Top 12 Trips to Take Your Family

The March issue of Travel + Leisure outlined the “12 trips to take before you’re twelve”. With Easter and summer vacations on the horizon, perhaps one of these could be your destination. Contact me to plan your itinerary for any of these trips, or other exciting locations.

1. Costa Rica’s rain forest

2. Skiing in Colorado

3. Kauai by land, sea, and air

4. Disney done right

5. Alaska’s inside passage

6. Maine family camp

7. A great urban getaway — Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York City

8. Your family’s annual destination

9. Yellowstone adventure

10. Affordable Atlantis

11. Colonial Williamsburg

12. Ultimate road trips — Florida Keys, Utah’s National Parks, Olympic National Park, Washington

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Kauai: My Favorite Island

In recent weeks, seems I’ve been asked many times about recommendations for Hawaii. The Islands remain a top tourist destination for their abundant sunshine and warm weather, gorgeous beaches, and hospitality. Plus, from the mainland, fares are cheaper (many direct flights) than overseas destinations and you don’t have the hassle of passports and visas. Which island is my favorite? Which hotels would I recommend?

Kauai is absolutely my favorite. My family has been going there for years. It is quiet, lush, unpretentious, with gorgeous views and the real feeling of aloha. There are so many activities to choose from: kayaking, hiking, swimming, ziplining, renting atv’s, stand up paddleboarding, surfing, snorkeling and much more. The north shore, especially, confirms the image you have in mind of what an island should be: waterfalls, jagged cliffs, secluded beaches, quaint towns, jungles of greens. Yes, the north shore is the rainier side of the island, but you are rewarded with regular citings of gushing waterfalls and rainbows.
Where should you stay? If you can afford it, renting a house on Hanalei Bay would be my first choice. Kauai Vacation Rentals offers an excellent selection of homes. The homes are of great quality and clean. Or, again if you can afford it, the St. Regis in Princeville has,

hands down, the best view on the island, in fact, on any of the islands. Very pricey, with a small beachfront, but you can’t beat the views and quality service. Maybe spend just a few nights here, then combine with a stay on the south shore at Kiahuna Plantations (condos) or the Hyatt Regency, both in Poipu.

Photo credit: St. Regis Hotel

I do have recommendations of what to do and where to stay on the other islands. Contact me, if you really want to go to the other islands, after I’ve painted such a remarkable picture of Kauai.

Favorite Vacation Spots in Hawaii and California

You don’t have to travel overseas for a memorable vacation. Especially when air fares are expensive (imagine for a family of 5!) and time is limited, you can find special spots in Hawaii and California. Here are a few. For more details, or help with planning your trip to any of these locations, contact me.

Kauai, Hawaii. My favorite of the Hawaiian Islands. Quiet, lush, and relaxing.

 Anza-Borrego Desert, San Diego, California. Try this place with an RV.

Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California. Eclectic collection of art by wealthy publisher, William Randolph Hearst, with outstanding views of the valley and ocean.

Safari West, Santa Rosa, California. You don’t have to go to Africa to experience giraffes so close to you. Sleep overnight in a luxury tent.

Point Bonita Lighthouse, Marin, California.  An awesome walk with gorgeous views of San Francisco on a clear day. The suspension bridge to the lighthouse will open spring 2012.

City Hall, San Francisco, California. Take one of the free guided tours for an interesting history of city hall. Learn about Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone.

Cheap (or Free) Thrills

After many years of traveling with my family, I’ve decided that many of our most memorable moments have come from what I call “cheap thrills”. Of course, we’ll never forget our pampered vacation at the lakeside resort of Parco San Marco (Lake Lugano). Booking a room that overlooked the sparkling lake and renting a speedboat — to satisfy my then 8-year old son’s wish of driving one — were not cheap. But, nothing compares to the deep feeling of satisfaction and elation from an activity that is free, or costs little, yet provides memories that will last a lifetime.

Gelato everywhere you go in Italy. Go ahead and spoil your kids — let them have a gelato anytime of day. Cheap thrill all day long. We’ll never forget the delicious, refreshing gelatos we bought from a little shop in Menaggio, and licking them as we sat at the edge of Lake Como.

Golf cart rental during the last 2 hours of the day. We didn’t use it for golfing (pricey activity), but drove it around to photograph the gorgeous landscaping and views from the Princeville Golf Course. (The golf course makes extra money because early morning golfers have returned their carts by this time.) We actually rented two. My husband and I each drove one with one child, so that they could experience the fun of riding on a golf course in a buggy equipped with a fancy GPS navigation system!

Biking in Bali. Bike rentals are really cheap and the stops you make along the way are free. My husband and I parked our bikes to follow the crowds swarming to a festival — we guessed it was a festival because of the colorful banners waving high in the breeze. It was a festival for the traditional tooth-filing ceremony. Wow!

Kauai’s canoe club annual fair in Hanalei. Many community fairs do not charge an entrance fee, and you get to hang out with the locals to get that authentic experience. You can watch the races for a bit, go swimming when you’re ready to cool off, and the kids can even participate in a keiki (means child in Hawaiian) obstacle race on shore.

Watching elephant seals in San Simeon, California. Just pull your car over along Highway 1 and park for free. These mammals are HUMUNGOUS and hilarious to watch. Very comical as they clumsily maneuver their 3,000- to 5,000-pound, 15-foot long bodies across the sand, often bulldozing over another one! Every member of our family was so entranced and amused the first time that we went back a second time. Best time to see them is between November and March.

Reply to this post and share your cheap thrill on your last vacation.