Family trips can be messy but they create the most wonderful memories

By Eileen Ogintz
Tribune Content Agency
Taking the Kids

We all know that traveling with kids (and grandkids) can be messy, aggravating, expensive, and wonderful. Lots of memories are a big bonus.

Planning a trip that will please everyone can be just as difficult. It’s important to realize — and remind everyone — that everyone will need to compromise, that no one will get their pick of what to do and where to go all of the time. A good life lesson!

As you discuss where you want to go this spring and what you want to do when you get there, have that all-important budget discussion. How much will each child be able to spend on souvenirs? How can they help you plan so you can alternate free activities (perhaps local playgrounds or an afternoon at the awesome hotel pool) with ones that will stretch the budget (theme parks, restaurant meals).

Spring break written in the sand.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk spring break. With our partners at Family Travel Forum and Little Family Adventure, we’ve come up with 24 Spring Break Ideas to Meet Every Family’s Wish List. (Hopefully, anyway!)

Do you want to hit the slopes (many think spring skiing is the best!) or relax on a sunny beach? Maybe the kids have been begging to cruise away or explore a new city (New York, San Francisco, London or Paris, perhaps.)

How about a national park before the summer crowds arrive? Explore Mammoth Cave, the world’s longest known cave system, and meet the fossil of a new shark species found there. You can paddle the brackish waters reminiscent of “Swamp Thing” at Congaree National Park. If you have a child in fourth grade, the complimentary Every Kid Outdoors Annual 4th Grade Pass covers park entry for all children under 16 and up to three adults per passholder and includes the vehicle entrance fee. If you plan to visit more than one park in a year, save with an annual America the Beautiful pass ($80) that also covers all federal recreation sites. If the grandparents are coming, look for Senior Passes (ages 62 and up ) and free passes for military personnel and those with permanent disabilities. Check your park’s website to book ahead for special free activities, guided hikes and talks, and the Junior Ranger program.


Maui is recovering after the devastating August 2023 wildfire that destroyed the historic port of Lahaina and killed nearly 100 people in West Maui. Now, Maui locals and Hawaiian officials are urging tourists to return as tourism dollars can help communities rebuild. However, locals caution visitors to avoid Lahaina, which is closed, and be respectful of all Hawaiian survivors.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority maintains an up-to-date site that recommends where to go and where to avoid. There is plenty else to see and do around the island. Support locals by booking a snorkeling or sailing trip. Viator has several options for luaus and whale watching, as well. Opt for local restaurants. Take the famously winding road to Hana and stay a while.

If your budget allows, the Four Seasons Maui is where the first season of the HBO dramedy “White Lotus” was filmed. Get a vacation rental in Wailea. Fairmont Kea Lani’ has recently opened a new cultural center, Hale Kukuna, the island’s largest resort cultural center and it also serves as a connection for the community. It is 24/7 open-air accessible and provides education resources for guests and local community members. The Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, situated on 23 oceanfront acres, is now open with a Return to Maui package with a donation earmarked for each stay.

The new cultural center at Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui.
The new cultural center at Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui.

Besides hotels, Wailea has multiple vacation rentals, golf courses, beaches, restaurants and more. Shop and eat locally. And tip well!

Plan now to see a rare total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. Thousands of travelers will show up to see the moon’s shadow totally obscure the sun for less than five minutes within a three-hour period on this Monday afternoon. Texas, ground zero for both October 2023’s annular solar eclipse and the upcoming total solar eclipse, is one place to go. According to NASA mapping, states from New York to Ohio, Kentucky to Tennessee, Oklahoma and parts of Canada and Mexico are also ideal. See what your state — or one near yours — has planned.

Many families, ours included, like to take their pooch along when possible. Don’t be surprised if you see pampered pooches in the fanciest hotels like the Four Seasons, smaller hotels like Kimpton, and budget properties like Red Roof Inn. Thousands of hotels managed by the major hotel brands ( check out Pets Welcome for suggestions) now welcome dogs, and many have facilities for cats. Some accommodations provide dog beds and bowls, though our dogs have always preferred their own. Most hotels charge a pet fee unless your animal is certified as a support animal. Be forewarned that pets aren’t permitted on many national parks hiking trails, though you can find plenty of pet-friendly hikes nearby and pet welcoming places to stay and camp. (KOA’s feature dog parks!) Many vacation rentals, like The Redwoods in Yosemite also have pet- friendly cabins.

You still have time to grab a WAVE season deal on a cruise (book by the end of February) that could include kids free (Holland America and Princess among them while Norwegian is touting the second guest free) cabin upgrades and on-board credits. posts an ongoing round-up of wave season deals.

Mammoth Cave National Park, USA
Mammoth Cave National Park, USA

Perhaps you are imagining yourselves on a beach, frothy drink in hand. Before you book that all-inclusive in the Caribbean or Mexico, consider whether you will really use all those amenities and activities you are paying for. Consider a beach escape closer to home. Virginia Beach with its sandy shores stretching for miles, is one great bet. (Explore the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge!) On the West Coast, once the weather has improved, San Diego is always a good bet with its combination of beaches, theme parks, the world-famous San Diego Zoo and museums. Have a fish taco for me!

Have fun out there!

(For more Taking the Kids, visit and also follow TakingTheKids on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments. The fourth edition of The Kid’s Guide to New York City and the third edition of The Kid’s Guide to Washington D.C. are the latest in a series of 14 books for kid travelers published by Eileen.)

©2024 Eileen Ogintz. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.