Kid vaccines are a go: Here are 7 great family trips to take in 2022
If your family is one that has been making cautious and calculated risk and safety decisions for the last 20 pandemic months and dreaming of the day when you could all be vaccinated and feel confident enough to truly resume travel as you remember it -- maybe that day, at long last, is just about here.
With the approval for the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccinations for children ages 5-11 now official from both the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the countdown to reaching full vaccination for school-age kids, which arrives two weeks after receiving the second vaccine, can begin.
For those with children getting their first dose in the coming days, that fully vaccinated date will occur as early as mid-December.
And for families that have been waiting and missing those vacations of yesteryear, along with that fully vaccinated countdown comes a countdown to a potential renewed use of those passports, airline miles, hotel award nights and more.
If your family falls into that category, here are seven family trips to consider for 2022 -- and what to do now to make one (or more) of these trips a reality.
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All-inclusive beach resort
After the mess we've all lived through, maybe what your group wants now is full relaxation and as many swim-up smoothies and mojitos as you care to enjoy. In that case, an all-inclusive beach resort can make for a great vacation for children and adults of all ages.
A beach vacation, especially one where everything is included once you get there, is one of the safest bets when you aren't sure what else to do. If you decide on a beach destination, just make sure to check the seasonal weather patterns for your beach of choice so you don't travel during a storm or monsoon season and spend the whole week cooped up inside. We've all been stuck inside enough.
During the pandemic, the number of options you have to use points for an all-inclusive family vacation has only increased as chains took note of the popularity of this type of vacation and bought up existing properties and built all-new resorts.
Where to go: Hyatt's Ziva resorts make the TPG list of favorites for families as they truly make the all-inclusive experience as family-friendly as possible. From kids clubs to nightly shows, your entire family will likely love these properties throughout the Caribbean and Mexico.
The Hyatt family-friendly all-inclusive resorts include Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall, Hyatt Ziva Cancun, Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos, Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta, Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana and Hyatt Ziva Riviera Cancun.
During standard pricing rates, all properties cost between 20,000 and 25,000 World of Hyatt points per night for up to two guests. Each additional guest will cost between 10,000 and 12,500 points (with standard pricing), but kids under 3 are complimentary.
Or, if you've racked up a decent amount of Hilton points, a brand-new all-inclusive property in Cancun is opening this month. At 95,000 Hilton Honors points a night — and your fifth night free if you have Hilton status — this is a great deal where you won't have to take out your wallet to pay for food and drinks. And best of all, kids 12 and under stay for free.
What to do now: If you are trying to go when the kids are off from school, such as during spring break, these properties book up fast, so you'll want to make a reservation now.
If you are looking to stay at a Hyatt Ziva property, with Hyatt's new peak and off-peak award chart now in effect, try to look for off-peak and standard dates to reduce the number of World of Hyatt points you'll have to redeem.
And since all of these destinations are international, you'll need to make sure you have your passport in hand.
Even newborns need a passport, so make sure to start the process now as it could take a few months for a new passport to be processed. Remember, kids' passports are only valid for five years, so take a look at your passport expiration dates. Some countries also require that the passport doesn't expire within three to six months of travel, so you'll want to take a look at the country-specific passport expiration rules.
Even though Hawaii was asking tourists to not visit a few months ago, COVID-19 rates have decreased immensely and the state is now welcoming tourists again — with some decreasing restrictions.
With many different islands to visit, there's bound to be a destination for every family. For those looking for pure relaxation, Maui is the perfect destination. But if your family is more active, the Big Island might be a better option. Or, if you are looking for a little bit of both — with a slightly more remote feel — Kauai is the best of both worlds.
Oahu, on the other hand, has some of the more favorable award rates and more flights in and out if you want to keep things simple.
Where to go: If visiting Maui, there are more than two dozen hotels you can book on points. World of Hyatt members will love the Hyatt Regency Maui or Andaz Maui. Or if you are family loves waterslides, Wailea Beach Resort – Marriott, Maui has the longest hotel waterslide in Hawaii — and can be booked with your Marriott Bonvoy points. The Waldorf Astoria Grand Wailea screams luxury, but availability with Hilton Honors points is hard to come by.
Kauai, on the other hand, doesn't have nearly as many point-friendly options, but we highly suggest the Grand Hyatt Kauai. This is your ideal Hawaiian property with a large lagoon pool, a winding river pool and a waterslide. While it's an oceanfront property, the swimming isn't great — but fortunately, there are many beaches just a stone's throw away.
The Big Island offers the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, which is now part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection and has one of the best beaches on the island. You also have the Hilton Waikoloa Village, which is as kid-friendly as they come. But the property is quite huge with its own tram network.
Oahu has everything from an inexpensive Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach, which is only a Category 3 property and within walking distance of the beach, to the oceanfront Royal Hawaiian, which is part of Marriott's Luxury Collection. Of course, there's also Disney's Aulani Resort & Spa, which is a child's dream vacation.
While you won't be able to use traditional points at this Disney property, this is the perfect opportunity to cash in points earned from flexible credit card programs. You can also potentially save money by renting Disney Vacation Club points to book that property.
What to do now: For those traveling from the United States to Hawaii, no passport is required, but you'll still need to do some advance online paperwork and show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. You'll want to check the rules prior to travel as they are ever-changing.
Fortunately, almost all hotel loyalty programs are represented throughout Hawaii, so there's bound to be a hotel — with award availability — for your family. But you'll want to start checking now. Summertime is very popular for Hawaii tourists, so you'll want to book flights and hotel rooms as soon as possible. From there, you'll want to book a car rental — they can be hard to find at times in Hawaii — and any activities.
Where to go: Do you want to ride the "real" Hogwarts Express train on an 84-mile round trip through Scotland, relax in a home rental with your own pool in Portugal, enjoy the almost never-setting summer sun in Scandinavia or take in the sights of London?
What you want to do will drive where exactly you should go -- and your options stretch pretty far and wide in Europe.
While no one knows exactly what the restrictions and rules may be in 2022, it is usually possible to hop around Europe to some degree, so you don't have to make all of your plans upfront -- you can pick some starting and ending points and work on the middle parts as the months tick by.
What to do now: Unless you are going the home rental route, know that booking lodging in Europe with kids isn't the same as it is in the U.S. Most standard hotel rooms tap out with an occupancy of two or three people (including kids), and beyond that, you often either need a suite, a "family room" or two rooms, especially if your family has four or more people in it.
Radisson Rewards is actually pretty good in Europe when it comes to offering reasonably priced award rooms for families, and both Hyatt and Marriott often make some larger rooms and suites available either by paying more points or with a combination of points and cash.
Just make sure you are searching for the correct number of adults and children and be ready to lock those family-sized rooms in as you figure out your plans as there are fewer of them available than standard rooms.
Disney World and Disneyland
If you've been avoiding Disney World and Disneyland due to the realities of unvaccinated kiddos being in close quarters with travelers from all over, with vaccination in hand, a trip to one of the happiest places on earth might now be more within your comfort zone.
Where to go: With two different parks — one on both coasts — you can pick the destination that works better for your logistics. While some will argue that Disney World in Orlando is better, others prefer the simplicity of Disneyland in Anaheim, California.
Disney World is truly massive and includes four different theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. There are also waterparks and a couple of dozen hotels.
You can also couple a visit to Disney World with nearby Universal Orlando, Legoland or even the beaches of Cocoa Beach, Daytona Beach and Siesta Key.
Disney World offers many hotel options, ranging widely in budget and theme. Some of our favorite Disney World resorts include the just-renovated Polynesian Village for its island vibe and easy monorail access to Magic Kingdom, the Yacht and Beach Club resorts for their fantastic pool complex and close proximity to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom Lodge for the ability to watch zebras, giraffes and more from your room.
If you want to use hotel points, the Disney Swan and Dolphin (and very soon Swan Reserve) resorts can be a good use of Marriott Bonvoy points since they are located right on Disney property.
If you prefer the West Coast, Disneyland is located less than 30 miles from Los Angeles. This allows you to make Disneyland part of a larger trip to Los Angeles. Disneyland requires a bit less strategy, is more low-key and offers just two parks — Disneyland Park and California Adventure. The two parks are just 100 yards or so across from each other, which makes hopping between parks incredibly easy.
Around Anaheim, you'll find many hotel options. While most are considered "off-property" as there are only three on-property Disneyland hotels, you can still walk to the main entrance from many in under 10-15 minutes. There are point-friendly options from most chain hotel brands, such as the Fairfield Inn Anaheim Resort, the Westin Anaheim, the Hyatt House at Anaheim Resort and the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Anaheim Resort Area, among others.
What to do now: Visiting Disney World or Disneyland requires advance planning at least to some degree. You'll need to line up not only a ticket purchase but also make a Park Pass reservation for the park you want to visit first that day. Additionally, Disney restaurants and resorts are selling out of availability well in advance, so you will want to make your hotel booking as soon as you can and then add your dining reservations beginning 60 days from check-in.
You'll also need to decide if you want to purchase any "skip the line" add-on options, such as Genie+ or Lightning Lanes. This will add to your overall trip cost, but it will reduce your time in line.
If you don't want to mess with doing all of that yourself, you can enlist the help of a Disney vacation planner at no extra charge, assuming you make your hotel and related bookings through them. Alternatively, say to heck with all of the planning and go huge on a Disney VIP tour where most day-of logistics and lines are no longer your concern!
Cruises found themselves in the crosshairs more so than most types of travelers not only at the beginning of the pandemic but then as ships stayed empty for more than a year. But cruising is back, and at least for now the precautions at sea when it comes to testing, masks and vaccine requirements far outpace most places on land here in the U.S.
If you decide a cruise is the right vacation match for your family, you're in luck because there are some deals to be had and some brand-new ships just beyond the horizon.
Where to go: We're seeing some very real discounts, especially for sailings over the next few months. For example, Disney Cruise Line has 30%-35% discounts -- with some even valid over the usually extremely expensive winter holidays as 2021 rolls into 2022.
Or, if you'd rather wait for Disney Cruise Line's first new ship in a decade, the Disney Wish, to set sail, then set your sights on summer 2022 and beyond as it will be doing three- and four-day sailings out of Port Canaveral, Florida, to the Bahamas, including to Disney's private island, Castaway Cay. (And here's a preview of what's for dinner on that brand-new ship!)
Disney's not the only line with a new ship joining the fleet in March 2022. Royal Caribbean is set to welcome the Wonder of the Seas to Florida with sailings to ports such as Cozumel, Mexico; St. Maarten; and San Juan, Puerto Rico, as it embarks on six-to-eight-night journies around the Caribbean.
What to do now: The industry is still on the rebound so there is some fluctuation, but cruise prices usually only increase. If you see a cruise you want, especially one in 2022 on a date or ship with higher demand, you probably want to go ahead and put a deposit down to secure your cabin(s).
Remember, with cruises, you can often score some extra goodies or onboard credit by booking via a travel agent. We've also seen a number of cruise-related Amex Offers lately on various American Express cards that can save you $300-$500 via statement credits on lines such as Royal Caribbean and Celebrity.
Summer in Alaska
Alaska hasn't seen its normal levels of summer tourism in a couple of years now, in part due to the mostly nonexistent Alaska cruising industry in the summers of 2020 and even 2021. If you want to go to Alaska with your family -- and it's an excellent destination choice -- you'll get to pick between going on a ship and leaving most of the logistics to someone else or flying and planning your own land adventure.
Where to go: With a state as huge as Alaska you have virtually endless options. If you are flying into Anchorage and want to keep things simple, you can target the Seward and Kenai Fjords National Park area, which is just a couple of hours by car from Anchorage, for a few days for adventuring. You can take a day cruise to see wildlife and stop on Fox Island, visit Exit Glacier, take a dogsled ride, ride a horse and more.
Alternatively, you could book a scenic trip on the Alaska Railroad and head to Denali National Park and/or Fairbanks by rail.
What to do now: If you want an Alaskan cruise, you'll probably want to put a deposit down sooner rather than later as those cruises are almost guaranteed to be hot commodities for summer 2022 given the pent-up demand.
You can already book award travel for next summer, so put those miles to use and lock in flights -- with most award fares you can usually change or redeposit your awards without penalty. I had a blast a few years ago with my oldest daughter at a basic but fun horse ranch in Alaska, but regardless of where you want to stay, if you can find some refundable lodging reservations it's not a bad idea to lock those in, too. It's not hard to use hotel points in Anchorage or Fairbanks, but it does get harder once you move out beyond Alaska's handful of major cities.
Remember to lock in your train tickets and rental cars, if needed, just in case the rental car apocalypse continues into next summer.
Related: 3 different ways to enjoy Alaska
Holidays in New York
Where to go: Starting with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thanksgiving morning and stretching until after the ball drops on New Year's Eve, I'd argue that the holidays are the best time to visit NYC (as long as you are OK with some chilly temps).
Whether you are looking to squeeze in a late 2021 holiday trip (yes, Santa is returning in person to Macy's!) or are planning ahead for 2022, holidays in NYC are guaranteed family memories.
What to do now: If you are targeting a late 2021 visit and want to be sure your kids are fully vaccinated by then, you'll want to schedule their first dose ASAP since it takes at least five weeks from the first dose to be considered fully vaccinated. Next up on the to-do list will be securing your hotel as they are filling up -- especially for 2021 December weekends.
If you have points to use, we are partial to the St. Regis New York and Park Hyatt New York for a splashy trip to the city, though there are a plethora of hotel options in NYC. If you are booking already for next holiday season, Hyatt's availability calendar is already open through Thanksgiving week, so you could lock in an award room to kick off the 2022 holiday season.
It's been a hard year and a half to be a parent. There was an endless list of no-win decisions that had to be made. And while there are no guarantees, for those who have been waiting for a vaccine for kids, there's now hope. If you're ready to really get back out there and start traveling again, now is the time to not only dream big -- but start making those bookings, too.