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Great family vacation ideas - Plan around special events

For Great Family Vacations, Plan Around Special Events

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A number of years ago, my wife and I went to Barcelona for a work conference of hers. While there, we realized that the annual Running of the Bulls was taking place in Pamplona. We looked up the train schedule and four hours later, we were there! We caught the last two days of the Festival of San Fermin and the running of the bulls. The event transforms an otherwise sleepy town into a familial celebration. There were people from all over the world in attendance — families with young kids, elderly and, of course, younger people enjoying their summer break. It was so much fun!

It occurred to me then, what if we planned our family vacations to coincide with special events? It’s as if someone has planned an event for you. It can turn a good vacation into a great one. Here are a few tips for planning these types of family vacations:

Have a Plan B

We went to Tokyo for Cherry Blossoms but would we see them? We were lucky. They bloomed during the week we were there. Our friends were not so lucky ten days earlier, but they found other things to enjoy in the city. On a recent trip to see Niagara Falls, we got rained out the second day there. Fortunately, Hilton Niagara Falls has a great indoor pool with a three level slide. Whew! The kids loved it, and dad looked like a planning genius.

Plan Ahead for Reservations and Tickets

If you plan to attend a major event or celebration in a city, chances are other people thinking the same thing. A little planning will increase your enjoyment. For the Running of the Bulls, we paid an American company for special viewing from the second floor balcony of an apartment. Otherwise, it’s very crowded at the street level.

For the U.S. Open, I entered an online lottery one year in advance to purchase our tickets directly from the United States Golf Association. Special events like VidCon sell out early. We purchased tickets on the first day for the best prices. Many of the tours of the icons in our Nation’s Capitol, such as the White House and Capitol, are best booked at least three months in advance from members of Congress.

Accept Requests

Our kids asked if we could attend VidCon at the Anaheim Convention Center near Disneyland. I didn’t even know what VidCon was when they first asked. They said: “YouTube stars.” Oh? That makes sense. These guys are online celebrities. And the convention is next to Disneyland. Bonus! This might be the first vacation our children lobbied for that was not on our radar. I booked the hotel and made our travel arrangements. I’ll let you know how it went.

Look for Convenient Accommodations

If you have stayed close to an event or vacation destination, you know what a big difference that makes. You spend less time commuting. You are able walk to your destination. You don’t need to deal with parking. You spend more time having fun and less getting tired. Hilton Torrey Pines is on the same golf course with views of the U.S. Open. Hilton Anaheim is next to the Anaheim Convention Center where we attended Vidcon in July. Try to stay close.

Great Family Vacation Ideas

Here are some places and events our family of four has really enjoyed:

  • Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo for Sakura (Cherry Blossom Festival) during Spring Break
  • July 4th watching fireworks in Washington, D.C.
  • U.S. Open Golf Championship at Torrey Pines in San Diego where Tiger Woods won his last Major title
  • World Expo in Shanghai, China
  • Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando to support a friend
  • American Museum of Natural History NYC for Trick-Or-Treating

And here are some additional family vacation ideas that might make your next one great:

  • Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game in Pasadena (January)
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Museum in Atlanta during Black History Month (February)
  • Chinese New Year at a Chinatown (lunar calendar dates vary: around February/March)
  • Graduation at Disneyland and Walt Disney World (June)
  • Vidon/Comic-Con in San Diego (July)
  • Grape Stomping Festivals in Northern California (Late Summer and Early Fall)
  • San Diego International Kids Film Festival (September)
  • Oregon Shakespeare Festival (year round)
  • Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC (November)

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Eugene lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. He and his wife have taken their two children to about 15 countries for work and vacation. Eugene is…

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