What type of family vacation is best for you?
Families are as unique as fingerprints or snowflakes, so there's no single best family vacation destination. Instead, each family's vacation planner needs to figure out what kind of trip suits their family best based on the ages, interests and energy levels of family members — and then choose a destination to match. Here are five main types of family vacation destinations that can help you narrow it down.
Hit the beach
Beach vacations are a slam-dunk option for families with a wide age range. At the beach, grandma can enjoy watching her 3-year-old grandson play in the sand while an older child or teen tries standup paddle boarding with mom or dad. Some water sports are age-specific — teens gravitate toward Jet-Skiing and surfing while parents may prefer kayaking. But others are compatible for all ages, like snorkeling or heading out on the open water in a rented fishing boat or houseboat. Can't-miss family beach destinations include L.A., San Diego, Honolulu, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, but don't rule out cities on the Great Lakes, like Chicago, which boasts 27 beaches.
Head for the hills
Trips to the mountains are ideal for high-energy school-age kids who like outdoor activities such as hiking, backpacking, river rafting and fishing — as long as their parents do too. As documented in the 2005 bestseller Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, kids are spending less and less time in nature, so a vacation is the perfect time to reconnect to the outdoors Cities that are close to a multitude of mountain trails include Denver and Colorado Springs (near the Rockies), Reno (near Lake Tahoe and the Sierras), Knoxville, Tennessee (near the Great Smoky Mountains), Burlington, Vermont (near the Green Mountains), and Seattle and Portland (near the Cascade Range).
Sightsee in the city
The main advantage of visiting a big city as a family is the abundance of options — there are so many places to go and things to do, all within a few miles. Far from being "only for adults," large cities are terrific destinations for kids too. In almost every major city, parents can choose from a kid-friendly science or natural history museum (usually including a planetarium), a big zoo, a spacious city park with outdoor activities, an aquarium, a theme park or water park, and often a choice of beaches and boat rides. Which city is best? It depends. For museum lovers, it's Washington, D.C. For Hollywood lovers, it's L.A. For history lovers, it's Boston.
Focus on family
Infants, toddlers and preschoolers can make travel extra difficult, but parents can minimize the stress by accepting that invitation from out-of-state relatives to "come visit any time!" Even if there's no guest room, visitors can stay at a nearby hotel, motel or vacation-rental cottage. They can then enjoy the hospitality of their hosts, who will probably insist on some home-cooked meals together — knowing that restaurants and 2-year-olds don't usually mix — and visits to the family-friendly local spots. The relatives may even offer to babysit the little ones so their parents can enjoy a rare date night.
Traveling abroad can be adventurous, broadening and even life-changing—and that's equally true for kids. Parents who take their kids along to a foreign country are giving them a precious gift—an experience they will grow from, learn from and remember far more than a domestic trip. Older kids, especially if they're curious about the world, are best suited for such trips because they'll appreciate cultural differences more than young kids and the trip will leave more of an impression. Some of the safest and most family-friendly countries and regions worth considering are Costa Rica, Japan and Western Europe.
If you go
If you can't get to Mars, what's the next best thing? Apparently Iceland. A team of renowned explorers and researchers recently journeyed to Iceland to test a Mars analog suit in a Martian-like environment.
The United sponsored expedition, led by The Explorers Club — an internationally recognized organization that promotes the scientific exploration of land, sea, air and space — and in partnership with Iceland Space Agency, involved the team venturing inside the Grímsvötn volcano and across the Vatnajökull ice cap. The group traveled to the remote location and lived for six days in the Grímsvötn Mountain Huts and endured harsh weather conditions and unstable terrain.
Helga Kristin Torfadöttir, Geologist and glacier guide, using the LiDAR system to map the ground and test the suit's capabilities on the glacier.
The objective of the mission was to explore the potential of concept operations at the Grímsvötn location while testing the suit in an arctic environment similar to what would be found on the surface of Mars. "This mission was an important test of the design of the MS1 suit, but it was also incredibly helpful to understand the how to conduct these sorts of studies in Iceland," said Michael Lye, MS1 designer and NASA consultant and RISD professor. "No matter how thoroughly something is tested in a controlled environment like a lab, studying it in a setting that accurately represents the environment where it will be used is absolutely essential to fully understand the design."
The suit was designed and constructed by faculty and students at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) with input and guidance from members of the HI-SEAS IV crew and NASA's Johnson Space Center Space Suit Engineering team. At 50-60 lbs, the suit is similar to what a planetary exploration suit would weigh in Martian gravity. The suit was originally designed to be used in the warm climate of Hawaii, however the martian climate is much closer to what would be found on top of the glaciers in Iceland. The data collected will inform the future of habitat and spacesuit design that can be used to train astronauts on Earth.
Today, we remember the colleagues, customers and every single victim of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
I know each of us in the United family marks this difficult moment in our own way. Still, we all share a common commitment to honor how our brothers and sisters left us and also celebrate what they gave to us during their lives. We remember their professionalism and heroism. We cherish their camaraderie and friendship. We carry with us the examples they set forth, especially in the heroism and bravery displayed by so many on that terrible day. Above all, we understand a simple truth: While thousands of our fellow human beings lost their lives in New York City, Arlington and Shanksville, the attacks of September 11th were aimed at all people of peace and good will, everywhere. They were attacks on the values that make life worth living, as well as the shared purpose that make us proud of what we do as members of the United family: connecting people and uniting the world.
We may live in times scarred by discord and disagreement, and we know there are those around the world who seek to divide us against one another. But, on this day – above all – we come together, as one. We affirm our core belief that far, far more unites us as citizens and fellow human beings than can ever divide us.
Let us embody that belief as we go about serving our customers and one another – on this day and every day – as we continue to help building a world that's more united. Let that be our memorial to the sisters and brothers we lost, eighteen Septembers ago.