbean, Mexico, the Bahamas and Bermuda are certainly the most popular cruise destinations for American families. These family friendly ports of all offer fun experiences for kids of all ages. Depending on the specific sailing you choose, your family can visit a several different countries and Caribbean islands on a single cruise. Ports of call and the length of time your ship will be docked in port will vary between different cruise lines.
If you're a busy parent juggling life who just realized your kid's team won't be making this year's baseball playoffs or your daughter decided not to attend summer camp then you need to make some last minute family vacation plans - it's not too late. That's the good news.