Jen Miner of The Vacation Gals snorkeling with her family in Maui
Have you entered your best tip(s) for traveling with kids in our A-to-Z Family Travel Contest yet? Don't miss it: The prize is a $16,000 family vacation in the Caribbean.
We've been sharing some of the more notable contest entries here as they come in, and a few peripatetic parents have gone so far as to submit complete A-to-Z lists--yes, one tip for every letter of the alphabet. Today our featured entry comes from The Vacation Gals--a.k.a. Kara Williams, Jen Miner, and Beth Blair--who hit the road with their kids (ages 5 through 12) every chance they get. Their essentials:
A is for All-inclusive Resorts--an easy, hassle-free family vacation. Pay one fee up front and your hotel accommodations, meals, and many activities are all arranged. Most have complimentary kids' clubs, where children are entertained with arts and crafts and beach games (yay for Mom and Dad free time). Buffets are prevalent--great for picky palates. For most all-inclusive vacations you'll need a passport: dozens of oceanfront all-inclusive properties are found in Mexico and the Caribbean, but also consider Tyler Place Resort in Vermont and Club Med Sandpiper in Florida.
B is for BestFamilyTravelAdvice.com. This site is chock full of good tips for traveling with kids. The Q&A format delivers quick, specific answers; contributors include some of the best family-travel bloggers on the web--all parents who are eager to share their wealth of tips with other traveling families.
C is for Crocs. These easy slip-on/slip-off rubber shoes make it convenient to get through security quickly; many kids love collecting Jibbitz to decorate their colorful sandals.
D is for Dude Ranches. This is another incredibly fun vacation option for families. Even if you're not huge into horses, guest ranches offer so many different kinds of activities--archery, hiking, fishing, swimming.... Week-long stays are often encouraged, so you can have plenty of time to fall into the easy pace of ranch life, plus you'll get to know other guests--many families form lifelong friendships after dude ranching together for a week. Fresh air, plenty of nature, hearty food...kids will love the freedom they find on an outdoor playground at a western dude ranch.
E is for Eating Local. Introducing the family to local foods and drinks is the ultimate way to experience a new destination. Save the chain restaurants for home.
F is for Flying in the morning. Early flights means planes are likely running on time without delays or frustrating cancellations--always helpful for keeping children (heck, the whole family) happy and on schedule.
G is for Go with the flow. It's a lesson kids learn at an early age if you start traveling with them when they're young. Plane delayed and we'll miss the connection? Okay, let's go to Plan B. Restaurant is closed? No problem, we've got a back-up. Dad read the map wrong and we're lost? That's okay... look, that's a toy store over there! Mom forgot to pack the beloved blankie... yeah you're in deep doo-doo with that one. Mastering "go with the flow" only goes so far...
H is for Historic landmarks. Introducing our children to the events and people of the past during travel helps kids make a personal connection to what they're learning back home in the classroom. Taking time to see the Liberty Bell, the Parthenon, Maya ruins or even not-so-famous landmarks can make a lasting impression.
I is for Ice cream. Just do it on vacation. A lot.
J is for JetBlue. Kara's kids always ask, "Are we flying JetBlue?" whenever she announces a family trip. They got hooked on the individual television sets on the back of the seats on a flight from Denver to NYC, and if they only flew JetBlue for the rest of their lives, they'd be happy flyers.
K is for Klutz activity books. This brilliant, upbeat, irreverent publishing company produces the best travel activity books for school-age children. Books like Kids Travel: A Backseat Survival Kit and TRIPtivities are chock full of games, puzzles, mazes, dot-to-dots, crafts, jokes and coloring pages. Nothing like some engaging, age-appropriate activities to keep the "are we there yet" complaints at bay!
L is for Luggage scale so you don't go over the baggage weight limits when your suitcase is bursting with souvenirs that the kiddos just had to buy with their own allowance.
M is for Multi-generational trips. Traveling with grandma is the best: built-in babysitter! Not to mention, you're creating lifelong memories across generations.
N is for Natural wonders. Getting up close and personal with our world's most spectacular natural sights embeds a sense of appreciation for our beautiful earth. In the United States start with the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, or Redwood National Forest. We believe exposure to the U.S. National Park System is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children. (Pictured is Kara Williams of The Vacation Gals with her kids at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Moab, Utah.)