The purpose of a vacation is usually to get away, put your feet up, do things you don’t normally get to do, and—simply put—relax. However, when you’re a parent, the definition of a vacation may change radically from what it was before you had kids. Instead of long days filled with sleeping in, drinking margaritas and lying in a hammock, your holidays will probably consist largely of keeping the kids entertained, be it through visits to zoos, water parks, museums geared toward children or just to grandma’s house.
Deciding at what age your child is ready to enjoy the benefits of travel depends on many developmental factors that can vary widely from one young person to the next. Some kids may be mature enough to enjoy a more grown-up vacation outside the hallowed walls of Disney World at a fairly young age, but others may need to wait a few more years before such a trip appeals. If your child is at a level where she responds well to stimulation on the level of, say, a local zoo, odds are good that a vacation would provide equal or even more excitement and great bonding time for the family.
While it used to be difficult to scope out the perfect vacation spot to cater to the needs of children of all ages, more and more destinations are going family-friendly, making vacation planning easier for parents everywhere. Choose a desired destination and look into every possible child- or family-focused activity suitable for your little one’s age group. By making preparations and charting out a plan for the trip in advance, you’ll hopefully sidestep the bored whinings of under-stimulated children. To help, here are a few family vacation destinations and activities that jet-setters of any age will enjoy.
Visit the Windy City and you’ll experience firsthand the incredible number of attractions that speak to both adults and children. A must-see and potential highlight of your trip is the Lincoln Park Zoo. The park is open 365 days a year and will offer little opportunity to decimate your vacation budget as it’s completely free. The location is very close to many options for downtown Chicago hotels as it rests in the heart of the city center. Kids and adults alike will marvel at the wonder of viewing wildlife among a sea of skyscrapers. It’s probably best to set aside at least a half-day of your vacation to exploring this attraction.
New England offers a wide variety of vacation experiences for families. Hampton Beach, N.H., is a particularly beautiful spot with many offerings to keep both children and adults engaged. This beach and boardwalk includes attractions like water sports, music, shops, a vast array of arcades, food stands and even an annual children’s fair. The three-mile boardwalk alone contains enough entertainment to hold an entire family’s attention throughout a typical week-long vacation and is a suitable destination for any age.
Just like the size of the state, the list of child-friendly destinations in Texas is huge. If you make a pilgrimage to Galveston Island, you’ll want to set your sights on Schlitterbahn Waterpark. You can file your visit to this indoor and outdoor water park under “fun for the kids,” but odds are good you’ll be enjoying your time there just as much. Highlights include the F-5 Twin Twisters, a pair of 310-foot curving slides that wind over and under one another; the Boogie Bahn, a man-made perpetual surfing experience; and Kristal River, which swimmers can float down at a leisurely pace on inflatable tubes. The weather won’t be a factor because the Wasserfest area of the park can be converted from outdoor to indoor and features a dozen heated attractions. A day at Schlitterbahn would be a good choice for children old enough to swim alone safely.
There are a multitude of factors to consider when choosing a family vacation destination, including the ages of the children, travel time, mode of transportation, cost and level of entertainment. However, with a little research and planning, the stress of taking on a family trip can be replaced with excitement and anticipation of specific activities that will add up to a fun getaway for travelers of all ages.
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