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18 Summers? Book these Best 6 Vacations with Your Kids

    As parents, we often hear the saying, “You only have 18 summers with your children.” This phrase, while poignant, can create a sense of urgency and pressure to pack every summer with extraordinary vacation experiences.

    However, the reality for families is often more complex. Between the demands of teen jobs, sports activities, and the natural evolution of friendships, the window for family vacations may be even shorter than we think. Family budget restrictions may also put a limit on family vacation opportunities.

    However, as I’ve often joked as the mother of four in their 20s, if you’re paying, they’ll be happy to travel with you.

    We propose a different approach to traveling with kids: focusing on quality over quantity. It’s not about cramming as many vacations as possible into a finite number of years, but about choosing experiences that enrich your family’s life and create lasting memories. So don’t focus on 18 magnificent vacations, we suggest six trips while your kids are at home. Anything over that is bonus.

    We’ve identified six key types of vacations to give your young traveler a well-rounded travel background. Each type not only offers a unique set of experiences but also comes with various subcategories to fit different budgets and family travel preferences. You might find that your family prefers one type more than others which will guide your future travel planning.

    So, let’s explore these six vacation types and discover how you can give your children a wealth of experiences that go far beyond the number of vacations. It’s about making each adventure meaningful and ensuring that the time we have with our children is spent creating memories that last a lifetime.

    1. Road Trip Adventures: Nurturing Patience, Curiosity, and Family Bonds

    One of the most iconic and flexible types of family vacations is the road trip. Road trips are not just about reaching a destination, but about the journey itself and the experiences it offers. Whether it’s a short weekend getaway or a two-week exploration, a road trip is a quintessential part of family vacations, offering unique opportunities for learning and bonding.

    At its base, road trips teach patience. The hours spent in the car, especially on longer trips, require children to learn how to entertain themselves quietly and find ways to pass the time. This skill is invaluable, not just during the trip, but in life in general.

    Moreover, road trips are an excellent time for siblings to bond. Sharing space in a car for extended periods encourages cooperation, sharing, and communication. The close quarters can turn into a space of shared jokes, songs, and stories, strengthening the sibling bond.

    Educationally, road trips introduce children to practical geography and navigation. Kids learn about maps, roadways, and distances, gaining a better understanding of the layout of the state or country. They also get to experience different types of terrain firsthand – from the flat plains to rolling hills, from coastal roads to mountain passes.

    Road trips also offer flexibility in terms of budget, planning, and trip length. Depending on your family’s preferences, a road trip can be a luxurious journey with stays in high-end resorts or a more budget-friendly adventure with camping and picnics. The choice to explore hidden gems or visit popular tourist spots lies entirely with you, making each road trip a unique and personalized experience.

    Check out our ideas for road trips. Have you completed one you’d love to share with other big families? Contact us to guest post!

    2. Educational Journeys: Enriching Minds and Broadening Horizons

    Educational journeys hold a unique position in the realm of family vacations, offering a blend of entertainment and learning that is both fun and enriching. These trips are a great way to give your kids a greater understanding of what they learn as part of their formal education.

    City cultural explorations are a treasure trove of learning opportunities, especially for families intrigued by art, science, and nature. A weekend in a city can include visits to art museums, where children can experience the masterpieces of history up close. Science museums often feature interactive exhibits that engage children in the wonders of physics, biology, and technology. These hands-on experiences make learning both enjoyable and memorable. Zoos and aquariums provide a window into the animal kingdom, teaching children about biodiversity, conservation, and ecosystems. These visits can ignite a lifelong interest in biology and environmental stewardship.

    Historical U.S. city trips offer a journey back in time to the foundational moments of the nation. Cities like Washington D.C., Boston, and Philadelphia are rich in history and heritage. In Washington D.C., families can explore national monuments, the Capitol, and numerous museums that detail the country’s political and social history. Boston and Philadelphia are replete with historical landmarks from the Revolutionary War era, offering immersive experiences that transform textbook knowledge into tangible reality. Walking the Freedom Trail in Boston or visiting the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia allows families to experience American history firsthand.

    International trips open up a world of learning opportunities. Traveling abroad allows families to immerse themselves in different cultures, languages, and traditions. Visiting ancient ruins, experiencing traditional customs, and tasting local cuisine significantly impact a child’s worldview. It teaches them to appreciate diversity and fosters a sense of global citizenship. Whether it’s exploring the Colosseum in Rome, walking through the streets of Paris, or visiting the Mayan ruins of Mexico, international travel provides a learning experience that is impossible to replicate in any classroom.

    3. Beach and Lake Getaways: Sun, Sand, and Serenity for Every Budget

    Beach vacations stand out as a favorite for families who are drawn to sun, sand, and surf. These getaways offer the ideal combination of relaxation and adventure, creating the perfect setting for family bonding. Depending on budget and preference, families can choose from a variety of beach destinations, each offering a unique experience.

    For those seeking a touch of luxury, exotic beach destinations like the Bahamas, Caribbean, and Mexico are excellent choices. These tropical paradises are not only about stunning beaches and clear blue waters but also about immersing in a different culture. Resorts in these areas are often equipped with family-friendly amenities, including kids’ clubs, water sports, and guided tours. Activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, and exploring local markets add to the richness of the vacation, blending relaxation with adventure.

    The coasts of California and Florida offer a range of beach experiences to fit different family needs and budgets. California’s diverse coastline features everything from iconic surf spots in Southern California to the rugged, scenic beaches of Northern California. On the other side of the country, Florida’s beaches are known for their soft sand and warm waters. Options vary from the vibrant and lively Miami Beach to the tranquil, family-friendly shores of the Florida Keys or the Gulf Coast.

    For families looking for a more budget-friendly option, lake beaches provide a serene and accessible choice. These beaches offer the joys of swimming, boating, and fishing, coupled with the beauty of natural lake settings. The tranquil environment is perfect for a relaxing family picnic or a hike through surrounding nature trails. Additionally, many state parks offer cabins and camping facilities, allowing families to combine a lake holiday with a camping adventure, ideal for larger families seeking an affordable outdoor experience.

    4. Theme Park Thrills: A World of Fun for Every Family

    Theme parks hold a special place in the hearts of families seeking excitement and thrills. With options ranging from the globally renowned Disney parks to local attractions, there’s a theme park experience for every budget and interest.

    At the pinnacle of the theme park experience is Disney, known for its magical ambiance, iconic characters, and meticulously themed lands. However, Disney magic comes with a higher price tag, making it a more significant investment for big families.

    For those looking for thrills without the Disney price, parks like Dollywood, Six Flags, and Hersheypark offer a diverse range of attractions. Dollywood, nestled in the Smoky Mountains, combines thrilling rides with a unique cultural experience, showcasing the rich heritage of the region. Six Flags parks, located throughout the United States, are known for their roller coasters and rides catering to all age groups. Hersheypark, in Pennsylvania, not only offers rides and entertainment but also the chance to delve into the world of chocolate.

    Additionally, numerous smaller, lesser-known theme parks across the country provide a day or more of fun without the large crowds and hefty price tags. These parks often have a mix of rides suitable for young children and thrill-seeking teenagers, making them ideal for families with kids of varying ages.

    Theme park vacations are about more than just the rides; they’re about the experiences and memories created. Whether it’s the excitement of a first roller coaster ride, the joy of meeting a favorite character, or the not-so-good parts such as the unbearable heat of the day, super tired feet, or meltdowns (it happens!); theme parks are usually a favorite trip with kids.

    5. National Parks: Exploring America’s Natural Wonders and Local Treasures

    National parks offer families a unique opportunity to connect with nature and learn about the great outdoors. These vacations can be grand adventures in some of the nation’s most famous natural landscapes or more local, easily accessible retreats in state parks.

    We’re fortunate to have stunning national parks, each offering its distinct beauty and adventure. Families can explore the geysers and wildlife of Yellowstone, the majestic Grand Canyon, the towering sequoias of Yosemite, or the serene beaches of Acadia. These parks provide an array of activities, from hiking and wildlife viewing to stargazing and ranger-led educational programs. Visiting national parks allows families to immerse themselves in nature, fostering a love and respect for the environment and offering lessons in ecology and conservation.

    In addition to these well-known national treasures, numerous state parks offer their own natural beauty and outdoor activities. These “in your backyard” parks are often less crowded and more accessible, making them perfect for day trips or weekend getaways. State parks offer a variety of landscapes, including forests, beaches, and mountains, with activities like hiking, biking, canoeing, and camping. They provide an excellent introduction to outdoor adventures for younger children and a more manageable option for families not ready to embark on a longer trip to a national park.

    6. Snowy Escapades: Embracing Winter’s Wonderland

    Snowy escapades offer a unique and exhilarating vacation experience, though they might require more planning, especially for families who don’t live in snowy regions. From luxury ski resorts to snowboarding weekends and snowy adventures in national parks, there’s a range of options to enjoy the winter wonderland.

    Prime ski destinations Aspen, Vail, and Park City are renowned for their ski slopes and upscale amenities. These resorts provide comprehensive experiences, including skiing, snowboarding, and après-ski activities, making them ideal for longer stays. They cater to all skill levels, from beginners to advanced, and often offer ski schools for children and teens, ensuring a fun and safe learning environment. While these resorts tend to be more expensive, they offer a memorable and luxurious winter getaway.

    For families looking for a shorter and more budget-friendly option, local ski hills or resorts are ideal for weekend snow tubing trips. Tubing is a great way to introduce snow sports to your kids.

    Snow encounters in national parks offer a different kind of winter experience. Parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite transform into winter wonderlands, offering activities such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ranger-led tours. These parks provide a unique opportunity to experience the quiet beauty of nature blanketed in snow, a stark contrast to their summer bustle. While not all national parks are accessible during the winter months, those that are open can provide a serene and beautiful snowy experience.

    If you complete all six types of vacations or focus only on one type, it’s important to remember that not every trip will go as planned. There may be unexpected challenges, weather issues, or moments when things simply don’t go right. However, these instances often become part of the adventure, teaching resilience, adaptability, and the ability to find joy in the unexpected. The mishaps often turn into humorous stories that are recounted for years, becoming an integral part of your family’s history.

    We hope you no longer feel stressed trying to focus on 18 magical vacations during your “18 summers”. In the end the idea of “It’s not where you travel, but who you travel with” that really rings true. The bottom line is that your children will remember the time spent together and the moments of discovery, laughter, and togetherness.

    Theresa Jorgensen

    Theresa Jorgensen

    Theresa Jorgensen is a mother to four children including twins. She recognized the necessity for a comprehensive resource of hotels that cater to big families with rooms and suites for 5, 6, 7, or 8 people in a single room while traveling with her own family. In 2008, she established SixSuitcaseTravel to compile a database of such hotels. Over time, the website has grown to include travel advice, itineraries, road trip suggestions, national park guides, and more. Theresa takes pleasure in assisting other big families in creating unforgettable travel experiences.