Find family fun on the road

A dolphin and her calf in their element at SeaWorld Orlando. A dolphin and her calf in their element at SeaWorld Orlando.
Email|Print| Text size + By Richard P. Carpenter
Globe Correspondent / May 20, 2007

Those long drives on family vacations have changed forever. Nowadays, as the scenery whizzes by, youngsters watch movies on DVD players. Their preoccupation eliminates a lot of back-seat battling and whining, but it also does away with family games ("How many red cars can you spot?") and singalongs, as well as seeing the wonders outside the windows. Other generations remember the fun and occasional frustration of the family drive, but what will today's youngsters recall -- how Shrek met his princess?

Here are a few opportunities to have fun and make memories:

Wilderness Inquiry has more than 20 summer outdoor adventures for families of all ages and abilities, including families with a child, parent, or relative with a disability. Canoeing, hiking, and camping are offered in Yellowstone National Park, South Dakota's Black Hills, and northern Minnesota. Prices start at $90 per child (age 16 and under) and $190 per adult. One example: In the Yellowstone National Park Family Adventure, participants hike from base camp to Norris Geyser Basin , visit Old Faithful, fish on Lewis Lake , and canoe on Lake Yellowstone . Trip dates are July 1-6 and Aug. 6-11. The cost is $645 per adult and $320 per youth.

Visit or call 800-728-0719.

Florida is a popular family destination, summer heat and all. On Sanibel Island, the 85-acre Sanibel Harbour Resort & Spa has a Kids' Klub for ages 5-12 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. The cost of $48 includes a backpack, T-shirt, and prizes. The evening program runs from 6-10 on Friday and Saturday and includes a pizza party. Cost is $35. In addition, there is a children's tennis clinic for $10, and many water activities and tours are available for the entire family. Fishing, dolphin cruises, sea life excursions, shelling and snorkeling trips, lunch on a barrier island and kayak tours, plus complimentary trolley trips to nearby Sanibel Island may be booked through the concierge. A Sanibel Spectacular package includes a choice among several water view guestrooms and suites and breakfast for two daily. Rates begin at $179 per night, plus tax and a $15 per night benefits fee. A two-night minimum stay is required.

Visit or call 800-767-7777.

One of the most expensive parts of a family vacation can be dining. From Aug. 26-Sept. 22, Walt Disney World will add a dining plan with two meals and a snack daily with Magic Your Way packages. Hotel and theme park tickets with the dining plan might cost $455 per adult and $184 per child ages 3-9 -- a savings of about $195 per adult. The trip must be booked by June 24.

See a travel agent, call 407-939-7704 and mention code ZHW, or visit If you are traveling with preschoolers, check out activities for them at For family adventure excursions in North America, Latin America, the British Isles, and Europe, visit adven

Two new books about Disney World provide a lot of insights into the vacation kingdom. "Zagat Walt Disney World Insider's Guide" (Zagat Survey, 2007) is based on surveys of nearly 5,000 people who have been to the central Florida resort an average of 36 times. The guide covers rides and other attractions, shopping, dining, night life, golf, hotels, and the Disney Cruise Line.

"The Complete Walt Disney World" by Julie and Mike Neal (Coconut , 2007) is a thorough overview of the theme parks, hotels, and shopping spots, and offers inside tips, facts, and quizzes. With more than 400 color photos, it also makes a nice souvenir.

SeaWorld Orlando has added attractions: "Elmo and the Bookaneers," a 20-minute musical pirate show; Shamu's Happy Harbor with three new rides (opening Memorial Day weekend); and Shamu Rocks, combining music and killer whales. An attraction all by itself is a killer whale born March 12. SeaWorld single-day tickets are $64.95 for adults and $53.95 for children 3-9.

Visit or call 800-432-1178.

Nature's Classroom is an eight-night, family-oriented vacation in Costa Rica from New Hampshire-based General Tours that showcases the country's natural wonders with a flexible excursions package that allows family members to choose from several prepaid adventures. In addition, the trip includes two days at a Pacific beach resort. The program includes eight buffet breakfasts, one lunch, and two dinners. Prices begin at $1,649 per person, land only. The rate for ages 3-11 is $599.

Visit or call 800-221-2216.

You don't have to go far to enjoy yourself. The USS Constitution Museum in Charlestown has several new exhibits and events lined up. For instance, "A Sailor's Life for Me?" lets visitors join the Constitution's 1812 crew for free. You can swing in a hammock, handle sails, and battle on deck , all while learning the history of Old Ironsides. At various locations July 31-Aug. 3, the Boston Landmarks Orchestra will perform a new work based on the true story of David Debais, a free black boy from Boston who served aboard the ship in the War of 1812. All concerts are free and open to the public.

For museum information, visit For concert details, go to landmarksor

Or you can go very far, with the R & R (Raft and Relaxation) Fiji Adventure, July 5-12, from Mountain Travel Sobek. The trip includes two days on the Luva River using one- or two-person inflatable kayaks and a day on the Nauva River in six-person paddle rafts, as well as two days of gentle kayaking and a day of sightseeing or an optional dive excursion. The land-only cost is $2,990.

Visit or call 888-687-6235.

Colonial Williamsburg may deal in history but it also has new attractions. Nation Builders explores the lives of individual residents; Revolutionary City After Dark showcases The Gunpowder Plot, which explores the royal governor's secret plan to leave the colony defenseless; and A Capitol Ball has music, dance, and revelry to celebrate the arrival of Lady Dunmore amid political intrigue. The Revolutionary City Vacation Package begins at $49 per person per night and includes nightly accommodations, a daily hotel breakfast, and a Colonial Williamsburg admission pass valid for the length of your stay. There is a two-night minimum.

Go to or call 800-447-8679.

Vermont's Smugglers' Notch Resort, known to devotees as Smuggs, stresses the flexibility of its FamilyFest Vacation Package because it lets families choose from a variety of water activities, evening entertainment, and full-day programs for various ages. Seven-night packages for a family of four range from $1,680-$3,255. Shorter stays are also available.

Visit or call 800-419-4615.

And then there are the teenagers, who sometimes look upon family vacations as exquisite torture. Watertown-based Thomson Family Adventures has five trips geared especially to families traveling with teenagers, The destinations are Costa Rica, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, Belize, Peru, and Kilimanjaro in East Africa . Listed prices begin at $2,590.

Visit or call 800-262-6255.

Liverpool with a Lennon
John Lennon's sister, Julia Baird, will be a host during the 24th annual Magical History Tour , Aug. 18-30, visiting Beatles sites in Liverpool, London, and Hamburg as well and participating in Liverpool's International Beatle Week . Airfare, hotels, tours, and concerts are included. The tour is $2,599 per person including airfare (or $2,099, land only) for the London and Liverpool segments. The Hamburg option is $199 more.

Visit or call 866-548-3776.

When not included, hotel taxes, airport fees, and port charges can add significantly to the price of a trip. Most prices quoted are for double occupancy; solo travelers will usually pay more. Offers are subject to availability and there may be blackout dates. Richard P. Carpenter can be reached at

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