Large families often have a wide age range of children, and even small families can have kids that are spread out in age. What's a family with a 4-year-old, an 8-year-old and a 15-year-old to do? Consider these tips for your next vacation with kids of multiple ages.
Choosing a Resort
Kids' Programs & Childcare
Nothing can top good programs for kids and teens at a resort. You're looking for a wide array of children's and teens' clubs at one hotel -- preferably clubs that cater to multiple age groups. Notice how kids are split into age groups per program. For instance, a hotel can say that they have kids' activities for children ages 4 to 17. What you need to find out is if they are divided into two groups or assembled into one, which can be stressful for little ones or dull for older teens. Typically, the most enjoyable kids' programs are those that run different clubs for at least three separate groups of kids, in clusters of four-year (or less) age differences. See Best Kids Clubs at All-Inclusive Resorts and 10 Best Hotel Kids Programs for some of our favorite offerings.
Tip: Try to book all your kids in clubs that take place at the same time, if possible. This will allow the entire family to be together in the evening. Fun experiences with new friends can promote congenial times with siblings when back together again.
Water parks are a great option for families with kids of multiple ages, offering a little something for everyone in the group. Kiddies will enjoy the spraygrounds with dump buckets, teens will like the water coasters, and parents will love the private cabanas! Check out 10 Best Indoor Water Park Resorts for some ideas.
Get Enough Space
Though not directly related to the amount of fun you'll have, getting enough space for everyone in the family is important. It may not be able to drastically improve a sleepy town with nothing to do, but without it, the family vacation can be irritating and filled with unnecessary bickering about sides of the bed or television programs. Getting enough space is especially important for families with teenagers. Everyone knows that teens like a bit more privacy than younger kids, not to mention the difference in sleep schedules can be difficult to address in small hotel rooms. Units with multiple rooms promote a good night's sleep and minimize grumpiness in the mornings, so you can start the day off right. See our tips for Hotel Rooms for Large Families.
Choosing a Destination
Head to the Beach
The downside to kids' clubs is that families are split up. Most families want to at least see each other on vacation, if not spend the entire time together. Choose your destination wisely. Beach vacations are a great place for the whole family to spend time together, yet have some alone time when needed. Families do not need to split up to have fun. Sure, teens may want to spend most of the time in the water, while small children may take the day to build a sandcastle, but both parties are in each others' view. Lunch breaks can be spent together and family walks along the coastline are a must. Essentially, you are all enjoying the same attraction at the same time. Looking for a new beach to check out? See the 10 Best Beaches for Families!
Head to a Dude Ranch
Teens may not like it at first, due to the lack of Wi-Fi and video games, but give dude ranches a chance. Dude ranches are places where families can escape the real world in both place and time. Ranches create an enclosed environment that fosters family togetherness. Oftentimes, dude ranches have activities for children as young as age 2, such as pony rides and campfire songs. Teens are also typically provided with junior wrangling programs, rodeos, horseback riding or overnight trips. Usually, ranches are built in some of the most scenic parts of the country, too, near national parks. Check out Dude Ranch Family Vacations for tips and planning, and see the 10 Best Dude Ranches for Families for our top resort picks.
Visit Area Attractions
Wherever you go, your hotel's surroundings do matter, yet they need not be complicated or overly impressive to satisfy kids. Zoos, aquariums, grassy parks, movie theaters, candy stores... there are many things to explore in a new destination that will bring new light to a familiar attraction also found in your own hometown. Even something as commonplace as a nearby mall may intrigue a teenager, while younger kids may consider the resort itself enough of an attraction.
Family Vacation Critic reader and mother of three children, Kelly Fraser Longo, tries to take her family to places that will have "something for everyone." Orlando is a family favorite, as the area offers attractions for all ages and isn't far from her hometown. She admits to often "suffering through" what one child wants to do and then moving on to the next kid's wishes, occasionally splitting up for short periods. Like so many things, balance is the key, and each child must be able to do something fun for them. Looking forward to his or her own special activity will make it slightly easier to be patient with a brother's or sister's choice of activity.
More from Family Vacation Critic
Traveling With Infants (0 to 2)
Traveling With Kids Ages 3 to 6
Traveling With Kids Ages 7 to 9
Traveling With Tweens (10 to 12)
Traveling With Teens
Traveling With Kids of Multiple Ages
Written by Whitney Rife