Vacations with the Kids!

Vacations with the Kids! -

Take the Family to a Dude Ranch

Here’s an idea a little different for you for spring break (my posting this does not in any way guarantee there is room at these places for spring break!): take the family to a dude ranch.

Almost all kids love being around horses and farm animals of all kinds, so spending the week, or even just a few days, at a ranch will be a vacation filled with memories that will last. There are many dude ranches in operation; here are just a few that have been rated very well:

Rancho de los Caballeros – Wickenburg, Arizona

From http://www.ranchodeloscaballeros.com/az-horseback-riding.htm

From http://www.ranchodeloscaballeros.com/az-horseback-riding.htm

The dude ranch experience isn’t all about riding horses. At the Rancho de los Caballeros on the Sonoro Desert, there is swimming and tennis, evening entertainment, jeep and ATV tours, and so much more. A brief breakdown of activities by age group:

  • Adults: riding for all experience levels, penning, trap and skeet shooting available for those 12 and up, golfing, use of the spa, fine dining (which can be done without the kids)
  • Kids: trail rides for those 8 and up with a modified activity for younger riders, swimming, tennis lessons, scavengers hunts, crafts, games and marshmallow roasts. (Babysitting can be available for children too young to participate.)

Different packages and suite-types are available.

Majestic Dude Ranch – Mancos, Colorado

majesticranch

From http://www.majesticduderanch.com/about/photo-gallery.html

Located in the Rocky Mountains, this dude ranch not only gives you the typical ranch experience, but adds on activities such as whitewater rafting, fly-fishing, mountain hiking and rodeos surrounded with mountain scenery.

For the kids, there are different programs available according to age, with activities such as gold panning, hay rides, horseback riding, ping pong, sports, archery, kayaking, swimming and a petting zoo. Babysitting is available for children 3 and under.

Rancho las Cascadas – Mexican Highlands (near Mexico City), Mexico

 

From http://rancholascascadas.com/site/activities.html

From http://rancholascascadas.com/site/activities.html

Going to a ranch in Mexico would give the family something different than just the beach experience there! You can still get the cultural tours and an authentic Mexican experience that help you get to know the history of the area, on top of the horseback riding, but there are other activities like yoga sessions, zip lining, bird watching, walks along waterfalls, excursions to the butterfly sanctuary and more.

This one does not have the kids’ programs the ones above have, but their goal is to include the kids all the time and to truly make it a family experience. Children who are too young to be on a horse by themselves can be on a special saddle with a wrangler. Kids get to see how the horses are cared for and even get to help feed and brush them. At the moment, they also state on their website that kids 14 and under are 50% off.

If the idea of taking the kids to a dude ranch interests you, but you’d like to know more about what’s available, check out some of the books available on Amazon.com:


100 Best Ranch Vacations in North America, 2nd: The Top Guest and Resort Ranches with Activities for All Ages (100 Best Series)


Ranch Vacations (Ranchweb)

Save on Family Getaways with OneTravel! Discounts up to $15** with Promo Code FAMILY. Book Now!

Pre-Spring Break Mini-Vacation

I have shared before about the Great Wolf Lodge and while looking at ideas for spring break vacations with the kids, I discovered a Groupon deal for it that you will need to take buy within the next 11 days–and will have to actually use it up by the first week of March.

greatwolfGrandMound

Check out this link to see all the deals going on at 11 locations in the United States and Canada. Some amazing prices for family suites suitable for a family of 6, all with water parks you know the kids, at least, will have fun at!

 

It’s Time to Start Thinking About Spring Break Vacations

It’s already well into January of the new year; spring break is going to be just around the corner.

While it is definitely possible to plan and book something last-minute, spring break is a very popular time for travel and, to be honest, so popular that there are places and flights that will already be fully booked!

I will do some searching this week for some great family vacation locations and potential deals, but in the meantime, I thought I would tell you about the Hotels.com Welcome Rewards program. You can get some fantastic deals on so many places at Hotel.com, but they also have a rewards program where you get one night free for every 10 nights booked through them.

December Deals for the Family

The Sandals and Beaches Resorts are running sales during the month of December that you ought to check out if you are looking to get away with the kids to a family-friendly, all-inclusive resort. Get up to 65% off if you book by December 20, 2013! It is the Beaches resorts that you will want to specifically look at. You can pick from the following destinations:

  • Beaches Negril Resort and Spa, Jamaica
    bng-010 Beaches Negril was voted the #1 family hotel in the Caribbean on Tripadvisor. This is the place to go if you are looking for a laid-back environment or want to enjoy the 7-mile beach, one of the best in the world.
  • Turks and Taicos
    btc-005             Italian Village Poolbtc-639
    Turks and Taicos resort has a teen ‘disco’ area, the Caribbean’s largest waterpark, a 12-mile beach, Sesame Street Characters, an Xbox 360 Game Garage and so much more.
  • Ocho Rios Resort and Golf Club, Jamaica
    bbo-000
    Typically the “golf” feature available at resorts is for parents, but this one has a kids’ golf program, too, not to mention it is unlimited golf for the entire family. Large suites, a private beach, availability of horseback riding, lots of watersports and so much more make this a great choice.

Why pick a Beaches resort? Designed with families in mind, each resort has things designed for babies, toddlers, kids, tweens and teens, kiddie pools, waterpark… They also include free scuba programs for everybody 8 and up! A very nice feature is that so often, places consider kids to be only 12 and under–Beaches resorts count children as being under 15.

 

Great Deals for New York City

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York was on TV the other night.. It has inspired me to see what sort of deals might be on for a family vacation. And it so happens, I have one for you:

*The New Yorker Hotel – This Groupon deal gives you the Metro Room (the minimum room you would need to go with the kids) at $144 per night–compare this to the prices I was given when playing around with dates in 2014: a minimum of $190 per night! The New Yorker doesn’t have all the kid-friendly amenities and whatnot that I usually like to share, but, let’s face it, you’ll be in New York to see the sights, not hang out in a hotel! This hotel has over and over great reviews about the friendly service and the cleanliness of the rooms, not to mention its central location making shopping and sightseeing easy. Please make sure to read the Fine Print and Details about this offer–when it expires, applicable to which travel dates, the occupancy maximum of the rooms, etc.

 

*The The New York Pass–Admission to 70 of New York City’s top attractions: Not on sale right now, but always a deal! If you are going to New York, this pass will save you a ton of money.
One Card. One Price. Endless Fun!

 

You can read more about what I recommend seeing in New York City by reading this post.

Christmas Vacations in Mexico with the Kids

Christmas is coming and here in North America, at least this part of Canada, we are covered in snow and already dreaming of fine, warm, sunny weather. What better time to get away with the kids than during their Christmas holiday?

Cancun, Mexico: I’ve known a couple of families to enjoy vacations in Cancun and think it would be a fantastic place for a Christmas (or winter) getaway. Over and over online I have read comments about how great a place it is for families to go, whether you are heading there with toddlers or teens. The locals are friendly, the beaches amazing and Mayan ruins and more nearby. A few family-friendly hotels/resorts to check out are:

  • Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach Cancun: Kids club, excursions to different Mayan sites, Coral Beach marina where you can jetski, snorkel, parasail and more, golfing nearby for the golfer in the family, and an absolutely amazing pool are just some of the features of this well-rated resort.
    fiestaamericana
  • Riu Palace Las Americas: Another highly rated resort suitable for families. Like the Fiesta, activities for kids, excursions to historical sites. It is all-inclusive, which makes things that much simpler for you. There is also the Riu Cancun which is more centrally located on a white sandy beach.
    riupalacelasamericas

You can find ratings and often some great deals at CheapCaribbean.com. Right now, they are having Mad About Mexico! with some great deals on the above locations as well as others sutiable for the whole family or check out their Family Friendly Vacation Sale 

Just south of Cancun is the area known as Riviera Maya, another popular Mexican destination. I have heard nothing but fantastic reviews from friends and family who have been. Suitable for all ages, it might just be the place for your family! Here are a couple of suggestions of family-friendly resorts:

  • Paradisus Playa del Carmen, La Esmeralda: CheapCaribbean.com gave this place 5 stars. Kids 12 and under stay and eat FREE, there is the Family Concierge program, child-sized amenities, beautiful location, all-inclusive, and a TripAdvisor winner this year. Do I need to say more?
    paradisusplaya
  • Dreams Tulum Resort and Spa: For a lower price than the Paradisus, you can still find yourself in a luxury resort very suitable for the family. In addition to the typical amenities, it has the Explorer Club for kids aged 3-12 where they can do some wall/rock climbing, play basketball, hang out in a playground, participate in sand castle contests, treasure hunts and more under staff supervision.

 Be sure to check both CheapCaribbean.com and Hotels.com to see what sort of deals may be available!


Getaway to Niagara Falls (Yes, with the kids!)

Niagara Falls was, when I was growing up, the place pushed as the romance capital of Canada, especially the place to go on your honeymoon. Well, those days are long gone.

If you are looking for a short getaway or a longer vacation, it truly is a great place to take your kids. Who isn’t enthralled by seeing the falls? If that’s not enough, there are plenty of attractions suitable for the whole family. Here are just a few:

Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory – This attraction has over 2000 butterflies just fluttering around among the plants (how could this not delight, especially young children?). A pathway takes you through the tropical environment which even includes a waterfall.

Journey Behind the Falls – This has been described by visitors as a “must see”! You get to go right in behind the falls on different observation decks and through different tunnels. Even people who felt it was a little on the expensive side still felt it was a very worthwhile experience.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum – If you want to check out a museum of interesting (and crazy!) things, then this is it. The reviews for this museum are much better than for the Guinness Records Museum, also on Clifton Hill.

Other attractions on Clifton Hill: There are a lot of carnival-style attractions on Clifton Hill, from a Fun House to a Mystery Maze and more. Warning: Reviews for most of the attractions are very much a mixed bag. Comments range from boring, not well kept up to the common theme of overpriced. There are also reviews about it being overpriced but still a whole lot of fun and kids wanting to do things again. And more than one review of parents not liking the Fun House but the kids having a blast!

In addition to the falls and the above attractions, there is also Marineland. This attraction is closed for the winter but will be reopening in May, 2014 if you are thinking ahead. There are rides and all kinds of tanks with various marine life to check out.

If you are looking for a quick getaway between now and the end of January 2014, have a look at this great deal from Groupon where up to 3 kids can stay free:

Hilton Hotel and Suites Niagara Falls/Fallsview

1-Night Stay with Dining Credits and Winery Tours at Hilton Hotel and Suites Niagara Falls/Fallsview in Ontario

 

So Many Things to Consider!

For the past good while, there has not been a whole lot of decisions to make when it came to our family vacations. Family get-together vacations already had location and activities pretty much decided. Week-long camping turned out fairly easy to arrange. Our planning for our trip to Hawaii with our two kids is turning out to be a huge project!

We first thought we would just go to Maui. But then there were all these wonderful things on other islands, especially on the Big Island. So, we thought we would go to the Big Island. As I explored things more, I discovered that the Big Island has amazing prices on home and condo rentals in addition to the various activities, but I really wanted to experience the gorgeous Maui beaches again. But Kauai looked good, too. See where I’m going with this? Round and round and round.

My husband’s brother’s family (with kids aged 9, 11 and almost 13) is trying to see if they can join us which does, in some respects, make things more complicated as we try to find a place that can accommodate 9 people comfortably. At the same time, we don’t know for sure that they will be joining us just yet.

In any case, I see a lot of research in my future and will be sharing it here. Ways to find accommodations, activities to consider, cost comparison between islands, travel between islands, things like that. Oh, and car rentals. I think we’ve rented a car once before, that’s it, and it was some years ago in Minnesota. As I found what looked to be some amazing deals in Hawaii for car rentals, I ended up discovering that after they add on all kinds of fees, what looks like it will be $150 for the week turns out to be $230!

So, come back to see what I find and know I won’t only be posting about Hawaii over the next while!

Canadian Summer Getaway

Having just been in Jasper with my family, I have no choice but to praise it as a worthy place to go on a family vacation!

Jasper is a lovely town in the Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It’s a small place–you can easily walk from one end of town and back and it won’t take you all day. There are only about 5000 people during the winter, but the population goes up to about 20000 during the summer, it’s that great of a place to visit.

Jasper is very much the kind of place to visit if you want to enjoy the beautiful outdoors. You have mountains all around, you have a very good shot at seeing wildlife like elk and if you visit nearby areas, mountain sheep along the sides of the highway–or on the highway.

Big Horn Sheep on road

There are various lakes to visit giving families the option of hanging out on a beach or doing things like renting a canoe. There are trails galore everywhere and even places in town where you can pay for guided tours or rent bicycles. The tramway up on Whistlers Mountain is a great experience providing amazing views.

For the more adventurous, you can do whitewater rafting (yes, there are levels suitable for bringing children) or hike up the mountain from the tramway restaurant, providing even more amazing views.

Whistlers

View from near the top of Whistlers

Jasper is a national park and has a lot in place to protect wildlife there, both plants and animals. This has left a great deal of the area untouched and gorgeous.

There are some indoor activities, too, like the local recreation centre, a museum, and all kinds of shops to visit with every souvenir you could possibly imagine.

For family accommodations, you have a few options:

*camping: there are some campgrounds very close to the city which can provide an inexpensive place to sleep while you spend your day out and about.

*cabin rentals: there are cabins you can rent near the town, even small ones for not too much money.  These cabins tend to be resort-style, so you are surrounded by all kinds of similar cabins in a small area.

*hotels: there are various hotels, from well-known ones such as Best Western to small locally created ones. The Best Western and the Sawridge would be my recommendations for a family seeking a hotel to stay in. If you go with the Best Western, check out the rooms with a loft: there is a bed upstairs in the loft and a hide-a-bed downstairs that a couple of kids could share.

Jasper is a fantastic place to go with the whole family. There is so much you can see and do with the kids! Families even hike up the mountain with little ones (they go more slowly is all)! It is a gorgeous place with visitors from all around the world and not to be missed.

 

If You’re Going to the Big Island, You Need This Book!

I have stumbled across an amazing book that really is a must for anybody planning on going to The Big Island:


Hawaii The Big Island Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook

The authors have covered everything they could find, do and see on the island, tell you everything you need to know about it, their honest reviews, information on all the beaches and ocean safety… It really is the ultimate guidebook! Out of 313 reviews on Amazon.com, 259 have given this book a 5-star rating. That’s 83% of people. Another 33 people gave it 4 stars, which might not seem like much, but the other ratings combined don’t total to 33 stars!

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