Until recently, my thoughts of “the typical family vacation” were of all-inclusive resorts, or of long hours driving in the car, combined with an ample supply of juice-boxes, ice-cream stops, all-you-can-eat buffets, and as many theme-parks as one could reasonably fit in to the week -- a much loved tradition to be sure.
But it’s become clear to me lately that my perception of the family trip has become very outdated. Recent newspaper articles report that Canadian families are opting increasingly for far-flung destinations, and progressive parents are embarking on round-the-world trips – sure to enlighten children in ways beyond their prescribed school classes.
My prehistoric notion of the family holiday was officially shattered on a recent trip to Nicaragua. In addition to encountering a number of families traveling with young kids while there, I ran into the same family (which included four children younger than 10), on three separate occasions, in different areas of the country -- their family getaway essentially mimicking my "exotic" retreat to this emerging destination. And may I just say that there is nothing more humbling than being left in the dust by a group of fresh-as-a-daisy children while clamoring your way through a sweltering volcanic trek.
Broken ego aside, as I saw these kids on our various run-ins, learning about native wildlife, hiking through the mountains and generally enjoying every moment like only a kid can, I was inspired; Why shouldn’t parents take their kids to cool places too?
In honour of this recent enlightenment, I thought it timely to present a few out-of-the-box options for those looking to share unique experiences and satisfy a deeper need for adventure with their families this March Break.
The Out Islands of The Bahamas: Forgo the frenzy of Nassau for one of the stunning outer islands of the Bahamas. Offering endless white-sand beaches and family-friendly adventures that include snorkeling, deep-sea fishing and conch diving, these welcoming islands have guests feeling like locals in no time. The Bahamas’ People-to-People program allows visitors to dine with Bahamian families, and learn more about local customs and culture.
Egypt: If you’ve got the time, this unrivaled country is an amazing family vacation destination. What kid doesn’t want to ride a camel, and behold imposing pyramids and magnificent Sphinxes first-hand? A number of companies offer packages and itineraries that take the guess-work out of planning; meaning, all you’ve got to do is show-up with your brood and prepare to be awe-struck.
Iceland: “A wondrous and magical place no child will ever forget,” according to Frommer’s -- most Icelandic tour companies welcome kids and will even offer generous discounts for children younger than 12. Reduced prices for little ones are also often available for transportation and tourist attractions, and domestic carrier Air Iceland offers very good child fares. Many hotels and guesthouses have more spacious rooms available, designed to accommodate whole families.
Chicago: Bundle-up! This friendly city is bursting with fun year-round -- from exceptional dining and theatre to please all members of the family, to world-class sporting events and concerts. Many local attractions, such as the Brookfield Zoo, Adler Planetarium and Chicago Children’s Museum, offer free admission on select days; and terrific deals can be found on stays at some of the city’s top hotels.
Staycation: Cheap and cheerful, the recession-born “staycation” is a practical vacation alternative that doesn’t have to be a boring. Check out local tourism and events sites to see what’s coming up or what hidden gems may be right around the corner from you. Local Deals can also provide the chance to check out fun new things in your area without the burden on your wallet.