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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!

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