Ah, summertime. Time to head to the beach, head to the mountains, or head overseas, depending on what your family is like. Invariably there are arguments at the last minute, departures in the middle of the night, weather delays, and all manner of unforeseen complications. But a vacation, like life, is what you make of it. Searching for family vacation packages that avoid the obvious (Disney World) is not easy -- most of the big travel search engines, which have "family travel" sections, invariably they lead you to Mickey Mouse and his kin. Steering clear of Disney, we found a few deals for last-minute summer vacation planning.
If it's a bit of American exploration you're interested in, Caravan Tours (tel. 800/227-2826; www.caravantours.com), which conducts escorted trips, is currently offering a "Mt. Rushmore, Grand Tetons and Yellowstone Tour" for eight days priced at $995 based on double occupancy; triple occupancy, $975. The trip includes thirteen meals, and accommodations in a combination of chain hotels and local inns. There are many departure dates in July (27, 29) and August (3, 17, 19, 24, 26, 31). Airfare is not included, but Caravan provides a handy guide, listing major and budget air carriers for your arrival (Rapid City, South Dakota) and departure (Salt Lake City, Utah); just click on "airport transfers."
If you want to leave the country and have your passports ready, Caravan also offers a sale on a fully escorted, all-inclusive 10-day family adventure trip to Costa Rica, priced at $995 per person. Dubbed "Costa Rica Natural Paradise", sights also include Poas Volcano, the National Museum in San Jose, a naturalist-guided trip through Braulio Carrillo Park and a cruise through Tortuguero Park, home to more than 300 species of birds. Hiking, swimming, and a visit to a coffee plantation are also on the itinerary. Departures are available July 29; August 5, 11, 18 and 25, and throughout the fall. Airfare is not included, but United, American, Continental and Delta Airlines all fly to Costa Rica from assorted U.S. cities.
For Expedia (tel. 800/397-3342; www.expedia.com), if you search under vacation packages, and then click on "family fun" under "vacation themes" there are many options and suggested itineraries, such as Texas Hill Country and San Antonio, Bahamas (and Disney World). Under budget travel options, the "ResortQuest Waikiki Sunset", described as a "condo-style tower secluded from busy Waikiki" has a number of special offers for families. Through January 1, 2007, kids can stay, play and eat for free if they are 12 and under. Upon check-in, kids will receive an ID card and a flyer with info about free admission at attractions such as the Atlantis Submarine and Hawaiian Adventures Park. Families will be able to receive one ID card per child, per stay. Other promotions include a complimentary inflatable beach ball for each child upon check-in. You'll have to mess around with it a bit to find the cheapest travel time, but mid-August, mid-week departures for a four-night stay average around $900 per person, including airfare, from New York-JFK.
Orbitz (tel. 888/656-4546; www.orbitz.com) has a family travel page with a number of deals to beachy places, such as a special at Bahia Resort Hotel in San Diego, California, priced from $99 per night or $334 per person based on flight from San Francisco and three nights' accommodations. Located in Mission Bay, you have access to nearby Sea World and the famous San Diego Zo0, as well as the property's pool, tennis, and water sports options.
Single Parent Travel (tel. 877/464-6778; www.singleparenttravel.net/tours) runs trips for single parents with children. There are two trips left for summer vacations, and their "Beaches Turks and Caicos" trip, August 19-26, is priced at $2,495 for one adult and one child; $2,966.25 for one adult and two children, plus tax. What's included? Well, the company makes it fun for both adults and kids, with a cocktail reception for the parents and a staffed nursery, supervised activities, and kid-friendly pools. Pricing is based on Turquoise Deluxe Rooms, which have views of the gardens and grounds. The best way to check availability is to call and book through the company's toll-free number.
The Travel With Kids (www.travelwithkids.about.com) page at About.com provides some great leads on packages for families. For instance, right now Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas has three-night packages in the fall available from as low as $279 per person. The fall travel special dictates you must book by August 7 for travel August 19-October 29; rates for August 19-September 4 are slightly higher. For last minute summer flings, the "Last Days of Summer" special's booking deadline is July 31 for travel August 6-31, where the resort is priced at $169 per night based on double occupancy in the Beach Tower Terrace. The resort is located on Paradise Island and has 14 acres with waterfalls, streams, and lagoons.
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