The Top Family Travel Websites

Last year, Rainer Jenss traveled around the world with his wife and two sons, and blogged about his experience here on Intelligent Travel. This year, he’s back with a new column that focuses on traveling with kids.

This could be the toughest blog I’ve had to write yet. It’s Presidents Week and most kids across the U.S. have school recess. And while many American families have hit the road for a winter holiday, whether it be to the warm south for a reprieve from the cold and snow, spending a week at a ski resort, or even visiting Vancouver for the Olympics, well-laid plans are being fulfilled for those who planned ahead. But in the Jenss household, we’re home this week on a self-imposed “staycation.” Rather than wallowing in self-pity that we didn’t travel somewhere during this week’s winter break, I humored my wanderlust by researching some options for the next time the boys have time off from school.

In the past, we’ve taken advantage of spring breaks to visit relatives in North Carolina, San Diego, and Florida.  More recently, it’s become somewhat of a tradition for us to go to Jekyll Island, Georgia for an Easter almost guaranteed to include blooming azaleas and our first beach jaunts of the year. Always willing to consider new options, I wanted to see what I could find using the web. Typically, I favor word-of-mouth or recommendations from friends, but this gave me a good chance to explore what kind of information is available on family travel and how useful it really is. So after some extensive clicking, here’s what I found:

Travel With Kids (from About.com): From the site that gives you guidance on everything from the best digital cameras under $100 to what everyone should know about global warming, the folks at About.com give you a pretty comprehensive overview of what you need to know when traveling with kids, including family vacation ideas, but it seems that most of their information comes from sponsored links, which always makes me take pause.

Family Vacation Critic:  I became a member of this site which sends out frequent news alerts on developments in family travel. This extension of the successful CruiseCritic.com is still in its Beta stage, so the information library is still developing. It’s easily one of the more polished and professional looking sites, but it also comes across as very commercial, especially biased towards Disney World and Orlando.

The Family Travel Files: This site certainly has a ton of content and some valuable information, especially if you know what you’re looking for. If you don’t or you’re just after some ideas or advice, things get a lot more difficult to disseminate.

Family Travel Network: Like Family Travel Files, this site contains dozens of useful articles on a wide variety of subjects including “Best Deals” and “Top Tips.” But again, it’s not aesthetically pleasing and can use some images or even video to enhance the content.

TripAdvisor’s Inspiration Page: Even though it doesn’t go into great detail or a long narrative about the destinations they preview, their list is broad and intriguing (including places like Copenhagen and Nashville) and includes easy-to-navigate special deals, things to do, restaurant recommendations and their hallmark, reviews you can trust.  Ultimately, this “old reliable” site is probably the most helpful, but could do a better job customizing this section specifically for parents traveling with children.

Sherman’s Travel: If you’re surfing the web to hunt down travel bargains (much easier said than done), one of the best sites out there was founded by James Sherman in 2002. With over 3.2 million subscribers, it’s hard to keep good values a secret for too long, but at least the search is made simple. There’s not a whole lot of fluff here and their Family Vacation Blog is one of the better ones I’ve come across.

Over all, there seems to be a lot of information on family travel out there in cyberspace, but no one source that’s fully nailed it by delivering the content in a comprehensive, innovative, dynamic, and most importantly, user-friendly way.  That said, I think I’ll go back to good ol’ word-of-mouth for now. Anyone have suggestions? Please pass them along by commenting below or tweeting me @JenssTravel.

Photo: Rainer Jenss