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Family Vacation, "No Tears" Formula

If the words "family" and "vacation" conjure up images of Chevy Chase overstuffing the family station wagon or having a meltdown when his wife and kids don't appreciate his on-the-road enthusiasm, then don't despair. There are plenty of ways to enjoy a family-style vacation that will please parents, kids, and even grandparents who want to share quality time with each other—without drama, boredom, whining, or tears (and we're not just talking the kids here).

Family vacations come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them—especially those involving young children under the age of ten—are most successful when they include tours, programs, and physical activities that stimulate everyone and leave the kids pleasantly exhausted at night. Let's face it, parents are happier in the morning when their kids have had a good night's sleep. On the other hand, family vacations with older children can include more opportunities for independence and spontaneity: a custom city tour, self-hire barge cruise (more on that later), African safari, grand European excursion (makes a great graduation gift), or wilderness adventure.

Here are a few idea-generators to get you thinking about that next family vacation. If you have any questions or need some more family-friendly travel ideas, be sure to call your Travel Specialist (they're all parents, too) at 800-843-4433. Summer is right around the corner. Are you ready?

For Kids Only
Once you see the great activities offered in some of these kids-only programs and camps, you might be just a little bit jealous.

The Buccaneer, St. Croix

The BuccaneerTHC, on the island of St. Croix in the USVI, has a complimentary daily Kids' Camp for young Buccaneers ages 4-12; crab races, pool games, sand-castle building, and arts and crafts are overseen by qualified camp counselors. If you have teens, Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort on St. Lucia is known for its very cool Teen Club offering bonfire nights, karaoke nights, and escorted shopping trips and tours; the younger set (ages 4-12) can keep busy at Windjammer's Jacquot Fun Club with nature walks, Patois language lessons, and Pirates Night.

Santa Marina Resort & Villas, Mykonos, Greece

On the Greek isle of Mykonos, Santa Marina Resort & Spa offers a complimentary Kids Club for ages 3-12 from mid-June through mid-September; kids get a taste of Greek storytelling, arts and crafts, and treasure hunts. And in South America, where summer season falls between December and March, Argentina's Llao Llao Hotel & Resort, Golf-Spa offers summer Kids Spa and Teens Spa programs that address wellness and beauty issues like diet, exercise, facial treatments, and anti-stress regimens. They also have enough kid-oriented sporting activities—golf, archery, kayaking, even rappelling lessons—to keep your youngsters occupied for days.

Closer to home and situated on a beautiful barrier island off the coast of Georgia, the Jekyll Island Club Hotel once was a playground for millionaires, but now is a family-friendly retreat perfect for reunions and multigenerational travel. Your kids will love the shrimp-boat excursions and miles of beach to explore. The island also is home to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center (what kid doesn't love sea turtles?) and the Summer Waves Waterpark.

The Cloister, Georgia

Also off the coast of Georgia is Sea Island and The Cloister, where kids rule with their own Camp Cloister for children ages 3-8 and Club Sea Island for ages 9-12. They'll happily say goodbye for the day as they trot off to catch frogs, go shelling, take nature hikes, and bake and decorate cookies—they even get to take home a personalized chef's hat!

If all these great kids' camps and activities make you wish you were a kid again yourself, join the club! And don't forget to call your Hideaways Travel Specialist (800-843-4433) when it's time to makes those summer vacation plans. We have even more great ideas for kid-friendly places to stay, so you'll have a successful, no-tears summer vacation.


Villa Vacations, Family-Style
Wherever in the world your family travels, you'll most likely be more comfortable renting a private villa, condo, or apartment with a full kitchen and multiple bedrooms—a place to stretch out in and call your own. This could be a condo just steps from the beach, a centrally located apartment in a bustling metropolis, or a huge private villa large enough for a family reunion. The options are endless.

Coral Stone Club, Grand Cayman

Here's what Hideaways Travel Services Manager Darcy Allen had to say about their three-bedroom condo at Coral Stone Club on Grand Cayman. "I recommend a ground-floor unit if your family has small children. We found this incredibly helpful; when our young son was taking a nap, I could sit on our terrace with a book, see the ocean, and still be within earshot. Those looking for a quieter location should select a top-floor unit, all of which have vaulted ceilings and unobstructed ocean views."

And Alexandra Dunlop, daughter of Hideaways member Jane Shipe, had this to say about her high school graduation trip to Rome with her family. "We arrived in Rome and were driven to our apartment, in the heart of a lovely Rome neighborhood. The city was breathtaking in every way . . . The cars! The traffic! The scooters! And our apartment was grand and lovely, with antiques and more space than the three of us needed."

Intrigued? Call Hideaways Travel Services (800-843-4433) to get even more ideas for the perfect family-style vacation rental home, condo, or apartment.

Summer School with a Difference
No two words strike fear into the heart of a child as much as "summer school." But hold on! The summer schools we recommend here are so much fun, kids can't wait to go to class!

If your children are part fish and comfortable on the water, consider enrolling them in the Bitter End Yacht Club Sailing School in Virgin Gorda, BVI. Bitter End is one of the most family-friendly places we know, with activities for every age including a Kids Camp for ages 5-12, a Junior Watersports Program for kids 13-17, and the more focused Sailing School for kids and adults who are serious about the sport. The latter is a week-long course that begins on Monday morning and finishes up Friday with a final exam. But in between there's lots of fun, with plenty of time on the water, free time for windsurfing and swimming, and great instruction from US Sailing-certified instructors. By the end of the course, you and your kids will have earned your basic keelboat sailing certification and will be prepared to take out one of the fleet on your own. The cost is $800 per person for guests on the Admiral's Package.

Casa de CampoThe whole family will love exploring the 7,000 acres of Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic, where you can hone your golf, tennis, and equestrian skills to boot. Lessons are age-specific and taught by the resort's professional staff, so your kids will be encouraged to learn and have fun at the same time. Aaron Ahmed, the son of Hideaways staffer June Ahmed, loved his time on the golf course. "If you're a beginner golfer, I'd start on The Links, because it's not as busy so you can take your time. That's the one I played with my mom, and you also get a caddie, and I drove the golf cart—awwwwesome!!! Our caddie's name was Somba, and he was great! He was very nice and helped my game a lot."

After a morning class, the whole gang can head to Casa de Campo's private beach (surfing, anyone?), take a nature hike, or enjoy a sunset horseback ride. From April 25 through September 30, 2012, the resort is offering its inclusive "Casa Families" package, with 50% off a second guaranteed connecting room (kids love this!) and a maximum of two children ages 12 and under staying, playing, and eating for free.

Another wonderful learning adventure for families is to take the helm of a rented barge. Self-hire or bareboat charter barges operate on all the most popular canals and rivers of Europe, including Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, France, and Holland. You'll rub elbows with a lot of European families vacationing the same way, making for a rich cultural experience. And kids find it especially exciting to help out with operating the locks and piloting the boat. You really don't have to have much boating experience to get the hang of handling these slow-moving vessels, which are as comfortable as houseboats and require no special navigational skills—you just point the barge in one direction and follow the canal through the idyllic countryside.

Take a Walk on the Wild Side
We never met a kid who didn't love animals, and these destinations are no-brainers for revealing the world of wildlife to your children.

Lapa Rios EcolodgeCosta Rica is kid nirvana when it comes to wild creatures, and two superb resorts in The Hideaways Collection® offer great family-oriented nature programs. First up, Lapa Rios Ecolodge sits on a 1,000-acre nature reserve and gives families the chance to immerse themselves in a rainforest experience without the distractions of cell phones, computers, or television. The resort offers a Kids' Rainforest Tour that teaches children the difference between primary and secondary forest as they spot cool animals and insects—they won't even know they're learning! Take the family dolphin or whale watching, and join in a cross-cultural exchange as you visit a local primary school, built and sponsored by Lapa Rios.

Hotel Punta Islita offers luxury private villas with home-like comforts—including full kitchens and private plunge pools—that are perfect for families on the go. Your kids can swing in the hammock and listen to howler monkeys screeching in the distant trees. And the whole family can enjoy river kayaking, horseback riding, and the on-site canopy zip-line, or witness endangered sea turtles laying their eggs on nearby Camaronal Beach. Call your Hideaways Travel Specialist (800-843-4433) to find out more about Punta Islita's current family vacation packages.

Enroll your child in Chaa Creek's Eco-Kids Rainforest Adventure, and he'll probably pick up his clothes without being asked for months. Belize makes the perfect natural laboratory for families to explore the bio-diversity of our planet through things like treasure hunts down jungle trails, canoeing adventures on the Macal River, and arts and crafts projects like weaving palm fans—useful and fun! The camp is held on Chaa Creek's 365-acre nature reserve filled with monkeys, butterflies (including the giant iridescent Morpho), and other wild creatures. Groups are broken down into ages 6?10 and 11?15; parents can join in when they like, or go off by themselves for a quiet swim or a pampering spa treatment.

Lindblad ExpeditionsFew family vacations can top a cruise to the Galapagos Islands off Ecuador. As parents know, the closer kids can get to friendly animals, the better—and boy, can they get close here! Sea lions, giant sea turtles, blue-footed boobies, and prehistoric-looking iguanas will be inches away as your kids cavort and swim among them. We recommend sailing with Lindblad Expeditions aboard the National Geographic Endeavor, which is staffed by excellent naturalist guides and an "undersea specialist."

You'll find many advantages of a family-oriented cruise. You'll visit multiple ports without the issue of transportation for the entire family, have a safe and self-contained on-board atmosphere for the kids to explore, and, on bigger ships, enjoy shipboard activities like spas, multiple restaurants, movie theaters, wave pools, and climbing walls—something for everyone!

While an African safari may seem too far or just too dangerous for kids, there are plenty of safari operators we work with that will provide just the right family experience for your older—and we emphasize older—children. A safari is best suited to kids 12 years and up, unless they're well traveled. The key here is to tailor your adventure to your kids' schedules—figuring in jet lag—and not overdo it with too many outings and activities. Visit the Serengeti, famous for its annual wildebeest migration, or the Masai Mara, with its rolling grasslands and savannah that are home to hyenas, leopards, and zebra. Check out our complete safari report in the November/December 2011 issue of Hideaways Life, or visit www.Hideaways.com/safari.

Saddle Up!
The American West holds a wealth of fascination for families that love the great outdoors. How about honing your kids' horseback riding skills at one of the many great dude ranches in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, or Arizona? We recommend Rancho de Los Caballeros in Wickenburg, Arizona, for a desert-style stay with golf, tennis, trap-skeet shooting, cowboy cookouts under the stars, and enough trail rides to leave your backside sore for days. The ranch also offers the complimentary Caballeros Kids Club for children ages 5-12 who want to go swimming, riding, and hiking with new friends while their parents enjoy some well-deserved free time.

The Resort at Paws UpWow! Imagine telling your 12-year-old she can be part of a working cattle drive this summer! The Resort at Paws Up is part of a 37,000-acre working ranch in Montana that has more than 300 head of resident elk and a couple hundred head of Black Angus roaming its pastureland. You and your kids can enjoy amazing activities like scenic wagon rides, fly-fishing, mountain biking, a day trip to a ghost town, and saddling up to "bring home them doggies." Kids will especially love the experience of "glamping"—glamorous camping—that is a Paws Up hallmark. You and your kids can share a two-bedroom luxury tented suite, complete with your own personal camping butler, and listen to the bubbling Blackfoot River right outside your securely zipped door. Pure heaven!

March/April 2012

 
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