Family Vacation Ideas

Parent Q&A

Vacation for a week after Christmas Nov 10, 2019 (7 responses below)
Fun international vacation ideas for a 7 year old? Oct 17, 2019 (8 responses below)
Open Ended Family Vacation Suggestions? Dec 27, 2018 (3 responses below)
Road trip winter break with small kids Oct 19, 2018 (3 responses below)
Vacation destination within a half-day's drive Jun 10, 2018 (7 responses below)
Month-long vacation with young babies - where to go? Aug 18, 2017 (8 responses below)
Week-long vacation with the grandparents with swimming? Jun 3, 2017 (3 responses below)
Nearby vacation communities where families go for generations May 26, 2017 (7 responses below)
Where to Go for a week with Toddlers in early Apr? Jan 22, 2017 (9 responses below)
First real vacation with kids - where to go? Oct 6, 2016 (13 responses below)
  • Vacation for a week after Christmas

    (7 replies)

    Some good friends of ours asked if we wanted to go on vacation with them for a week after Christmas. There will be 4 adults and 7 kids ages 7-15. We probably want somewhere warm with things to do. Probably better at this late date to go within a (long) day's drive than a flight. Ideas about where to go? We've been kicking around San Diego (Wild Animal Park, zoo, tide pooling) and Las Vegas (shows, good pools, maybe a (long) day trip to the Grand Canyon). Ideas about where to go and where to stay?

    I have heard that Death Valley is nice, especially that time of year. 

    If you end up going to Vegas, take your day trip to Zion National Park instead of to the Grand Canyon. Zion is absolutely gorgeous and there are a lot of beautiful hikes (e.g., Emerald Pools, the Narrows if it's safe, Angel's Landing if you want more of a challenge, and the West Rim if you really want to push it) that are accessible from the road. My experience with the Grand Canyon is that there's very little to do there if you don't actually go down into the canyon (an extremely arduous hike). Basically you park the car, look into the canyon, comment on how grand it is, and then go have an overpriced, fairly crappy lunch. I've been to the north rim (Jacob's Lake) a few times and was happy to see it but bored quickly. Maybe the south rim is more fun but I kind of doubt it. Zion, on the other hand, is gorgeous and accessible. Springdale has become a pretty trendy town and there's shopping and restaurants once you're done with the park. It's about a 3 hour drive from Vegas to Zion but so worth it. If you're really lucky it will have snowed. I've never seen a more beautiful sight than the red rock walls of Zion with snow piled on the ledges.

    Those are both long drives, but between the two I would absolutely pick San Diego over Las Vegas. It's beautiful, it has a variety of activities to suit all interests and age groups, and proximity to other interesting destinations. There are neighborhoods with Airbnb options in San Diego where the older kids could walk around on their own (South Park, Little Italy, North Park etc) and you'd have easy to access to the gardens, zoo, and museums in Balboa Park plus a good location to drive to beaches in Coronado, La Jolla, and Pt Loma (my favorite tidepooling is at Pt Cabrillo if the tide charts are in your favor) plus you have the Safari Park (newish name for Wild Animal Park), Julian, Anza Borrego Desert and Tijuana as possible day trips.  If you wanted a day or two of resort experience, the greater San Diego area has plenty of options for that (Loews in Coronado, Paradise Point in Mission Bay etc). Las Vegas in December could be quite cold, which would make the pools undesirable, and I wouldn't feel as uncomfortable with kids on their own. Las Vegas has fun, but you need to pay for all of it, and it can be overwhelming for kids. That said, I know some people LOVE it. But I wouldn't choose that for a group vacation unless I knew for sure it was everyone's cup of tea.

  • Hello! I am considering taking my 7 year old-who loves reading/books, animals, art, shopping, and dancing-on a weeklong vacation abroad. What are some fun vacation spots that you would recommend? Any survival tips and specific lodging and tour recommendations would be appreciated! 

    I went to a conference in Paris years ago and stayed with my PhD supervisor who had 7-year-old twins. In exchange for staying with her family I babysat the twins for two days - and it was a blast. We took the metro and explored the city, tasting ice cream and crepes and macroons, had a picnic under the Eiffel Tower, ran around the Jardin du Luxembourg (where they pushed wooden boats around a big pond and played in a huge playground), took a river boat tour, and climbed up to the Sacre Coeur to check out the views. I spent about 7 years living in Europe (in Ireland) and have travelled in Europe quite a bit - but Paris with kids was very memorable. It was easy and enjoyable, not exactly 'off the beaten track', but that made it a bit more relaxing for me (I spent two summers traveling through Turkey, Greece, Hungary, Bulgaria, Croatia, The Czech Republic, Romania - lots of beautiful places but communication was more complicated, I spent time lost or trying to figure out transportation and feeling overwhelmed, and the roads were hectic! I spent one night on the roof of a guesthouse because I took the last ferry to an island where the hostel had given my room away and literally everything was booked up. Memorable experiences, gorgeous locations - but I'd be stressed with a kid on these adventures). Also the family rented a car after and spent a few days in Brittany (Saint-Malo I think, about 4 hours away), and I have heard good things. 

    My aunt just took her 10 year old grandson to Germany last year and they went to Christmas markets - which sounded like a very wonderful winter trip! 

    Enjoy your trip and 

    We had a great time in Stockholm when our daughter was that age. There's the Astrid Lundgren (Pippi Longstocking) museum ( https://www.junibacken.se/en/  ). Skansen, is an open-air museum with miniature buildings and also a zoo. Also, pretty much everywhere you go has part set up for children with places to play. Even the parks have equipment like stilts children can check out. We were there in the summer, I'm not sure how it would be other times of year.

    Second the Stockholm recommendation.  Your 7 year old will love it!  We took our kids when they were 1.5 and 2.5 so a little too young but we loved Junibaken, the Vasa Museum, Skansen (animals here), the Nobel Prize museum and the ABBA Museum.  There's a playground around every corner with lots of cool things like in-ground trampolines, ziplines and large slides.  We had a blast and it's an amazing city!

    Ireland is also amazing and you could do the Dublin Zoo, Natural History Museum and drive to Fota Wildlife Park where they have lemurs and wallabies roaming the grounds.  Then you could drive cross country to the west (about 3 hours) to see some beautiful landscapes - I would recommend the Cliffs of Moher, the Aran Islands (take a ferry for a day trip) and Ailwee Caves and Birds of Prey Center. They have lots of fun department stores - I would recommend Dundrum Shopping Center where there are several department stores, a great bookstore and a bunch of stores that carry children's clothing (Next, Zara, Monsoon, etc.) and I would also highly recommend the Avoca Handweavers store - they sell beautiful handmade items.  And the food there is delicious.  

  • Baby #2 is coming in June.  My  husband and I are overlapping our maternity and paternity leaves at the end and would like to take a vacation with our daughter (age 3.5 at the time) and infant (3 months or so) in September.  Our thinking is that if we having to be feeding the baby every three hours, we may as well do it someplace warm where we can swim and relax in between.  Likely to bring a set of grandparents with us.  We will be flying out of SFO.  Europe is too far for us.  Any other suggestions of great places for a 3.5 year old and a baby in late September?  Many thanks!

    I would go to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico.  We went to Puerto Vallarta with our then 2 and 6 year olds and it was fabulous - no having to figure out meals/restaurants as they were all on site and almost always open, pool right there (find one with a large shallow area), ocean right there, beautiful, warm, lots of different room/suite options, nightly entertainment that turned out not to be awful.  Flight is only 4-5 hours.  I thought I would hate all-inclusive but we went to the Melia, which was mostly Mexican nationals on vacation along with a smattering of people from other countries (very few Americans), and it was simply awesome.

    I would highly recommend Chatham, MA in Cape Cod. When our kids were younger we rented houses there several summers. It was an easy place to go with young children. The beaches are nice, and there is no rough surf, so you don’t have to worry about waves crashing down on toddlers. The kids would play for hours on the beach, and then we would head home and have a relaxing evening. You pay more for a house near the beach and within walking distance to Main Street, which were worth it to us. It depends on what you want. The rates drop after Labor Day. September would probably be a great time to go. Good luck.

    We did something similar (our oldest was only 2 at the time though) and considered East Coast (Maine, Outer Banks), Canada, Europe. Ultimately we decided we probably wouldn't actually see much of the place we were visiting so we opted to stay close. We rented a beautiful house in Sonoma for a week. It had a pool, an extra room for friends/parents to stay and visit, and we got to enjoy good food and wine, and amazing weather. Tahoe may be another similar option. We're big travelers so it felt hard to not choose a new and far destination but we ended having the best time with minimal stress. Good luck and enjoy!! 

  • Open Ended Family Vacation Suggestions?

    (3 replies)

    Hello all! I'm pondering our next vacation. What has been your favorite family vacation spot/activity (preferably outside of Northern California, but somewhere in North America)?

    We have a 3 and a 4 year old. We can be adventurous with them though, so it doesn't necessarily have to be an overly-kid-centric destination, although we are open to those ideas too :)  Happy with beaches, or mountains, or... anything that sounds cool & fun!

    Thank you!

    Not sure what time of the year you are going, but we did a road trip through Oregon this past summer and the kids (5&2) loved it. We went to Corvallis, the beach cities, Portland then back down through Bend. Great beaches, hiking, biking, Tillamook cheese factory, river activities. Lots of options in Oregon

    When our kids were that age we really enjoyed spending a week at a family camp in the Sierras. Swimming, hiking, campfires, meals provided, kid independence, low parental stress. Here are some that have been recommended on BPN: https://www.berkeleyparentsnetwork.org/advice/family-camps

    Family camp!! It will instantly become an annual tradition that your kids will love. Try to rope in at least one other family with similar age kids. 

  • Road trip winter break with small kids

    (3 replies)

    HI all, I'm looking for advice for a fun road trip to take with my 1 and 4 year old over winter break.  Requirements:

    -not more than 4-5 hour drive

    -easy with little kids, ie lots of stuff to do and a nice place to stay with maybe an indoor pool and activities, bonus if a suite where kids can sleep separately.

    -either warm beach (unlikely in a 4-5 hour drive) or winter without feeling like a fancy ski resort.

    -wont break the bank

    Send me your thoughts!  

    Off the top of my head, Reno.

    It’s 3-4 hours away and some of the big casino hotels have indoor pools. There are tons of good, cheap restaurants... you don’t have to go near overpriced hotel food. The kiddie arcades are annoying for adults but fun for kids.

    You can get kids in the snow without having. To ski near Mt. Rose.

    Bear Valley for a "winter" experience.  It's a very down-to-earth ski resort with a great old lodge that have family suite rooms and a number of low-key dining options on site.  Plenty of snow play options if you don't ski.  Our family loved it when the kids were younger.

    Monterey area. There's an Embassy Suites in Seaside with an indoor pool, a wonderful little kids' museum (MY Museum), and lots of beaches for strolling and playing in the sand. (Obviously not swimming, this is chilly CA!) You could skip the aquarium and still have a great 2-3 day mini-break in the region.

  • Hi parents,

    I’m looking for a peaceful, beautiful, reasonably-priced and family-friendly place to spend an August week within a half-day’s drive from here. We’d like to rent a place with 3 bedrooms within walking distance to a warmish swimming beach and interesting activities within driving distance. I have elderly parents who can’t drive too far away and a couple of sports-obsessed kids who need to get more comfortable in the water. Don’t need any tech bells and whistles as we like to unplug during that time. Would welcome any suggestions. Many thanks!

    Pinecrest, CA.
    Pine Mountain Lake area of Groveland, CA
    Check them out.

    Highly suggest the western Russian River valley in Sonoma County - Guerneville, Monte Rio, that area.  The western part of the county is much cheaper than eastern (e.g., town of Sonoma, Kenwood etc) or even the northern part (Healdsburg).  The towns of Guerneville and Monte Rio are small and funky, with lots of full-time residents so it feels more real than the Disneyesque quality of downtown Healdsburg or Sonoma.  The river is great for swimming, canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, etc, and reasonably priced vacation rentals abound.  Check out www.russianriverrentals.com.  This area is less than 1/2 hour from the Pacific coast (Jenner) in one direction, or wine tasting in the Healdsburg area in the other direction, plus it has Armstrong Woods State Park with old growth redwoods and tons of hiking, lots of small country roads for bicycling, great downtown as well as smaller neighborhood beaches, and a relatively quiet country vibe.  Guerneville is 1.5 hours from either SF or the east bay - it's a somewhat unknown gem.

    Serene Lakes would be a great choice. It’s off 80, just before Truckee. You’d have to rent a house for your family. The lakes are beautiful and quiet - nothing motorized allowed. There’s lots of swimming, biking, sailboating, etc. It’s a good place for multigenerational family time. 

  • My husband and I want to leverage our parental leave to go on a month-long "vacation" with our two year old and infant, and are brainstorming where we could go. We're planning to go in November and want to get a long-term rental in one place, versus traveling to multiple places. Given that we'll have a 3 month old, we don't want to go anywhere too rustic or exotic. We want to opt for a relatively easy experience versus tons of culture. (We've both done a fair amount of traveling ourselves.) We also don't want to deal with inclement weather, so cities in Europe could be limited. Any thoughts or recommendations? I know we're rather limiting in our parameters but I'm hopeful we can find a place we're excited about. Thanks!

    Hawaii!  Get a condo (with kitchen) near somewhere that had tidepools, or a resort with kiddie pool.  Look for places where there are other people with small kids.   Oahu/Honolulu may be kind of crowded and intense.  Look at west side of the Big Island, or Kauai, or Maui.  Have fun!

    Somewhere that is a vacation but has the toddler and baby resources that you need - I'd recommend So Cal, such as Newport Beach or San Diego. New Zealand? Chile?

    Rent a condo at the La Jolla shores. Plenty to entertain in San Diego ( newish children's museum) and a gentle, family friendly beach. 

  • Hi folks,

    I'm looking for suggestions for a place to spend a week or more this mid-August with a family of four and one set of elderly grandparents (probably 3BR 2Ba). I'm hoping for something within several hours' drive of Berkeley where the pace is slow, there is natural beauty, lots to do, an abundance of reasonably-priced vacation rentals,  and finally, a calm, warm-enough-for-swimming beach on a lake or river for shaky swimmers. Is this pie-in-the-sky? So far we have already tried Pinecrest Lake. I'm wondering if the Russian River would be a good choice? We may not be able to commit until July, to further complicate things.

    Thanks in advance for any tips.

    Look to Arnold or Dorrington.  There's the lovely White Pines Lake with a sandy beach and no motor boats.  Most of the homes up there are in HOAs with private lake access or pools.

    The Russian River Valley is perfect!! A bunch of cute towns very close together; about 1.5 hours from Berkeley (without traffic); tons of adorable vacation rentals, many of which are on the river; the coast and coastal towns like Bodega Bay and Jenner only about 20 minutes away; Armstrong Redwood Grove in Guerneville, which is a must-do- so peaceful and beautiful; tons of wineries, many of which are family friendly (we had a great time at Martin Ray recently); and last but not least, the river! Perfect for wading, kayaking, tubing, light swimming. It's truly one of our favorite areas and we recommend it to everyone looking for an easy getaway from the Bay Area. If you go take River Road near the end of the drive for beautiful scenery. Russian River Getaways is a good rental website, along with air bnb. 

    Tahoe! I love Tahoe in the summer.... and there's lots for everyone up there. We are spending a week up there this summer with granparents and I can't wait!

  • Since I'm not a Bay Area native, I'm wondering if there are any vacation communities near here (summer cottages or similar) where families tend to go year after year for generations. I'd like to find a place where my kids can grow up seeing the same kids every summer (and/or winter) throughout their lives. Ideally it'd be less than 6 hours drive from the East Bay and have swimming, sports, etc. I know about the various family camps, but wondering if there are other places with homes available for purchase or rental.

    We used to rent in Catskills in NY from 4th of July till Labor Day, so our oldest had the true summer house friends . When we moved to East Bay we tried to recreate that tradition, but it is not as common here. There is Tahoe, and Tahoe Donner. There is also Pine Mountain Lake, which is a gated community on a man made Lake. People rent there all the time, though not for the whole summer. It is just so expensive and there isn't the same motivation to get the kids out of the city like in NYC. The summers here can be hot, but not unbearable, but the prices for rentals are by the night or by the week. In short, I have not found the same experience as a renter. If you are able to buy your experience might be different. Good luck!

    Check out the western Russian River area, particularly the Summerhome Park neighborhood of Forestville.  That neighborhood, in particular, attracts families that come for the whole summer and have been doing so for generations.  Complete with snack bar, movie amphitheater, and members-only beach, it's definitely a slice of  yester-year.  There are a lot of great areas around the Russian River, not just this neighborhood.  Check out the small towns of Monte Rio and Guerneville, which, along with Forestville, generally comprise the vacation destinations at the river.  For a "resort" area it's remarkably down to earth (not Disney-fied like Napa), yet close to the ocean and wine tasting, so if you choose to buy in the area, you can rent out your house as a vacation rental when not using it, if you want.  It's also only 1.5 hours from the Bay Area, so a really easy commute. 

    Serene Lakes, in Soda Springs - about 15 minutes south of Truckee. 

    During the winter it is fantastic for skiing at Sugar Bowl (and cross country at Royal Gorge), but during the summer it is like a magical trip back to childhood, with a great lake for swimming & kayaking, hiking & biking galore, and a wonderful location. Everything about Serene Lakes is Old School, from the snack bar at the beach, to the quiet of a lake that doesn't allow engines, and families who have owned their homes for generations. Plenty of house rentals in this mountain community, which is our Happy Place.

  • Hello BPNers!  Preschool is out first week of Apr, and we could use advice on where to go with our 4yr old and 2.5yr old.  We have done Hawaii a couple times, though in all honesty I am not sure that the money and efforts are worth it.  We are thinking ideally a place we can drive to, where we have a chance at renting a place with two bedrooms where we'd chill for a week, and ideally with some decent food options, and maybe near some kiddie diversions(beach? park?). We did a trip last Aug to Marina Del Rey and had a townhouse one block from the beach and had a great time.  We could do it again, but are there other places we should consider?  Down the coast - Santa Barbara?  Pismo Beach?  Up wine country?  Could also go into the mountains though not sure about weather or food or two bedrooms.  

    Thank you for your advice!

    Monterey/Pacific Grove (although could be rainy), San Diego (brutal drive) for Legoland, beach, science museums?

    We go to Santa Barbara frequently since we have family there. We always have a good time, but there's not a lot for toddlers there particularly. There's no "signature" playground in San Diego a la Dennis the Menace Park in Monterey.

    I cannot imagine spending a week in Pismo... it is a small town! I think you'd get bored, and it's easily a half hour to SLO for their kids' science center & restaurants.

    Ashland OR is 5 hours, has cute little downtown, nice playgrounds, and kids science museum. Again, for an entire week though, I think you're best off going to someplace that's big with a good sized tourist infrastructure like LA or San Diego. If you edit down your trip to 4 days, you could have a great time in monterey, SB, or Ashland.

    My personal pick would be renting a 2-bd in Pacific Grove for 3-4 nights. One day at MY Museum in Monterey, one day exploring the coastline in PG/Monterey (rent a 4-person surrey bike), *maybe* one day at the aquarium (not my favorite place on earth, always too crowded), and definitely a long visit to Dennis the Menace. Then back home to normal schedules!  :)

    I second Monterey.  We just went there with a 18 month old and loved it.  (Despite having been many times before, with a toddler it was different and we appreciated it more).  We went for three days and didn't even have time for Dennis the Menace Park - next time!

    We spent a recent holiday in Carmel, CA. We rented Medicine Cottage, which was a charming and ideally located two bedroom / 2 Bath home. We walked to the beach and to Ocean Ave. We spent a lot of time reading in front of the gas fireplace. We spent a day at the aquarium with our little ones. We ate out and got and prepared food from Whole Foods in Monterey. There is so much to do there, and it's so close, and I highly recommend this spot.

    Disneyland, LEGOLAND, and Sea World (depending upon your ethics. . .we used it as an opportunity to lecture ala Blackfish) are also doable with a full week off with children you kids' age.

    Have fun wherever you go!

  • A dear family friend left us a bit of money in her will, specifically intended for a special trip or experience. I am now trying to decide how to use the money to take a 1-2 week vacation with my family. We have two young daughters who will probably will be 3 and 6 at time of travel (or we might put it off until 4 and 7).  I've been considering somewhere in the US, Europe, or Latin America. We would probably stay in one city/area the whole time and do a couple of day trips. Although we like beaches, we're not really looking for a beach vacation, but just a new experience that both kids and adults can enjoy. I used to travel extensively, but that last real trip I took was my honeymoon, so I feel as if I'm starting from scratch. We know some Spanish and French. Did you have a great vacation destination with young kids that you can recommend? 

    We've always traveled with our young son on some exotic trips - and my top advice to you is, wait until they're older unless your idea of heaven is renting a house and staying put. Even 4 will be a slight nightmare. The fun travel for us started when he was 6. At that age you will still only have a couple hrs of activities you'll be able to do in a day, and you'll always be in parks even in the coolest city, and you'll never get to shop or go to dinner at a reasonable hour ........ but theyre way way more able to handle it than when they're younger. Remember that young children get exhausted by MENTAL stimulation - time in a new city will wipe them out. Major meltdowns will happen. No one will be able to walk long distances. What if you get lost? what if there's no food they'll eat? what if they get sick from just a change of diet? What if it's super hot and they can't handle the heat. It's all happened to us. 

    If you must go while they're under 6, just rent a house in a village somewhere and rent a car too - like in Italy. Have very modest expectations and low stimulation. The one other suggestion I'd have is Club Med - actually very fun for kids, with sitters, and not all of them on beaches.

    I have a couple of suggestions, depending on your family's interests.  If you love nature, animals, and a little adventure (mild rather than rugged), I would go for Costa Rica. We took our son when he was six, and we all had a fantastic time there.  We floated on a river raft with a guide, where we saw monkeys, a sloth, a caiman, amazing birds, and the most beautiful little jewel-like frogs.  We did a zip-line experience in the canopy of the rain forest, we ate lunch at a restaurant where huge iguanas slowly ambled around, we went on a dolphin watch and also saw whales and flying fish, we saw macaws and toucans up close. There were lovely and quiet beaches (though you have to watch waves and undertow). The people were friendly and so many spoke English that I was easily able to get along with my rudimentary Spanish. The country is well developed for green tourism, so the businesses tend to be small and personal.  We were based in Arenal and then at an eco-resort on Drake's Bay, and both places were great.  When my son was little we also traveled in Europe, and there I think that the mode of experiencing the place is more important than the choice of place.  By that I mean that if you go to Paris (or London or Madrid or Venice) you can have either a really awful time or a great time, depending on your pace and how you choose to explore. Going to a big European capital in the summer can often be very trying because of the heat and the sheer volume of tourists, all trying to see the same things. I took my son to Paris with my Mom when he was four.  We went in November. The weather was chilly and gray, but I enjoyed the city much more than I had when I had been there in the summer -- the heat in the city can be miserable in the summer, and in November the lines getting into the elevator for the Eiffel Tower, for instance, were a breeze. The Parisians were less harassed by tourists and thus more accommodating. And then selecting sites to visit is key... the Louvre is really just torture for kids, unless you do it in very small doses and pick your exhibits judiciously (mummies...). But the Rodin museum has an outdoor section where kids can run around. The parks are magnificent, and you can meet Parisian parents at the playgrounds. The big squares (like the one in front of Notre Dame or the Place des Vosges) are great for running around.  And living in an apartment rather than a hotel room is also key (air bnb and vrbo.com can both help with finding one). You can elect to live in a neighborhood away from the center of town: more bang for your buck and less touristic.  In the summer you might consider instead a small or mid-sized city as a base, like Padua in Italy or Dresden in Germany or Chichester in England or the like. Do a little research and find a town that has amenities (parks, pool, entertainment) with good train connections to other interesting places (from Padua to Venice or from Dresden to Prague are easy and fun day trips). Just living in a foreign place and getting to know the daily life can be more fun than sight-seeing. And I have to put in a word for Scandinavia, a very kid-friendly region. In Denmark there are islands with great little villages: one that I loved was Ærø, and the northern tip of Denmark, Skagen, is fantastic.  Happy travels!

    I would go to Sweden because they are very kid friendly and there are lots of things they can do .  

    Check out these ideas:  http://www.visitsweden.com/sweden/Things-to-do/With-kids/Theme-and-amuse...

    Another place I would go is Denmark and take the kids to  LegoLand    https://www.legoland.dk/en/about-us/about-legoland/    and the Tivoli Gardens which you have to see http://www.visitdenmark.co.uk/en-gb/denmark/tivoli-gardens-gdk424504

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Questions

Relaxing cheap winter vacation?

Oct 2006

We had to change travel plans last summer and couldn't cancel our plane tickets, so as a result we have credit that we have to use or lose by winter. We're trying to decide where to go during winter break. What we want is to relaxe, swim in warm water, snorkel, hike, with some more adventurous options for our teens. Oh, and we don't want to spend much money! We don't want anything fancy, we're really happy in rustic lodgings, but would love to find something near or on a beach. We have quite a lot of credit, so we can travel somewhere pretty far away. New Zealand? Costa Rica? Belize? Mexico? We'd love to get recommendations. ann


Last December we went to Akumal on the Yucatan Peninsula, and it was wonderful. We rented a bungalow with Hotel Akumal http://www.hotelakumalcaribe.com/ It was very reasonable, a few hundred yards from the beach. Not fancy but clean and wonderful, with a great restaurant right on the beach. There's swimming, snorkeling, and it was very relaxing.


Reasonable Family Summer Vacation 2-3 weeks

March 2006

Greetings - we have an unusual situation coming up - each summer, we have taken a family vacation somewhere fun, different, memorable, to expose the kids to the rest of the country and spend the vacation time wisely. Two years ago, we moved from the Bay Area to the country; there are limited options here and I think I'll have a nervous breakdown if I have to entertain the kids from June 17 to August 1 when they leave for summer camp. So the question is, with an especially limited budget this year, where to take a family of four for two or three weeks, for about $1000 - $1500? Since we live in the country, I must say I'm really not in to camping, which I know is the least expensive option. Somewhere drivable would be great, accessible from Northern California (that would be all of California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, perhaps even Idaho/Montana). The kids are now 9 and 11 and great travelers. I think having a destination would be great, rather than just a road trip for the sake of driving. Thanks for any ideas.
Preparing for a long summer


This is what my family is doing this summer - www.holdenvillage.org.

This is a Lutheran retreat center (open to non-Lutherans) in the Cascade Mountains in Washington in an abandoned copper mining camp. It is only accessible by hiking or by boat. No TV, no internet, no phones - cell phones don't even work there - but great hiking, kids activites (half day childcare!), great food and VERY INEXPENSIVE.

The maxium rate for a week for a family of 4 is just over $1,000 - all enclusive. There are also discounts for those who volunteer on top of this.

This is an unapologetically Christian retreat center. But, bear in mind, Christian does not equal Christian Right. Holden is LGBT friendly, enviromentally engaged, and socially involved. Everyone in the community is required to worship together every night, but no one is going to force you to take communion or get baptized.

Check out their web site. Maybe we'll see you there. Katie


Last summer I went to Stinson Beach for a week ... (click for full review)


December trip with 12-year-old

June 2006

I wished to ask the recommendation to travel with a 12 yr old boy to Mexico, Cancun, Costa Rica or Hawaii big Island in January. When I compare the 3 for quality of water clearness, temeprature of water. Safety to drive and other attraction. Which is most recommended?


I can't speak to all your options, but I've been to Cancun and to the Big Island. I would not recommend Cancun: It seems to be geared toward young singles, with a spring break feel (even though I was there in September). The water is not clear and if you are interested in snorkeling or diving you will have to travel away from the city (Cozumel and the coast south of Cancun are supposed to have more to offer in this area; maybe other poster can offer personal observations). I would highly recommend the Big Island, particularly if you are into hiking as well as water activities. The west side of the island is dry and has extremely clear water and beautiful underwater scenery. Kilauea Volcano (SE corner of island) would be fabulous for a 12 year old. You may be able to hike out to view lava flowing, but even if Mother Nature does not cooperate, the hikes through the craters, the steam vents, lava tube, etc. are great. The east side of the island is lush, rainy and offers great scenery, waterfalls and hiking. I highly recommend the book Hawaii: the Big Island Revealed Carrie


February vacation resort for baby and toddler?

Jan 2006

I would like to get specific recommendations for a good resort to take my family to. We are planning a vacation sometime in February. My husband and I will have a 4 month old and 23 month old by then. We are looking for a warm climate, good swimming pool, and most important--good childcare! We are considering Mexico but open to any other suggestions including Hawaii. Thank you! sadie


We recently visited Santa Barbara with the toddler and baby and had a fabulous time... (click for full review)


Club Med Ixtapa !


Kid-Friendly (school age), Nature-Oriented trip?

June 2005

Hi - Can anyone recommend (based on recent experience) a nature- oriented destination for a mom & school-age girl, both of whom enjoy nature (but not ''extreme sports'' or anything). e.g., animals, bugs, plants, birds, more than rock-climbing or steep hikes. This could be a rental, or a guided-trip, or an all- inclusive place. Any place where the emphasis is more on the natural history than on rides/parks/commercial areas. Any and all ideas welcome! Thank you!
Seeking nature-oriented but comfortable places


Check out Michael Ellis, an amazing naturalist who leads everything from day hiking in Marin to a week in the Mojave/Death Valley to three week trips to Africa. When our kids were little (probably about 6 and 9) we went down to the Mojave with him and it was fantastic. He has kids (or maybe just one) and was great with ours. One of our best family vacations ever. You will see and learn so much. His website is http://www.footlooseforays.com/
-nature lover


Week-long family vacation within California

August 2003

I would like some updated recommendations as to where we can take a week long vacation within California. We being myself, husband, two year old son and 10 week old son. We usually whittle away vacation by spending it with relatives - so this will be our first vacation (in a long while) where it will be just the four of us.

Recommendations received: