Here’s how to pick the perfect destination for your family.
We all know that travelling with children can sometimes be a source of stress — rather than an escape from it. But picking the right destination for your family is the solution.
National Geographic Traveler Contributing Editor and Travel Columnist at the Globe and Mail, Heather Greenwood Davis stopped by The Social to save the day (and your summer). She shares her favourite spots that are perfect for a stress-free family getaway.
ADVENTURE AND RELAXATION LOVERS
If you’ve got a family that loves adventure, they’re going to love Alberta and British Columbia. All those mountains to climb and waterways to paddle will keep everyone active and on the move. Combining your flight with travel on The Rocky Mountaineer is the perfect way to mix adventure and downtime while also exploring a bit of the beauty in both provinces.
Start with your stay in Banff, Alberta at the Rimrock Resort Hotel. While the adventurers can opt to explore the Columbia Icefields, you can board the Banff Gondola for a ride up Sulphur Mountain. Or you could just stay at the hotel—your gorgeous room is located in a hotel that is set in Banff National Park. The Rocky Mountain views, dining at the on-site AAA – 5-diamond award winning Eden restaurant or sipping at the perfectly named “Divas” bar are all perfectly legitimate options!
Hop on the train and tempt your companions with even more incredible views from your glass-domed coach with oversized windows as you take the two-day journey to Vancouver, all the while being pampered with regionally inspired meals along the way. By the time you arrive in Vancouver, the adventurers will be chomping at the bit to get out there again. Your super-movers can do the Grouse Grind, walk the Capilano Suspension Bridge or pedal around Granville Market, while those of us who prefer our adventures less adventurous can partake in spa activities and chill out at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.
A lot of places now offer educational opportunities that are so cool that kids don’t even realize they’re essentially back in school. One of the programs that really impressed me was at the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman. Their Ambassadors of the Environment program was created in partnership with famed ocean explorer and environmentalist Jean-Michel Cousteau! What I love about the program is that it offers excursions for adults, families and children (four and older) led by expert naturalists. You can choose whether to join the kids in the learning or have them out exploring while you indulge in some hammock mastery. It’s not all in the water either. Programs range from a photo class my son did a few years ago to kayaking through the mangrove forest.
And if your kids are more “budding chef” than “marine explorer,” the new “Ambassadors in the Kitchen” program for kids (ages 4-9) gives kids a day behind the scenes at the Ritz as a culinary master. There is an $85 fee for the program but culinary kids will go gaga for the chance to make their own chef’s hat and apron before visiting the kitchen at Andiamo for a hands-on learning experience and epicurean adventure. Young Ambassadors are also invited to visit the Ritz’s organic garden to source ingredients to prepare with their local cuisine.
I’ve yet to meet a family that didn’t love their travels to Italy. I think the temptation with Italy is always to run directly to the countryside, but you’re really missing out if you don’t take some time to see the cities. Families are welcome throughout the country and you’ll find that even in big cities like Milan, Rome and Florence, there is plenty to do to keep everyone happy. The toughest part is getting around to all of these places without anyone to help. Our family tried it with an 11-month-old and 3-year-old and it was a very memorable disaster that took a few years to laugh at.
I recommend booking a group vacation for a trip like this. Air Canada Vacations offers a great family fun excursion that takes you to Milan, Rome, Florence and Venice over 11 days. No worrying about how you’re going to get from place to place or whether you booked that great Gladiator school class in Rome, because they’ve got you covered. Plus, each night you’ll be in a 1 or 2-bedroom apartment instead of a hotel, so that little things, like figuring out how to warm some milk for the toddler, are a no-brainer.
VACATION SPOTS FOR YOUR TEEN
I can’t guarantee happiness. I mean, they are teenagers, but we can at least set the stage for happiness. And if you’re a teen, you can find it in Vegas! Turns out that not everything that happens in Vegas has to be a secret. Even sin city can be tamed to make it fun for older teens.
Book into the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino and you’ll get beautiful, spacious rooms plus, they won’t have to stray far from the hotel room for a vacation to remember. The pool scene in Las Vegas is hot. And with four refreshing swimming pools, three whirlpools, cascading waterfalls and a quarter-mile long lazy river (not to mention daybeds and loungers) the MGM Grand’s pool complex is among the best of them.
The on-strip location might be something parents with younger kids would reconsider but for older teens, great shows like the Jabbawockeez, top notch eateries and of course all that neon will be a draw. The Linq Promenade offers shops and fun eats along with the High Roller – a 550-foot observation wheel that is the tallest in the world. And, don’t miss the chance to take photos in front of the Bellagio fountains or the Vegas sign. The key here is to have plenty of ideas and follow their interest leads.
VACATION SPOTS FOR FAMILIES WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
A property that’s making great strides is one I visited recently with my own family for the fourth time: Beaches Turks and Caicos. Now, if you haven’t been to Turks and Caicos you’re in for a real treat. The water is crystal clear and the beaches feel like powder.
But Beaches Turks and Caicos raises that to a whole other level. One example: Their 6-star diamond award-winning Italian village. Air Canada Vacations guests can book an Italian Beachfront Two Bedroom Walkout Butler Family Suite that can sleep 12 and opens directly on to the beach. Butler service is included in the suite and they can help with everything from drawing a bath to setting you up poolside. And Beaches has a partnership with Sesame Street so everything from the kids’ club offerings to the tuck-in service has the possibility of a run-in with their favourite characters.
But add to all this the fact that Beaches is an Autism-certified property which means that they’ve completed rigorous competency training and testing by an international certification body and offer everything from accessible rooms to one on one special services buddies. It’s the kind of place that allows Special Needs parents some peace of mind and the vacation they deserve.
VACATION SPOTS FOR EVERYONE
At the Royalton St. Lucia Resort and Spa your budget gets a break because it’s an all-inclusive. No reaching for your wallet every time they want another ice cream. No one worrying over spilled drinks or how to fill days.
Stay in one of the luxurious junior suites sprawled across the lush resort grounds, or upgrade to Diamond Club™ service for ultimate pampering. Little ones will have a supervised kids club and an interactive Kids’ Adventures program; teens can head to the Hangout Teens Club to play video games, ping pong, or pool. Meanwhile you can hang at the Royal Spa and everyone can meet up at one of the nine on-site gourmet restaurants for dinner. Win, win, win, win. lifetravel