10 Amazing Family Adventures

Planning a family getaway that'll excite your teenage son as much as your toddlers, and let you kick back and relax, feels next to impossible. But it doesn't have to be--if you enlist the experts. "The key is to find a trip that offers an easily shared experience," says Lindblad Expeditions' Sven-Olof Lindblad. "On the best trips, conflicts of interest simply disappear." These guided summer escapes are built for all ages and interests, whether you put a premium on action, culture or wildlife. The choice is yours. Just sign up and go.

Activity Key: Most (*****) to least (*)

1. Launch a Private Expedition on Alaska's Glacier Bay

Outfitter: Wilderness Travel
Days: 6
Action: **** Culture: * Wildlife: *****

Say goodbye to crowded Alaska cruises. Instead, imagine your family aboard your own floating base camp, nearly one-on-one with minke whales, barking sea lions and humpbacks breaching right off the bow. A small-boat expedition with Wilderness Travel lets you explore Glacier Bay at your own pace. "On the big cruise ships you get a lot of shuffleboard, but not much Alaska," says trip director Barbara Banks. "With our vessels you can sneak into hidden inlets and coves or position yourself near a calving glacier." And that's only the beginning. The boat is a multisport launchpad, so you can kayak or run skiffs to shore to track bears. At Dundas Bay, paddle past river otters, marmots and moose before returning to a dinner of fresh Dungeness crab. Each vessel has its own naturalist, and "the Sea Wolf even has a Portuguese water dog," says Banks. "Boo is nuts for kayaking. For some kids she makes the trip." Details: $3,995 per person; wildernesstravel.com

2. Trek Village-to-Village in Italy's Cinque Terre

Outfitter: Country Walkers
Days: 6
Action: ** Culture: ***** Wildlife: *

On Country Walkers' six-day Cinque Terre circuit this July, families follow the Italian Riviera, hiking between fishing villages and paddling beneath the cliffs that line the Ligurian Sea. An additional perk: refueling with cappuccino and handmade gelato at each rest stop. "The villages are connected by footpaths and linked by boat, rail and trail," says Country Walkers' Tricia Dowhan. "So you can walk two miles every day--or eight. It's easy to improvise." After your arrival in Genoa, a local guide leads you on a trek through olive groves to your seaside hotel in Monterosso al Mare. From there, you'll catch a boat to neighboring Riomaggiore, where you can explore the ruins of a 15th-century castle. The trek back follows a series of steep pathways overlooking the sea. Afternoons are free for hiking terraced vineyards or snorkeling the Mediterranean. Details: $3,098 per adult, $2,698 per child; countrywalkers.com

3. Experience Boots-on-the-Ground Yellowstone

Outfitter: Austin-Lehman Adventures
"Over the years we've learned how crucial it is to pair up families with similar-aged kids. Now we literally comb through our bookings to match kids' ages. Everyone's happier."

--Dan Austin, Austin Lehman Adventures

    Days: 6
    Action: ***** Culture: ** Wildlife: ***

    The average family spends six hours in Yellowstone National Park--all of them in the car. But Austin-Lehman avoids the pavement and heads right into the Rockies via foot, bike, raft and saddle. "We take pride in our small group size," says director Dan Austin. "It's just six days, but you get to see a whole lot of country." The outfitter's Big Sky Family Adventure definitely isn't for slackers. On day one, tackle a downhill canyon bike ride to Gallatin Valley, then trek through wildflower meadows and the Spanish Peaks for killer views from Beehive Basin. Next stop: the geysers of Yellowstone, followed by sunrise grizzly- and wolf-spotting in Lamar Valley and rafting down Yellowstone River. The trip caps off with a daylong horseback ride into the Absaroka Range. Details: $2,298 per adult, $2,068 per child; austinlehman.com
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