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5 Perfect Fall Trips for Families

By Tobey Grumet Segal
updated September 29, 2021
Great Sand Dunes National Park 2
F11photo | Dreamstime.com
Fall is the perfect time to escape for a quick trip: the weather's cooled, prices are coming down and the crowds have disappeared. These are some of our favorite fall trips for families.

School may be in session but getting away for a short trip in the fall is a great way to ease out of summer living. And whether it’s a day trip or a quick weekend, there’s something to make everyone in the family happy. Here are six trips to consider which will enrich everyone’s body, soul and mind.

Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, VA

This living museum will engage kids and adults in the history of America in the 18th century. The historic area, which is a reconstruction of the city as capital of Colonial Virginia, includes hundreds of recreated buildings and structures, as well as three main thoroughfares – all of which are peopled with talented docents and translators who interact with guests to tell a more convincing story.

See the tools and techniques of 18th century trades, discover pre-Revolutionary military sites and weapons, including the newly opened Anderson’s Blacksmith Shop Public Armory, peruse the British grandeur of Governor’s Palace, and explore the African American Experience, which provides a truthful, historical interpretation of slavery – a painful yet fully American experience.

Planning on staying? There are six hotels within the Historic Area, including 26 Colonial Houses which can be booked overnight.

US Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville, AL

Known as “Rocket City,” Huntsville is ground zero for the development of the NASA space shuttle rockets – so it’s no surprise the US Space & Rocket Center is the perfect place to investigate and learn about all aspects of the past and future of the American space program.

In addition to the a full-stack Space Shuttle with two solid rocket boosters and external tank, and an authentic, impressive Saturn V rocket with hands-on exploration, other exhibits include the Spacedown IMAX Theater, a Moon Shot simulator, a G-Force Accelerator and a Mars Climbing Wall.

If you’re looking for something even more interactive, you might want to book Family Space Camp, for kids between 7 and 18. Here you’ll launch simulated missions to the International Space Station, train to be an astronaut on a gravity chair and make and launch your own rocket.

Great Sand Dunes, CO

America's national parks are diverse and majestic, offering families a peek into the awesome splendor of this considerable country. And though sites like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite are popular tourist sites, we are partial to the Great Sand Dunes at the base of Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

At 8200 feet elevation, these 30 miles of dunes can reach up to 750ft high. Hiking is the best way to appreciate this extraordinary, natural sandbox, and a two-hour walk also lets you explore the stunning Medano Creek, where you can splash around in a little water with your beach. Get your kicks sand sledding and sand boarding down the dunes, cardboard and snow sleds don’t work on dry sand, so you’ll have to stop and rent a board near the park entrance.

Camping is allowed to help you experience the beauty of the park at night, and there are also cabins, a motel, a lodge and a ranch if you want something a little more comfortable.

Dinosaur Trail, MT

Find your very own prehistoric insect captured in amber at Montana’s Dinosaur Trail. This sprawling experience covers 14 locations around the entire state, which is home to some of the most important paleontological discoveries ever made.

The exhibits along the trail range from the first baby dinosaur bones at Two Medicine Dinosaur Center to the best preserved “mummy” of a dinosaur ever found at Great Plains Dinosaur Museum. Want to get your hands dirty? Paleontology field dig opportunities are available at three different facilities.

Be sure to pick up the Prehistoric Passport, a simple guide to the museums and communities along the way, where you’ll find history, facts and space to collect a stamp at each dino facility – which you can then trade in for prizes.

TreEscape Aerial Adventure Park, Vernon, NJ

Mountain Creek, best known for its namesake ski resort and water park, has a new park on the block. The TreEscape Aerial Adventure Park, located on the grounds of the Great Gorge Golf Course, is a heady combination of elevated ropes courses, connected wooden climbing platforms, obstacles and screaming ziplines – all in a green, eco-friendly environment.

A six-hour window will allow you to finish the entire course, though it’s not a prerequisite, and a shuttle will follow historical logging, mining and horseback riding rails to deposit you at the park. A separate park is available for kids aged 4 to 6 and allows the younger set a chance to try out about 20 different climbing elements. Older folk can also come back when the sun goes down for night climbing on Saturday evenings.

If you want to try out some of the resort’s other activities, overnight accommodations can be booked at The Appalachian resort at the base of Vernon Peak mountain or the Crystal Springs Resort – both which offer amenities like dining, pools and a spa.

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Family

How to Explore Your Family Roots Through Travel

While taking an at-home DNA test can offer a guide to your genetic makeup, planning a trip can bring you closer to your lineage. Some DNA research companies have gone a step further through teaming up with travel businesses to provide resources for planning a trip. In May 2019, Airbnb and 23andMe announced their partnership in providing bookings for experiences and accommodations based on customers’ test results and tied to their ancestry destination. In 2017, Ancestry and EF Go Ahead Tours jointly launched a portfolio of heritage-centered tours in Ireland, Italy and Germany. If you want to plan a trip on your own, there are some measures to keep in mind while getting excited about what you might find. Here are some tips provided by genealogy and travel experts on how to map out your trip. Start by Building a Family Tree “The first thing I recommend is for everyone to start their own family tree,” said Jennifer Utley, director of research at Ancestry. “Call relatives who know your family history; add their experience.” Also get your children involved in trip planning. “They also can give a different perspective; they may come up with places you didn’t think of.” Know What You Want to Do Another initial step in planning is to understand what kind of trip you want to pursue – is about the destination itself or directly your family? “A heritage trip is about seeing the sites, experiencing the culture and walking in the footsteps of your family in a broad way,” said Cara MacDonald, reference services manager at the Scotiabank Family History Centre at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “Whereas, a research trip is to find out more detail about your family during their time in that area, which usually involves visits to archives, museums and genealogical societies.” Reach Out to Tourism Boards Mickela Mallozzi, host and executive producer of “Bare Feet with Mickela Mallozzi,” whose third season of her TV series used her DNA map to bring her to Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, recommends reaching out to a country or region’s tourism boards as a resource. “It is the DMO’s job to promote their own destination, and usually these people are very proud of their country or region,” she said. Make Appointments With visiting archive centers or government offices, learn ahead of time what your accessibility to their records and reference materials might be, in the case they may take some time for being pulled up, or there are required payments for getting copies or other services. “You almost always have to have an appointment and you have to order the files or boxes in advance,” said New York genealogist Terry Koch-Bostic. “If it’s a book from the shelf, it’s usually not a problem, but if you want to look at documents or manuscripts, then you usually order them in advance.” Check Hours of Operation Maybe you went to a center on a Friday and found out that they’re open the four days prior only or closed at certain times or for private functions. “Always make sure you check hours of operation, especially if you are traveling in the off season,” said MacDonald. “Genealogy societies may be staffed by volunteers and only be open on specific days.” Go Beyond Google While search engines are right at your fingertips, and Facebook groups on geological research, do some local digging into your past. Ancestry’s Utley noted that historical societies throughout the U.S. can provide information on the background of a region or even chapters of ethnic groups with a prominent presence such as Italian, German or Irish. Other go-to sources can include the newspapers of the day, census, country or municipal records, city directories (a pre-cursor to phone books), and records from courts, churches, cemeteries and military museums and other venues. Get Extra Help Kudos to you for pursuing your family’s history on your own but don’t hesitate if you need some guidance with your research. Travel expert Charles McCool, who has conducted family research trips to Ireland, advises connecting with a contact within your destination of family origin before the trip for help. “Hire that person to walk you through the bureaucratic maze, like requesting vital records, accessing archives and so on.” Koch-Bostic also recommends hiring a travel agent for bookings or a genealogist for extended research or a guide for showing you around. Embrace Your Surroundings Along with seeing places connected to the past, Valarie D’Elia, a video travel journalist specializing in ancestral travel programming, recommends building your itinerary around local agendas such as going during a coinciding event and partaking in cultural, religious and traditional activities. “Most importantly, add context to these events,” said D’Elia. “How do they relate to your family history?” Also, D’Elia notes to include side trips outside of the city, village or town you’re visiting. Get Engrossed in Culture Gina Paige, president and co-founder of African Ancestry, noted that culture can be a key part of heritage travel. With those of African American ancestry, U.S. cities can be sources for information such Baltimore’s ties to the Underground Railroad specific institutions such as National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Local communities, too, can help. Paige pointed out that African Americans who trace their roots to the Tikar in Cameroon can find significant communities within the U.S. – such as in NYC, Houston and D.C. “They tend to have networks within those organizations already, so when they are ready to travel, they use those people as a resource,” said Paige. Put Your Family in a Historical Context If you’re finding road blocks with your research, look at your background from a historical perspective. For example, Allison DePrey Singleton, a librarian at the Genealogy Center at Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Ind., noted that those of Irish decent can learn about the vast impact of the Irish potato famine, which led to many Irish leaving their homeland or perishing from hunger. “It’s about putting your family in a historical context; learn about what was going on in that country and that location within a certain time period.” Manage Your Expectations DNA trips can bring up all sorts of emotions, but you want to stay receptive in the moment and around others. “Be respectful of the culture and realize that [your] accommodations can be rudimentary,” said D’Elia, “Be mindful you are visiting ancient places and ancient infrastructure; pack proper footwear. These trips attract multiple generations, so be sure to accommodate specific mobility issues."

Family

10 Best Aquariums in the World

For many of us, aquariums offer our very first glimpse of what life looks like under the sea. Our oceans and fresh water bodies are teeming with marine life—a dazzling array of animals, plants, and organisms that shape our world, and a visit to an aquarium can be the first step in teaching children how to care for their planet. There’s no shortage of aquariums, though. According to the MarineBio Conservation Society, there are more than 200 marine aquariums and ocean life centers around the world. Need some help narrowing down your options? These 10 are Budget Travel’s list of the best aquariums across the globe. 1. Georgia Aquarium: Atlanta, GA The largest aquarium in the U.S. has tens of thousands of animals swimming in over 10 million gallons of water. Located in Atlanta, the massive institution is home to some of the biggest fish in the world. Daredevils can even swim with the aquarium’s whale sharks. For kids, there’s a petting area where you dip your hands into a shallow pool filled with rays and baby sharks, including Bonnethead sharks, which have eyes in the back of their heads. Don’t miss the museum’s dolphin show, where trainers showcase the beauty, athleticism, and intelligence of bottlenose dolphins. 2. Chimelong Ocean Kingdom: Hengqin, Zhuhai, People's Republic of China Want to explore the largest aquarium in the world? This aquarium in the People’s Republic of China boasts eight themed areas inside the park, each representing a different part of the ocean. Chimelong’s whale shark exhibit offers stunning views of one of the largest creatures in the world through its massive viewing window. The aquarium also has a dolphin’s island, otter’s den, and sea lions theater, where the animals show off acrobatic movements to the beat of tango, rock, and Brazilian samba music. 3. Marine Life Park: Sentosa island, Singapore This Singapore aquarium is home to more than 100,000 marine animals of over 1,000 species from across 50 different habitats. The museum’s shark encounter lets guests swim inches away from some of the ocean's stealthiest predators, such as the hammerhead, silvertip and sandbar sharks. Visitors can also meet face to face with Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins. When you’re done gawking at the sea life, check out the high-speed water slides and lazy river at Adventure Cove Waterpark, which is located next to the aquarium. 4. Dubai Mall Aquarium: Dubai, United Arab Emirates One of the world’s second-largest shopping mall is also home to an aquarium with more than 33,000 aquatic animals and the largest collection of sand tiger sharks. Rising to the mall’s third floor, the museum is famous for its 48-meter tunnel, where people can watch the museum’s divers feed sharks and rays throughout the day. For a closer encounter, the aquarium offers a 30-minute tour of the museum’s back-of-house facilities, where you can feed shark babies and learn about the center’s shark breeding program. 5. Shedd Aquarium: Chicago, Illinois Opened in 1930, Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium is one of the oldest aquariums in the world. Home to sea otters, lake sturgeons, giant river turtles, blacktip reef sharks, and other water animals, the museum specializes in providing learning experiences for visitors of all ages. Take advantage of the free audio guide, which provides detailed accounts of the aquarium’s most memorable species, including the incredible rescue story of green sea turtle Nickel. Penguin lovers can meet, touch, and feed Magellanic penguins while learning about penguin anatomy, nesting season, and the museum’s penguin conservation work in South Africa. 6. Oceanogràfic: Valencia, Spain Located in the avant-garde architectural complex of Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències in Valencia, the Oceanogràfic aquarium offers a truly immersive experience. It has Europe’s longest underwater tunnel, where visitors get a front-seat view of more than 100 sharks of 21 different species. In addition, the aquarium features stunning sea life from the Mediterranean ocean, including barracudas, snakelocks anemones, and spiny lobsters. It also offers nighttime attractions, including live music and dolphin shows. 7. Oceanário de Lisboa: Lisbon, Portugal This Lisbon aquarium showcases four marine habitats crossing the temperate, tropical, and cold waters of the different oceans of the planet. The museum’s permanent exhibition features a stunning array of jellyfish, rich algae, penguins, and amphibians such as dusky salamanders, European tree frogs, and rubber eel. Kids can enjoy an overnight stay at the museum where they learn more about sharks. 8. Monterey Bay Aquarium: Monterey, California Another stateside aquarium well worth visiting is Monterey Bay’s. The museum’s ocean-view decks are a great vantage point for viewing local wildlife, from sea otters and seals to humpback whales and white sharks, which gather to feed in the bay after spending months offshore in waters as far west as Hawaii. Daily shows include sea otter feeding, penguin feeding, seabirds feeding, and “Luna: A Sea Otter's Story,” where guests learn about the threats facing California's sea otter population by following one sea otter’s journey. 9. Vancouver Aquarium: Vancouver, Canada Opened in 1956, Canada’s largest aquarium houses around 300 species of fish, nearly 30,000 invertebrates, and more than 50 species of amphibians and reptiles. The museum offers a number of full-sensory experiences, including sea lion training, otter feedings, dolphin shows, and walrus encounters. It’s also the headquarters of Ocean Wise, a non-profit where scientists, educators, and conservation experts spearhead initiatives such as shore cleanup efforts and sustainable seafood practices. 10. Texas State Aquarium: Corpus Christi, TX Dedicated to promoting the environmental conservation and rehabilitation of wildlife from the Gulf of Mexico, this Corpus Christi, TX aquarium offers a unique look at the animals that populate the rich habitats of this region. Kids will especially enjoy the museum’s slot meet-and-greet experience, where guests get a personal introduction to Xena or Chico, one of the Linneaus’s two-toed sloths. The aquarium’s wildlife rescue center helps rehabilitate marine mammals, sea turtles, raptors, and shorebirds who are injured in the wild.

Family

Family Reunion: How to Plan the Perfect Trip

They can be the most heartwarming—or the most chilling—words in the English language: Family Reunion. If the thought of organizing your extended clan for a long weekend away sends a shiver down your spine, relax. If you start early, do your homework, and take advantage of digital tools, you can pull off a multigenerational jaunt that will delight everyone from one to 100. Here, our all-you-need-to-get-started guide to planning the party of the year. 1. START THE CONVERSATION At least nine months in advance, start talking to your extended family's "thought leaders"—the ones who typically make the decisions and do the heavy lifting at, say, Thanksgiving. Family-travel expert and former Family Vacations editor at About.com Teresa Plowright suggests that earlier is better when coordinating the schedules of many families. "People like to know 'Next June we're all getting together'—you just have so many work/vacation schedules for adults, seasonal jobs, sports programs for teens, etc." Especially if your family intends something ambitious, like an overseas trip, a popular resort, or a cruise, at least a year is advisable. For more casual affairs ("Let's rent a couple of beach houses!"), Plowright notes that a few months in advance might be fine. Before deciding on your reunion destination, it's best to put together three final options (including sample activities, meals, and a rough estimate of the cost) that the group can consider. (See "Pick the Perfect Destination," below.) 2. DELEGATE If you're the type who's reading this story and already taking notes, you're likely the one who is going to volunteer to do too much. Don't. As with any family get-together, a reunion will require delegating important tasks. Depending on the family dynamic, this might mean choosing a leader to coordinate the event while one person is the reservation-keeper, another is in charge of meal planning, another for activities. If all of this is starting to sound like work, well, it is. Like a well-run business, the reunion will require a staff that works independently and reports back to the group regularly. 3. MAKE RESERVATIONS These days, of course, reservations can all be made online, which is mostly a blessing. But a slew of paperless reservations (flights, hotels, rental cars, and restaurants) made by a team of far-flung relatives can sometimes spell confusion. Use a reliable app such as TripIt or Google docs to store and share all your important dates, times, and ticket info. In general, you should get a head count and make lodging reservations six to nine months prior to your reunion; buy plane tickets four to six months in advance; book activities at your destination about two months in advance; double-check your head count one month prior to travel; and re-confirm all your reservations and any airport transportation and car rentals one week in advance. 4. PICK THE PERFECT DESTINATION Family adventure If your clan is the type to hop out of bed every morning itching to climb, hike, bike, and explore, "Escorted tours with all details handled and excellent lodgings can be a good idea," suggests Plowright. A number of adventure-travel companies offer "family adventure" packages aimed at multigenerational groups. Adventures by Disney is, no surprise, a favorite choice of many families. Ski resort "I've seen many multigenerational vacationers at ski resorts," notes Plowright. "It can be pricey, but the good news is that even if some of the family doesn't want to ski or snowboard, there are more and more non-skiing activities to enjoy." Disney "Families with grandparents along seem to be everywhere at Disney World," says Plowright. The park offers a wide—and ever-widening—range of activities, even for those who aren't interested in the rides. All-inclusive resort "All-inclusive resorts offer plenty of activities during the day, plus kids' programs," suggests Plowright. "Families can decide to do some activities together and split up for other things and re-group at dinner." Whether you're a partier or just a fan of fine dining, swimming pools, and white-sand beaches, one of the most appealing aspects of the all-inclusive is that you can go for days without ever reaching for your wallet. Beach house "Rent a big vacation home, or a few that are near one another, for a relaxing reunion," says Plowright. But remember if your reunion is "self-catered," no one person should be stuck doing all the cooking. Delegate a different cook—or group—for each evening's dinner. Cruise "Think of a cruise as a floating all-inclusive resort," says Plowright, "with the same potential to be together or easily break off for separate activities." A cruise might just be the easiest reunion from a planner's point of view, with ample opportunities for age-appropriate activities, easy seating for meals, and special events such as private cocktail parties, photo sessions, and a fairly standard discount of one free passenger for every eight cabins. But because most cruises are not strictly all-inclusive, do keep an eye on extra costs—that glass of wine you raise to toast your grandparents may set you back $10. 5. DON'T FORGET THE SWAG Order personalized souvenirs Sending everyone back home with a family reunion T-shirt—or tote bag, baseball cap, or custom-made craft—can help keep the event alive in everyone's memory for a long time. Prepare a family tree No, you don't have to know exactly when your great-grandmother left Palermo, or what her father's name was, to cobble together a nice family tree to answer inevitable questions, like "Who is that dude and am I really related to him?" Bring photo albums Sure, you can—and should—trot out those dusty "analog" albums that everyone loves. But don't forget to collect and organize family photos digitally for future reference. Take a group photo Book a professional photo session through your hotel, resort, or cruise line. Pricey? It can be—but it's worth the quality of the photography, shot composition, and professional printing. Make a music video You may have to leave the tech to the teens, but it's way easier than you think to shoot and edit your own family's take on, say, "Uptown Funk." Trust us, the laughter will linger long after you've packed your bags and headed home. Ask the kids to make name tags or dinner-table place cards Pack craft paper and crayons and make the little ones feel like big shots by having them create name tags or place cards for themselves and the grownups. It's a colorful way to decorate your dinner table, and the sentimental value of those mini-masterpieces will only go up as the years go by.

Family

6 Family-Friendly All-Inclusive Resorts We Love

Think of it as a one-stop shopping spree through paradise. All-inclusive resorts stay true to their name—throwing in food, drinks, entertainment, and activities for one price. Little wonder they’re such a popular choice with families. A simple way to help ease the burden of non-stop helicopter parenting, these resorts provide supervised care for younger children as well as daily activities and clubs for teens and tweens. And, because almost everything is built into the initial rate (spa treatments, high-end activities like wave runners, expensive bottles of wine, and other luxuries often come as add-ons) and there’s no tipping and no signing bills, you won’t give a second thought when your kids want to order extra sodas, ice creams, or smoothies. (Well, there is the calorie factor, but that’s a whole other story.) And let’s face it, more freedom for the kids equals more relaxation for you. The only downside? Because of the sweeping size and scale of most of these resorts, you likely won’t get the most personalized, customized experience. And exploring outside the property’s grounds may take a backseat to your already-purchased comfort. Most properties, however, offer excursion desks to help you plan at least one family adventure. But if you’re devoted to finding a laid-back way to enjoy family time, here are our choices for the best all-inclusive resorts to visit right now. 1. Reflect Krystal Grand Cancun, Mexico Reflect Kristal Grand Cancun, Mexico. (Courtesy of Reflect Kristal Grand Cancun) Just under a year old, the Krystal Grand Cancun resides on the southern tip of Punta Cancun, walking distance of downtown. Some of the nearly 400 rooms and suites provide kid-friendly features like bunk beds and step stools for sinks. Almost every room has ocean or partial-ocean views of Bavaro Beach, and the resort’s Unlimited-Luxury philosophy offers 24-hour room service and a constantly restocked minibar. There are four pools to choose from, including the adults-only infinity pool and a kids’ pool. If you’re restless, join in the daily beach volleyball and soccer games. Or check out any one of the number of classes, from cooking and mixology to Mayan history and astronomy. The supervised Explorer’s Club for kids between 3 and 12 affords you well-deserved “me time” and the Core Zone Teens Club, is equipped with a pool table, air hockey, foosball, and videogames. In addition to the six dining options on site, your rate offers inclusion (reservations needed) to the Hacienda El Mortera Mexican restaurant, which is a five-minute walk from the hotel and included in the hotel’s price. (reflectresorts.com/en_us/resorts/mexico/cancun.html) 2. Melia Caribe Beach Resort, Dominican Republic Melia Caribe Beach Resort, Dominican Republic A tropical paradise with access to Punta Cana’s Bavaro Beach, in addition to beachside and pool-facing rooms, this sweeping resort offers The Level suites with access to private spaces and upgraded services. The Caribe Tropical offers a vast assortment of activities for kids and adults, including eight tennis courts and an 18-hole golf course. Horseshoe tournaments, beach volleyball, and even candle workshops are among the mix of daily activities. Or take advantage of the resort’s beachside locale with kayaking, canoeing, windsurfing, and sailing. What makes this destination stand out, though, is its interactive waterpark, Splash Island and the children’s Adventure Park, The Kid’s Club offers supervised care for ages 8 months to 4 years old, 5 to 8 years old, and 9 to 13 years old, with each day culminating in family Olympics on the beach. Dining is auspicious, with two buffets and 11 a la carte restaurants to choose from. (meliatropicalcaribe.com) 3. Mohonk Mountain House, New York Mohonk Mountain House, Ulster County, NY. (Courtesy Mohonk Mountain House) This relaxing lakeside sanctuary sits in a secluded mountain preserve in the Hudson Valley. It’s just a two-hour car ride from Manhattan, but with its sweeping views of the Shawangunk Mountains and glacier-formed Lake Mohonk, it feels worlds away from urban life. More Victorian castle than rollicking resort, the rooms, suites, and small cottages—many with private balconies—are low-tech affairs designed for inner peace. But it’s the daily activities that make Mohonk stand out. To wit: archery, rock-climbing, biking, ice skating, fishing, cross-country skiing, tennis, snowshoeing and—for the brave—tomahawk throwing. That’s to say nothing of the 85-plus miles of the grounds’ hiking trails. There’s no shortage of water activities, too. Take a boat out on the lake, dip in the indoor pool, schedule a forest bathing session, or relax in the Spa’s eucalyptus steam room and dry rock saunas. (Treatments are not included in the all-inclusive price). A Kid’s Club, which has morning, afternoon, and evening sessions, accommodates children from 2 to 12 years old. The Teen Program includes guided rock scrambles, disc golf, tennis clinics, and hikes for kids aged 13 to 17. At night, the older kids can mingle in the Teen Lounge to play video games, watch movies or just hang out. Dining options are plentiful with a buffet available for all three meals. You can also picnic al fresco for lunch and make a reservation in the Lower Dining Room for the nightly three-course, farm-to-table dinner. (mohonk.com) 4. Club Med Sandpiper Bay, Florida The original all-inclusive resort, Club Med is still going strong after all these decades. Geared towards active families, it sits on the St. Lucie River, midway between Orlando and Miami—making it a perfect stop if you want to spend a few extra days in Disney or South Beach. Waterskiing and wakeboarding, paddle boarding, kayaking, and group boating lessons are just a few of the ocean activities. You can also sign up for surfing, tubing, and sea scooters on the river for an extra cost. Staying active on land is no problem here. Daily activities include volleyball, tennis, golf, and even trapeze school. When you’re ready for a break, there are three pools on the property, including one for adults only. There are programs for kids between the ages of four months to 17 years, though only the Mini Club and Cub Med Passworld,(ages 4 to 17), are included. The restaurants are limited to the pool-front Marketplace buffet and the Riverside Grill & BBQ, where reservations are suggested. (clubmed.us/r/Sandpiper-Bay/y) 5. Blue Waters Resort & Spa, Antigua Blue Waters Resort & Spa, Antigua. (Courtesy Blue Waters Resort Spa Antigua) This posh resort on Soldier’s Bay, situated in the northeast corner of Antigua, feels wonderfully secluded, but it’s only a short drive from St. John’s, the island’s capital. A family-run business for 25 years, it retains its storied elegance while projecting a youthful, modern enthusiasm for all types of families. The staff at the Blue Waters is especially noteworthy, many of whom have been at the resort for decades and make it feel extremely personable. The 17 acres of tropical gardens are enticing, but the beach, known for its powder-soft sand, is the star here. Nine different pools are scattered around the property, including one for adults only and a beachfront pool with views of the Caribbean. Four of the others each coincide with block of hotel rooms and suites. Water sports include snorkeling, windsurfing, and kayaking. And for landlubbers there’s tennis, a dedicated yoga pavilion for when you need to unplug, and a PGA-rated golf course. The Creche Kids Club is for children between 14 to 47 months and costs extra, but the Blue Waters Kids Club, for 4- to 12-year-olds, is complimentary and includes a line-up of daily activities. The Spa at Blue Waters offers high-end treatments for adults but also provides mini bathrobes and non-toxic manicures for little divas-in-training. The food is high-quality at the three restaurants with a more casual dining experience at the beach pool for lunch. (bluewaters.net/resort) 6. Beaches Turks & Caicos Miles of sandy white beaches and the third-largest barrier reef in the world, Turks & Caicos is better known for trendy luxury than family fun. The Beaches property on the island’s north shore, however, bridges this divide with a 75-acre resort featuring five different villages, each with their own unique accommodations. Not only can you swim and splash in the glimmering turquoise of Grace Bay, water sports like kayaking, windsurfing, hydrobiking, paddleboarding, and snorkeling are also included in the price. The resort houses six different pools, including one which is strictly for adults, but it’s the massive, 45,000 square-foot Pirate Island waterpark with swim-up smoothie bars, waterslides, and a surf simulator, that the kids will be talking about weeks after they get home. The youngest in your crew will also appreciate the Sesame Street partnership, which includes shows, parades, and treasure hunts. While the Kid’s Camp offers supervised child care from certified nannies, teens and tweens can duck into the well-stocked game room to play foosball, air hockey, and basketball. They can also dance the (early) night away at the under-21 Club Liquid, before it turns into an adults-only bar for late-night partying. There are a dizzying 21 different restaurants to choose from and 15 bars. With everything from pizza and burgers to pate and lobster on offer—not to mention food trucks parked at the waterpark—nobody will find any reason to complain. (beaches.com/resorts/turks-caicos/)