Ski slopes or sand castles?
Maybe your gang wants to ride roller coasters all day, or cruise away, maybe with grandma and grandpa in tow.
Whatever you choose, spring break is a good time to get away with the kids. Plan smart and you might even snare a bargain. The good news is you've still got plenty of time to get a trip organized.
Here are a few tips:
-- If you are planning to head to sunny climes, consider an air-hotel-rental car package. You can save significantly. Before you sign on for an all-inclusive resort, consider if your family will really take advantage of everything you are paying for -- from organized programs for the kids to all of the food and drinks.
-- If you are thinking about showing the kids some city lights and sites, plan a long weekend when business travelers are gone and hotels offer good deals. Look for hotels like Residence Inn that offer suite accommodations and breakfast (650 locations to choose from). I was impressed with the Residence Inn in midtown Manhattan -- or try your luck with a vacation apartment rental from a place like HomeAway.com, which has thousands of listings in some cities (3,500 in NYC!). You'll save big on food (who wants to go out for every meal?) and have more room to spread out.
-- If Orlando is on your radar -- 2.5 million visitors make Orlando, Florida, one of the top spring break destinations -- plan ahead and avoid lines with Undercover Tourist by purchasing discounted theme park tickets shipped directly to your door. Their site has tips on how to make the lines seem shorter and their Wait Times App steers you to the easiest ones to get on. Getting up to 50 percent off car rental rates is another perk. If you can, for the best deals, go to Orlando after the spring and Easter breaks and before mid-June.
The key: Get the kids involved in the planning from the get-go. Give them some parameters (is this a driving or flying trip? What's the budget? Any college tours in the mix?) and consider their top picks. One young foodie who lives in a small Colorado town asked to go to Paris -- and his mom was thrilled at his choice because she knew she'd have as much fun as he would. Check out some books from the library, as well as some movies set in the place you plan to visit.
I worked with Family Travel Forum to put together the best guide to Stupendous Spring Breaks, whatever your budget. Here are some of our picks to get you started:
Sail Away from a port near home so you don't have to hassle with flights. Just park at the port and go! You can even sail right from New Jersey on Royal Caribbean's newest ship Quantum of the Seas (read what I wrote about the new ship here). Cruise from Galveston or New Orleans, Los Angeles or San Diego -- there are more than 20 ports to choose from. You don't need to go for a week either -- choose three or five days. Parents love cruising because they get a lot of bang for their vacation buck -- activities, meals and lodging all for one price, including supervised morning-till-night programming for kids, at considerably less than many resorts charge. Grandparents are fans because cruises can prove an easy way to get the whole gang on vacation. Kids, especially tweens and teens, give ships a thumbs-up because they love the freedom they have onboard and the chance to make new friends. The Taking the Kids Annual Family Cruise Guide can help you choose the right ship for your family.
Play Ball! Take your Little Leaguers to root on their favorite team and players at spring training where the smaller stadiums in Arizona and Florida are exceedingly kid-friendly, and so much less expensive. You'll find special lodging packages close to every stadium; Kissimmee, Florida, for example, is a great place to catch the Houston Astros in training, followed by an afternoon at the nearby Orlando theme parks. In Peoria, Arizona, spend the afternoon watching the San Diego Padres or Seattle Mariners get into form, and then head back to the hotel for some pool time or a tour of the desert sky.
Hit the Snow: There's no better time than spring to enjoy what snow resorts have to offer -- and no better time to get a good deal with kids-free options at major resorts like Aspen and Snowmass and Keystone. A company like Ski.com can put together a well-priced package. Consider other ways to have fun in the snow. You can borrow all the gear you need to snowshoe or cross-country ski at the Appalachian Mountain Club lodges in New England, for example. Check out the Taking the Kids Fun in the Snow Guide for more ideas. Are you ready for a dogsled ride?
Across the Pond: If your kids are hankering to see London after seeing the new "Paddington" movie, you'll find better prices on flights and hotels in spring rather than summer. According to Trivago, which tracks hotel prices around the world, those who visited London last spring saved an average of $37 a night on hotels as compared to what they would have paid in summer. Crowds won't be as dense at major attractions either. I love that like in Washington, D.C., you'll find many free attractions too -- the Victoria and Albert Museum with free daily drop-in activities for kids, the excellent Imperial War Museums with its new World War I exhibit and the Museum of London, which proves a terrific introduction to the city's history and is a must-see through April for all Sherlock fans. Ready to walk through a Victorian street -- and then get up close to the Olympic cauldron?
Just thinking about all the possibilities makes me smile. How about you?
Eileen Ogintz is the creator of the syndicated column and website Taking the Kids. She is also the author of the ten-book Kid’s Guide series to major American cities and the Great Smoky Mountains. The third-edition of the Kid’s Guide to NYC has just been released.