Our Top 8 Family Travel Finds for 2014
The Times Travel Show in New York City is one of the biggest consumer travel shows around. Thousands flock to it for vacation ideas, booking discounts, giveaways and freebies. I enjoy talking to folks from a range of worldwide destinations, discovering places O don’t know and learning new things about old favorites. My feet are usually weary by the end of the day (but for our readers, I don’t mind).
Here are a few things I learned this year that I think families might like to know.
1. Cool Airport Lounges for Amex Holders
American Express has opened Centurion Lounges in Dallas and Las Vegas that are free to Platinum and Centurion cardholders (and available for a fee to other cardholders). The lounges offer private nooks for getting work done, large kids’ areas, gourmet food and cocktails and complimentary basic spa services. They plan to expand to New York’s Laguardia Airport and San Francisco Airport. It’s a nice option if you have a long wait and don’t have access to an airline’s lounge.
2. High-Service Home Rentals
One Fine Stay is a new vacation-rental company that offers hands-on service to both the owner and visitor. Pre- and post-stay cleaning, linen service, a greeter to meets the renter with keys, local tips from the owners and hotel style toiletries are meant to make renting a vacation home easier for everyone. It’s available in New York, Los Angeles, London and Paris.
3. Affordable Skiing in Eastern Canada
If you want to ski in Eastern Canada but can’t afford Mont Tremblant, consider the Eastern Townships southeast of Montreal. Four mountains offer family friendly skiing and reasonable hotel rates. Non-skiers can keep themselves busy snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, visiting spas and sugar shacks and exploring nearby towns like Sutton. Aprés ski, I bet you can find some really good Poutine.
4. African Adventures for Kids and Teens
Africa is more accessible than you might expect for families interested in adventure travel (though large travel distances and lots of hands-on support make it a vacation to save for). For kids ages 8 and up, Tour operator Zambezi recommends bringing Cape Town and Victoria Falls visits. Consider a safari that relies mostly on vehicles, if your kids can deal with driving around to spot animals for 4 hours or so at a time. Teens can handle walking and canoeing safaris, Mount Kilmanjaro treks and bigger thrills like quad and mountain biking, river rafting and bungee jumping (if mom lets them).
5. Panama City is Hot, Hot, Hot
Panama City, Panama is the new hot destination, with a lot to offer families. After exploring the old town, the canal, and the new Frank-Gehry-designed Museum of Biodiversity (above), go on a rain forest walk or jungle-top tour and a boat ride passed Monkey Island (so-called because of the monkeys). Then head a little more than an hour out of town to Panama’s Pacific beaches.
6. Outdoor Fun in the Florida Keys
The Florida Keys close to the mainland, around Key Largo have lots of family friendly lodging options including condos with kitchens and small hotels. Activities are outdoorsy and water-centered. Plan on snorkeling, glass bottom boat rides, kayaking, beachgoing and visiting small quirky museums like the Shipwreck Treasure Museum in Key West. The Westin’s Sunset Key Guest Cottages offer “tweencations” for families with kids ages 9 to 12 that focus on cooking, wellness or outdoor activities.
7. Casino-Free Hotels in Atlantic City
Atlantic City will have more family friendly options when the historic, casino-free Claridge Hotel reopens around Memorial Day. In the mean time, The Chelsea is also casino-free. And the Revel has an indoor-outdoor pool with a zero-entry side. Summertime family activities include free nightly outdoor lightshows, surfing school, boardwalk bike rentals, a summer airshow, concerts and the old Steel Pier amusement park.
8. New Help For Traveler’s Tummy
LiveLeaf is a new fruit-based supplement aimed at traveler’s tummy. One version of the product is meant to stave off ordinary travel digestive issues, while another is meant to ease symptoms that have already begun.