Planning a vacation for yourself takes time, but is easy enough. Planning a vacation for your whole family, though… that’s something else. There are so many possibilities and considerations: Will the kids be engaged (and off their phones)? How much does it cost? How many days off will it require? Is it too physical for older family members? Frankly, it can be a bit overwhelming. (Hence the phrase: “I need a vacation from my vacation.”)
But does a family-friendly getaway have to be stressful? Fortunately, the answer is no. There are plenty of travel plans that adults and kids can both enjoy. No matter what your family’s favorite hobbies, planning things like weekend getaways and boat tours can be a cinch if you know where to start. Here’s a list of adult- and kid-friendly adventures you can plan year-round, including some vacation ideas and family vacation destinations that will surprise you.
1. Vacations that are educational: National parks
What’s better than a road trip to a national park? Visiting one of the USA’s carefully-preserved parks is a fantastic way for your family to learn about America’s landscape and wildlife, and it provides a wonderful teachable moment to little ones who’ve only seen animals on YouTube.
In fact, there are 63 national parks across the United States, with 423 national park sites for you and your family to visit and explore (and that’s before you count the state parks). National parks are a wonderful option for the whole family because they offer numerous kid-friendly outdoor activities. Seeing wild animals in their natural habitats, swimming in lakes and waterfalls, and camping under the stars are experiences that will become treasured memories. But the perks of national park vacations don’t end there. When your family travels to a national park, you have access to an abundance of hiking trails, lodging options, and sometimes even hot springs and other natural wonders.
There are so many destinations to choose from. A few of the most popular include:
- The Grand Canyon in Arizona
- Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado
- Yosemite National Park, Redwood National Park, and Joshua Tree in California
2. Vacations for high-energy kids: Amusement park or theme park
An amusement park is the best family vacation idea for those with energetic kids and grandkids. Whether you’re riding the water slides at a water park or watching aquatic life at SeaWorld, you can’t go wrong. With all of the sights and tons of walking around to do, the kids will get their workout (and enjoy a good night’s sleep).
As for theme park options, there are too many to count, and they’re spread across the country with characters and themes unique to each. However, when I think of parks, the first thing that comes to mind is Disney.
- Disneyland is in Anaheim, California, and features two parks — Disney California Adventure Park and Disneyland Park.
- Walt Disney World is in Orlando, Florida, and comprises four parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
No matter which Disney you opt for, you’re guaranteed shows, food, and activities that kids of every age will enjoy. Disney parks are ideal for busy families because accommodations can be bundled with your package, allowing you to travel between the parks with ease. They’re designed for families, too, so you have everything you need for your next adventure close at hand. The one caveat, of course, is cost. Disney isn’t cheap, especially when you add in food and hotels.
That said, Disney isn’t your only option when it comes to theme parks. Legoland, where your kids can ride LEGO rides and learn all about their favorite building blocks, are great fun. Legoland is also home to an aquarium and prides itself on its conservation efforts, so the kids will have the chance to watch animals and learn about their habitats. Additionally, Legoland also has holiday events and activities, so check its website regularly for updates on shows and themes.
For older kids and fans of fantasy and magic, a family vacation to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando is the ticket. It’s an escape to the magical settings featured in the popular books and movies, and like the other parks, it has its own theme-specific characters, rides, and foods.
3. Vacations for peace and quiet: Camping and kayaking
Another great trip for the whole family is a wilderness adventure. If your life feels noisy lately and you’re struggling to get peace of mind, camping or kayaking on a serene river can be a calming vacation.
You can plan a camping or glamping trip to a specific outdoor location, like Lake Tahoe or Virginia’s Smith Mountain Lake, or simply escape to your nearest state park. For kids, camping is a way to get messy and explore new places they’ve never seen and experiences they’ve never had before. It’s a chance to learn about nature hands-on, and to acquire problem-solving skills like making a campfire and setting up a tent.
In most cases, camping also means water sports. Kayaking is a safe and easy way to take the kids out on the lake, and older kids will love paddle boarding on smooth waters. It’s just what you need for some mental R&R!
4. Vacations that offers child care: All-inclusive resort
Mom and dad deserve to walk the white sand of beautiful beaches and lounge by the swimming pool, too. That’s where a family vacation at an all-inclusive resort comes in. You can find them all over the United States, as well as in the Caribbean and South and Central America. With so many all-inclusive resort options, it’s easy to find one with activities and events the whole family enjoys, as well as activities that individual family members can perform on their own. (Think horseback riding, snorkeling, rafting, ziplining, mini golf, and biking.) Better still, most all-inclusive resorts include child care and a kids’ club. This broad selection of activities and accommodations makes, all-inclusive resorts ideal for hosting larger family events and reunions, too.
5. One day, mini vacations: Children’s museum, zoo, or aquarium
If you don’t have time for a weeklong or weekend trip, think local. Little ones love day trips to the museum, aquarium, or zoo. There are so many different things to do, like watching educational shows, learning about natural environments, and even feeling certain animals in touch tanks. Additionally, zoos and aquariums are designed for families and have lots of kid-friendly foods, storage for strollers, and spaces to sit and recharge. Similarly, kids’ museums allow young learners to inhabit the worlds of dinosaurs and fairytales, with interactive events and activities designed to engage their minds and their senses.
6. Vacations off the beaten path: Rent a treehouse
If you’re looking to do something outside-the-box, rent a treehouse at your vacation destination. This is a fantastic option for families bored by run-of-the-mill hotel rooms.
There are different types of treehouses, particularly near beaches and in jungles, and the treehouse rental experience will give you and your kids a unique vantage point from which to view their surroundings. Treehouse rentals often have wraparound decks, as well as hammocks, hot tubs, and swings. You and your little ones can play all day and enjoy the natural environment in a way they’re sure to remember.
7. Vacations in winter: The beach and boardwalk
You can’t go wrong with a weekend trip to the beach, especially if you live somewhere with extreme weather. It’s easy to get a little stir-crazy when temperatures drop. A warm, sunny vacation destination is the perfect antidote.
Visiting the beach also allows you to reconnect with the constancy of the ocean. Lives change, jobs come and go, but the tides remain unchanged. Being reminded of this is what vacation is all about. Practically speaking, beach vacays are great for kids, too. Wave-jumping, sandcastle-building, and seashell searching are easy amusements, and boardwalks are ideal for escaping hot afternoons to play games, enjoy rides, and eat fun foods — and maybe even win a prize or two. From Hawaii to South Carolina, you can find a beach and boardwalk to match your family’s vacation preferences every time.
Getting there is half the fun!
When it comes to your next family vacation, pull out all the stops with unique and exciting vacation ideas that will wow everyone in your group. On the right trip, even mom and dad get to sit back and relax. From the all-inclusive resort to the national park road trip, there are vacation spots for every type of family trip.
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