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5 Tips to Make a Cruise the Perfect Family Vacation

If you're trying to come up with the perfect family vacation for the holidays, time to think about cruising.

Whether you are new to cruising or a seasoned sailing family, here are 5 tips to ensure every member of the family has a fun, memorable… and relaxing holiday.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host and cruise expert, BestTrip.TV

1. Location, location, location. 

Pick your family cruise destination first, and make sure every family member will have something to be excited about. A cruise is one of the best ways to introduce the family to Europe, to reach exotic destinations like the Galapagos, or see the world closer to home. (Top image: Families in awe of the Hubbard Glacier in Alaska on a Regent Seven Seas Cruise. Watch the video!)

Can you drive to a major cruise port? Ships embark from cruise ports along all coasts of North America, from Montreal, out the St. Lawrence and down the East Coast, southern ports in Florida, Louisiana and Texas, and up the West Coast from San Diego all the way to Vancouver. From these home-grown ports, cruising families can enjoy Canada and New England cruises, Bahamas/Caribbean/ Panama canal cruises, Mexico and Western Caribbean cruises, Pacific Northwest and Alaska cruises (like the Regent Seven Seas Cruise to Alaska pictured, top), and West Coast/ Baja, South America and even Hawaii cruises. 

If you drive to the port where your ship round-trips, a family can save a lot on flights… and use those savings on their family cruise vacation to upgrade a stateroom category, treat yourselves to more shore excursions, even take other members of the family along too and make it an extended family get together.

2. Find the perfect cruise ship match

Mega-ship or small ship? It depends on your family, and a good travel advisor will consult with you to find your perfect family cruise. There are enormous cruise ships that are destinations in themselves, floating theme park resorts. And for some families, they are perfect holiday destinations, with more round-the-clock adventures, activities, pools, sports, dining and entertainment than the family can even experience in a week or 10-day cruise. With social clubs for kids of all ages right through to the sedate activities many grandparents enjoy, these ships are crowd pleasers.

(Waterslides on Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas)

But they are not the only options. If the kids in your family don't need non-stop activities, if you are more interested in authentic destination experiences, medium and smaller-sized ships including expedition and luxury ships - even river cruise ships - might be the best fit for your family. Smaller ships and expedition ships may not have the whirlwind of activities and entertainment of the biggest ships, but they can dock in more out-of-the-way places, and the atmosphere on board is quieter for families who make their own fun.

3. Book and pre-pay for as much as possible. 

Your travel advisor can help match you to your best cruise options that have the best value for the best type of cruise experience for your family. That may involve packaged, pre-paid or included things like tips, drinks packages, shore excursions, even flights. Generally speaking, pre-paying gives you the best value for money. As an added bonus, you'll worry less about tracking your vacation spending budget while you are on holiday – and be more likely to avoid going over-budget.

Pre-booking ensures you'll also be able to enjoy a ship board experience on your first preference of day and time. Spa appointments and specialty restaurants can book up before guests even board the ship. So pre-book parents' date night or someone's birthday or anniversary dinner before you board.

The same advice goes for shore excursions. If there's an experience at a port of call that's the highlight of the family cruise vacation, booking that zip line adventure, wildlife tour, catamaran or cooking class ahead will ensure you avoid disappointment.

 

(Beach day on Holland America Line's private island in the Bahamas)

4. Give kids some independence – and give parents a break. 

One piece of advice parents regularly come back to thank me for is that I recommend families take walkie-talkies. One could be for the parents, the other for older (tween/teen) kids. This gives kids the run of the ship to enjoy their own interests, and still be in contact with parents. Or divided between different family groupings so there's maximum freedom to break into smaller family groups and also easily check in, plan meeting places, get together for a swim, lunch, or another whole-group activity…

Pre-paid drinks packages also enable kids to serve themselves without tracking down an adult or running up a surprise tab.

Since cruise ships are self-contained, they are among the safest family travel destinations for families to enjoy their own interests in the same space. Nothing says 'vacation' like parents lounging by the pool knowing the kids are safe and having a great time on their own.

5. Look into and take advantage of on board services. 

This is part of the essential cruise match-making process your travel advisor can help you with. Cruise lines are innovators in keeping kids entertained. They've developed partnerships with kids' favorite characters and movies. And many offer clubs and daycare for kids of all ages – some even for babes-in-arms that make cruises great 'babymoon' destinations. So even if your kids aren't old enough to enjoy the ship's activities on their own, ask what options are for kids of all ages. 

It's a great way to change up the pace for every member of the family, from time spent with different members in different experiences.

Cruises make some of the best family vacations that provide lifelong memories and maximum family time. Parents only have to pack and unpack once while the family gets to enjoy multiple destinations and vacation experiences together. With these tips, your next family cruise vacation will be your best holiday together yet!

 

Start your Trip!


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A New Year of Travel Trends

Happy New Year! 2017 is ramping up to be an exciting year of travel. So we thought we'd share stories about the hottest travel trends that are going to impact where - and how - you travel in the coming months and even years. What do we see in our crystal ball/ champagne glass?

Whether you're planning family, 'bleisure' (business/leisure), solo, romantic or couple travels, gal or pal getaways, from the uber luxurious to the economical, 2017 travel will be all about:

  • Wellness and Adventure: Getting outdoors and being active, returning more healthy than when you left, doing something other than pounding pavement or cobblestones every day... visitors have more and more new, healthy and adventurous (not necessarily dangerous!) ways to experience destinations.
  • Cuba: Travel to Cuba has changed forever now that relations with the US are normalizing. If you haven't already been, there are even more ways to explore one of the world's last restricted travel areas.
  • New Cruise Ships: Ocean or river, luxury or expedition, new cruise ships, with itineraries, designs, amenities, activities and celebrity entertainment or culinary partnerships that battle to outdo each other just keep on coming! What WILL they do next on a ship? We'll keep you abreast of all the latest developments. If you're one of the last few people who still thinks cruising is about 'blue hair and buffets', you should take a look at the latest generation of cruise ships... and passengers. There really is a cruise out there for every traveler.
  • Celebrations: Canada commemorates its 150th birthday in 2017, and it's also riding a wave at the top of nearly every 'best place to travel' list. Did you know as many Americans travel to Canada every year as go to all of Europe? And with the dollar and other considerations, it's never been a better year for vacationing close to home. So throughout 2017, we're going to share some of our favorite stories about Canada to inspire your travels.
  • Local and authentic: Local food, local artisans... everyone is looking for authentic, local production, creation, and consumption. There's a global awareness that we're all looking to be more connected with each other and the items we consume. Products with provenance and people with passion and rejuvenated cities and neighbourhoods. There's more and more of it out there to discover.
  • Connecting: Staying connected with those at home, and connecting with the people, Nature, and wildlife where you're traveling.
  • Customization: It's never been easier to work with a travel expert to craft a trip of your dreams. In the past, it may have been harder to tweak a trip to get exactly what you want, but a new age of crafting travel itineraries is upon us, at every price point. If you're just saying 'yes' and dropping down your credit card, you're missing out.

We want to inspire your travel imagination in 2017... and then make those dreams come true!

So we're also introducing BestTrip.TV - an 'online travel TV station' with inspiring videos you can watch right here on our web site (click on BestTrip.TV on our home page). We'll be sharing BestTrip.TV videos throughout the year.

Safe and memorable travels in 2017!

2016 is Sailing off into the Sunset...

And here at Walnut Grove Travel, we're looking back on some of our best, most inspiring travel stories of the past year... AND bringing you some fresh ideas to start your travels off right in 2017.

Thank you for being part of our community of travel lovers this year. We wish you a very Happy New Year 2017, and whether you travel on business, for pleasure, on your own, with colleagues, family, friends, or that special someone, we hope you have many exciting and memorable journeys ahead!(Top Photo: BestTrip.TV in Fort Lauderdale, Florida)

Intrepid Doubles Family-Themed Itineraries

Intrepid Travel is doubling its family-themed tours for 2017 with 48 itineraries tailored to families in two new styles of travel, Comfort and Active Family.

The decision to launch more than 20 tours comes as a result of the increasing demand for multi-generational travel. Intrepid Travel has also experienced significant demand for its teen trips, designed for ages 12 and up, inspiring the launch of teen trekking itineraries in Peru and Nepal, among other destinations.

“Intrepid Travel’s kid-friendly tours shake up the typical family vacation, offering a sense of adventure suited for all generations,” says Leigh Barnes, North America director for Intrepid Travel. “By significantly increasing our Family tours for 2017, we hope to be the go-to operator for family adventure travel.”

Ideal for meeting like-minded families, Intrepid Travel’s family-only adventures offer action-packed experiences steering off the beaten track, away from ball pits and buffets. Transforming travel into a form of education, the tours encourage families to use the world as their textbook by immersing into the destination and culture. With an average group size of 12, travelers can hop aboard local transportation, eat at family-run restaurants and kick back in home-stay accommodations. Family-friendly tours with 2017 departures offer one-of-a-kind experiences including:

  • Act like Mowgli in search for Shere Khan and other Bengal tigers for a true “Jungle Book” experience on the Comfort Northern India Family Holiday.
  • Visit Chiang Mai’s Elephant Nature Park, recognized by World Animal Protection for its protection of elephant welfare, on the Thailand Family Holiday.
  • Punt along the waterways of the Okavango Delta’s vibrant ecosystem by traditional canoe, greeting grunting hippos on the Namibia & Botswana Family Adventure.
  • Take on life as a local Gozitan shepherd for the day, tending to animals, cutting corn, making ‘gbejniet’ cheese and preparing lunch with the host family during the Malta and Gozo Family Holiday.

Start your Trip!

A version of this article previously appeared in TravelPress.com

Our 'Plan a Cruise Month' Smorgasbord of Offers

Mark it on your calendar. October is 'Plan a Cruise Month'. 

This is the time of year when the world's top cruise lines introduce some of their best offers of the year.

And with the nights getting chillier, thoughts of getting away this winter to the Caribbean's turquoise waters, exotic Polynesia, or fun loving Australia leap to mind.  Or an expedition of a lifetime to South America or Galapagos. And there's always Europe and the elegant Mediterranean in the spring.

There's a smorgasbord of cruise offers available right now, so if you were thinking of a romantic escape, a family or multi-generation holiday, an expedition cruise of a lifetime, even an employee incentive trip or a group getaway with your club, here's our round up of some of the best offers available.

Start your Trip!

G Adventures new "Teen Adventures" G Adventures (the same company that was known for years as GAP Adventures) has added some new Teen Adventures to their Family Adventures collection. read more
    Old Havana and its Fortification System Havana - Cuba’s capital - was the last city to be established by Spanish conquistadors. By 1550, it had become an important political and commercial hub, a position it holds up to today. read more
Aranjuez Cultural Landscape Welcome to the cultural landscape of Aranjuez, a landscape that marked a seminal stage in the development of landscaping as a discipline in Spain. read more
    Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments Let’s take a trip to the largest country by surface area in the world. Let’s peruse Russia’s list of UNESCO listed World Heritage Sites and see if the country lives up to its great name. Today, we learn about the Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments. read more
Historic Centre of Brugge. You have to check this out !!!

The Historic Town of Brugge with its Gothic settlements is a classic example of a city that have for centuries seen the exchange of cultural values including the development of architecture, innovative artistic influences as well as commercial interests. In fact, the 19th century renovation of facades introduced the neo-gothic style that is special to Brugge. The history of the city is closely associated with the Flemish Primitive painting.

Archaeological excavations

Excavations in the region show that the city of Brugge was occupied from the Iron Age and the Gallo-roman period. It was the military and administrative center and had commercial links with Scandinavia even in those early days. The name Brugge is first mentioned in a Carolingian coin that beared the name ‘Bruggia’. The residents of the city had put up defense fortifications that numbered 851 in total.

Check out the following synthesis for the history of Brugge:

  • 1200 – Brugge fair is established with help of the British contacts. It is also during this time that the city developed the belfry in Grand’Place as well as developing as an important economic center in Europe.
  • 1419 to 1467 – Under Philippe de le Bon, Brugge developed as a court center. Flemish Primitive School was also established during this time. Miniature paintings, humanism and Renaissance art became the center of attraction in the city.
  • 15th century – Brugge entered stagnation. The Flemish regions were integrated into Habsburg Empire. Discovery of America displaced the economics in favor of the Atlantic instead of Mediterranean.
  • 1600 to 1800 – This period saw the building of canal systems that re-connected the city of Brugge to its maritime past
  • 1815 to 1830 – Brugge was part of United Kingdom of the Netherlands.
  • 1830 – It became part of Belgium, a situation it still retains today.
  • Late 19th century – English Aristocrats heavily influenced the place.

Attractions

The Burg and the Grand'Place Squares are the major attractions. They have been the pride of Brugge for 1000 years.

If not for anything else, visit Brugge for its historical sentimental value.

The Canadian Rockies. You gotta travel here!!!

The Canadian Rockies are Canada’s greatest natural heritage. They are grand, beautiful, majestic, alluring…pick the adjective. If you are looking for a place to experience real fun, then there is no better place in the world. The Canadian Rockies Mountains consists of the following Parks:

  • Banff National Park
  • Jasper National Park
  • Kootenay National Park
  • Yoho National Park
  • Mount Robson Provincial Park
  • Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park and
  • Hamber Provincial Park

The parks also include mountains, canyons, limestone caves, glaciers and hot springs and the headwaters of major North American river systems including:

  • North Saskatchewan River
  • Athabasca River
  • Columbia River
  • Fraser River

The mountains are southeastern-northwestern oriented and are nestled along the continental Divide that consists of Western Ranges, Front Ranges, Main Ranges and Foothills – all of these are well represented in the parks.

Noteworthy for the visitor is the still active glaciers and ice fields in the Main Ranges with the most important being the North America’s largest subarctic ice field – the Columbia Ice Field – which covers 325 square kilometers and straddles both Jasper and Banff National Parks.

The flora diversity here is as intense as in the other Canadian National Heritage Sites. The forest cover will be found at the altitude of 1200 meters to 1800 meters and include species such as Douglas fir, poplar, aspen, white spruce etc. On the Alpine altitude of 1800 meters to 2100 meters, you will find the low growing vegetation such as willow and dwarf birch, mountain avens, sedge and heath.

56 species of mammals are to be found in this region. They include; the Rocky Mountain goat, hoary marmot, bighorn sheep as well as carnivores such as grey wolf, lynx, puma, wolverine, black bear etc. There are also the 280 species of birds that include; golden eagle, rock pipit, grey jay and many more

As a tourist in this region, you will have more than your full share of adventure. From sports such as skiing, cross-country skiing, horse sleigh riding, dogsledding and many more winter sports to such fun activities as hiking, bathing in hot water springs and even golfing; the Canadian Rocky Mountains Parks is one of those places you visit over and over again without exhausting the fun.

Top Adventure attractions in Uruguay Uruguay remained unoccupied until the establishment of Colonia Del Sacramento in 1680 by the Portuguese. Apparently, not even the Spanish could ensure large population growth in this country and this have left it with large swathes of land left uninhabited and therefore open to the adventure hungry tourists. Being one of the most tourist friendly countries in the world, Uruguay has several destinations which have established it as an adventure destination. They are listed below. read more
5 vital considerations for familes planning a safari Whether you are travelling alone with your spouse or are being accompanied by your kids on a safari, you will need to consider several factors in order to have an enjoyable experience. Below are some of the things you need to put into account before going on a safari. read more
5 things to do in Wellington Nestled between Cook Strait and the Rimutaka Range in North Island's southwestern tip in New Zealand is the country's capital and second largest city - Wellington. The city holds the distinction of being the most southerly capital in the world. In 2012, Mercer Quality of Living Survey ranked Wellington as the 13th most livable city in the world. read more
Best Burger in joints Perth Australia, just like the US has its roots in the United Kingdom. That is why you will find so much resemblance between the Americans, the British and the Australians. They share everything from language, culture, democratic institutions to common law practices. It is therefore no wonder you will find many burger lovers in Perth as you will find in London or New York. Below are a couple of burger joints in Perth that you might find worth visiting. read more
A brief history of San Diego San Diego is a major city located in southern California on the Pacific Coast. The city is the second largest in the California after Los Angeles and the eighth largest in the United States. It is popular for its natural harbor, long beaches, mild year-round climate, long association with the U.S. Navy, and recent emergence as a healthcare and biotechnology development center. But how did the city came to be? Find out below. read more
5 Olympic sites you need to see in Atlanta Thus said, Atlanta becomes one of the most logistically attractive destinations in the United States and has therefore attracted important sporting facilities, some of which were used in the 1996 Summer Olympics. Below are a couple of such destinations. read more
10 Interesting facts about Alhambra The word 'Alhambra' is a short form of the word 'Calat Alhambra' which is the name given to a palace and fortress complex located in Granada, Andalusia, Spain. The palace started off as a small fortress that was built in 899. After years of neglect, the Moorish king of Grenada renovated it in the 11th century. The fortress was to later be converted into a royal palace in the 1333 century by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada. Check out some interesting facts about the palace below. read more
5 things to do in Las Vegas with your Kids Taking your family out is good for bonding. It is on this visits that you get to learn the likes and dislikes, abilities and talents of your kids. This helps you bring them up better. On a visit to Las Vegas, You can engage in the following activities with the kids. read more
Exploring the mysterious Mourne Mountains The republic of Ireland is one of the most beautiful countries on earth. This status has been pronounced even louder by the scenic Mourne Mountains. The mountain ranges are located on the south east of Northern Ireland. They are a series of granite peaks that boasts unrivaled beauty in Europe. The highest peak is Slieve Donard at 850 meters. Other mountains on the range include; Pigeon Rock, Buzzard's Roost, Brandy Pad, the Cock and Hen, Percy Bysshe, the Devil's Coach Road, and Pollaphuca. read more
UK's best family-friendly attractions United Kingdom is a world leader in family values. Its democratic system of governance ensures that family, as a unit of society, is recognized in her constitution. The country today boasts one of the most stable family structures in the world. Her entrepreneurs have also done their part in ensuring that British families stick together read more
Great Things To Do in Toronto with Kids Coming up with fun and exciting things to do when you are on vacation can challenging enough when you are traveling alone or with your significant other. But it can be even more of a chore when you are traveling with children. If Toronto is your next vacation destination, there is plenty to do that will keep both the grown-ups and the kids entertained. read more
Educational fun for kids awaits at Dinosaur Ridge Thousands of years ago, dinosaurs, the magnificent beasts roamed the earth freely. However, something went very wrong and they began dying out until there were none left. Today, only a few of their skeletal bones are available for scientists to carbon date. Hollywood movie producers saw the untapped imagination of the young ones and in 1998 produced the highly acclaimed movie, the God Zilla. Others came up with the Jurassic Park among others. Today, you can even find video games that feature the extinct animal. But is there learning in all these movies? Might a better alternative be a visit to the Dinosaur Ridge? read more
Kids' day-out in Canada's Wonderland So your kid's parental ratings have plummeted because you are too busy for them nowadays? Well, the rates will get a sinker if you don’t do something soon. Oh, and for your information, your need to care. The little ones can be vicious if they feel cheated. And nay, they will not divorce you like the adults are so fond of doing nowadays. They will stick with you but you will see that the pedestal they had put you on previously has quickly turned into a kitchen stool. Heart breaking, isn't? Well, I have a quick fix for you. Take them to Canada's Wonderland, the premiere Canadian Amusement Park. read more
Enjoy the Family-Friendly Theme Park when You Book a Stay at First World Hotel First World Hotel is the fourth largest hotel facility in the world. The hotel is located in Genting Highlands, Pahang, Malaysia. The highland areas provide breathtaking views from the hotel rooms. read more