2018 Family Vacation Planning Guide

By Danielle Spano

It may still be early in the year, but the time has come for you to open up that new 2018 calendar and pick out some dates for your next family vacation! There truly is no better time to start planning; booking early often comes with savings. Additionally, school holidays and vacation dates are popular travel times, and they book up fast! You have got the whole year to work with, and it can be overwhelming with so many places to go and so many things to see. Here are some ideas to help you get your 2018 vacation on the calendar! 

Popular family-friendly places for your pack

New York City

New York City is the city that never sleeps and offers something for everyone. For the foodie, venture into Little Italy for a traditional meal or grab a slice at one of the city’s many pizzerias. Take a bite of the Big Apple’s history at the Statue of Liberty, a national monument and icon of the city. You can keep your feet on the ground with just general access to the island, climb a little over 200 steps for views from the lower pedestal or make the 377-step climb (146 of those on a spiral staircase!) up to the crown for unparalleled views. All that climbing will surely leave you hungry, so consider a picnic in the heart of the city at Central Park, where you will find beautiful bodies of water, playgrounds, gardens, a castle and even a zoo! In the evening, watch the city come alive in Times Square and enjoy a Broadway play.

Mexico

Grab your passports for a short flight to Cancun or Riviera Maya, Mexico. Take in the mystery of the numerous Mayan ruins such as the well-known Chichen Itza, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the beachside ruins at Tulum; or Cobá, home of the tallest Mexican pyramid. Combine the local and historic culture with entertainment at Xcaret, an eco-archaeological theme park teeming with water activities, a Mayan village, wildlife and more. Get your adventure on and swim with dolphins, zipline through the jungle or snorkel in one of the peninsula’s many cenotes, underground caves created from sinkholes.

Hawaii

Say “aloha” to the Hawaiian Islands for a tropical vacation like no other! Hang ten as a family and take group surfing lessons. Feast on both food and entertainment at a luau where you will dine on traditional Polynesian food and work off your meal with a little hula dancing. Explore the beauty of the islands by hiking up a volcano, swimming in a waterfall, taking a helicopter ride to get an aerial view or just enjoy the ocean view as you relax and get a beachside massage. Hawaii (the big island), Oahu and Maui are some favorite islands for family getaways.

Colorado

If your family is more snow than surf, Snowmass Resort in Colorado is ranked one of the country’s top family ski destinations. The whole family can hit the slopes with skiing for all skill levels. The resort features a 25,000-square-foot Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center with areas perfect for little novice skiers. There is more winter fun to be had with snowmobiling, dog sledding and hiking. Marvel at the remains of pre-historic animals, including the “Snowmass Mammoth” at the Ice Age Discovery Center, and cap off the evening with the famed dining and nightlife in nearby Aspen.

Costa Rica

Combine adventure with awe-inspiring natural beauty with a trip to Costa Rica. This small country offers a large variety of destinations from beaches to rainforests and volcanos. Relax on one of the country’s many beautiful beaches. Put on your adventure hat and go white water rafting through rainforests or hike the famed Arenal Volcano. Do not forget to take a dip in the therapeutic thermal hot springs in the volcano’s surrounding area! Get to know the culture in the capital, San Jose with its numerous museums, shops and even a zoo. The various habitats allow for a multitude of wildlife, so keep your camera ready! While a Costa Rica vacation is sure to be an adventure, the laidback lifestyle of the locals and purity of the country’s natural beauty is reflected in their popular greeting, “pura vida,” meaning pure life.

Types of trips to consider

Cruising

“Seas” the day with a cruise vacation! Today’s ships have endless activities to keep the whole family entertained while at sea. Unpack once and wake up each day in a new and exciting location to discover, as your ship serves as your floating home base to make memories of a lifetime at every port. Cruise right from your own backyard with ships sailing from ports throughout Florida or fly to a port where you can take in a different part of the world. Explore Europe’s vast history with a springtime cruise or cool off your summer on an Alaska cruise! The Last Frontier offers an awe-inspiring experience with landscapes, wildlife and adventures that will give the kids plenty to brag about when they are back to school! Add excursions like dogsledding, helicopter rides to glaciers and whale watching to your must-do list! Norwegian Cruise Line’s brand new ship is coming to Alaska in 2018, and you can be among the first to sail on the much-anticipated Norwegian Bliss. With an onboard go-cart track, laser tag, the musical hit Jersey Boys and more, this ship will make your Alaska adventure pure bliss for the whole family!

All-inclusive fun

If keeping your feet planted firmly in the sand is more your style, consider an all-inclusive resort for your family vacation. All-inclusive resorts are set in some of the most desirable tropical destinations with multiple accommodations to choose from, allowing you to choose a room or villa that most comfortably fits the family. The resorts are filled with activities, hangouts, pools and entertainment to make the whole family happy. Visit the surrounding city or remain on the resort premises, which offers many options to keep the whole family occupied. Depending on the resort, most activities, foods and drinks are included, so there is no worry about racking up a large bill to pay upon checking out at the end of your trip. Beaches Turks & Caicos offers over 20 restaurant options, an on-site water park and water sports like kayaking, windsurfing and snorkeling. If that is not enough to keep your family smiling, little ones will squeal as they meet their favorite Sesame Street® characters and teens will love the X-BOX® Play Lounge. While the family plays, you can sit on the beach and relax by the clear turquoise waters of one of the world’s best beaches! You can also find Beaches resorts in Negril and Ocho Rios, Jamaica, another 2018 hot spot! Another popular family-focused all-inclusive is Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts Punta Cana. With character experiences, a water park, and play areas for all ages, you can add the Dominican Republic to your 2018 must-see list!

Disney destinations

While you may be ready to see the world, your kids might just want to see the mouse. Theme park vacations are always a favorite, but you may be ready venture a bit farther. Adventures by Disney are immersive, authentic experiences that show you the world with that immeasurable Disney magic. Itineraries are designed to cater to the entire family. Adults can enjoy wine tastings and private dinners as the children enjoy special Disney movie nights. The kids can see the world in a way that makes it fun for them — participating in a scavenger hunt at the Louvre in France or learning how to make pizza in Italy. Older kids can take archery lessons in South Africa or go horseback riding in the Canadian Rockies. In true Disney fashion, your trip will be filled with unique experiences that complement the culture and history of the destinations you visit. Whether it is a kid-friendly river cruise along the Rhine, a guided tour of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands or an adventure through Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park, Adventures by Disney has an itinerary that will make your family vacation an adventure of a lifetime.

 Danielle Spano has over a decade experience throughout the travel industry before opening her own Gainesville-based Cruise Planners travel agency selling all vacations from cruises, resorts, and theme parks to custom trips and more.