The winner of this giveaway is wikiwicks who suggests doing a brief walking tour when first arriving at a new location to immerse oneself and get the lie of the land – she says this does more than any pre-planning can do!
Thanks to all who entered and to Smart Destinations for sponsoring the giveaway.
When I plan a family trip to a city, especially a shorter trip like our recent four-day visit to Boston, I usually do a fair bit of advance planning. My approach is usually to start by making a list of potential things I think we’ll enjoy seeing and doing. I come up with this list in different ways. If I’ve visited the city before myself and know it well, some of the ideas come from my own experience. I also take a walk through all of my favorite family travel blogs to see if I find any good recommendations there. I might throw out a few questions via Facebook or Twitter, to see if anyone I hang out with there has a suggestion. And of course, I turn to Google for help too.
The list is without fail too long, but I like to start out big and whittle it down. I’m not a fan of cramming too much in on a vacation – my motto is to treat every place I visit as if I’ll be back – and usually plan no more than one or two definite things to see and do for each day of our visit, relying on the opinions of my children, advice of friends, and my own instincts to make (sometimes regretful) cuts until I have a manageable number of agenda items for each day.
From there I usually sketch out a plan of what we’ll do on each day of our trip and in what order, looking at how we’ll get from Point A to Point B and where we might eat along the way. This plan is flexible of course. For example, on our recent visit to Boston, I had planned to start the trip by walking the Freedom Trail. When I checked the weather report the day before we left and realized that Friday, the first full day of our vacation, was going to be 100 degrees, I quickly made some changes to our plan and decided that Friday would be better spent entirely indoors. So instead of tromping around it the heat, we spent a blissful and cool six hours in the Museum of Science instead, saving the Freedom Trail for Sunday when the weather broke.
One thing was a little bit different about my planning for this Boston trip, because I actually bought some of our admission tickets before we left, not something I’m generally prone to do because I don’t like to be committed in advance. I did this because last spring Smart Destinations gave one adult Go Select pass, which I chose to use for our trip to Boston. Go Select allows customers to choose from a list of attractions in a given city (the list in each city is a little limited, so you may not find everything you are looking for, although in Boston I did). You must choose at least two places to visit, and then a discount is applied after you make your choices. The passes are good for 30 days from their first use, so they are great for longer vacations, or even if you living in one of the cities that Smart Destinations serves and are interested in entertaining your family during the summer months.
As an example of how much you might save, I purchased one adult and two child Go Select passes for Boston. I bought tickets for five attractions: a Fenway Park tour, the Museum of Science, the New England Aquarium, the Paul Revere House, and the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum. In doing so, I saved a $31 or 20 percent of my overall total if I purchased admission at each location. Smart Destinations emailed me the passes, which I printed off on my home computer (a nice feature here is that I had the option to also print information about each place I would be visiting including the address and hours it is open).
Of course, I’m always happy to save a little money, but for me the real value in the Go Select passes was the fact that when we arrived at the attractions and museums, they allowed us to skip the lines during the busy summer season. When I bought the passes, I was dubious that we would be able to walk up to the information desk at each location, hand them our passes, and be admitted, but that’s exactly what happened. Smart Destinations claims to have worked hard to train the vendors they work with, and in Boston it really showed. We easily saved 20 to 30 minutes of waiting at both the science museum and the aquarium, and as those of you who travel with young children know, that time is invaluable. Starting our museum visit off with a long wait can be the difference between an interested and engaged child and one who needs cajoling into good humor.
I will definitely look at buying these passes again when I visit one of the cities that Smart Destinations serves (there are thirteen ranging from Maui to Miami) because they saved me money and time. If for some reason I had to cancel my trip, I could return the passes for a full refund for a year after I bought them. The only disadvantage would have come if we had decided not to visit one of the attractions on the list; for this reason I wouldn’t include any attraction or museum in my purchase that I was on the fence about. And I’d be sure not to cram so much into the pass that I had no room in the schedule for spontaneity.
Go Select is not the only option when purchasing passes from Smart Destinations. You can also choose a Go Card, which offers blanket admission to more attractions (in Boston there are 70) for a set number of days and a steeper discount. Yet another product is the Family FunPass, which bundles the attractions that Smart Destinations has deemed the top four for a given city. In Boston, that includes the Museum of Science, the Fenway Park tour, a high-speed whale watch, and the Franklin Park Zoo. These cards are good for 60 days from their first use.
And here’s the good news: Smart Destinations has offered me four FunPasses to give away!
The winner picks the city, so if you’re planning to visit or live in Boston, New York, San Diego, Los Angeles, or San Francisco, you could get free admission to four attractions or museums for yourself and three friends or family members. There’s also a Southern California pass that will get you into Legoland, Universal Studios Hollywod, the San Diego Zoo, and Knott’s Berry Farm.
For your chance to win a Family FunPass, simply leave a comment here sharing your favorite trip-planning tip. This contest is open until 5 p.m. EST on
Friday, August 5 Monday, August 8.
As I mentioned in this post, Smart Destinations game me one free Go Select pass, but they did not ask me to purchase the additional three and I did not receive any extra discount on them. All of the opinions I express here are my own and you can always count on me to let you know if I’ve gotten something for free.