Our friend Jamie Pearson, of TravelSavvyMom, shares an age-by-age guide to choosing the right vacation for all age groups, from infants to teens.
When my first child was born, I stuck very close to home. My daughter seemed so tiny and vulnerable to me in those early days, it's a wonder I left the house at all. Now that I've been around the block a time or two, I realize I should have gotten out more. Ah, hindsight.
Trying to choose the best vacation for your family this year? Here's a guide to the best kinds of trips for babies, teens, and everything in between.
Babies have a lot going for them as travel companions. For example they're hardly ever conscious. Also, they're about as much trouble as your average purse. Although it seems counterintuitive, this is the time to pack up your pacifiers and go on a cultural odyssey.
Consider: Big cities like Paris, London, San Francisco, and New York.
Avoid: Destinations without easy access to medical facilities—ear infections and dehydration are depressingly common at this age.
Remember: This will probably be the last time you see the inside of a museum for at least a decade.
Your child will be mobile, but not fully under voice control or sleeping through the night. Sort of like an evil nocturnal puppy in diapers. Rent a child-friendly condo somewhere warm, and make the best of it. These are unquestionably the hardest years for traveling.
Consider: Going with another family. You and your spouse are less likely to kill each other if there are witnesses present.
Avoid: Tiny hotel rooms with thin walls. B&Bs.
Remember: The only thing worse than traveling with kids this age is staying home with them.
You're free of naps, free of bottles, and free of diapers. You're also free of a rigid school schedule. Take advantage of this—it doesn't last.
Consider: An overnight train journey. The southern hemisphere in December. Disneyland and Hawaii in the off-season.
Avoid: Historical sites with self-guided audio tours. Long car trips.
Remember: Kids this age have three interests: animals, sugar, and toys. Administer at regular intervals for best results.
Grade school-aged kids
This is the golden era of family travel. Your kids can keep up with an adult itinerary, and they still like you! Go on an epic road trip. With enough DVDs and children's audio books, even great distances are possible.
Consider: National Parks like Yellowstone, the Florida Everglades, Yosemite, or the Grand Canyon.
Avoid: Hotels without swimming pools.
Remember: Two bedrooms are better than one. Just because your 8-year-old can keep going until 10pm doesn't mean she should.
Kids this age are notoriously squirrelly, so keep them moving. Vacations with lots of organized activities are a good bet. Yes, they're corny. Grin and bear it.
Consider: Ski trips, river rafting, dude ranches, surf camp, or family camp. Maybe even a cruise.
Avoid: Too much sibling togetherness.
Remember: Staff talent shows are undeniably bad, but not as bad as listening to your kids fight all night.
If you've turned your nose up at cruises and all-inclusive resorts in the past, now's the time to reconsider. Both provide relatively safe environments for your increasingly independent offspring to test her wings.
Consider: Letting your teen invite a friend along.
Avoid: Jamaica. Countries without extradition treaties (I'm kidding, sort of).
Remember: Someday you'll miss this. Really.
About the Writer
Jamie Pearson is a writer and mother of two. She sees the funny side of family travel, and blogs about it at www.TravelSavvyMom.com.