Make your own family-friendly vacation

So many resorts are billed as the best for families, and do live up to the hype for the throngs of visitors who plan vacations each and every year. But if your’s is a family that would be interested in avoiding the long lines and the franchised fun, you may be happy to know you are in good company. It’s possible to manufacture your own family vacation without partaking in one of the pre-assembled family plans.

According to the travel planning site Expedia(R), a few countries are more “vacation deprived” than others. These include the United States, Canada, Mexico, Singapore, Japan and South Korea. North Americans earn fewer vacation days than most countries. Even still, they’re also more likely to leave two or more days of earned vacation time unused. Affordability and saving days for future obligations is why people are apt to squander away vacation time. When vacations are taken, however, families could want to maximize time spent together and look for some key features.

When planning your next family quest, consider these vacation pointers.

  • Just because a hotel or resort is not billed as a family place doesn’t mean it isn’t family-friendly. Read reviews from people who have stayed at the hotel. See how they rate the hotel in terms of amenities and figure out what strengths the property has. If people remark about the romantic atmosphere, it probably caters to couples. If an array of food options and activities are touted, the hotel could be good for families.
  • Choose a resort that offers babysitting services or a few child-central activities. While the goal of the family vacation is to spend time together, there are likely to be moments when each person may want to do his own thing. Parents looking for some time away will benefit from a resort that has a childcare center on the property. Plus, kids may appreciate being independent from their parents for a few hours and having fun with others their own ages.
  • ¬†Find a destination with a mix of ethnic and familiar cuisine. Of all the people in the family, children tend to be the most finicky when it comes to dining options. Some parents are lucky enough to have kids open to any and all food suggestions, but most have children who have a few favorites and don’t stray far from those options. Therefore, opt for a port of call that not only enables you to sample the local cuisine, but also has a chain restaurant or familiar foods that children will be sure to eat.
  • Think outside the hotel box. When vacation deals pop up on your Internet search engines, it can be easy to think these plans are the only ones out there. However, with a little more research and work, families can often custom tailor a vacation that is memorable. For example, many local property owners sublet their condominiums or vacation houses to others throughout the year. Instead of booking a hotel in a resort, you may be able to rent a house or condo for a week so you will have more room to stretch out — something that is advantageous with an entire family in tow — and a kitchen to make a few meals “at home.” This saves on expenses and arguments over when and where to dine out.
  • ¬†Plan activities around your youngest traveler. While you may want to scale mountains or dive the depths of the ocean, having a young child in tow may hamper some of these intense plans. That isn’t to say you cannot try things outside of the comfort zone. While you may not be able to scuba dive, you may be able to snorkel with a toddler coasting along on an inflatable raft. Or, you may need to bring a child carrier along for a challenging hike. Cater to your “weakest link” so you are not left with high expectations and cranky kids.
  • Schedule some down time to just enjoy your surroundings. The vacation cannot be all about a strict itinerary. With children along for the experience, they’ll appreciate some moments to just venture and explore or engage in some imaginative play. Don’t feel the need to over-schedule every minute of the vacation. Otherwise you may leave feeling more spent than relaxed.
  • Don’t cut too many corners. A couple traveling may be able to make due with the bare minimum, but the entire family traveling together will benefit from some creature comforts. It could be wise to fly to your destination rather than enduring 12 hours of the dreaded “Are we there yet?” chant. Find a hotel that will offer some of the kids’ favorite cable channels, so they can catch up on cartoons while parents are sleeping in. Opt for the two-room suite rather than the efficiency if you can afford it, so that everyone will have more elbow room. Splurge on that goofy $20 photo that shows the entire clan mouths agape while riding down the log flume. Create memories that you will want to recall for all of the good reasons instead of the poor ones.
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