Welcome! My maiden name was Ray...I like to think I am a ray of sunshine to those around me. Me: HAPPILY married and have four children!
This year many families will want to save money and still have a great vacation. Whether its relaxing on the beach or riding a roller coaster, I am sure these custom vacations will give you memorable times for the whole family. This article is filled great deals and trips for this summer. I have chosen places from all across the USA and hot spots around the world. The latest for an exclusive experience, all you have to do is find the adventure of your choice. I will even add in some sweepstakes links for free vacationing.
The first question to ask is where do we want to go? How about a eco vacation or treasure hunt type vacation or even go see a natural wonder of the world? From Disney to dude ranches its all right here, the Top Ten!
# 1 Orlando, Florida
- Orlando Hotels, Restaurants, Things to Do & Vacation Planning
- My Favorite Things to Do in Orlando
My favorite things to do in orlando includes swimming with the dolphins in Orlando Florida at Discovery Cove. How the day went and all the things to do and eat there. Read this story to find out more.
- Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida
Welcome to Walt Disney World. Come and enjoy the magic of Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL. Plan your family vacation and create memories for a lifetime.
- Book Now and Save BIG
Mindy Bench is a independent travel agent with over 15 years experience in the travel industry. Book with Mindy Jo and Start Packing!
- Aquatica SeaWorld's Waterpark in Orlando, San Antonio and San Diego
Come to Florida for Orlando's best water park - Aquatica, SeaWorld's Waterpark. Find water park pools, rides and more!
Orlando Aquatica Water Park is ran by Sea World and right next to it. This water park is listed as one of the top ten water parks in the USA. Tons of slides and rides! The Dolphin plunge is the funnest ride and you get to see the dolphins swim by you. They have four dining options and you can buy the tickets online to save money.
Stay at Disney
More Deals for Orlando
- InteleTravel | Find an Online Travel Advisor For Your Next Vacation
Plan your next vacation with a specialized online travel advisor. InteleTravel advisors bring unique knowledge to your trip planning at no additional cost.
- Nickelodeon Resort | All-Inclusive Family Destinations by Nick Luxury Hotels & Resorts
Come and enjoy the best family vacation at Nickelodeon Resorts. Enojoy friendly-luxury attention and world class dining with some of your favorite Nick Characters. Book today!
# 2 Portland, Oregon
Portland City of Roses
Indulge your mind, imagination and senses in the city of Portland.Your family will love this City of Roses! Flights to Portland are a good price this year. You will want to use Portland airport " PDX " in the search box when you are looking for flights. Traveling from Wednesday to wed. is less expensive than Saturday to Sat. too.
Family Friendly Highlights in Portland
Check out the Discovery Museum and the World Forestry Center features hands on exhibits and experiences. Get harnessed and hoisted up for 45 feet too get a birds eye view of the forest or ride class 5 rapids without getting wet. In the In the same vicinity is the The Washington Park, and free concerts during the summer.
OMSI Go below the surface in the decommissioned Navy submarine U.S.S. Blue-back at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.
The Portland "Oregon Zoo" and across from the Zoo is the Portland's Children Museum
North Clackamas Aquatic Park
End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center
Columbia Gorge Scenic Area
Bullwinkle's and Family Fun Center
Portland Classic Chinese Gardens
International Rose Test Garden
The Saturday Market
*Places to stay in Portland 2012
Aloft Portland Airport at Cascade Station with a new art deco theme, this place is great! Game room for the children and pets are allowed too , no charge for pets under 40 pounds. Flat panel T.V's, Free wifi, splash pool, free parking, free newspaper and continental breakfast, plus a beautiful view of the city.
Escape Water Park Package Marriott Courtyard Portland Southeast Make a splash when you visit the Courtyard Portland Southeast for your next family fun excursion. USE PROMOTIONAL CODE: "ARN" During your stay you'll enjoy: Deluxe accommodations, breakfast for up to four people each day, North Clackamas Aquatic Park passes for up to four people, information and amenity bag. Valid Through: December 27, 2012
Go West Young girl, Go West!
Portland Private Tour Guide
- Travel To the West
We have options for private tour guides to lead you around the city and take you to all the highlights! Call Mindy Jo for more information. PDX is your main Airport
- Portland Oregon Hotel Deals
Courtyard by Marriott Portland Oregon Hotel that offers great deals including Shopping, Movie, Water Park, Golf, and Romance. Don't forget about Rewards Points Offers!
- Travel Portland
- Home | OMSI
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
- Portland Saturday Market
Arts and Crafts by the River, Portland, OR. Open every Saturday and Sunday from March - December. Celebrating it's 36th season in Waterfront Park and Ankeny Plaza in Historic Old Town Portland, Oregon.
- Best Portland Family Vacation
Ride the Portland Spirit, visit the Saturday Market or tour the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. The Disney Family.com travel site includes the best vacations for families and reviews from other parents. Plan a memorable Portland vacation!
- Top Sights in Portland
Portland has a wide range of fun and inviting attractions — these are a few of our favorites.
- Portland Vacations, Tourism and Portland, Oregon Travel Reviews - TripAdvisor
Portland Vacations: With 28,000 reviews of Portland, Oregon travel resources, TripAdvisor is the source for Portland information.
- Portland Parks & Recreation
Sustaining a healthy park and recreation system makes Portland a great place to live, work & play.
#3 Panama City Feelin' Hot Hot Hot!
# 3 Panama City
Panama City is so popular this year! It is the #1 place to go in 2012 out of 45 places according to the New York Times. Micheal Douglas, Martha Stewart, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have all been there this year. So It is a hot spot of places to go this summer, and with its rich diversity of architecture, art and landscape, I have rated it number three on the top ten places to go for families.
For years Panama has been known as a backpackers haven ( very affordable). In Panama you will find plenty of picture perfect beaches, rain forests and mountains to enjoy.
Things to do in Panama
See The Panama Canal
Summit Botanical Gardens & Zoo (They have a Jaguar section too.)
Scuba Dive by the Isle of Cobia (Scuba Cobia)
Visit Chorro El Macho An 85 foot waterfall and you can swim and wade near it.
you can also take a guided hiking tour near there in the surrounding forest.
Ride the canopy adventure (similar to riding zip lines)
Boquete mountain cruisers (Tour by 4x4 in the mountains, visiting coffee farms and waterfalls)
I also recommend staying at the country inn suites by Carlson, panama canal It has beach access. They have a swimming pool and bay views from your balcony. There is a wonder works attraction nearby, there are many restaurants nearby as well.
- Panama Travelocity
2 adults and 2 children RT airfare & hotel for a week, plus free continental breakfast for less than 2,500.00
- Panama City Beach Hotels: Country Inn & Suites Hotel in Panama City Beach, FL
The Country Inn & Suites Panama City Beach hotel offers a great location near popular beaches and a plethora of amenities to make every guest feel right at home, like free high-speed Internet access.
# 4 Riviera Maya
The Myan Mystique
This 80 mile stretch of coastline provides all kinds of activities for the family! Visit Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, once the heart of the Mayan empire, They say Mayan calendar is ending this year, but it is a celebration for the locals, lots of "New Year" type events are planned. It won last years travelers choice award. So It ranks 4th for a family destination this year. There are lots of great deals going for Mexico right now too. The sacred Maya Journey is scheduled for may 13th - 31st 2012.
Most tour companies will take you anywhere you want to go. Just tell your hotel and they can help you arrange your activities.Be sure to check out Xel-Ha, and drift down the lazy river , enjoy snorkeling and kayak trips, its like a theme park. Xcaret has lots of bird and animals and and float through illuminated caves and swim with the dolphins, the evening show including a story about the Mayans with fire. These theme parks are really fun but not cheap. Other places to visit is Akumal Beach, with sea turtles 3 feet wide. you can rent gear at the dive shop. I little farther north is Yal-Ku Lagoon, you will see parrot fish and angel fish and they rent out lockers and life jackets there for 7.00 adults and 4.00 for children. And last but not the least you must visit the ancient city of Tulum pictured above, the Mayan Ruins.
- Xel-Há Park | The most beautiful aquarium in the world
Latest Natural Aquarium in the world
- Riviera Maya
Information about activities, tours, hotels and more in the Riviera Maya.
- Cancun most amazing eco-archaeological park
Xcaret Park Cancun & Riviera Maya’s top eco archaeological park for family fun. Enjoy snorkeling, swim with dolphins, Xcaret at Night and Mayan culture. Buy your tickets online!
- Riviera Maya all-inclusive luxury resorts Mexico
Discover the Riviera Maya Mexico, and we've been there! Great rates, luxurious all-inclusive resorts south of Cancun Mexico.
# 5 Santa Cruz, California
The Santa Cruz Wharf is really fun, You can rent boats, Kayaks, fishing gear, bikes and take surfing lessons. There is whale watching and bay cruises. Not to mention fun in the sun at the beach. You can visit the Seymour Marine Discovery Center and let your interpretative guide connect you with local wildlife, touch tide pools, dolphins and you can even touch a shark!
20th Annual Aloha Celebrity Races and Polynesian Festival
Sunday, August 26, 2012
Races start 9:00 a.m. Festival starts 11:00 a.m.
Santa Cruz Wharf
Designed especially for new and novice paddlers, the Celebrity races are a chance to discover the excitement of outrigger canoe racing. Join the fun or cheer for friends in the race. The Polynesian Festival follows with a taste of the tropics - fresh flower leis, Hawaiian shaved ice and hula dance performances. Co-sponsored by Pu Pu O'Hawaii Outrigger Canoe Club, O'Neill, KPIG 107.5 FM, Santa Cruz Weekly and the Santa Cruz Wharf. Call 831-420-5273
Horse Back Riding, Mountain Biking and More in Santa Cruz
- Willow Pond Ranch | Premiere Equestrian Center
Willow Pond Ranch: A sanctuary where rescued horses inspire enduring transformation. Located in Santa Cruz California, this unique horse rescue nonprofit organization rehabilitates horses and humans.
- Hiking Trails, Mountain Bike Trails & Trail Running Maps | Trails.com
Find the best hiking, biking, running and outdoor trails near you. Over 60,000 trail guides and detailed topography maps available including state and national parks. Search trail trip reports or browse photos from our growing outdoor community. Join
- Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Directions and Parking
Our History: The Boardwalk’s roots go back to 1865, when John Leibrandt opened a public bathhouse near the mouth of the San Lorenzo River. Other bathhouses followed and scores of tourists began visiting Santa Cruz to enjoy bathing in salt water.
- Marine Discovery Center | Come Explore Your Ocean
- Santa Cruz County CA - Visit Santa Cruz - Find your flow and follow it to Santa Cruz!
The City of Santa Cruz, California Information website
(Santa Cruz was rated in as a top ten in National Geographic's list of places to go in 2011. With the all the cool events that are going on this year, I choose to list it as one of my top ten.)
# 6 The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Magical adventures await you in the smoky mountains, hills and hollows, hiking, biking, and water parks are all on the list of things to do for the family in the Smoky's. This National park straddle's the state line between North Carolina and Tennessee and is the most ecologically diverse in the USA.
You can ride a bike to visit Cades Cove The campground store rents bicycles and helmets. (the Road is closed to cars on Wed and Saturday Mornings.)
Visit Ober Gaitlinburg they have an amusement type park with an ice skating rink, go carts and water rides.
The best walk for strollers is the Laurel Falls Trail.
Places to stay are: Gatlinburg, Townsend, and Sevierville. You can also camp at the park or stay at the LeConte Lodge, but you must call to reserve in advance. Near Sevierville is Dollywood, with roller coasters, water parks and more, The Wild steel Roller coaster will open up In March of 2012 and more than 20 million was spent on it so it should be good!!
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Camping (U.S. National Park Service)
- LeConte Lodge - Home Page
- Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
Ride the rail's!
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Cherokee, North Carolina
Declared as an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a truly magnificent site to visit if you’re ever in the south.
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park (U.S. National Park Service)
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
# 7 Oahu Eco Trip
Aloha! Eco tours have been very popular and Oahu is one of the most affordable Islands with best ecosystems to discover! There are so many fun things to do in Oahu, besides soaking in the sun. Number one on your list of things to do is a Hanauma Bay Snorkeling Eco Adventure Tour. Plan for a picnic and a whole day stay at Hanauma Bay there is so much to learn and do there. Lockers and showers are there and picnic tables too. The coral reefs are stunning, imagine swimming with the colorful fish sea turtles! This ecosystem & interpretative center is such a great learning adventure for the children. Another must see while you are in Oahu is the Polynesian Cultural Center its like a Hawaiian Disneyland. I recommend Enoa Tours they will give you a good deal, and take you to all the famous sites like Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head Lookout and the Dole Plantation too.
* Don't rent a car, it is expensive and hard to drive around, plus some places cost a lot for parking. You can walk just about everywhere or take the trolley. The trolleys in Oahu are very navigable and run at each stop on every 15 minutes. They service all of Waikiki, The bus system runs all around the island too. Hey, if my family can figure it out you can too! .
We had a great Time in Oahu, we took in many sites. Check out the Alana Moana Shopping Center with 290 stores and restaurants to choose from, across the way is the Alana Moana Beach Park to cool off and play. We stayed at the Hokele Suites it has a pool and a lanai (balcony) as well, all of the staff were friendly, they let us use beach mats and all kinds of stuff when we walked to the beach to play. You can get package deals for less than 500.00 per person person for 5 nights 6 days airfare and hotel transfer's were included by Travelocity. If you want to stay on Waikiki beach stay at Hilton Hawaiian Village, you will discover a private lagoon, free fireworks show, Mahalo (Thank you)
- Book Oahu Travel
Get the best travel for your money
Places To Go
- Welcome hanauma-bay-snorkeling.com - Hostmonster.com
Hanauma Bay is a nature preserve where the fish are not afraid of people. Some three million Hawaii visitors have annually visited Hanauma, which had caused severe deterioration. Since then, in 1990, the City and County of Honolulu laid out a plan to
- The Official Site of the Polynesian Cultural Center and Alii Luau
Official site of Hawaii's #1 paid attraction featuring Hawaii's most authentic luau situated on Oahu's north shore.
- James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge - Recreation and Education
James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge is a National Wildlife Refuge on the island of Oʻahu, Hawaii. It was established in 1976 to permanently protect an ecologically-intact unit to provide habitat Hawaii’s four endangered waterbirds.
- Honolulu Zoo: Hawaii Indigenous Species | Best Family Experience
The Honolulu Zoo is Oahu's best family activity. Located in the heart of Waikiki, visitors can learn more about Hawaii's indigenous species.
- BestPlacesHawaii.com - Vacation Planning and Hawaii Travel Info
Hawaii vacation planner matches you to Kauai, Oahu, Maui, and Big Island hotels, real estate, maps, resorts, vacation rentals, activities.
# 8 Roller Coaster Heaven!
Shoot The Rapids
Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio
I had to add a place that is like roller coaster heaven, Cedar point is known for just that! They have over 15 roller coasters and several of these have broken world records! They also have three different water rides that are totally cool. Go White water rafting on the Thunder Canyon ride, Snake river falls features an 80 foot drop, or ride the newest water adventure Shoot The Rapids, you are in a boat with paddles, it features a 85 foot drop and another 45 foot drop, a great way to cool off in the summer.
There is something to do for every age here. Cedar Point has a park designated for young families with rides like the 1910 Cadillac touring cars, Lake Erie railroad train ride and a classic carousel.
There is also also Soak City Water park and Challenge Park nearby. In Sanduscky you can enjoy the beautiful Lake Erie with ferries, fishing, boating and cruises. You can also enjoy shopping, museums, water parks, golfing, camping, and more. A "must visit" on my list of top ten!
# 9 Dude Ranch and The Grand Canyon
# 9 Dude Ranch & The Grand Canyon
If you haven't been there, you will want to see The Grand Canyon . It is usually number one on peoples bucket list of places to visit in a lifetime. So it is no surprise that almost five million people travel to the Grand Canyon each year. You can stay at a dude ranch get a real feel of the old wild west! I recommend the Grand Canyon Ranch, you can go on a horse back ride overnight camp-out just like a cowboy. Stay in a tepee and go on a buffalo safari, or ride in a horse drawn wagon. There are so many options here you can literally customize your dude ranch experience! Inside the ranch gives the that country home feeling with a southwest décor. With spirit mountain in the background and the Arizona sunsets, its definitely a win win situation. Another way to experience the grand canyon is to take the Grand Canyon Railway.
- Grand Canyon National Park (U.S. National Park Service)
- Grand Canyon Railway - The Official Site
The Official Site for Grand Canyon Railway. Grand Canyon packages with vintage train tours to Grand Canyon National Park since 1901, lodging at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel and various Grand Canyon hotels, RV park stays and a vintage Arizona experi
- Dude Ranches - Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch in Arizona
Stagecoach Trails is a beautiful guest ranch dude ranch in sunny Northwest Arizona. The ranch is situated between 3 mountain ranges and is centrally located between Las Vegas, Phoenix, Lake Havasu City, and the The Grand Canyon! Remember at Stagecoac
# 10 Digging For Diamonds
My husband found a beautiful diamond at the Crater of Diamonds State Park and he had it made into a ring for me, it is very special, no blood diamonds here. Visiting the Crater of Diamonds State Park is really exciting, people have found over 28,000 diamonds there! It is the only diamond crater open to the public in the whole world. Sometimes you will find other semi precious stones too and the policy is "Finders Keepers" so the mine is sure to send you home with something in your hands. You might want to bring some of your own diamond mining equipment like: small shovels, buckets and screens, if you don't want to pay rental fees. I recommend staying at Diamond Johns Riverside Campground: featuring kayak rentals, boat and tube rentals, you can stay in a tepee, cabin, and they have lots of pets there including peacocks, there is a gem hunt at night too. Plus free use of their diamond mining equipment. They offer hot tub, free wifi and group reservations. Bring hats and neck coolers to keep cool in the summer while digging, sunglasses are great for eye protection and the sun too. It can get pretty dirty so bring a set of play clothes.
- Check out this museum while you are there!
Ka-Do-Ha Indian Village Museum 281 Kadoha Road, Murfreesboro, AR (870) 285-3736
- Diamond John\'s Riverside Retreat - Murfeesboro, Arkansas
Crater of Diamonds- Home Page
- Murfreesboro RV Park - Home
- Diamond Mines - Crater of Diamonds State Park
Visit Crater of Diamonds State Park, where you can dig for diamonds, learn about the history of diamond mines, see Arkansas wildlife and much more at the worlds only diamond-producing site open to the public.
travelholidays from India on June 25, 2013:
'people have found over 28,000 diamonds there! ' interesting to read :) I got such new information of 'Crater of Diamonds State Park ' . and 'Cedar Point' is always as its best :)
travelholidays from India on June 25, 2013:
'people have found over 28,000 diamonds there! ' interesting to read :) I got such new information of 'Crater of Diamonds State Park ' . and 'Cedar Point' is always as its best :)
Amy Rowe on March 26, 2013:
This is awesome! I'll be taking my baby girl on a trip to riviera maya in July. It's for a wedding but ill be sure to check out those spots you mentioned.
vibesites from United States on March 12, 2013:
My family love the outdoors so much, especially with hiking, swimming and nature-tripping. Thanks for your great recommendations! Voted up and awesome. :)
kashmir-ladakh from usa on December 16, 2012:
Kashmir is the best family destination if you are traveling with your family members.
Mindy Bench (author) from Oregon on June 25, 2012:
Thank you! I am really excited my hubs are starting to get some attention and I even got surprised today with a check in my pay pal account!! :)
Shawn Holmes on June 24, 2012:
I've been to Panama City many times and loved it! I've also been to the Smokey Mountains since I live just a short drive from there. From all your beautiful pictures I now want to go to all the other places on you list! Thanks for the hub!
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on May 11, 2012:
Beautiful, clear pictures and valuable information. The Grand Canyon is on my list of dreams. Great job, mindyjgirl!
Yelha Bhutan Tours & Travels from Thimphu.Bhutan on February 03, 2012:
All those places are simply Awesome.Thank you.
Mindy Bench (author) from Oregon on January 18, 2012:
Thank you Tina! Wow I just found out today that Obama & family went to Disney World this year to promote travel, I guess I was right on my predictions for Orlando being #1 :)
Christina Lornemark from Sweden on January 18, 2012:
This is a very inspiring hub and you have put so much work writing it! This is so useful for families searching for a place to go for vacation! I really want to visit all of these places especially the Great Canyon!
Thanks for the beautiful and interesting hub!
Mindy Bench (author) from Oregon on January 17, 2012:
Thank You Skys!
Samad Aslam Khan on January 17, 2012:
Well I used to wonder every vacation that where to go out far away from worries of my office life. After reading about some very exciting destinations, my decision won't be difficult now. Just waiting for the next coming vacations so I may go readily to Smoky Mountains National Park as I love to be close to nature and I guess there I will get rid of my worries