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(2013 - Spring Issue)


Theme parks aside, the fine-tuning of family travel these days is hardly mickey mouse. Good fortune has made it more complicated.

Indeed, peak health and longevity are producing immediate families with four and five generations, each one itching to discover the world in a totally different way. Trips together are tricky, but they can be value packed. What better opportunity is there for all the generations to get to know each other—and the planet—so much better?

Arrange all the details yourself, or with professional assistance. A quick search online indicates plenty of experienced Canada-based tour operators (such as Air Canada Vacations, Air Transat Holidays, and more) ready to assist. Start the process by deciding the best style for your family—considering options such as resorts, cruising, a road trip, rail trip, city slicking, to start—and then discuss together some mutually exciting destinations. There’s no shortage of amusement and excitement in Canada and the United States for example, so here’s just a snapshot of the family-friendly possibilities. But first a checklist:


Once the destination is agreed upon, be sure to:

  • Ask everyone to add at least one thing to the itinerary—and build in escape plans for those not participating;
  • Discuss accommodation needs in detail and take them seriously when booking resort suites, campsites, motels, cabins, or the rental of a condo, home or cottage;
  • Discuss and make sure everyone is totally clear about who is responsible for the major costs (transportation, accommodation and meals) and incidentals such as entrance fees, snacks, recreation and souvenirs.

Spellbound in Southwest USA

Very few road trips in the world are as eye-popping as the 2,600-kilometre “grand circle” of geological phenomena on the Colorado Plateau encompassing the canyons and red rock regions of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. This iconic road trip through high desert and scattered forests weaves together the largest concentration of national parks and protected terrain, inviting families to discover it all by car, RV, coach tour and even by boat on luminously blue Lake Powell. Hook up with Canadian tour operator, Adventure Center, or drive it yourself. Plan no less than 10 days to see the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Mesa Verde, Canyonlands, and Arches National Park, just to name a few jaw-dropping sites. grandcircle.org

Adventure in the Capitals

The discovery of Ottawa and Washington, D.C. presents learning experiences cloaked in adventure and good fun. In Ottawa see and discuss the Parliament Buildings, the Rideau Canal, 24 Sussex Drive, the ByWard Market, the Fairmont Château Laurier, and visit the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian War Museum. Outdoor family adventures include the waterparks, cycling trails and farm animal attractions. In the U.S. capital city, head straight for the highlights such as The White House, The Lincoln Memorial, Arlington Cemetery and even the Watergate Hotel. See this magnificently planned city on a trolley tour or do a history cruise on the Potomac River, then lighten the learning with a day at The National Zoo and any one of the other 250 kid-approved attractions. ottawatourism.ca and washington.org

Wild and Genteel

Appreciating Canada can’t be complete without spending time in the pretty city of Victoria, just 95 minutes by car-ferry off the coast of Vancouver. The appeal of the entire island includes beaches, golf, whale-watching, a visit to the world-renowned Butchart Gardens, plus the city attractions such as dining, entertainment, galleries and museums. Stroll through Chinatown; take High Tea at the Fairmont Empress; step back in time at museums highlighting aviation and human history. If you have family members on the wild side, let them break away to outdoor zip lining, wilderness hiking, cycling, fishing, kayaking and countless other water sports. victoria.ca

Reunion in the Sun

There’s no question that every inch of Florida lights up the eyes of visitors, ages one to 100. A virtual circle tour of the state might start at the southernmost tip in Key West, going north to the Everglades and “Alligator Alley”; to the sugar-white beaches of the Gulf Coast and Panhandle; taking in spring training baseball; Orlando’s theme parks; the capital city of Tallahassee; the living history of St. Augustine; the Daytona race tracks; sea creature sanctuaries; Cocoa Beach and the Kennedy Space Center; the verve of West Palm Beach; the sunshine of Fort Lauderdale; and the epicentre of Miami Beach. Or create a home-base in one location. If it’s the Panhandle, don’t miss Pensacola (visitpensacola.com) especially for the free entry into the interactive National Naval Aviation Museum, where the kids can climb into the cockpits of restored military aircraft. Or if it’s St. Petersburg (visitstpeteclearwater.com), adults can include cultural escapes to places such as the Dalí Museum while the more adventurous go kayaking in the barrier islands. VISITFLORIDA.com

Make Your Own History

Sweep your family up and take them on a Canadian journey unlike all the rest. The Viking Trail (Route 430) on the west coast of Newfoundland will lead you 489 kilometres northbound through wooded valleys, mountains, and along the crashing seashore to lands end. Awaiting you there is L’Anse aux Meadows, the 1,000-year-old Viking settlement of Nordic trader, Leif Eiriksson. Stepping onto this protected UNESCO site—with its thatched shelters dating to 500 years before Christopher Columbus—is a chance to actually touch true-blue history. L’Anse aux Meadows, however, is simply the bonus at the end of the road. Along the way are spectacular landscapes, including those in Gros Morne National Park, plus side trips to fjords, waterfalls, sand dunes, fields of wildflowers and ancient burial grounds. Guided tours in this region can also be arranged with Atlantic Canada specialists, Maxxim Vacations. newfoundlandlabrador.com

Houseboat on the Trent

Similar to the freedom of an RV trip, but in the peace and quiet of lakeland Ontario, the Trent-Severn Waterway gives you 386 kilometres of cruising from place to place, connected to higher and lower ground by the 19th-century ingenuity of 44 locks and 39 swing bridges. Along the way and in between the swimming and fishing and favourite water recreation, stop in at any one of the portside supply stores, eateries, taverns, craft shops, bakeries, ice cream parlors and umpteen local attractions. Every night drop anchor to relax in a quiet bay. Fleet operator, Egan Houseboat Rentals (a Kawartha-based company for more than 40 years) will teach you how to operate any one of their vessels “designed for stress-free operation on the Trent.” The houseboats accommodate from one to three couples or one to two small families. houseboat.on.ca

Gateway to the Eastern Townships

In the 19th century, it was the Scots, Irish, Americans and other British Loyalists who swept across the Québec landscapes to add their own spice to the founding French heritage. Today, why not explore it on a series of self-guided driving routes, including the 418-kilometre Townships Trail from Ulverton to Bromont? This trail, and the others, will charm you with Victorian homes, waterparks, vineyards, covered bridges, riverside beaches, arts and crafts, horseback riding, boating, roller skating, nature trails, animal parks and the churches of 17 different religious denominations. En route to the Eastern Townships delight your family with a stay in Montréal, a metropolis known as “one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in the world.” Multigenerational activities in the city include the Science Centre, Biodome, botanical gardens, an insect museum, a rock climbing centre and boating on the St. Lawrence River. easterntownships.org and tourisme-montreal.org

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