10 Activities not to do on vacation, according to our KidTripster writers. Pretty sure, you’ll be surprised by a few!
Let’s be honest: not every vacation is perfect. There can be missteps, disappointments, and just plain bad experiences. Our goal at KidTripster is to steer you clear of vacation bummers. Our writers have put their heads together and assembled a list of activities that just aren’t worth your time or money. We've suffered, so that you don’t have to!
Shellie Bailey-Shah: “If you’ve done one zipline, you’ve really done them all.”
Nowadays, it seems like every vacation destination has a ziplining attraction. Yes, it may be fun the first time, but the experience gets very repetitive. Typically, you’re in a group of 8 to 12 people. Once harnessed up, you take a turn zipping at the first station from point A to point B. Then you wait while the other 11 people do exactly the same thing. Move to station 2 and repeat. The entire course can take one to two hours to complete. And unless you’re looking to conquer some fear of heights, it’s really not all that adrenaline-pumping. Sure, do it once when the kids are young - think early elementary school-aged - and then never again.
Orion Ludlow: “While I like sharing cool experiences with other people, the pace of most tours is either excruciatingly slow or painfully abrupt.”
If you’re going to do a guided tour, choose one either geared to families with kids or a private tour, where you can be in charge of the pace. If the guide is too long-winded for your kids’ attention spans, pull the guide aside early in the tour and let him or her know. It’s okay. After all, you’re the one paying.
3/Cruising with wee little ones
Shellie Bailey-Shah: “Cruising with an 11-month-old baby was the worst vacation of my life.”
New parents, beware. Don't cruise with an child that doesn’t consistently sleep through the night. Being stuck with an inconsolable baby in a small cabin with neighbors on each side is not a vacation; it’s torture. There are other reasons why little ones don’t do well on cruises. Even with a kids’ club that takes infants, activities can be very limited. The pools are often too cold for babes. Off-shore tours don’t offer enough flexibility for families with small children. (And bus rides with a baby or toddler? The kiss of death!) Sit-down meals can be painfully long. And evening shows aren’t as enjoyable when one parent is stuck in the cabin putting a child down for the night while the other is sitting alone, sipping a cocktail. Trust us, wait a few years. You’ve got plenty of time.
4/Major European cities
Marcia Breen: “In general, I’ve found most of the large European cities to be overrated and overpriced with overcrowded tourist attractions.”
Ok, so we’re not going to talk you out of going to London, Paris or Rome, but what we are suggesting is not to spend your whole vacation in a metro area. Give it a few days and then “get out of Dodge!” For the most part, you’ll have a more authentic experience in smaller towns. For example, we much prefer Dungarvan over Dublin in Ireland.
Shellie Bailey-Shah: “Riding a camel is a unique and fun experience… for all of about 10 minutes!”
It sounds like a worthy experience - climbing aboard a “ship of the desert” as the sun begins to set en route to a bedouin-style meal under the stars. Exotic? Maybe. Enjoyable? No. First of all, sitting on a camel isn’t comfortable. And their reputation as ill-tempered animals is somewhat deserved. Plus, the pace of any tourist camel train is painstakingly slow. And did we mention, it’s the desert… so it’s hot!
Which brings us to another desert activity to be avoided - desert jeep treks with optional sand sledding/boarding or sand bashing. Let’s get real, the desert - with few exceptions - isn’t all that interesting for kids. And with temperatures over 100°F, it’s too blazing hot to do anything on the sand. And the dune rides that we’ve been on have been less than thrilling.
KidTripster Tip: There’s one exception: Sandland Adventures in Florence, Oregon. Driven by professional drivers, the sand buggies fly over the dunes, putting any rollercoaster rides to shame. For thrill seekers only!
KidTripster Tip: If you do want to give sand sledding or boarding a try, head to the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. Hit the dunes early in the day when it’s cooler and make sure to have the right equipment; you can rent actual sand sleds and boards just outside the park.
6/Organized tours on cruises
Sandy Grekas: “These tours are extremely expensive and aimed at a much older clientele.”
Instead, organize your own tour or activity in advance through a website like Viator. Or just jump in a cab and let a local show you around. You’ll have a better experience for a whole lot less money!
Shellie Bailey-Shah: “Luaus tend to be overpriced, and let’s face it, few people actually like poi!”
Ok, go ahead and do a luau once. On Oahu, we like the one at the Polynesian Cultural Center; on Maui, our KidTripster Teen recommends Drums of Pacific Luau hosted at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort. But understand that going to a luau is a commitment of several hours. There’s the hour-plus banquet with the traditional unveiling of the pig, roasted underground. That’s followed by at least an hour - sometimes two - of traditional and fire dancing that celebrates each of the Polynesian islands. It can be long night for little kids (and grown-ups) who've likely spent the entire day in the sun.
8/World of Color at Disney's California Adventure
Elizabeth Ely Moreno: “I don’t get why people love this attraction so much. My family and I got there an hour early. Then we had to stand for the show, as everyone around us also was standing. And the kids? They couldn’t see a thing. And the show itself? It’s just a bunch of lasers and fountains with movies shown on running water. We left halfway through.”
9/Some world-famous historic sites
Leslie Martin: “I think a lot of historic sites are overrated as "must sees.” Often they're a lot of travel for not a lot of impact. I think that they can be great stopovers, if they're on a travel route that you're already taking but not worth it as a destination.”
Two sites that come to mind for our writers: Pisa and Stonehenge.
10/Renting a scooter
Shellie Bailey-Shah: “I implore you not to rent a scooter on vacation. The reality is far from the romantic image that "Roman Holiday" with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn on a Vespa has planted in your mind. On a recent trip to Moorea in French Polynesia, my family and I rented so-called “scooters;” they were actually heavy, hard-to-handle motorcycles. And yes, with my son on the back of the scooter, we wiped out on some loose gravel. Our cuts and scraps kept us out of the ocean for several days. But we were far from the only ones; the airport was filled with "walking wounded" - all victims of scooter accidents!"