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 the family best based on the ages, interests and energy levels of family members—and then choose a destination to match. There are five main types of family vacations that can help to narrow it down.
Hit the Beach
Beach vacations are a slam-dunk option for households 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 out paddleboarding 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 to 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 Great Lakes cities like Chicago, which boasts of 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 far too little time in nature, leading to problems that range from obesity to attention and mood disorders. 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 of it within a few miles apart. Far from being “only for adults,” large cities are terrific destinations for kids too. In almost every major city, parents can choose among 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 with coasters, a water park or two, 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. And so on.
Focus on Family
Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers can make travel extra difficult for parents, but they can minimize the stress by accepting that invitation from out-of-state relatives to “come visit anytime!” Even if there’s no guest room, parents 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 mix—and show off the most 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 children 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 to such trips because they’ll notice and appreciate cultural differences more than young ones and the adventure will leave more of an impression. Some of the safest and most family-friendly countries worth considering are Costa Rica, Japan and every country in Western Europe.
If you go
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"We've spent a lot of time over the past 12 months looking for ways to better connect with our employees who served and attract new employees from the military ranks," said Global Catering Operations and Logistics Managing Director Ryan Melby, a U.S. Army veteran and the president of our United for Veterans business resource group.
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The question of where David Ferrari was had haunted retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major Vincent Salceto for the better part of 66 years.
Rarely did a week go by that Salceto didn't think about his old friend. Often, he relived their last moments together in a recurring nightmare. In it, it's once again 1953 and Salceto and Ferrari are patrolling a valley in what is now North Korea. Suddenly, explosions shatter the silence and flares light up the night sky.
Crouching under a barrage of bullets, Salceto, the squad's leader, drags two of his men to safety, then he sees Ferrari lying face down on the ground. He runs out to help him, but he's too late. And that's when he always wakes up.
Italian Americans from opposite coasts – Salceto from Philadelphia, Ferrari from San Francisco – the two became close, almost like brothers, after being assigned to the same unit during the Korean War. When Ferrari died, it hit Salceto hard.
"After that, I never let anyone get close to me like I did with Dave," he says. "I couldn't; I didn't want to go through that again."
When the war ended, Salceto wanted to tell Ferrari's family how brave their son and brother had been in battle. Most of all, he wanted to salute his friend at his gravesite and give him a proper farewell.
For decades, though, Salceto had no luck finding his final resting place or locating any of his relatives. Then, in June of this year, he uncovered a clue that led him to the Italian Cemetary in Colma, California, where Ferrari is buried.
Within days, Salceto, who lives in Franklinville, New Jersey, was packed and sitting aboard United Flight 731 from Philadelphia to San Francisco with his wife, Amy, and daughter, Donna Decker, on his way to Colma. For such a meaningful trip, he even wore his Army dress uniform.
That's how San Francisco-based flight attendant Noreen Baldwin spotted him as he walked down the jet bridge to get on the plane.
"I saw him and said to the other crew members, 'Oh my goodness, look at this guy,'" she says. "I knew there had to be a story."
The two struck up a conversation and Salceto told Baldwin why he was traveling. She got emotional listening to him talk and made a point of fussing over him, making sure he and his family had everything they needed.
About halfway through the flight, Baldwin had an idea. She and her fellow crew members would write messages of encouragement to Salceto and invite his fellow passengers to do the same.
"We did it discreetly," says Baldwin. "I asked the customers if they saw the man in uniform, which most had, and asked them if they wanted to write a few words for him on a cocktail napkin. A lot of people did; families did it together, parents got their kids to write something. After the first few rows, I was so choked up that I could barely talk."
When Baldwin surprised Salceto with dozens of hand-written notes, he, too, was speechless. He laid the stack on his lap and read each one. At the same time, the pilots made an announcement about the veteran over the loud speaker, after which the customers on board burst into applause.
"It seems contrived, and I hate using the word organic, but that's what it was; it just happened," Baldwin says. "Mr. Salceto was so loveable and humble, and what he was doing was so incredible, it felt like the right thing to do. And you could tell he was touched."
On June 27, Salceto finally stood before Ferrari's grave and said that long-awaited goodbye. As a trumpeter played "Taps," he unpinned a medal from his jacket and laid it reverently on the headstone.
"I had gotten a Bronze Star for my actions [the night Ferrari died] with a 'V' for valor, and that was the medal I put on Dave's grave," says Salceto, pausing to fight back tears. "I thought he was more deserving of it than I was."
For the first time in years, Salceto felt at peace. His mission was accomplished.