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Stay, Play, Sail Away

by Tori Ward, ROX Travel, Cruise and Resort Specialist

It’s overcast outside, and the air smells like burning wood from the neighbor’s fireplace. But inside, it’s warm and my home is fragrant, thanks to a batch of “cheater” apple butter, which bubbles away in the crock pot.

It’s hard to believe that I’m thinking about summer vacations when most people are still skiing.

But, the fact is, I have been booking summer and fall vacations for 2018 since last spring when a friend asked about some ideas for spring break. There are a lot of moving parts to a family vacation, and planning early not only helps minimize stress, but also could help you avoid disappointment if your venue is sold out and keep you from overspending when inventory dwindles.

If your family dream vacation is a theme park, cruise or island getaway, consider California. The drive, even with a couple of stops for little passengers, is only about a half-day. Or, choose a quicker option and enjoy an approximately one-hour flight.

Being an Orlando, Florida native, my children’s first flights were on Dumbo the Elephant at Walt Disney World. As children get older, their ride choices become more daring, but the magic of Disney is ageless. There are dozens of options available for a visit to Disney’s theme parks, including single-day park admissions and park hopper passes, which allow visits over a number of days and accommodations at the park. Planning early is especially important if you want your little prince or princess to have breakfast or lunch with Disney princesses.

Besides theme parks, the other Disney venue that earns best family vacation on the water every year, is a Disney Cruise. Guest sailing on select Disney Cruises of seven days or longer comes with the opportunity to book breakfast with a character. Disney offers a number of cruises from Los Angeles, but if your children are older and want an adventure not just on the high seas, but on the land as well, think about a Disney Alaska Cruise departing from Vancouver. There are dozens of activities for younger passengers as well as adults on a Disney Cruise and lots of food choices. During sea days, younger guests can become part of the magic of Peter Pan by placing themselves smack in the middle of the Jolly Roger, complete with costumes for dress up and a crow’s nest to slide down. The passages through the Alaskan wilderness provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness glaciers calving and whales breaching in the ice fields surrounding the ship.

If your family loves the heat, even in Arizona summers, consider a vacation to the Hawaiian Islands. It’s not just a honeymooners’ paradise. It is an ideal destination for active families who long for water and mountain activities. One of the first vacations I took with my husband was to Kauai. On his birthday we booked a tour that included a kayak paddle down a river, then a hike to a zip line, followed by another hike to a waterfall, where we dove off a cliff into the natural pool below. The following day, we boarded a catamaran to cruise along the Napali coast. Many families were along the journey, although only one 14-year-old joined me to lie on the deck bow plowing through the water as the spray washed over us.

Many of the families jumped into the water when we anchored offshore. Heads bobbed up all around us and squealed with excitement at the abundant tropical fish.

If your vacation time allows only a week, and you’ve already visited Disneyland, another great option – a short trip away – is San Diego. Home to Legoland, Sea World and the San Diego Zoo, there are so many family-inspired choices.

As a survivor of a Lego foot injury – if you are a parent whose children loved Legos you know what I’m talking about – I still love Legoland. It is an amazing theme park that allows your children to explore their creative side while also being exposed to interactive learning at the Sea Life Aquarium. The park has rides that will thrill all ages, from the Lego Technic Coaster, with its lessons in gravity and acceleration, to the Pirate Reef Adventure with a ship that races down a water flume between vessels, shooting water cannons in your general direction.

After the excitement of Legoland, a day strolling through the San Diego Zoo provides your family an opportunity to see some of the world’s most amazing animals. And when the family is tired of walking, the zoo has tour buses that travel the entire park with information about the exhibits. A Skyfari also allows you a bird’s eye view of the entire park.

If any of these adventures appeal to you and you want to learn more or find out the best options for your budget, give me a call and I’ll be happy to help you make your family vacation a cherished memory. Remember, early planning is the key to having more choices at the best prices.


Victoria “Tori” Ward is a cruise and resort specialist with an interest in traveling and seeing the world since she first began to crawl. For more information on these tips and others, contact Tori at or 928-254-9968.

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