By Josephine Matyas

Getting the family together can be a stress free vacation! The road to success includes understanding everyone’s expectations, providing a variety of activities that appeal to the interests of kids and adults, and planning, planning, planning.

Whether it’s a getaway to reconnect, a family reunion or an intergenerational excursion, try thinking beyond the usual.

Try Texas!

The Lone Star State is the ultimate family fun destination. It’s known for friendly folks, great outdoor activities under wide-open skies, theme parks, dude ranches and destination resorts that cater to families with on-site water parks and children’s programs.

Here are a few suggestions for themed family packages:
JWM-SAHC-Riverbluff_Caban1JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa – Riverbluff Cabana• JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa features a Family Time Package,which offers accommodation with credits for spa, golf, dining and Range Riders, a fun filled children’s camp. www.jwsanantonio.com/
• Moody Gardens Hotel
in Galvestonis offering theExplore Moody Gardens Package,withday passes to on-site attractions, tickets to IMAX theatre, Aquarium and the Rainforest Pyramid. www.moodygardens.com/
www.traveltex.com is a good starting point for finding attractions and lodging deals that are designed for families.

Florida Is A Natural

The unspoiled beaches and award-winning island resorts of The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel (on Florida’s southwest Gulf Coast) are a natural draw for families. Many area resorts have developed creative programs that let mom and dad schedule play time with and without the kids.

South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island offers an award-winning kid’s camp, arcade and family water park. For children 6 to 13, the resort has partnered with Sanibel Sea School (www.sanibelseaschool.org) to educate children about marine ecosystems. Parents Magazine has named it one of the “10 Best Beach Resorts for Families.” www.southseas.com

• Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina on Fort Myers Beach has Sparky’s Kidds Kampp,a drop-off program for kids age 4 to 12 with activities such as crafts, beach games, pool games and good ol’ fashioned exploring. www.pinkshell.com

A number of island hotels are catering to families with themed packages that include accommodations, tickets to top attractions and value-adds such as kids programs and dolphin watching. For more information visit www.fortmyers-sanibel.com

And, up along the Florida Panhandle, the springtime weather is perfect for family beach fun.

• Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort is a winning choice for thespring and fall shoulder seasons. The huge resort complex offers more than 1,300 condos, villas, town homes and hotel rooms (most with kitchen facilities) spread over 970 hectares. Sandestin is known for its extensive activities: 11 kilometres of beachfront, complimentary kayaks, canoes and boogie boards, bicycles, fitness centre, 15 tennis courts, 72 holes of golf on four championship courses, 19 swimming pools, a 98-slip marina and certified children’s program. www.sandestin.com

Oregon Outdoors

Families who love the outdoors will find plenty to explore in Oregon. The west coast state is famous for its scenery, parklands and one-of-a-kind forests and seashores.

• The Lodge at Detroit Lake is a newly built log cabin with 12 comfortable rooms for families who love the outdoors. Recreation opportunities include boating, rafting, fishing, hiking, swimming, waterskiing, guided horse tours, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. www.lodgeatdetroitlake.com/index.html

• Willow Springs Guest Ranch is an authentic working cattle ranch for that “Home on the Range” experience. Families stay in private, rustic cabins with spectacular views of Oregon’s “outback.” This spot is perfect for the horse lover: Saddle up and ride the range, then come home to an outdoor soak, cowboy-style and dinner prepared over an open fire. www.willowspringsguestranch.com

The lodge and cabins at Aspen Ridge Resort make serene settings for family members to reconnect in dude ranch surroundings. Breakfast lunch and dinner are served “lodge style.” There’s plenty for the whole family to do – fishing, biking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, tennis, ping pong or just lounging on the deck overlooking the buffalo and cattle grazing below. www.aspenrr.com

• Silver Falls State Park Cabins are perfect for families who want a rustic setting, but with a few modern conveniences. Activities at the park include hiking, swimming, horse and bicycle trails, fishing and birding. Silver Falls State Park is known for the 10 waterfalls that can be viewed from the well-groomed hiking trails. www.oregonstateparks.org/park_211.php

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