Your family travel questions answered
The Climbers International Ask Us
| Credit: The Climbers International

I’ve heard there are schools that teach tree climbing. Is this true? —R.M., HIGHLANDS RANCH, COLO.

Yes, but forget the branch-by-branch climbing of yore: in this new sport, participants as young as five buckle on helmets and harnesses and hoist themselves, inchworm-style, until they’re up where the sun shines. The original school, Atlanta-based Tree Climbers International (; three-hour sessions, $15 per person), has offshoots all over the country. Conquer ponderosa pines in Colorado (, white oaks in the Georgia foothills (, and a 150-year-old black walnut in Oregon ( Once you’re comfortable ascending trees, consider sleeping in them: many programs let you clamber up to hammocks, strap into cradles, and rock-a-bye under the stars.

How can I tell whether a hotel package is a good deal? —C.G., Winchester, MAss.

Don’t be fooled by all the freebies hotels throw into packages to make it look like you’re getting a lot for your money. If you’re mainly interested in a decent room rate, call the hotel and ask what they usually charge for the dates you’re interested in and see how the package compares. Make sure you want those extras—and that the total cost would be higher if you purchased them on your own. Goody bags and in-room movies are throwaway perks, but if family dinners or theater tickets are part of the deal, you might have found a bargain.

Where can my friend and I take our 14-year-olds for a mother-daughter adventure?—E.B., FRESNO, CAlif.

How about a surf-and-spa getaway?In Ventura, California, you can sign on for a Sol Sister weekend at Paddy Bex Surf School (805/653-7873;; from $824 per person for three nights, including meals)—do sun salutations on the sand, then tackle the swells before returning to camp for a rubdown. If you prefer saddling up, consider the Sugar & Spice Ranch (617/240-6180; texashorse; $500 per person for three nights, including meals; open May 26–Aug. 31), in the cowboy town of Bandera, Texas. The program, which caters to mothers and daughters, assigns each participant a horse to feed, groom, and ride daily. Or how about a cruise adventure?Sail to Cozumel on Royal Caribbean International’s Navigator of the Seas (866/562-7625;; $379 per person for four nights, out of Fort Lauderdale). The ship has a teen disco and a spa offering side-by-side massages. Last one back to real life wins!

Reader’s Tip

“I always bring a sarong on vacation—to place over the stroller as a sunshade, carry the baby Tibetan-style, or use as a picnic blanket. Of course, it’s a great beach cover-up, too!”

—K.K., Hillsboro, OReg.