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family vacation ideas,

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Our family (wife, 7 year old son, 4 year old daughter) takes an annual trip with my mother (adventurous and active) and brothers family (wife and 3 year old daughter)

We always go in March or early April. Since we are all in snowy climates we typically prefer somewhere warm/tropical, beach vacations. We also like to rent villas or somewhere we can all stay together if possible.

For this year, my mom is suggesting a cruise. My wife is scared of motion sickness with herself and my son who commonly gets car sick.

I am looking for ideas that are family friendly. We've done Mexico, Cabo, Florida (Bonita Springs), and thinking somewhere further out without being too expensive. I know this is vague but thought perhaps if anyone has had a similar situation we might get some ideas.

Virgin Islands, Bahamas? Specific island advice?

Thanks!

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    First, for anybody to be of real help you have to define what "without being too expensive" means to you. What is your actual dollar budget for airfare and accommodations? Also, it would help to know if you have any budget constraints for food and activities.

    Second, the term "further out" is also nebulous - further out from where?

    No for some practical advice.

    A cruise is a good way for a family (group) to travel as there are many cruises where you can get good value for your travel dollar. On modern ships today you rarely feel any motion and if your wife talks with her physician he can recommend some over the counter products to ease any "motion sickness" concerns she may have. Of course, you and she will have to decide if that's acceptable.

    Now, if you want to do a land based trip to the Caribbean you might want to consider renting a villa or a large condo that will accommodate your entire group or individual condos for your brother's family and yours. You'll find these types of accommodations on just about every island and in many different budget ranges. Generally for groups such as yours staying in a condo or villa will be much more economical than staying at a resort yet you'll still have many of the same amenities.

    Also, with a group the size of yours airfare probably will account for a big portion of your budget. You don't say where you are traveling from but by and large you'll find airfares are generally lower to destinations you can reach non-stop from your nearest International Gateway Airport. These tend to be the larger or more well known islands. When you start venturing to some of the smaller more remote islands (not sure if this is what you meant by "further out") airfares can increase dramatically because you'll need one or more connecting flights to reach them. Islands that traditionally have lower airfares from the US include Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, St. Thomas and St. Martin although you might also look at Providenciales (in the Turks & Caicos - I'll discuss this more later) and the larger Bahamas Islands such as Nassau, Grand Bahamas or Freeport.

    So here are some suggestion as to islands:

    1) There are lots of rental villas and condos in the Virgin Islands and you will probably find it fairly easy to fly into St. Thomas or St. Croix. Those two islands have very nice beaches, plenty of restaurants and lots of tourist activities.

    2) Providenciles (in the Turks & Caicos) is perfect for families. Grace Bay is some 11 miles long and has the whitest sand you'll find anywhere. There are dozens of "condo resorts" along this stretch of beach. Many have on-site restaurants and have the same amenities and services you'll find any well run resort. Many condo resorts have organized children's programs which will give the adults in your group some well deserved "quiet time".

    3) St. Martin has an abundance of upscale beachfront and beach access villa as well as condos and timeshares available for rent. There are hundreds of restaurants, plenty of duty free shopping, every type of water sport and tourist activity you can imagine.

    4) Puerto Rico is sometimes overlooked by many tourists but it really has a lot to offer. You'll have no difficulty finding a rental condo either in or near San Juan where you'll get the best of both worlds - being on or near the beach and having full access to all the city has to offer. Of course, you can go a bit further out from the city and find more secluded condos.

    5) I don't have any specifics about Jamaica or the Dominican Republic other than to say there are literally hundreds of condos and rental villas on she excellent beaches on those islands.

    So which island should you pick? Well, the truth is they are all nice. Start by using the "Destinations" link at the top of this page, click through to the Caribbean and read the summaries of each island. Pick one or two that most appeal to you and concentrate your efforts there. Don't fall into the "are the palm tress better on the other island syndrome" - do what we've all done - visit one island on this trip and a different island on your next trip.

    Once you pick your island go to one of the travel websites like Kayak, Orbitz or Expedia to check on airfare costs from your departure city. That will give you a start on your budget.

    Then do a Google search using such topics as "Rental Villas on NAME OF ISLAND" or "NAME OF ISLAND Condos for rent" and you'll find hundreds of links. Find a few that fit your needs, lifestyle and budget. You can there come back and ask if any of the contributors have stayed there.

    Pretty soon you'll have your plans in place and be ready to embark on a wonderful vacation.

    Good Luck with your planning.

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    Grand Cayman would be a great place for a family. You can rent beach front condos for you and your brother's family. The supermarkets are stocked with US groceries, so if your kids are picky eaters, they won't starve. There are no beggars, buskers or people selling ganja on the beach. On season rates are expensive, but after April 15, the rates drop dramatically.

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