The Best Family Activity Vacations

By: Bob Bales

Whether it is a long weekend or a summer vacation taking the family on a trip can be fun and enjoyable for everyone if you plan it right and go to a destination where everyone has something interesting to do and can get involved. Here is our list of some of the best places and activities for a family vacation.


11. Camping

Camping is one way to get the kids to leave the electronics and enjoy some outdoor activities. Whether you rent a camper or buy some gear, the whole family can enjoy a respite from the hectic rush that encompasses everyday life. Check out the State Parks where you live and spend some time teaching your kid to fish and enjoy the outdoors. National Parks like Yosemite and White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire offer the opportunity to enjoy nature, leave the cell phone behind and relax a little. Spend some time at night cooking over a campfire and telling stories. Camping can be a great option to getaway and not spend a ton of money.

family camping

10. Take a History Tour

One thing that can be of interest to everyone is learning about a place or visiting a historical site. School age kids can see places they learned about in class and the adults can enjoy visiting places they may have never seen and teaching the kids. Visit locations like Gettysburg National Military Park or Boston where you can see places that shaped the history of the country. Take a trip to Tombstone Arizona where Wyatt Earp, his brothers and Doc Holliday had their famous gunfight with Billy Clanton and gang at the OK Corral. A visit to Williamsburg Virginia is like being transported to colonial times where you see how people lived and get to interact with the period actors. A vacation to a historical place can rev up the kids desire to learn about history and also give the whole family a renewed appreciation for things people had to endure in the past.

Family, Athens

9. Dude Ranches

Dude Ranches began springing up in the western part of the US in the late 1880’s when the wealthy wanted to experience the “Wild West”. What started out as hunting expeditions has grown over the years into today’s version of the Dude Ranch. Places today offer things like fine dining and cooking classes, spa services, white water rafting, hiking, nature hikes and of course horse riding, roping and cattle drives. There is even a Dude Ranch Association and trust that preserves the history of Dude Ranching. How about a Montana Cattle drive? The McGinnis Meadows Cattle and Guest Ranch offers cattle drives every June. With all the outdoor activities and accommodation options ranging from basic to luxury there is a Dude Ranch that will fit your family’s interest level and bring great memories.

kids horseback riding

8. All Inclusive Getaway

For years places like Cancun and the Caribbean have been famous for the “all inclusive” experience. Today you don’t need to travel quite as far since many places offer all-inclusive packages. Whether it be a place in the mountains such as Sky Top Lodge in the Poconos or Club Med in Florida, the advantage of an all-inclusive for families is the parents don’t have to worry as much about daily budgets and spending. Choose a place where everyone in the family has activities to enjoy. Pick a place in advance and pay one fee that will cover accommodations, food and activities. Some places charge extra fees for their premium activities like jet skis and some cover food and not drinks. Make sure you check to see what activities are not covered and any extra fees that may be involved.

Family resort


7. Cruises

Cruises aren’t just for retired people and couples celebrating anniversaries. Cruise lines have made a concerted effort to attract families and younger people. You can find cruises leaving from most large ports in the US and Canada and they travel to places both domestic and foreign. From 3 day cruises to cruises that last 10 days or longer and stop at multiple ports, a family trip on a cruise can be fun and exciting. While on board there are activities to suit everyone and great food along with entertainment. Once you dock at a port you can explore the area, take part in optional tours and pick up souvenirs. If you want to see the glaciers in Alaska or visit the warm sunny Caribbean, you can find a cruise that the family will enjoy. If you don’t think a sea cruise is for you then take a river cruise. American Cruise Lines offers 35 cruises on America’s waterways. How about a trip down the mighty Mississippi river on a paddle wheeler?

family cruise ship

6. Volunteering Vacation

If you want to experience new cultures or make a difference then go on a volunteer vacation. I know it sounds wrong to pay to volunteer but you are paying for someone that has the expertise to guide you, lodging, food and other items when you take on a vacation like this. Volunteer vacations range from wildlife conservation to helping upgrade facilities in remote locations. Imagine taking the family to Nepal to help rebuild and upgrade facilities in the countryside while you enjoy the company of the locals and learn about their culture. How about a trip to Costa Rica to build and renovate schools or bring running water to remote villages. There are a lot of tour companies that offer volunteering vacations ranging from teaching abroad to rebuilding and improving villages. The whole family can enjoy a vacation where you volunteer to make a difference.

Hanoi Photography /
Hanoi Photography /

5. Conservation Tourism

There are several ways to enjoy a vacation while at the same time witnessing wildlife in its natural habitat. African safaris have evolved from hunts to photo shoots getting you up close to animals that may be on the verge of becoming extinct. These types of vacations provide the family a way to see vanishing animals and eco systems while at the same time the money helps in conservation efforts. The family can take trips to the Galapagos Islands to see the abundant wildlife, vacations where you scuba dive and snorkel while seeing living coral and marine life or a visit to an Eco lodge to enjoy the activities and help conserve the eco system. A Conservation Vacation can be educational for everyone in the entire family while also helping the environment.

Family at Galapagos

4. Road Trip

Say the words family road trip and you conjure up images of bored kids and nerve racked parents. It doesn’t have to be that way. Instead plan out a road trip to a destination such as The Grand Canyon or to visit a distant relative for a day or two. Make plans to stop and enjoy various sites along the way making on one big adventure. Instead of driving for 2 days only to stop at a hotel for the night, incorporate some side trips along the way and back home. Take one route going and return by a completely different rout. Visit a theme park on the way or stop at popular attraction or town. Spend some time exploring a cave system like Carlsbad or a museum like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Have everyone list a couple of their favorite sights and pick something for everyone.

Family road trip

3. Head to the Beach

No matter where you live in North America the beach is fairly close. Even by plane you can find a great beach destination a few hours from home. The family will enjoy all the beach activities and spending time whatever town is close by. No matter how much you want to just lay around and relax the beach seems to inspire your inner urge for adventurism. Besides just laying out on a sandy beach the fresh air and ocean breeze beckons you to enjoy activities like Jet Skis, paragliding or partaking in other water sports. Come nightfall the parents can enjoy some quiet time on a balcony overlooking the water while the kids are fast asleep after all the daytime activities. The kids can enjoy the water and get some exercise and the parents can return home relaxed and ready to go back to work while dreaming of the next vacation.

Family beach sunset


2. Visit the Wonders of the World

One way to ensure that the kids remember a trip for years to come is to take the family on the trip of a lifetime. Imagine visiting the Great Wall of China or the ancient ruins off Greece. While this type of trip may be more expensive than most you can plan in advance and start saving money to take the family to a world class destination. Some of these places are in decline and may not be around in years to come like the Medieval Monuments in Kosovo or the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra where poaching and illegal logging are threatening the entire area.  Visit one of the UNESCO world heritage sites like the temples in Angkor Wat in Cambodia or Westminster Abbey in the UK. Plan a trip that the family will talk about for years to come.

great wall of china

1. Disney

No list of family vacations would be complete without Disney. From the early beginnings of Disney Land with teapot rides and roller coasters Disney has evolved into probably the world’s leading family activity destination. Disney World, Epcot Center, Animal Kingdom, Sports Complexes and Water Parks all make up Disney World. Disney World encompasses over 25,000 acres of family fun. From world class golfing, Amusement Parks, fine dining, resort properties, Hollywood Studios and more Disney has something for everyone. Spend some time at one of the parks, enjoy the amenities of the hotel resort or some of the nearby activities. Give yourself some time to enjoy everything but even if you spent two weeks you probably would not get around to enjoying everything Disney World has to offer. Like they say Disney World is a place “where dreams come true.”

Katherine Welles /
Katherine Welles /