This is a guest post by my good friend (we’ve known each other since grade eight) and travel expert (because he’s been practically everywhere and a tourism expert) and rum connoisseur (he likes rum. A lot!), Kirk McDonald, with his TOP 5 travel destinations for families. Kirk also writes about his adventures in travel and rum at his blog, whentherumisgone.com. Go check it out. And enjoy!
So, my good buddy Dave asked me to write something related to travel with kids for his a-mazing ‘Get Daddy Some Gin’ blog and I have been trying to wrap my head around the idea all week. Kids?! Yikes, the first time he asked me to hold his lil’ Amelia, I had to sit down in a chair before accepting her in my arms. I am terrified of children. What if I broke one? What if they smell the Captain Morgan’s from my breath…. and like it?
I am not really built to handle children. I am exactly what most parents would hide their children from. I watch adult TV – like Chelsea Lately, occasionally curse, enjoy drinking and have many breakable things. I know this, because I break a lot of things.
When it comes to vacations, I book hotels that have very few children, perhaps boutique properties in city centers or resorts that are ‘adults only’ or have ‘kiddie pools’ far away from the ‘adult pools’. I like free-flowing drink service or swim-up bars, skimpy bathing suits, loud(er) music, and adult water sports (actually I take that back – nothing grosses me out more than the dude sitting at the swim up bar clearing his 40th Miller Light and not once visiting the mens room. Ew! Actually more gross than the amount of urine from children in the kiddie pool).
So how do I choose great travel spots for families? Well, first I think of all the places I want to be and then don’t mention those to anyone with children. And second, I think of all the great places I went to as a child, or looking back, would have loved to go as a child. And here are the top five results I have come up with…
1. Don’t run away, you made it this far – keep reading! But, I would be doing a great disservice to Disney, if I didn’t say any Disney Resort Theme Parks related product. I mean, who doesn’t love Disney? It is marketing brilliance. Every product is at three feet tall, just enough height so that all the children can touch, feel, desire and WANT! The characters, the themed experiences and the environment that provides for the “Happiest Place on Earth!” Amazing hotels, songs, customer service and amenities that cater to every child and child at heart. Even as an adult, I occasionally make my way to the Disneyland Resort Theme Park in California to explore my inner child again… and every time – I love it. I can imagine as a parent, it is one of the few places in the World where your child can scream, whine, complain, throw a tantrum and drive everyone in the world nuts… and feel completely at home because everyone else’s children are doing the exact same thing.
2. Las Vegas! Ha – Just kidding. I mean, really?!? I can’t even believe the ‘sin city’ once tried exploring the family market. Please, what ever you do – DO NOT bring your children along on a ‘family vacation’ to Las Vegas – It belongs to adults. The crazy ones.
2 (real). New York City. Okay, I spent Christmas with the family in 2007 in the big apple and absolutely fell in love with it. I have been to New York many times, but this was the first as a family. There is no city in the World that can cater to Christmas away from home like New York does. Yes, it is a big city, and yes as in any big city you need to careful, but New York has it all for the family. The shopping and children’s toy stores like FAO Schwarz, M&M’s and the Disney Store are like an attraction in itself. Hanging out in Central Park, maybe taking in a horse and carriage ride after playing in one of the children’s parks or sharing a picnic. A boat ride to Ellis Island, tall building tours like the Empire or the Rock and at Christmas… skating in Central Park or Rockefeller, the tree lighting, or taking in a musical – they have a few.
3. Maui. I love Hawaii, but for a family, I think that Maui is the perfect spot. If you can grab a condo in Kihei (what feels like the Canadian section of the island), between Kihei Beach 1, 2, and 3… with a pool, and close to the ocean – you are laughing! Stop at the Safeway, pick up your groceries, alcohol (okay, for the adults only), and beverages and get your Safeway Club Card discount. Take it back to the condo and enjoy barbecuing near the beach while the kids play in the condo pool after a day of practicing wake boarding and body surfing off the pacific ocean waves. The sunsets are a great time to relax as a family and calm the evening before gathering around a fire under the south pacific stars. A-mazing!
4. Cruising. Absolutely! I took a cruise a few years ago, only because I got a killer deal on it… thinking I would hardly enjoy the week-long sail, ample food, sunshine, port of calls, swimming, nightly entertainment, losing at the casino daily and ample rum supply. What was I thinking? I love this form of travel and would do it again and again and again. Those who haven’t tried it think it is like herding cattle. I promise you it is not! There are so many people with different interests and expectations that you are never feeling ‘crowded’. There are so many amenities and activities that you could never go bored. For kids, the pools, arcades, dancing, sports, entertainment… what is there not to like? They even have a kids club so that when the parents want ‘adult time’ they can actually feel comfortable enjoying their evening while the kids play with all the other kids under supervision. It’s almost like Vegas, only A LOT safer! Unless, of course you go to Mexico. Ha! Put it this way, if your child doesn’t like their meal, order another one – it’s included, and if for whatever reason they get bored – wait an hour, something will happen on board – or wait a day – you will be in another port with a whole new island to explore.
5. Italy. Of course! The food, the weather, the walking. There are so many things to see and every attraction is tourist friendly which makes it easy to herd a family along. Not to mention, after all the exploring you are going to do, your kids will be tired by 8pm and EVERYONE has a great sleep. As a kid, if I had access to gelato, pasta, dolce (sweets), ancient ruins and buildings to explore, and mom and dad could have wine, cheese, pasta and tired children in the evenings… Brilliant! Why don’t I live there? Where in Italy? Rome, Cinque Terre, Florence, Venice, … you get the idea… just get to Italy.
Well, there are my top five travel spots for families. There are, of course, many places in the World for the family to explore, but in my humble opinion – these would be my top five as a child. This entry has taken me over an hour to write and I have booked every one of them in the mean time. I need a rum.