It’s spring! Finally! And while this warmer, sunnier and more cheerful season is a welcomed change from winter for many people across the country, it also comes with it’s own challenges, like planning the best family vacation. The words “school’s out for summer” come to mind. That’s right, in just a few short months your kids will be done with school and will have a whole lot of free time on their hands. Sounds like a pretty good idea to plan that fun family vacation you’ve been thinking about since this time last year. The good news is that it is actually possible to plan one of the best family vacations ever! We swear, not every family trip needs to involve you chasing after your kids around a dirty amusement park.
According to parents and travel agents Mike and Ellen MacNair, founders of MacNair Travel, planning the best family vacation is all about thinking about what is right for you. The pros advise their clients to “sit down with their family and answer two questions: What has to happen over the course of our next vacation to make it amazing? What have been our best and worst trips, and why? From there, the brainstorming begins.” So start thinking about your dream trip and let the family fun begin. Here are 8 great family vacation ideas to get you a vacation state-of-mind and ready to plan your next trip.
1. Grand Canyon
Whether you chose to stay at a family-friendly hotel or a kid-approved campground, there’s a lot for families to do at the Grand Canyon. It’s one of the most beautiful places on earth and one of the natural wonders of the world for a reason. While adults and older kids/teens will marvel at the canyon’s size, shape and colors, even younger kids will enjoy this trip. There are hikes for every age and skill level, and kids 4-14 years old can earn Junior Ranger Badges after attending ranger-led educational sessions.
2. Costa Rica
A magical place for nature-lovers and adventurous types alike, Costa Rica has it all. Relaxing on the beach, check. Zip-lining through the rain forest, check. Hiking and surfing and wildlife adventures, check, check and check. And several gorgeous resorts (complete with delicious food and luxurious accommodations) are actually kid-friendly. The Four Seasons in Costa Rica offers everything from babysitting services to kid’s camps to child-friendly room service menus, sports activities, arts and crafts lessons, sailing adventures and more.
3. Yellowstone National Park
Nothing can bring a family together or make mom and dad feel like kids again quite like camping under the stars and snuggling up by the campfire with s’mores. And there is no better place to do it than Yellowstone National Park, which boasts over 2.2 million acres of outdoor beauty. There is something for everyone here—hiking, biking, fishing, boating, horseback riding and more. Or you could just choose to relax and observe the wildlife (elk, buffalo and even grizzlies) and nature attractions (think geysers, canyons, and waterfalls).
4. Beaver Creek and Vail
While these resorts are better known for their winter-time appeal and ski schools, Beaver Creek and Vail are unbelievable family vacation ideas year round. When the weather heats up families can do everything from hike, bike, play tennis, ride the chairlifts, ice skate (yes even in summer), horseback ride and more. The scenery is beautiful in the summer and the weather is even better. And just next door in the Lionshead area of Vail there are tons of kid-friendly shops and activities including a children’s play-station called Imagination Station. An added bonus: if you’re in town on a Thursday night, the Beaver Creek Rodeo comes to town.
5. Disney Cruise
If the thought of visiting Disney World gives you an anxiety attack and makes you break out in hives, then maybe you should give the Disney Cruise a shot. First of all, the accommodations are actually nice. Second of all, there is a lot for kids to do, including character interactions, shows, games, rides, pools and more. And there’s a lot for adults to do too. Yes, you read that correctly…mom and dad might actually enjoy this Disney trip. There are fitness classes, spas, great food, nightclubs, live music and quiet (kid-free) pools. Everybody wins!
This is one of the best family vacations, hands down. Few places offer as many beautiful sites and outdoor summer activities as Maine. You can find state parks, lakes, lighthouses, waterfalls, beautiful beaches, cute towns and amazing fresh seafood unlike anywhere else. Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park offers whale watching, hiking, fishing, biking and more. In Ogonquit you can visit old-school candy shoppes and play on the beach, then you can visit Old Orchard Beach and hit up the amusement park and pier loaded with arcade games and restaurants.
Literally every corner and quaint road in Nantucket is beautiful—the main street is lined with cute shops, great cafes, upscale clothing stores, fun toy stores and amazing restaurants. The homes are gorgeous, and the beaches are even more beautiful. Kids can frolic in the sand, play in one of the many oceanfront playgrounds (Children’s Beach and Jetty’s Beach are our faves), and throughout summer there are tons of activities in town as well, ranging from parades to festivals to music shows and more. The entire island is casual and very family-friendly, and if you’re looking for an amazing place to call home, the Nantucket Hotel is a family-friendly haven just steps away from the heart of town.
8. Ocean Reef Resort
This resort, located in Key Largo, FL (only about 45 minutes south of Miami) has absolutely everything a family could want and more. The resort boasts tons of pools and water sports including sailboats, fishing trips and a salt-water swimming lagoon with kayaks, paddleboats and fountains. Throughout the year you can also find fun kid activities ranging from water balloon fights to costume parties, treasure hunts and more. You never have to leave the resort (even the restaurants are tasty and kid-friendly) and you can even rent golf carts to drive around the resort grounds. And did we mention they also have a kid’s camp? So in theory, your kids could have the time of their lives making new friends while you have the time of your life doing absolutely nothing with a cocktail in your hand. We’re just saying…heaven.