Color Your Summer Vacation with Extra Blue and More Fun.

Children learn what they live so it is never too early to share planet-friendly experiences and in this case sea-friendly experiences with children enabling them to build their own positive connection with our planet.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Discoveries and Family Fun.

Monterey Bay Aquarium special summer activities offer great ways for families to experience the wonders of the ocean together, enjoy a diver’s-eye view of marine life, and watch jellies dance.

Green spots, meaning earth-friendly family vacation ideas, are abundant but what about a blue version. The bluest family vacations include experiences at facilities and working labs that share a love of the ocean and enable families to discover amazing things about life in the sea. These seaside centers and labs have family-friendly programs and activities which add extra “blue” to any vacation. The interactive, engaging programs provide opportunities for family fun and make the perfect launch to next year’s school year.

These beach vacation locations have all the benefits of paradise plus “blue,”  planet-friendly activities at sea life centers and interactive marine labs. These 10 examples demonstrate the best of  blue possibilities.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Underwater Explorers program gives kids have the chance to surface SCUBA in the Great Tide Pool.

Dauphin Island Sea Lab Center discovery cruise in Mobile Bay.

Dauphin Island Sea Lab Center offers exciting discovery cruises in Mobile Bay perfect for adding extra blue to any family vacation.

At Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama share the adventures of a grain of sand.

Virginia Aquarium on Virginia Beach has interactive catamaran sealife excursions.

MOTE Aquarium & Marine Laboratory in Sarasota invites visitors to serve brunch to a shark.

Port Townsend Marine Science Center in Washington is the place to go tide pool trekking.

At Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach caress sharks in Shark Lagoon.

At Seymour Marine Discovery Center in Santa Cruz it is possible to pet a shark.

South Padre Island Dolphin Research and Sealife Center in Port Isabel is the place to meet the dolphins of the Laguna Madre.

At Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward visitors are invited to shake hands with an octopus.

Beluga Whales at Mystic Aquarium.

Mystic Aquarium is home to some of the most amazing Beluga whales in captivity.

Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration lets guests paint with a Beluga whale.

As always I welcome feedback. Do you have a favorite blue experience to share? If so just Tell Mom.

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files.

Beach Boardwalks Add Classic Family Fun to Any Beach Vacation.

I think a family vacation at the beach is always better when it includes time at the boardwalk where sun, sand, and surf align with entertainment, lively activities, and classic often funky eateries. The best boardwalk options anchor both coasts providing family vacation choices from Wildwood, NJ to Virginia Beach and Santa Monica to Santa Cruz, CA. 

Santa Cruz Boardwalk Carnival Ride

Santa Cruz Boardwalk carnival rides and “Bands on the Beach” free music all summer long.

Fortunately there are more than 50 boardwalks throughout the US each offering its own local charm and providing a sense of place with a glimpse of decades passed. Some have amusement parks which provide classic touch to a family vacation at the beach while others are anchored by a classic fishing pier and oodles of great fish stories.

Our Beaches and Water Spots lifestyle folder at the Family Travel Files highlights the best of American beaches featuring more than 50 great family vacation spots including the best beach boardwalks guaranteed to provide a rich menu of family activities. Our best beaches lists were assembled in part from suggestions by parents who used our Tell Mom feature to recommend their family’s favorite beach boardwalk spot.

Virginia Beach ferris wheel on the Boardwalk.

Virginia Beach Beach Boardwalk Ferris wheel rides all day long and free music all summer long.

The best beach boardwalk locations offer one-of-a-kind experiences including vintage roller coaster thrills, wet-and-wild water flumes, surrey bike carnie games, Ferris wheel classic carousels, soft serve ice cream, face painting, juggling, stilt antics and delightful English toffee perhaps a double order of curly fries.

Best of all is the chance to walk, bike or skate the boardwalk and become part of an ever changing vacation panorama with no two days ever being the same.

Don’t forget the sunscreen.

Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files.

A Summer Family Vacation in the Greek Isles. Why Not?

Ever dreamed of vacationing in Greece? Now is the time to take action. The dollar to euro ratio is nearing par so a family vacation in Europe is much more affordable than in previous years. I have been researching vacation options feel compelled to pass on an exceptional website, Kids Love Greece, founded by three moms, one wanna-be mom, and supported by more than 100 families living in Greece.

Crete Family Vacations

Crete family vacations always include stories about Zeus, the Minotaur, Daedalus, and of course Icarus.

Their clever, authoritative effort showcases more than 250 kid-friendly ideas for vacationing in Greece. Browse the site and be inspired by delightful images conveying a sense of place and be entertained by unique ideas from parents for parents. Really, if you are not Greek by heritage, you will want to be once you peruse the site.

The good thing is that in addition to suggestions and advice Kids Love Greece has a selection of vacation packages designed to make travel easy. Better yet, to involve little ones they have created an audio guide “Kids Love Knossos” application as a useful companion to a family vacation on Crete. The storyline features Palace of Knossos on Crete and features Glaucus and his little sister Phaedra, the sweet time-travelers of Kids Love Greece, as they travel back in time more than 4000 to the time of the Minoans.

Rent a car if you wish and explore or join a tour and relax. There are gorges to be walked, archaeological sites to visit and history to absorb, fun parks to discover, water parks to enjoy, go-karts to race, donkeys to ride, wonderful scenery to enjoy, and all too tempting dining possibilities.

For more authentic family vacation ideas in Greece the best source is

I am dreaming of olives, Athena, and the Aegean.

Nancy Nelson-Duac Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files.

Making Waves with Your Kids

Indoor waterparks top the list when it comes to tropical-style family adventures during the coldest months of the year. The best of these indoor adventure spots provide easy solutions for families short on time but ready to make waves. The fun quotient is high because at a waterpark flip-flops are essential; no sunscreen is needed; splashing is allowed; silliness encouraged, and laughter prevails.

Wilderness at the Smokies Wild Waterdome Wave Pool

The surf is always up at the wave pool under the Wild Waterdome dome at Wilderness at the Smokies in Tennessee.

There is really nothing to compare to the cacophony of sounds, almost 90 % humidity (no chance of rain) and bodies of all ages dressed in beach wear under a dome with chilly skies above. At indoor waterparks it isn’t always size that matters but the quality of the space which allows children of different ages to have fun without conflict.

The added value for families is that waterparks in the US and Canada offer families not just water thrills and an array of interactive ways to enjoy water play but also climbing walls, ziplines, laser tag theaters, black light mini golf, mini bowling, and glow-in-the-dark gaming arcades. Some of the best waterparks include:

Wilderness at the Smokies in Sevierville, Tennessee.  The queen of American waterparks, the Wild Water Dome Indoor Waterpark spans seven acres and includes a Surf Rider wave pool, countless waterslides, tubing rides, tipping water bucket and wading pools.

Kalahari Waterpark in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. The family-friendly water complex contains offers Flowrider waves for surfing, lazy river floats, a water rollercoaster, lily pad jumps, and a spiral pipe flume ride.

World Waterpark in Edmonton Mall, Alberta.  The five-acre waterpark complex includes a beach supporting world’s largest wave pool so the surf is always up. There are more than 20 waterslides including super-fast body slides with free fall elements.

Sahara Sam’s in West Berlin, New Jersey. The largest indoor waterpark in the state includes Flowrider indoor surfing, family rafting, lazy river floating, super-fast, extra-long body slide, a water obstacle course, and toddler lagoon.

Splash Lagoon Erie, Pennsylvania.  One of the largest indoor wave pools in the Eastern US, an exhilarating aqua tumbler, a fast body slide, a thrilling tunnel slide, water basketball games, double-spinning rafts, lazy river, and laser tag.

Have fun making waves where ever you are.

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Family Travel Files

Grandparent/Grandchild Authentic Vacation Ideas – Doing Cool Stuff in the Real World.

The grandparents I have spoken during the last few months with are looking to share authentic experiences with the maximum memory-making potential. They are looking for vacation places and activities not seen on TV unless of course as seen on National Geographic, PBS or the Discovery Channel.

A comprehensive list of suggestions is included in the TravelPhases folder dubbed Generation Bonds. The file includes examples of some delightfully authentic grandparent – grandchild vacations. Destinations include old standbys from Pigeon Forge which combines Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Dollywood to Virginia Beach with whale watching and the living history of Williamsburg.

London hotels are most adept at grandparent-grandchild needs offering airport pickup and day excursions. For effortless yet authentic holidays with less jet lag eco-friendly Flamingo Bay Resort in Costa Rica offers guests all-inclusive beach vacation options with turtle watching and iguana encounters.

Grandparents looking for more free range experiences to share might consider sleeping in a lighthouse or spending a night in a tree house.  It is possible to stay in a safari tent in California or sleep with caribou in Quebec.  The details for all of these ideas and more may be found in TravelPhases which divides family travel by age.

More terrific family vacation ideas have been posted in Generation Bonds at For the latest family travel news follow The Family Travel Files on Twitter (@FamTravelFiles)

Counting shells on Indian Rock Beach.

A slow day by the sea counting shells on Indian Rock Beach south of Clearwater, Florida.

California: San Jose, Family Vacation Ideas – NASA, Raging Waters, and STEAM.

San Jose Obon FestivalSan Francisco’s South Bay area is the ideal spot to share fun and learning. From lively festivals and events to inspirational theater and live music, the area is loaded with ways to share fun with kids.

Here’s the scoop. When I think of Mountain View I think of Stanford but the San Jose area offers dozens of opportunities for young families to share fun and learning including watery adventures, shopping, and ways to interact with science and nature. From the tranquility of the Japanese Friendship Gardens or shopping excursions at San Jose’s Santana Row to discovering mammoth bones at the Children’s Discovery Museum or watching movies taken of Mars, there’s something for everyone. For planning purposes I have assembled a list of sure bets – some of them free and the rest worth the coins.

Continue reading Showcases The Best Places To Combine Family Fun and Learning.

School breaks and spring family vacation time provide the perfect chance to take a break, have fun, and share a learning experience with your children.GatlinburgZiplines

The Spring Break folder at is loaded with ways to create and share unique learning experiences. From stargazing and living history to tide pools and animal encounters the possibilities are endless. Trying something new in a new place may be just what everyone needs or returning to a favorite museum and a comfortable pastime may be even better.

“I have always looked at learning opportunities as an added family vacation value because learning together makes all the difference in how successful your children will be in their studies,” according to Nancy Nelson-Duac, Editor of the popular family vacation planning website. She goes on to say, “The trick is to find places and activities of interest and share the discovery with your kids or grand kids.”

The top 10 choices for exceptional family learning experiences include not just museums, aquariums and zoos but also energizing activities in nature.

  • Dallas: The Perot Museum – Dinosaurs, gigantic gems, and a leap frog forest.
  • Long Beach: Aquarium of the Pacific –Touch tanks and Free Shark Lagoon Nights
  • Oakland: Chabot Space and Science Center – Bill Nye’s Climate Lab discoveries.
  • Atlanta: Fernbank – See Extreme Mammals: The Biggest, Smallest, and Most Amazing.
  • West Virginia: Bridge walks and mountain biking.
  • Tennessee: Ziplining and rope antics in Gatlinburg.
  • Seattle: EMP –Celebrating Jimmy Hendricks with outrageous outfits, and rare concert footage.
  • Space Coast: Kayak at the zoo and walk through the tree tops.
  • Virginia Beach: Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center – Boat excursions and behind the scenes encounters.
  • Orlando: Forever Florida – Treetop EcoSafaris and horseback adventures.

Checkout more than 300 Spring Break family vacation ideas which feature ways to combine learning and fun.

About Founded in 1998, is one of America’s top-rated online family travel resources offering more than 1000 pages of timely family vacation ideas and trip planning information. The website specializes in displaying family vacation ideas, destination information for adults planning family vacations, advice about family trips, and family travel deals. To assist in narrowing searches, colorful vacation idea folders are visible throughout the website.

Lisa A Duac Publisher (813) 968-4799 or
Nancy Nelson-Duac (817) 573-6920 or

Family Reunions and Gatherings Start Planning Now and Put Time on Your Side.

The bonds that are made at family reunions last a lifetime. But someone has to create a plan, share the plan, and make things happen so that the opportunities for memory making can occur. And just about everything worth doing takes time – more time than expected. It will be true for your family reunion.

Hoot-N-Holler Family Dinner Show in Pigeon Forge Tennessee

Togethering for the fun of it - being silly, laughing, and dining in Pigeon Forge.

Unless your next family reunion is going to be at grandma’s house or at the county park down the road, selecting a destination makes all the difference. While a family reunion is important so is family vacation time and combining the two may take negotiating. Location will make the difference and three spots come to mind

Here’s the scoop. This month we are featuring new ideas about family reunions and togethering as well as destinations with the support tools available to make the planning and subsequent doing, if not easy then at least easier than planning it alone.

The Orlando area is potentially the perfect family reunion spot because the number of activity and entertainment choices ideal for all for all ages. Good news because Kissimmee CVB has just launched a new micro website – – dedicated to the planning and support of reunions. In addition to the online tools available, the planning services staff is available to help with the details of family group travel.

Pigeon Forge, in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, is home to Dollywood – a spot with great family gathering potential. Plus The Forge offers  do-nothing, rock-on-the- porch experiences as well as high-energy hiking, rafting, biking, zorbing, and ziplining adventures. Add nightly entertainment and terrific shopping to the list and you will need more vacation days. To assist in the family reunion planning process the CVB employs a reunion specialist who takes care of the details and makes the idea of togethering in the mountains easy and fun.

Family Reunion Beach Party on Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach - A family beach party with a purpose.

Virginia Beach also maintains a planning staff to create the best family reunion possible. They even have suggested itineraries that range from “It’s All About the Grandkids” to “Green Getaway,” the perfect rubric for making memories together. They know what it takes to make three, maybe four generations happy in one place at one time. While senior family members engage in the customary “remember when” dialog, they know younger family members would rather connect or reconnect with siblings and cousins and live in the moment.

If kids are happy then everyone will be happy – NO! If mom isn’t happy…

Lawnby Beach, Naples Beach Hotel

I am annoyed at the propensity of family vacation choices which emphasize kids only. We all know family vacation planning is not rocket science – it’s a juggling act with a little sleight of hand to make it happen. The point woman (person) who is charged with making it happen – the family vacation that is – should get some extra benefit. So, I am basically tired of hearing if the kids are happy then everyone will be happy – NO! How about if mom isn’t happy then the vacation will not go well? How about if mom and dad don’t get vacation time fun the whole year could tank? Continue reading

Jamaica: Runaway Bay, Franklyn D. Resort & Spa – Moms Stay Free in May.

I like how this sounds. Someone at FDR Resorts gets it. If mom is happy then the whole family will have a better vacation. So, jump-start your summer with your kids on Jamaica’s north coast. Why not?

Here’s the deal. Franklyn D. Resort & Spa and Pebbles Resort have announced mothers will stay for free during the month of May as a thank you for all that they do. This benefit applies to moms arriving at either resort with dad and kids (1st May through 4th June, 2010).
Continue reading