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Travelersoup.com, travel news, tips, trip planning  and favorite destinations

kids guide favorite vacations

Summaries of some of our favorite family destinations from previous feature articles.

Arizona ResortsPhoenician Resort photo
Known for fantastic winter weather and desert scenery, Scottsdale, Phoenix and Tucson have many self-contained resort communities offering luxurious accommodations and amenities including golf, tennis, spas, elaborate water playgrounds, and kids clubs. The outstanding Desert Museum in Tucson (see seperate feature) and many other unique places of interest for families are nearby.
      The Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale offers the ultimate resort experience for those who desire extraordinary service and luxurious amenities. Accommodations at the 250-acre resort include guestrooms, suites, casitas, and villas. The terrace off the opulent main lobby offers a panoramic view of nine swimming pools tiered on three levels. The pools include a glistening oval pool tiled in mother-of-pearl, an edgeless pool, relaxation pool, and children's pool with a 165-ft. waterslide. Facilities include a championship 27-hole golf course, Tennis Garden, full-service spa, Family Activity Center and Funicians Kids Club for ages 5-12. Special activities are planned for teens for the holidays, summer vacation and long weekends.
      The Wigwam resort in the town of Litchfield Park, about 25 miles outside of Phoenix, completed a $7 million rejuvenation in January, 2011. The casually elegant resort boasts three championship 18-hole courses and guest access to two additional courses, including the Arizona Biltmore Country Club. Amenities include four pools, including a main pool featuring separate kids/adult zones, dual waterslide, water play features and luxury cabanas; a championship tennis facility, fitness center, spa and Camp Pow Wow children's program offering organized activities for ages 5-12 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. year 'round.
      Other resorts in the area with kids' programs include The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, with a 6,000 sq. ft. water recreation area; the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort at Gainey Ranch, featuring a 2.5 acre water playground and family camps; the Pointe Hilton Resort at Squaw Peak with a lazy tubing river; and Hilton El Conquistador in Tucson.
      Peak season in Greater Phoenix is November through April with shoulder seasons in May and September through October. Fantastic deals on accommodations and golf can be found in abundance in summer (when the average temperature reaches a dry 100°). Rates are a fraction of peak-season rates, often reduced more than 50%, and many resorts offer summer value packages combining luxurious resort stays with outstanding golf.

Startstuff Travel, Disney & family vacation specialists

Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Cape Cod
has long been a favorite destination for New England families. Its gentle lapping bay waters, vast marsh lands and misty harbors soothe the spirit. It is easy to see why people who come to know the Cape develop such a strong connection to it, especially during the serene days outside of peak season. Described as an arm, the cape is divided into the upper arm, or upper cape, encompassing Barnstable, Hyannis, Yarmouth and other towns closest to the mainland; the elbow where the pristine village of Chatham is located; and the lower cape made up of Eastham, Wellfleet, and Truro with Provincetown at the fist. While there are two bridges that cross Cape Cod Canal onto the Cape, there is only one major highway (Highway 6) that traverses the peninsula. Two smaller two-lane highways traverse the Cape north and south, each area possessing a clearly distinct personality. Route 6A to the north was originally a stagecoach route and is now a two-lane road that winds through small towns steeped in history and classic New England architecture. This north side is the "quiet side of the Cape" with grand homes of former sea captains, antique shops, art galleries, and inns. If you travel the roads just off the highway, you will discover small cottages, sleepy harbors and quiet beaches. Route 28 on the south side contains the commercial areas and malls as well as the golf centers, water parks and entertainment centers that kids love. Families will find accommodations on the Cape to suit any size and preference. They include historic inns, bed and breakfasts, resorts, motor lodges, houses, cottages and bungelos.
      From swimming to beachcombing, clamming to fishing, outdoor activities fill the day on Cape Cod. The Cape Cod National Seashore extends 40 miles from Chatham to Provincetown. The Coast Guard Beach there is consistently ranked as one of the ten best beaches in the United States. The coastline stretches unspoiled for miles along the Atlantic. Visitors Centers in Eastham and Provincetown have orientation movies, exhibits, and information services. Ranger-led expeditions, hikes, history programs, and family programs are held throughout the year.
      The Cape offers at least five major cycling trails and dozens of lesser trails to enjoy. Bicycle rentals are available near trail access points. The Cape Cod Rail Trail, a former Penn-Central right-of-way, travels for 25 miles from Wellfleet on the lower Cape to Dennis mid-Cape.
      Whale watching is a major Cape Cod industry with fierce competition among fleets. Stellwagen Bank, an underwater plateau of sand and gravel located a few miles from the tip of Cape Cod, provides an outstanding habitat for sea life and plankton and attracts large numbers of fish, humpback whales, fin whales, right whales and minke whales. Excursions depart from Plymouth, Barnstable and Provincetown Harbors. Provincetown is the closest port to Stellwagen Bank. On a fall sunset cruise with Dolphin Fleet of Provincetown, we saw dozens of humpback and minke whales and were awestruck to see a humpback breach.

Florida Keys
Far from the hustle of Orlando lies the tranquil, laid-back world of the Florida Keys, a 126-mile chain of islands that extends from the tip of Florida's mainland down to Key West, the southernmost city in the United States. The narrow highway to the Keys begins in northern Key Largo, traverses 42 bridges, and offers magnificent vistas of Florida Bay on one side and a serene Atlantic Ocean on the other. The landscape alternates between tall, flowing grasses of the salt marsh, narrow inlets and harbors, and stretches of funky souvenir stands and low-rise commercial centers. Green and white highway markers tell you where you are and how far you have come starting at Mile Marker 127 just past Florida City and ending with Mile Marker 0 in Key West.
Cheeca Lodge photo      At MM82, Cheeca Lodge & Spa is tucked off the highway in the town of Islamorada on Upper Matecumbe Key. A small luxury resort, Cheeca Lodge and Spa offers ideal family accommodations in low-rise villas and beachfront bungalows. The resort features a main lodge, tennis courts, spa, fitness center, Camp Cheeca kids camp and is one of the few resorts in the Keys with an oceanfront beach and spectacular tropical island setting.
      As it has for centuries, life in the Keys focuses on the water. The Keys are home to some of the world's most sought after fish, from blue marlin, sailfish and dolphin offshore to bonefish, tarpon and permit in the shallow backcountry. Islamorada is known as the "sport fishing capital of the world" with more than 600 species of fish thriving in the surrounding waters of the ocean and bay and a large number of expert guides in residence to help you find them. Deep sea fishing charters, party boat trips and back country fishing charters can all be arranged. Fishing captivates the talk and attention of visitors and locals alike. Even if you are not a fisherman when you arrive, you will at least leave with a new appreciation for fish and the art of catching them.
      Catch and release fishing is encouraged for all fishermen in the Keys unless you plan on eating it. Most restaurants will happily cook your catch to your specifications or their own. There are many fine restaurants in Islamorada offering beautiful bayside or beachfront dining and superb dishes made with a delicious mix of tropical fruits and fresh, local seafood. The Islamorada Fish Company, boasting the best sunset view on the bay, is a popular place for kids around eight o'clock each evening when an employee emerges with a bucket of scraps from the kitchen and throws them into the bay to feed the nurse sharks and other fish that hang out under the pier of the open-air restaurant.
      The entire coast of the Keys was designated a National Marine Sanctuary in 1990, encompassing 2,800 square nautical miles. North America's only coral barrier reef and the third longest barrier reef in the world lies just six miles offshore. The clear, shallow waters and abundant marine life make diving and snorkeling the reefs, canyons, and shipwrecks in the Keys a favorite pastime.

Hilton Waikoloa photoHawaii
From the tropical rainforests in Hilo and the ranch country in the north to the desolate expanses of black lava from Mouna Loa and Kilauea volcanoes, the Big Island of Hawaii, offers the most diverse terrain of all the Hawaiian Islands. The Hilton Waikoloa Village is a pristine 62-acre complex carved out of black lava rock and overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Waiulua Bay. The luxury resort situated on the Kohala coast (the sunny side) of Hawaii, features three pools with waterfalls, slides and jacuzzis, a saltwater lagoon, dolphin pool, two championship golf courses, tennis, spa, on-site restaurants and children's program. Guests travel around the crescent-shaped resort by tram, by Disney-engineered canal boats or by walkways which include a 3/4 mile Museum Walk through a large collection of Polynesian and Oriental art.
      Don't-miss sights: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, an active volcano where rivers of molten lava continuously flow. From the 11-mile Crater Rim Drive encircling Kilauea Caldera, you can see sulfur banks, steaming vents, pit craters, recent lava flows and walk through a 450-foot lava tube. From a hike at the end of Chain of Craters Road, a massive cloud of steam is visible where the lava spills into the sea during the day, but at night, the cloud of steam becomes a glowing fireball. Bring a flashlight for walking across the lava flows at night. Park rangers set up telescopes focused on the fiery vents visible up the volcano on certain dates. Stop at the Visitors Center for information and current calendar of events.
Moana Loa, the largest single mountain mass in the world, rises 56,000 feet from the sea floor, and because of the extremely dark and clear night skies on the island, contains the world's largest concentration of telescopes. A Visitor Information Station, located at 9,300 ft. (note: altitude adjustment may be difficult for some visitors), is staffed by amateur astornomers and features a small exhibit area and film. Check ahead for stargazing dates.

Smugglers Notch Resort
Rt. 108S, Smugglers Notch, VT, 1-800-451-8752. In summer, enjoy six pools, tennis, kids camps, child care programs and a full calendar of family activities all in a mountain resort village. In winter, ski three mountain peaks, 2,610 vertical, full and half-day children's ski programs and child care available. Supersavers and value packages include children's program.

Dude Ranch Vacation
Tanque Verde Ranch, 14301 E. Speedway, Tucson, AZ 85748, . For more guest ranches, consult the Arizona Dude Ranch Association, Colorado Dude Ranch Association, The Dude Ranchers Association, or Grand County Dude and Guest Ranch Association. See feature article on www.travelersoup.com.

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travel links

general travel info

Road Scholar is the name for the programs of Elderhostel, Inc., a non-profit travel organization founded in New Hampshire in 1975 to provide lifelong learning opportunities for adults at a good value. Educational vacation opportunities for ages 50 and over are offered in the U.S. and over 90 countries. Intergenerational programs are offered for grandparents and their grandchildren (suggested ages 7 and up, one child per adult).
800-454-5768

accommodations

AirBnB.com
From apartments, rooms, whole houses to treehouses and boats, you can search rentals available in 192 countries.

Beach Cottage Rental
908-464-3485, 908-227-9268; email: marym227@comcast.net. Beautiful 2 bedroom cottage in Ocean Beach/ Lavallette, NJ. Charming renovated 2 bedroom beach block cottage (sleeps 6). Completely furnished, full kitchen, dining room, living room with sofa sleepers, patio, gas grill, cable TV/VCR/DVD, AC, heat. 3 bedroom ocean front cottage being rebuilt. Check with us about availability.
   Year round rentals, enjoy beach living any time of the year. Don't miss this great opportunity! Full weeks available in the summer; weekly and weekends available off season. Call or email for rates and availability.

Families can find an affordable and personal vacation experience by browsing www.bedandbreakfast.com, a comprehensive worldwide listing of bed and breakfasts, country inns, guest houses, lodges, cabins, historic hotels, small resorts, guest ranches, farmhouse accommodations, working farms, and ranch vacations.

Flipkey.com
TripAdvisor's vacation rental site features 240,000 homes, beach houses, cabins, condos, cottages and villas for rent throughout the world.

HomeAway.com
As an alternative to hotel stays, Homeaway.com features more than 325,000 vacation rental properties across 168 countries, ranging from traditional condos, homes and villas to the more exotic cabooses, teepees, castles and yurts.

TimeshareRentalMarket.com
Find a large selection of low priced timeshare rentals available year round in destinations worldwide. These resort properties have spacious layouts with separate bedrooms/living rooms, perfect for families, and offer many more amenities than a standard hotel room.

VRBO.com
Vacation Rentals By Owner provides travelling families with another source for finding a vacation rental home.

islands & beaches

Access Caribbean Hotel Association and island's official website for special values.

For villa rentals and distinctive hotels in the Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii, Mexico and Nantucket, consult www.wimco.com.
800-449-1553

The Los Cabos Convention & Visitors Bureau website features"Where to Stay" and "What to Do" sections as well as personalized trip planner and booking functions.

skiing

u.s.

Discounted pre-packaged vacation deals for the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York are continuously updated on adirondacks.org and lakeplacid.com. Getaway packages for the Lake George area in the Ad irondacks are available at www.visit lakegeorge.com

For information about whitewater rafting nationwide, Canada and South America, visit www.raftingamerica.com.

international tours

Big Five Tours & Expeditions promotes several soft adventure programs tailored specifically for family travel. They include Family Retreat Safari (Kenya), Family Outing in Africa (Kenya), Family Fun in the Tropics (Costa Rica), Best of Japan and Galapagos Islands Discovery (Ecuador). Family departures for the Galapagos Islands tour are scheduled to coincide with school vacation periods and feature additional activities for children, minimum age 7.
800-244-3483

African Travel Inc., based in Glendale, Calif., has been operating African safaris for 28 years and offers several family-oriented safaris to South Africa.
800-421-8907

cruises

 

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