One Big, Traveling Family (cont.)

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Children snorkeling
ALL IN ONE: All-inclusive resorts offer a variety of activities for kids of all ages (Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty)

When we think of a vacation, our first thoughts often contain far-off, exotic locales. However, you may be surprised by the diversity of activities within a half-day's drive of your town. With gas and airline prices moving steadily up, up, up, staying close to home (or, as it's been dubbed, the staycation) leaves a lot more funds for play. Here are some ideas, both near and far, to get your destination search started.

Museums and Culture
Find out if one of your local museums takes part in any joint museum programs. For instance, the Association of Children's Museums has a reciprocal program that allows museum members to visit other participating museums all over the country, for free. If you use your local museum anyway, a membership can be a cost-effective way of enjoying your time at home and away. Just make sure that the family membership will cover your whole clan—sometimes they limit the number of kids covered. To save money on attractions, check with the destination's visitor's bureau or chamber of commerce and find out if they offer discount passes to multiple attractions.

Theme parks often focus on thrill rides for the most adventurous—or, at least, tallest—members of your family, leaving small kids out. The waterpark (indoor or outdoor) offers a great alternative with activities for every age, from mini spray pools for the tots to thrilling twisty slides for the teens and grown-ups, plus it's condensed into a relatively small area so it's easy to keep an eye on everyone. The Great Wolf Lodge is a one-of-a-kind, fantastic, family-friendly indoor waterpark hotel that offers a variety of room options with privacy and space for big families, such as the Wolf Den, a room with cabin-style bunks for the kids.

All-Inclusive Resorts & Cruises:
Kara Williams, a family travel writer living in the Colorado Rockies and co-founder of Traveling Mamas, a family travel website, strongly encourages families to try all-inclusive resorts and cruises. "These are a brilliant way for large families to travel," she explains. "Everyone is in one place, all the activities are in one place, and there are so many that appeal to different ages and interests. Entertainment is included, and dining is already paid for, so you just show up. And you know the cost of your vacation—minus extras like spa visits, shore activities, or non-included gratuities—up front."

All-inclusive cruise vacations and resorts include tips, meals, beverages, and transportation, so you won't have to worry about digging into your pocket again and again. Some cater to big-families more than others, though. Carnival Cruises, Crystal Cruises, and Cruise West have family-friendly policies that make traveling with lots of kids easier and less expensive. For example, Crystal Cruises offers connecting staterooms and private dining rooms that families can reserve.

Williams also suggests looking into escorted family tours, like the ones offered by Tauck, Globus, and Abercrombie & Kent.

It All Adds Up
If you choose a theme park or popular family attraction, do some research to find one that won't nickel and dime you to death. For example, Holiday World, a theme park in Santa Claus, Indiana, offers free soft drinks throughout the park, and free sunscreen in the water park area. If you figure that a typical theme park or attraction would charge a couple of bucks for a bottle of water or soda, multiply that by the number of people in your family at least once—likely more if you're planning on being there for a while—and see how much you could save on drinks alone.

Published: 25 Jul 2008 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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