travel &adventure guide
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tips, resources, and valuable information for local and international family travel and fun!
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emories made together, last a lifetime”. Here on the west coast, we love our adventures – whether it’s a weekend in Whistler, a ferry ride to Victoria, a week in the sunny Okanagan, a flight to a sunny beach or an international adventure full of history and intrigue. We are adventurers and we love to explore – finding that perfect spot to take a deep breath and soak it all in. And when we can do that with our family by our side, it’s so much better. Welcome to the fourth annual Family Travel & Adventure Guide, published by WestCoast Families. This year we’ve partnered again with Claire Newell of Travel Best Bets to provide you with so much inspiration for the year ahead. Use this guide to spark your imagination and kick-start your plans to make memories for years to come. Want more ideas? Head to www.westcoastfamilies.com to our Family Travel & Adventure online guide where you’ll find even more encouragement to make your dreams a reality.
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart”.
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Cuba for Families Sunny and Social
Europe with Little Ones the best family-friendly European hotspots
Caribbean-Family Style! The sunniest hotspots
Cover Yourself! Claire’s checklist for international travel
US Destinations Unique USA Destinations for kids
is a travel expert, author and a recognized authority on the travel industry in North America for more than 24 years. Claire is the official Travel Expert for Global News, CKNW radio and the best selling author of Travel Best Bets. She has appeared multiple times on major US networks including NBC’s Today Show, Fox News and CNN. She has written articles for Success, Professional Woman, Reader’s Digest and Today’s Parent. Claire has been a media spokesperson for many companies including Disney, Hilton Hotels, CHASE, TD, and Bridgestone.
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For almost 25 years, WestCoast Families magazine has been the premier local guide for active, urban families! Pick up your copy at more than 600 locations, or read online at www.westcoastfamilies.com ge
tips, resources, and valuable information for local internationaland family travel and fun!
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europe with little ones the best family-friendly european hotspots by Claire Newell of Travel Best Bets
Europe is a great choice for a family vacation. A lot of parents think Europe is off-limits for family vacations, reasoning that children can’t possibly appreciate the history, art and cuisine that the continent has to offer. Trust me—it definitely can be done right and everyone will have a great time. Although the initial flight from Vancouver is on the longer side, once you are there, it’s super easy to get from country to country by train or air. A passport is required and the required validity varies between three to six months beyond your expected stay. Canadians don’t need a visa for almost all of the European countries with the exception of Turkey. This can be obtained online prior to arrival, or you can simply get one when you arrive. Eastern Europe is definitely increasing in popularity and we are seeing more and more people eager to visit cities that haven’t been as popular in the past. Here are some of my top picks for top destinations in Europe for 2017.
Budapest Budapest, Hungary is a gorgeous city nestled in the heart of Eastern Europe. It is scenic, youthful and stylish, with top-notch classical music, steamy thermal baths and buzzing nightlife. With a dramatic past as part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it’s rich with history, culture, stunning architecture, and an exciting variety of year-round family activities. Some great options are the Budapest Zoo, which is home to a beautiful Art Nouveau Elephant House, or Aquaworld, a large indoor water park with its own “Kids’ World,” complete with slides and a playhouse. For a learning experience, take your family to the Palace of Miracles, a unique interactive exhibition designed for
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kids; the Museum of Transport, with its old trains, motorcycles and cars; the Hungarian Railway Museum for a ride on a vintage railcar; and the Hungarian Natural History Museum to explore one of its many exhibits. There are children’s playgrounds all over Budapest and the best is in the Millenaris Park. The beautifully landscaped Kopaszi-gát is another great place for kids with playgrounds, a sandy beach, and many kid-friendly restaurants.
Paris This is the perfect city to show your kids some culture and history. Keep in mind there is only so many museums and monuments that the little ones can handle without rolling their eyes and dragging their feet, but the Louvre is a must see. You probably won’t get through the entire place so stick to the hits. Pick out a few paintings and sculptures in advance, learn their history, discuss them with your kids, and then seek them out when you’re there. Kids also love the Eiffel Tower. My advice is to take the stairs to the second level (as far as they go) for a shorter line and then take the elevator to the very top. The views can’t be beat and at nighttime, it’s gorgeous, with a beautiful strobe light show that is absolutely breathtaking. Also not to be missed is the Paris by Mouyh Food Tour, which kids and adults will absolutely love. They are so much fun and while they’re not designed with families in mind, if your kids are into trying new things it’s a great introduction into the local food and culture. The main food stops are chocolate, cheese, and pastries. So what’s not to like?
Prague Prague is located in the heart of Europe and is a great place for families to discover the charms of the city’s Old Town and New Town, as well as its historic Jewish Quarter. Whether you choose to visit during the flower-filled spring and summer months or during the festive Christmas Market period, Prague is a city with limitless offerings for families. Prague Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site is the perfect place to go exploring. At more than 70,000 metres squared, it’s one of the largest castle complexes in the world. In Prague’s Old Town Square there is an amazing medieval Astronomical Clock, which will enamour children, even those who can’t tell time—thanks to the clock’s golden, shifting gadgets. To spend some time near the beautiful Vltava River, head to Charles Bridge. Kids love racing up the two towers at either end for a bird’s eye view of the city. Prague is also famous for its marionette shows. Make sure to let your children pick out marionette souvenirs. They come in countless characters—from animals and dragons to Harry Potter and Pinocchio. The city is also home to a planetarium, the largest waterpark in central Europe, and a zoo.
London What is there not to love about London? Any time is a great time to visit this English city. There are so many incredible indoor museums and exhibits that even the less crowded winter months are a wonderful time to see the sights. Kids will absolutely love Harrods’ Toy Kingdom, complete with a big top, candy store, enchanted forest and alien space pods. And we Muggles can’t miss the Harry Potter: Warner Brothers Studio. The two-hour private tour of Harry Potter’s London is simply magic. Shrek’s Adventure is a great time too. Getting around in London is half of the fun and kids will love using the Tube. The trains come quickly and speed through the underground tunnel system, so it’s definitely a cool experience for us West Coast Canadians. The bright red double-decker buses are also something to marvel at. I definitely recommend doing a hop-on-hop-off tour around the city—it’s a really cool way to see London. If it isn’t raining, kids will love sitting on the second level, which is open air. Usually, a free river cruise from Westminster to the Tower of London is included in the price of the ticket.
Barcelona Barcelona has a creative, playful spirit that kids will soak up when you travel to the city. Gaudi’s fantastical houses and architectural creations—like tiled mosaics in the shape of dragons and chimneys with faces— are timeless marvels of imagination. Barcelona is also an old city and in Roman times it was called Barcino. And wherever you go to Barcelona with kids, whether it’s running along on the ramparts of the Montjuic castle, riding in a cable car across the harbour, or just playing in the sand, the blue Mediterranean is always at your feet. Park Güell is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Gaudi’s most well known works of art. It will leave you feeling like you stepped through the looking glass into Wonderland. You can’t leave Barcelona without taking a stroll down Las Ramblas, the city’s most famous series of streets. Your kids won’t know where to look as you pass by artists, buskers, mimes, and vendors. Barcelona has some great beaches, so if you’re visiting the city in the summer, a beach day with the family is a must-do.
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Caribbean—Family Style! The sunniest hotspots by Claire Newell of Travel Best Bets
ooking for sun, sand, and surf? Look no further than a sunny Caribbean destination that promises fun for the whole family. With great kids’ clubs, tons of food selections and a variety of activities and excursions, everyone will return home happy and rested!
Turks and Caicos Turks and Caicos has all you could possibly want in a Caribbean vacation. Gorgeous beaches and water perfect for swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving. Grand Turk is the capital and the main historic area, while Cockburn Town is the centrepiece of the island, with Colonial style buildings and ruins, along with The Turks and Caicos National Museum. Also not to be missed is Providenciales, which is surrounded by beautiful white sand beaches and has been ranked “Best Beach” by Condé Nast magazine. In the area, Grace Bay has Princess Alexandra Marine Park, home to dolphins and the world’s first conch farm, which kids will adore. Some fun activities with kids include taking a boat cruise, iguana spotting, snorkelling and horseback riding. Where to stay… Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa This property has a 45,000 square-foot waterpark, a 19-kilometre beach, and endless activities for all ages, featuring Sesame Street™ characters, the Xbox Play Lounge, and a teen disco. Blue Haven Resort Although this property is not an all-inclusive, it does include breakfast. Families love this property for its one, two, and three-bedroom suites, kids’ club and babysitting services. It’s also located on a gorgeous beach with calm waters that are perfect for swimming and snorkelling.
Dominican Republic Dominican Republic is the second largest and arguably the most diverse Caribbean country.
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Photo Courtesy of Beaches Resorts
It’s located just two hours from Miami and is well known for warm weather and welcoming people. Punta Cana is renowned for its dazzling, powdery white sand beaches and is one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the Caribbean. Meanwhile, Puerta Plata is on the Atlantic side, so the water is better for watersports rather than novice swimmers. The sand is coarser than the beaches of Punta Cana but is still stunning, with crystal blue water lining the shores. Kids will love ziplining or visiting one of the local surf camps. The more adventurous can take a dune buggy tour or even go caving and rappelling in a local underwater river.
Where to stay… Nickelodeon Hotel This Karisma Property merges elegance and family fun. There are a huge variety of Nickelodeon activities for kids, and adults will love the gourmet food and activities, like Spanish lessons, yoga, aqua aerobics, dancing and cooking classes. Hard Rock Hotel People often think that this property is not necessarily for kids–they’re wrong! The pool area and beach have family lounges and cabanas that are perfect for playing in the sun. There are daily activities for the kids plus Rock Star Mini-Golf, an arcade centre, and a massive climbing wall.
Jamaica Miles of untouched coastline, cascading waterfalls, reggae music and friendly people—these are just some of the highlights of Jamaica. If it’s perfectly white, sandy beaches you are after, Montego Bay is your ideal destination. This region is home to many of the island’s amazing resorts. But if hitting the stores is more your style, Ocho Rios is a shoppers dream come true. You will find tiny stalls with local vendors selling trinkets, as well as bigger stores with world-class brands. As a family trip, be sure not to miss Dunns River Falls, AquaSol Watersports Theme Park, the Bob Marley Museum and a horseback riding tour. Where to stay… Iberostar Rose Hall Beach Hotel The Iberostar Rose Hall Beach Hotel always seems to make the top ten list of Caribbean resorts. It is surrounded by gorgeous beaches and beautiful gardens. There is a kids-only pool and a fun kids’ club with organized games the little ones and teens will love.
Where to stay… Disney Cruise Line Disney cruises are just about as kid-friendly as a cruise line can get! There are Broadway-quality live performances, fireworks at sea, deck parties and screenings of the newest Disney movies in 3D. Kids will love the thrilling “water coaster,” AquaDuck. Royal Caribbean Royal Caribbean definitely impresses kids and adults with some of their incredible amenities. Feel like you are skydiving on-board with the RipCord by iFLY® simulator, or ascend 300 feet above the ship in the North StarSM observation capsule. Royal Caribbean is partnered with DreamWorks, so you will see characters from Shrek and Kung Fu Panda wandering around on-board.
Beaches Ocho Rios Resort & Golf & Waterpark Resort Beaches Ocho Rios is fantastic for kids. There is a huge action-adventure waterpark onsite with thrilling waterslides the whole family will love. Little gamers will enjoy the Xbox Play Lounge Game Garage and toddlers will be dazzled by the Sesame Street™-themed kids club.
Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas. Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines
Caribbean Cruise A Caribbean cruise is a great way to see several islands during one trip. The best part?—You only unpack once! Most mainstream cruise lines are super kid-friendly nowadays, and seem to get crazier and crazier amenities every year and for those nervous about being on the water, these ships are huge. Besides incredible kids’ clubs with a huge variety of activities, ships now have giant waterslides, rock climbing walls, surf simulators, skating rinks, and more. My advice is to do your research and find out not just what cruise line but what ship you want to be on. travel & adventure guide
cuba for families sunny and social By Claire Newell of Travel Best Bets
What to Expect Cuba is an eye-opening destination for any traveller, but especially so for children, who will discover a way of life without the tablets, technology, and shopping that so many of us take for granted. Since Cuba and the United States restored diplomatic relations in July 2015, I expect to see some major North American influence take effect. Restored trade will lead to a “newer” Cuba, so to speak. I recommend going sooner than later so that you can experience how this beautiful place has been preserved without outside influence. What Cuba lacks in “typical” attractions for kids, it makes up for with its rich history and culture. The key for holiday planning is to ignore standard entertainment schedules and think outside the box. In general, hotels in Cuba are family-friendly, whether you are staying in a boutique hotel in Havana or an all-inclusive on the beach, and all the big brand, all-inclusive properties are available in Cuba. Although you won’t be
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immersing yourself 100 per cent into the Cuban culture, the kids will love swimming in the pool and devouring the treats at the buffets. The only consistent complaint I have heard about Cuba is the lack in variety of cuisine. This, of course, is directly related to the trade embargo that the country faced for so many years. There are very little fruit and vegetables available and dishes tend to be quite bland with a lack of spices. If you aren’t picky, you will be fine. Staples include rice, beans, and a variety of meats. It’s the culture of Cuba that is its biggest attraction. The people are warm and welcoming and the streets are safe, with very little traffic. Kids can take part in the many dancing and drumming classes in the cities and explore some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Every provincial city in Cuba has a baseball stadium selling tickets for next to nothing. This is a great activity to do as a family. Ice cream is also a major part of the Cuban culture and the shops are usually full of local families sharing tables and socializing.
Where to Go
What to Bring
If you’re travelling with babies and young children, the best rule of thumb is to bring all the stuff you will need. Local supplies are generally scarce and shouldn’t be relied upon, especially in the smaller towns. Essentials will include diapers, formula, baby food, wet wipes, and pediatric medicines.
Varadero has some of the most spectacular beaches and a variety of amazing hotels to choose from. Whether you’re in the mood to simply lounge by the pool or explore the miles and miles of white sand beaches, you’re sure to get your fill of fun in the sun. Havana Get ready to step back into the 1950s. In Havana, the streets are full of vintage cars, news is received via radio, and produce is transported in from outer regions by wheelbarrow. The colonial architecture and colourful buildings photo by Moyen Brebn painted in pastels are fascinating to look at. The people are friendly and helpful and the whole family will love exploring the local markets and restaurants. Cayo Coco/Cayo Guillermo Cayo Coco is a paradise of tropical vegetation, beautiful white-sand beaches and a coral reef. This is a great place for snorkelling and swimming. To the west of Cayo Coco is Gayo Guillermo, home to the highest sand dune in the Caribbean. Apparently, it was once a favourite hangout of Ernest Hemingway. There are many great resorts in the area as well. Holguin Holguin is probably most famous for Cuban music. It is the perfect destination for dancing and enjoying the nightlife and the whole family will love the vibe. The weather is ideal and Cubans are said to say that Holguin only has two seasons: summer, where temperatures rise above 30, and winter, where it stays around 25 degrees Celsius. Santa Clara Santa Clara is a tiny island just over 13 kilometres long and a little over two kilometres wide. The incredible beaches here are stunning and this spot is the perfect blend of land and sea, flora and fauna, making it the perfect location for exploring as a family, snorkelling, and scuba diving.
For older kids you might want to bring some multivitamins and snacks, like granola bars, dried fruit, nuts, and other healthy options. Download any games, books, or entertainment you require before you go. Internet isn’t great in Cuba, as can be expected. Because the food tends to be on the bland side, you might want to bring some essentials in your checked luggage. Things like ketchup, hot sauce, salad dressing, soy sauce, and spices may come in handy. And last but not least, brand name clothing is hard to come by in Cuba. I usually recommend bringing a bag of clothing your family was going to donate and give it to the hotel staff. It is usually greatly appreciated.
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Don’t forget to head to head to our website for our online Family Travel & Adventure Guide, where you’ll find more inspiration and ideas, plus live links to great family adventures! www.westcoastfamilies.com/ travel-and-adventure
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Cover Yourself! Claire’s checklist for international travel by Claire Newell of Travel Best Bets
Claire and family in
ravelling internationally brings a specific set of challenges to travellers well beyond that of any domestic trip within Canada. Documentation, licensing, insurance, healthcare and bill payments at home are all important considerations. Here’s my checklist with travelling anywhere outside of Canada to ensure a problemfree international trip.
Check for country specific entry/exit requirements, including visas, country warnings and advisories. The Canadian Government’s website, travel.gc.ca, is a great place to learn detailed information about each county’s entry, exit, and visa requirements for Canadians. On the site, travellers can find detailed information about each country’s safety and security problems, too. Also, check their “alerts and warnings” page for the current, most up-to-date specific warnings and alerts about countries throughout the world. Register each trip. Register all international trips free of charge on travel.gc.ca. The service allows Canadians travelling abroad to enroll their trip details online. The information entered is available to the appropriate Canadian Embassies and Consulates in case of emergency. They use it to call, text, and send you email alerts in case of local or family emergencies or possible evacuations. Make sure your passport has six-month validity. Many countries around the word require visitors’ passports to be valid for at least six months, either when they enter or leave their country. Renew your passport at least eight or nine months before its expiration, just to be safe. See if you need an International Drivers Permit. If you plan to drive in a foreign country, be aware that many countries don’t recognize Canadian driver’s licenses without an accompanying international driver’s permit. Do your research first. Have copies of all your travel documents available in case they are lost or stolen. In years past, savvy international travellers carried multiple printed copies of all their travel documents, passports, tickets, itinerary, wallet contents, etc., and left a copy with a friend or relative at home in case the documents were lost or stolen. Today, instead of printed copies, I recommend keeping them in password protected Adobe PDF files on your smartphone and tablet, plus another saved on an online data storage service, like iCloud.
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Obtain necessary vaccinations and fill all prescriptions. Check travel.gc.ca for any vaccines, medicines, and advice page for the destination you are travelling to. Also, speak with your physician about vaccinations and medication for your trip and fill any prescriptions you’ll need for your journey. Have a complete supply, plus some extra medication for the full duration of your trip and be sure to keep them in their original containers to prove validity. Bring copies of every prescription and proof of every vaccination you have for your trip. Investigate travel and health insurance. You may need to obtain health insurance for your trip. Check any work and credit card coverage you may have to determine where you need some added protection. If not, don’t leave the country without emergency travel medical coverage at a minimum. I never travel internationally without comprehensive travel insurance, including health coverage. Don’t wreck a trip with massive medical bills for a small accident.
Manage your credit cards and ATM card for international travel. If you don’t have one, get a credit card that won’t charge you high fees for international use. Make sure your ATM card will work internationally so you’ll be able to obtain local currency quickly and easily. Before you leave, call your credit card company to give them your trip’s destinations to prevent fraud and problems using it while away. Bring cash from home and some local cash if you’re not flying into a major airport. Too many people forget to bring emergency cash for their return home. If you’re flying into a small airport at your destination, it may be difficult to
obtain local cash there, so bring it from home. Otherwise, it is generally easy and inexpensive to obtain local currency at bank-based ATMs, at various locations, while travelling. Contact your smartphone cellular provider for international travel. Your smartphone can be your best friend in an emergency or if you’re lost walking in a big city, so make sure you won’t break the bank using it. Without an international data plan and perhaps a calling plan, you can rack up high charges quickly. Alternately, consider purchasing or renting a local cellphone or SIM at your destination.
Be prepared to use local electricity to power/ charge your electronics. Bring the correct plug adapters necessary to use local power at your destinations. Ensure your devices can handle the voltage at your destinations or bring a transformer. I hope that this checklist makes your next trip outside of Canada a smooth journey. Just keep in mind that even more planning may be necessary for your specific trip, particularly if it’s off the beaten path. That said, an experienced travel agent can be an invaluable resource to help you plan every detail of your next trip.
Unique •USA• Destinations for Kids
by Claire Newell of Travel Best Bets
New York City New York City offers great parks, museums, restaurants and toy stores across the five boroughs. What could be more NYC than seeing the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and taking a bike tour through Central Park? Take the Staten Island Ferry to see the city skyline, or go see a kid-friendly Broadway show. The Children’s Museum in Manhattan has tons of cool interactive exhibitions and kids will go nuts over Toys “R” Us’ massive flagship store in Times Square. Explore any of the many family favourite restaurants, like ramen, themed diners, high tea cafés and kid-friendly bars. For a sugar rush. visit Dylan’s Candy Bar, which is Candyland come to life, with a giant lollipop tree, and over 7,000 confections.
San Diego is a top-notch tourist destination for families. It is home to world-renowned tourist attractions and museums, so you’ll never run out of things to do with the kids. Even with more than 110 kilometres of picturesque beaches, San Diego maintains a “small town” atmosphere that makes a family vacation feel manageable. Most importantly, there are plenty of things to do in San Diego that you’ll enjoy no matter how young or old you are! Attractions like Seaworld, Legoland, San Diego Zoo and Belmont Park Seaside amusement park are sure to impress. Seaport Village is the perfect place to round out your San Diego experience, with seaside shops, restaurants, and outdoor entertainment the whole family will love.
Vegas might not seem kid friendly, but it is! Little ones will love the Tournament of Kings (one of Las Vegas’last dinner shows), where you are transported to King Arthur’s court and encouraged to eat with your hands! The Stratosphere Hotel has four thrill rides on its roof and Circus Circus has its own theme park and the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay is a must-see, with over 2000 animals and a Touch Pool experience. Those little gamers will love GameWorks, which sports over 250 games in a massive venue. Some great hotel options are the Mandalay Bay, Excalibur, Luxor and the Mirage. Do a little research and see what each has to offer. Plus a major bonus is that it’s a super short, direct flight from Vancouver and rates are almost always quite cheap.
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