Ask my daughters their idea of a dream trip and they'd say climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro or helicopter skiing in British Columbia or returning to the amazing Galapagos Islands
Ask my son and he'd say exploring an exotic city while staying in a hip, luxe hotel.
Even in the same family, travel styles -- and travel dreams -- differ widely. One person's dream is another's nightmare. (You know what I'm talking about if you've ever been backpacking with someone whose idea of roughing it is a hotel without a blow drier or room service.)
I met one such family in Costa Rica and it wasn't pretty. The teenage daughters had wanted to go to a big Maui resort; their dad booked an adventure trip staying in tiny lodges. Monkeys in the trees didn't make up for no AC or all the bugs.
So where would you go if money wasn't an object? Would those you love most make the same choice?
Travelocity and TakingtheKids collaborated on a new poll asking families where they would take their kids on their "dream trip" if money was no object. According to the results from the 1,500 people polled, it's clear that no matter how bad the economy, when it comes to our vacation wish list, we dream big.
We want to show the kids the world, traveling to foreign cities. We want to share the excitement of seeing exotic wildlife. We want to cruise and kick back on a beach, enjoying first-class service all the way. Sixty percent of respondents said that what matters most when thinking about a dream trip is to have an authentic experience; 40 percent want the best service possible. (Translated, that means they don't want to apologize in a ritzy hotel for having kids along nor do they want to feel nickel-and-dimed their entire stay.)
Certainly families are thinking a lot about where they want to go, despite the dire economy. Families who travel with kids have more dream vacations planned -- in their minds anyway -- than those who don't travel with kids, 88 percent as opposed to 75 percent, our poll showed. "That surprised me," said Genevieve Brown, Travelocity senior editor. "That told me that family vacations are very important to people."
Absolutely. In fact, according to the new Portrait of American Travelers from the Y Partnership and Harrison Group, 4 in 10 leisure travelers have traveled with children in the last year. Nearly a third of leisure travelers who are grandparents have traveled with their grandchildren in the last year.
These are the times we strengthen family bonds and build memories that last a lifetime -- even when things go awry, as they always do when kids are part of the equation. In my family, some of the most memorable moments have come from missteps. We've had our share of dream trips -- the Galapagos Islands, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, sailing around Tahiti on our own yacht -- and missteps along the way.
My daughters Reggie and Melanie check out a sleeping sea lion in the Galapagos Islands (photo by Andy Yemma)
I've watched others missteps too and have learned it's key to make sure everyone is on board with the plan. Literally. The cramped quarters of a sailboat aren't for everyone, no matter how spectacular the environs. I met a mom who couldn't get off their boat fast enough. I've also met a lot of families who have saved for years for that special trip, whether to Africa, Hawaii, Paris, the Mediterranean or Orlando. (Yes, 9 percent of those polled said they'd go to Orlando on their dream trip and 12 percent said they'd want their children to experience a theme park.)
But if money weren't a concern, more of us would venture farther from home. More than a third of those polled said they wanted their kids to experience a foreign city and 27 percent said they'd go to Europe. Nearly as many want to go to Hawaii. Eleven percent want to see exotic wildlife, though only five percent said they'd take the kids to Africa.
What many families don't realize is they can make their travel dreams come true if they travel smart with their kids. Travelocity's Brown notes that families could save as much as 40 percent on airfare if they opt to go to Europe over Thanksgiving rather than over the summer. You'll avoid the crowds too. You can save even more -- as much as $525 for two people -- if you book your flights and hotel together. Maybe you could swap houses with a European family and avoid hotel costs altogether. (Check websites like www.luxehomeswap.com and www.homeexchange.com.)
Hawaii, still reeling from the drop in Japanese tourism this past year, has many deals too, especially if you can go before Christmas or after New Year's, says Brown. One of my favorite Hawaii family resorts, the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, is running a 20th anniversary special thru the Christmas holidays with a fifth night free, $20 resort credit nightly, breakfast and a discount on spa and golf. The kids will love the pools!
For the 18 percent of you who would take your kids on a cruise if you had the money, go for it! You can opt to cruise from a port near your home, avoiding the cost and hassles of flight -- and you can't beat the price when you figure activities for the kids and teens, food, entertainment and transportation from port to port are included. Check out www.allthingscruise.com to compare cruise lines and my family cruise guide.
The 22 percent of you who want to get away with the kids and relax on a beach don't have to wait either. Go to the Caribbean for Thanksgiving, suggests Brown, when many resorts still offer low-season rates or opt for a long fall weekend. (Just get travel insurance in case of a hurricane.) The upscale Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen, which offers all the amenities of a resort and an ideal location in the safe and fun Riviera Maya beach town, touts half-off deals through Oct. 31 and 35 percent off through Dec. 22.
Sure, winning the lottery would be nice, but you don't need that to take the kids on a dream getaway. The one thing you do need is to make sure you've all got the same travel dream -- or at least can live with each others choices.
Eileen Ogintz interviews families and experts around the world for her widely syndicated column "Taking the Kids™" and is the creator of www.takingthekids.com. She's written seven family travel books, most recently The Kid's Guide: NYC and The Kid's Guide: Cruising Alaska. E-book guides are available in the Nook and Kindle e-book stores. For more "Taking the Kids," visit www.takingthekids.com.