Who needs a vacation if it’s laden with endless hours of prep work? Happily for working moms, today’s vacation industry is teeming with trip planners and specially tailored getaways to take the weight off your shoulders. Let go of the burden of planning a spectacular family getaway all by yourself and take advantage of these strategies for booking top-notch vacations sans all the hassle.
With such a wealth of full-service resorts on the horizon, there’s no need to painstakingly compile a piecemeal trip. Newer hotels are equipped with a multitude of restaurants (including some that are tailored to kids’ likes and dislikes), a full range of amenities (on-property shops, in-room refrigerators and shuttle bus services to tourist attractions) and oodles of activities to keep you and your offspring continually entertained. Booking a trip to a family-friendly resort means you can cut your must-do list down to just a few key components: room selection (Hmmmm…do we want oceanfront or garden view? Not exactly a time-consuming decision!), flight arrangements (If you want a decent fare, here’s where you’ll spend the bulk of your time, but that’s fine if everything else can be done in a snap.) and ground transportation (Does your resort offer transportation to and from the airport? Do you need a rental car or will the resort’s shuttle service—plus a taxi ride here or there—do the trick?).
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Our Favorite No-brainer Family Vacations
Where should you go? These two destinations are a sure-thing for families with kids young and old.
Walt Disney World (Orlando, Florida). Is there really any other destination that does a better job of catering to families? We don’t think so. Stay at a Disney-owned hotel and you’ll get everything Disney is known for—fabulous organized activities, over-the-top service and kid-centric accommodations. Bonus: Book an on-site hotel and you’ll eliminate the need for a rental car.
Atlantis (Paradise Island, the Bahamas). Though it’s a hit with kids of all ages, your money will go even further with older kids. Besides digging the resort’s one-of-a-kind waterslides and river rides, they’ll appreciate the freedom to explore its beaches, pools and massive grounds on their own. Kids ages 6 to 12 can participate in hidden treasure hunts, learn about sea animals and dive into outdoor games and team-building activities. And preteens and teens will appreciate the private lounge area, arcade and social events.
Want to reduce stress even more? Choose an all-inclusive package that not only takes care of flight arrangements but also eliminates the need to figure out where you’ll eat meals without breaking the bank. This may be particularly appealing if you have finicky eaters. (Don’t want to finish your sliders, my little pumpkin? No problem. We’ll order something else for you!)
When you need your taxes done, you see a professional accountant, right? And when your little one’s fever spikes through the roof, you call your pediatrician. So why insist on being your own professional travel agent? Sure, the internet is loaded with deals, but busy mamas juggling jobs and families don’t have time to scour all the travel sites. And let’s be realistic—even package deals require painstaking research to find the right dates at the right price. The truth is that travel agents are not only FREE (Um, hello, why wouldn’t you take advantage of this?!?) but they often have access to special deals that only they (not Expedia or Travelocity) can get. But the biggest plus of working with a professional is that they’ll lift the legwork off your back, leaving you time and energy to wrap up things at work, pack and rev your kids up about where you’re going. (You may even have time to pop into the library and check out a stack of books or DVDs based in your destination, like Eloise in Paris or Home Alone.) Find a travel agent who specializes in family travel at Specialty Travel Agents.
Itching for a more cultural or active destination but unsure that a travel agent can pull off all the details necessary for a smooth trip for the entire family? Go up a level to a professional tour company. Don’t worry—we’re not talking about those fuddy-duddy tours that pack dozens of seniors into a coach bus then take them to every tourist trap imaginable. Today’s tour specialists create custom itineraries that immerse families into a destination’s best features while tailoring itineraries to suit kids. Try HomesAway, a specialty travel company that helps you book a European villa and hooks you up with a local host who’ll organize kid-friendly activities like private pizza-making classes, local boat rides and soccer games. Or check out REI Adventures, a company that leads a small group of families through adventure activities like bike tours, paddling, hiking, rafting, climbing and wildlife viewing.
Know it and love it
It’s not easy to toss aside your lust for new, exciting places, but sometimes you’re just too busy to get a handle on a new destination. When it’s crunch time at work and you can barely catch your breath, it can be a godsend to book a getaway to a familiar destination. Many preplanning details can be tossed into the “no-brainer” pile, like figuring out which hotel is in the optimal location, what room type has the best layout for families, how you’ll get to and from the airport, which activities and sites are must-sees, where your kids will be happy eating and what you do and don’t need to pack.
Need convincing to do a repeat? If you’re on the verge of canceling the family vacay altogether because it’s just too much to handle during the busy season at work, you not only need a no-brainer vacation, but your family probably needs quality time together more than ever because of your busy schedule.