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Planning a family summer vacation with a 13 and 11 yr old.

Planning a family summer vacation with a 13 and 11 yr old.

Old Sep 14th, 2004, 04:25 AM
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Planning a family summer vacation with a 13 and 11 yr old.

I want to start planning our summer vacation for 10 days to 2 weeks and need some input. Last year we did Colorado: Hot springs, horseback riding, hot air ballooning, white water rafting etc.. My husband wants to do Florida: Universal, a beach some where and then fly over to the Bahamas for a few days. My son wants to do Hollywood, CA I would like to do New England states and my 11 yr old doesn't care. Anyone have ideas for a fun, fairly active vacation with cost not being too much of an issue?
katyhotr is offline  
Old Sep 14th, 2004, 08:07 AM
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Florida would be a great place, if you can deal with the brutal humidity and heat in summer (I can and do-- I love Florida-- but I was born in the South). I'm not a huge fan of Orlando (too pre-packaged and plastic for me), but Universal is a lot of fun. Ft. Lauderdale could be great, and it will be off-season, so it should be reasonably priced.

Hollywood, CA. Ahh, yes. The concept seems glamourous and glitzy, but it's both less than the fantasy (Hollywood itself is simply a neighborhood in the Greater Los Angeles area) and much more (disclosure: I live in southern CA). Southern California is huge, wildly varied, definitely not for everyone (there's a large contingency of posters on this Forum that hate it). It's so much more than simply "Hollywood" (uggh). I recommend perusing the southern California destination guide here on Fodors.com as a starter. Your husband will be amazed to find that there's a Universal Studios theme park out here (and hey! It's the original!), as well as a Disney theme park (and hey! It's the original), a Sea World down in San Diego (and hey! It's the original)... and beaches as well (although the water's a bit too cool to swim in as a general rule). For the best weather, anytime after July 1. We had glorious weather this summer (Labor Day weekend was dry, hot and gorgeous!). The whole area south of Santa Barbara to the Mexico border could be quite an adventure.

New England? That would be wonderful too. I'm a huge fan of Boston and the Cape, and certainly the summer's the nicest time to hit the area (I'm not a big fan of the "fall leaves" thing-- pretty and all, but after an hour...). But I don't know the area beyond Boston and some of the Cape villages, so I'll let other comment.
rjw_lgb_ca is offline  
Old Sep 14th, 2004, 08:18 AM
Join Date: Mar 2004
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One of my new trip-planning techniques, especially when I have the luxury of time, is to do four things:

-pick a few places (like you've done)

-research on lonelyplanet.com and ask friends and messageboards, like you're doing, about my desired destinations

-set a faretracker on orbitz.com to the places I'm interested in

-sign up for email deals from places like orbitz and your fave airline

Then let word of mouth recommendations and destiny take control!
Baligirl is offline  
Old Sep 14th, 2004, 10:19 AM
Join Date: Mar 2004
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I have similar aged children and 10 days in Florida in the summer sounds like torture.

I love New England and there is so much to do and you can have beach and mountains. Boston and Newport are both fun for families

How about flying into Bangor, Maine and spending a few days in Acadia National Park and then ferrying over to Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island and Prince Edward Island. Beautiful scenery and plenty of outdoor activities.

My kids also loved the Seattle, VIctoria, San Juan Islands trip in the Northwest.

We just took our kids to Ireland and England for 2 weeks...it was so easy and they loved it. I also reccommend Italy for families.

Good luck with your decision.
mei is offline  
Old Sep 14th, 2004, 11:04 AM
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I liked San Diego a lot, also Universal and Disney in Anaheim but I thought Los Angeles was a disappointment.
There's quite a bit to do in New England so I think you could customize a terrific family vacation. You might take a look at a calendar of events, the Big Apple Circus is in NH in the summer (see there website, it's a great European style show under a tent which is set up near Dartmouth College). A lazy week by a lake? Hiking in the White Mountains or Arcadia? Mountain biking at ski areas? Sea kayaking? Kayaking down a country river? There's a great water park near Portsmouth NH plus the Strawbery Banke historical area. There's a variety of boat trips out of Portsmouth. Explore tidal pools at Odiorne Point and visit the science center? The summer theaters usually run some shows for children. The beaches on the Cape are probably the best so maybe consider splitting the time between the beach and mountains. You can see the mountains from Lake Winnipesaukee in NH. Have fun choosing. It sounds like you have a few more years of family vacations to plan. My husband's favorite remains an old cottage by a lake with a screened porch and a table where a jig saw puzzle can be left out to work on.
dfrostnh is offline  
Old Sep 14th, 2004, 11:15 AM
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Living in southern California, I don't know if I'd choose it over New England. I think New England, if you've never been there before, is much more interesting. (but this may be because I live in southern Ca., and when I think of SoCal, I think of smog and traffic!)
Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts is fantastic, the villages of Vermont so lovely, the coast of Maine is so scenic, that'd be a lovely vacation!
Little_Man is offline  
Old Sep 14th, 2004, 11:23 AM
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Lots of things that a 13 & 11 year old can do in Los Angeles that they might not enjoy so much when they're older. My kids that age list the following as their favorites:

Natural History Museum
L.A. Zoo and Western Museum
Museum of Science & Industry
Tar Pits and Page Museum
Petersen Auto Museum
Universal Studios Tour
Six Flags Hurricane Harbor
The Greens (deluxe mini golf)
The Beach
Hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains
Aquarium of the Pacific
clarkgriswold is offline  
Old Sep 14th, 2004, 08:25 PM
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Thanks for the input. If I hadn't mentioned CA, Florida or New England, where would you take your family?
katyhotr is offline  
Old Sep 14th, 2004, 09:10 PM
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I don't know your interests, but music camps can be a lot of fun. In July, Ashville, NC (Swannanoa) has several. My son, who was 11, went to the kids camp during the day and they made crafts, played pennywhistles and went on hikes. At night there was contradancing, which he would NEVER have done at home, but really liked when we did it. There are beginning classes if you don't play an instrument and some dance classes too.

Lark in the Morning is a camp in Mendocino Woodlands first week in August (larkcamp.com) that is similar. You stay in cabins and there are dances every night and lots of stuff for the kids to do, as well.

This may be totally NOT what you are interested in, but someone else might be curious. Just a thought...
spootiskerry is offline  
Old Sep 15th, 2004, 03:56 AM
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Message: The Canadian Rockies was a great palce to take our kids when they were about that age. Hiking, Snowcoach ride on the glaciers, hot springs etc., all located in several national parks all within a short days ride. We also took a few days and visited Drumheller (east of Calgary) to do a dinosaur dig and visit the Dinosaur Museum there.

We've also done a Southwest tour...went to London for a week and last year did a three week trip through Washington, Oregon and Northern California.

The kids, now 15 and 17, still pick the Canadian Rockies as the all time favorite.
mary_s is offline  
Old Sep 15th, 2004, 11:09 PM
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My vote goes to Florida. We love it for an active family vacation, even in the summer! We have been to different parts of Florida, but our favorite may be the Keys. And the breezes keep the heat bearable. Oh, and you are in the beautiful, warm water all the time.

We went this summer in late June and had a fantastic time! Snorkeling trips in Pennekamp Park and Bahia Honda, beach time in Bahia Honda, "back country" kayak trip off Big Pine Key (highly recommended with teens!), Dolphin Research Center (very well done--check their website), trip to Key West but stayed at Hawk's Cay. If you stay somewhere more central, you can move around quite easily.

We ended our trip with a few days at Lago Mar Resort in Ft Lauderdale. Really lovely resort with very large, private beach. Lots of beach activities there and farther down the beach. Beautiful pools, very helpful staff. Unbelievable internet price for summer!

swimmer is offline  
Old Sep 16th, 2004, 04:25 AM
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We have done a few trips with our kids (10 and 13) that have been really fun. Here are some highlights:

Toronto/Niagara Falls - In Toronto, we watched a Blue Jays game, went to the top of the CN Tower, took the kids to dinner in Chinatown, went to the very nice Toronto Zoo. There are lots of additional options like Ontario Place, the Science Museum, ferry boat rides, etc. We also did the EXCELLENT African Lion Safari, with monkeys climbing on our car and lots of other up close experiences. In Niagara, most of the posters on this site will suggest only one day, but we strongly disagree if you are traveling with kids (we did almost 3 days). The place is set up for them. Aside from seeing the falls, you can ride Maid of the Mist, do Cave of the Winds or Journey Behind The Falls, and spend an evening at the amusements or two on Clifton Hill. Our favorite experience was the Jet Boat Ride through the class 5 rapids.

Tampa/Orlando: We booked our flight to and from Tampa and spent both weekends at Clearwater Beach (25 minutes from Tampa). Monday through Friday, we stayed in Orlando (about an hour from Tampa) for the Disney/Universal thing. This gave us a nice mix of beach/relaxation and amusement park/frenzy. Of all our vacations, this one stands out in oud kids' minds as the greatest. It stands out in my mind as the most expensive!

Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula: We stayed in Playacar (next to Playa del Carmen)for 3 days, Cozumel for 3 days, and Cancun for 3 days. We saw several Mayan ruins, went to an excellent ecological theme park called Xcaret, snorkeled, and spend lots of time on the beach. If I were to go back with kids, I'd skip Cancun; it isn't really setup for families unless you just stay at the resort. Playacar and Cozumel were great for families.

Have fun!
Davelw is offline  
Old Sep 16th, 2004, 05:35 AM
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We went to Florida/orlando/universal this past June. IT IS HOT AND HUMID!! You have to go on a water ride just to get wet. I enjoy the action of the parks, but the summer is crowded and sticky. (My kids, by the way are 10 and 12.) New England is great for adults, but I think a few days in Boston is great and your kids will be done. The cape is a quiet place and I still think you (the parents) would enjoy it more (cold waters!)The truth is you want an action packed trip and I suggest the Southern California idea. Do some theme parks, see San Diego, and stop in Hollywood. (We are trying the San Francisco thing in the Spring) San Francisco can be combined with a Yosemite visit. I am also always looking for ideas for a fun-filled family vacation. Last spring break, we went to the island of Aruba. It was a lot of fun. We stayed at the Marriott hotel and there is plenty of watersports action/relaxing on a beach there. Aruba's weather and temperatures remain the same year round 85 and sunny. You may want to try an island!
girlonthego is offline  
Old Sep 16th, 2004, 05:59 AM
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When my kids were in their early teens - and bear in mind, this was a gazillion years ago - we spent a couple of weeks one summer driving through the Canadian Maritime Provinces. We drove from Toronto (where we live) and made arrangements through an organization called Farm Vacations, or something like that, to stay at various b&b's along the way that were actually dairy farms. The kids got to see calves being born and got to help out with some of the farm chores, which they loved. We ended up in Cape Breton, in Nova Scotia, as our easternmost point. Then we took a car-ferry from Halifax to Bar Harbour, Maine, and drove home through New Hampshire, Vermont, and ultimately eastern Ontario. We rented a cottage for several days in Cape Breton, which was a nice change from farmhouses and the odd motel. It was a fun trip.
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Old Sep 16th, 2004, 05:59 AM
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katyhotr: Several years ago when our kids were of a similar age to yours, we did a driving trip through Canada.
Coming from Boston, we headed up through Vermont (stayed overnight there; went to the Shelbourne (I think that's the name) Museum. Very quirky but fun.
Next day headed to Montreal. We went to Ottawa, then down to Toronto and came back via Niagara Falls. Stopped in Cooperstown on the way home.
I think it was a 2+ - week trip. We generally stayed 2-3 days in each location.
I made the kids look through the guidebooks (AAA or others) and they had to list places they would like to visit in each location. Then parents did the same and we compromised on sites to see based on the amount of time we had. We made an itinerary for the family which included museums (Ottawa has a National Gallery), sports (Toronto has the hockey hall of fame and we managed to get tickets for a Blue Jays game while there), theme parks (one near Montreal), science centers (they thought the one outside of Toronto was the best they'd ever been to). You get the idea.
One thing I did was make sure that all our hotels had a swimming pool. I wanted them to remember their vacations when they grew up so I made them write a journal page each night. The bribe was the pool -- you can go to the pool if you write in your journal first. It worked because it gave them a good way to let off any more energy before bed. Now they are 13 and 17 and every once in a while we'll find their old journals and they'll recall the great stuff we did on vacation.
GBelle is offline  
Old Sep 16th, 2004, 08:50 AM
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Our kids - of about that age - enjoyed our trip to the Olympic Penn., Victoria BC, Seattle,& Mt. Ranier. Lots of outdoor opportunities - the Olympic Penn. has mountains, wildlife, rainforests and tide pools! Victoria has history, nice weather, whale watching, the Butchart Gardens (which is so impressive that even the kids loved it), English "tea" and the Bug Zoo (you can hold everything that dosen't sting). Seattle has history, cool shopping, etc. Mt. Ranier has all the hikng you can stand, calendar perfect scenery, even snow in August. Plus, on that trip, my then 12 year old discovered that he loves seafood. (He's been more expensive since then.)
missypie is offline  
Old Sep 16th, 2004, 09:37 AM
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Hawaii is our favorite destination for our family of four. There we all can find activities we enjoy. And it sounds like your family enjoys doing things outdoors, too. If you're on the East coast, it might be more practical for you to go to an island location other than Hawaii-- like the Bahamas or the Keys. Sounds like your husbands ideas are along those lines, too.
FYI, my teenage daughter and I went to the Universal Studios theme park in Orlando last spring. We had already been to the Disney parks there, so opted for Universal this time. We were very disappointed. The movie theme park was so outdated, and most of the "rides" were so bad we laughed at them (like the "Jaws" and the "Twister" ones are particularly bad). Anyway we would have been better off seeing a Disney park again, as they are so much better designed and maintained. It seemed the Universal park had more shops than it had entertainment. Even the rides let you out in the gift shops-- a tactic I'd hate if I had younger kids in tow.
Old Sep 16th, 2004, 11:04 AM
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To girlonthego, You are right about Aruba. We have had our kids there 3 times. Lots to do and probably one of the safest islands we have been to.
Thanks to people who have recommmended
Canada. Didn't think of that. We live in PA so we could drive. Anyone have any recommendations on islands besides Aruba to go to with kids and things to do?
katyhotr is offline  
Old Sep 16th, 2004, 11:18 AM
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Since you live in Pa, the Canada thing may work. You can drive up through Lake George NY and then hit Montreal and Quebec. (My parents took us on this trip when I was 13.)
Islands, We are going to the Bahamas IF it is still there and IF Us Air is still flying in a few weeks. We are going to the Atlantis. Grossly expensive, but has the slides and aquariums,etc..My husband is taking us there for my 40th! next month. Another island we loved is Bermuda. It is pretty, safe, friendly, but quiet. (Not action-packed!)But they do have the scooters and some watersports, and a very cute town. Another island we were thinking of is St.John/St.Thomas. There is great snorkeling, shopping, etc...St.Thomas would have a better priced hotel. There is a Marriott there and you can spend the day in St. John. Just some thoughts....I am glad you liked Aruba too!
girlonthego is offline  
Old Sep 16th, 2004, 11:25 AM
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I also thought of Hawaii. You'd have clear water, mountains, history, good food, laid back atmosphere, most of the activities you listed. My husband and I took our kids, then 11 and 13, for 11 days last November and it was great.
travellyn is offline  

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