The Best Family Activity Vacations

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 / Shutterstock.com
Hanoi Photography / Shutterstock.com

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 / Shutterstock.com
Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com

Top 10 Destinations for Family Adventure Travel this Summer

Summer is the perfect time to travel, take vacation and explore new parts of the world. Traveling as a family, most people tend to stick to familiar destinations, campgrounds and all-inclusive cruises or resorts where everything is taken care of. But if you are a family that is looking for a little more flexibility, more adventure, plenty of thrills and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; we highly suggest checking out these top 10 destinations for family adventure travel.

10. Glacier National Park, Montana

If you are looking to stick within North America this summer but are still looking for an outdoor adventure for the whole family, Glacier National Park in Montana should be at the top of your list. There are lodges and campgrounds throughout the park with plenty of opportunity for hiking, biking, horseback riding and swimming. This national park features a dozen glacier peaks that are separated by clear mountain streams, pristine lakes and plenty of waterfalls to discover. Kids and adults alike will love looking out for the abundance of wildlife including deer, moose and mountain goats.  If you are looking for a more guided and organized adventure there are plenty of tour guides that offer family specific trips throughout the park, complete with adults-only meals, luxury lodge accommodations and enough activities to keep the kids busy all day long. Get into the heart of the mountains and feel like you are worlds away from home.

Grinnell Glacier - Glacier National Park

9.  Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos are best explored when kids are a little older and can appreciate what they truly have to offer. The best way to discover the islands is a family geared cruise that ensures the whole family will be involved in the fun. These family cruises are often small and intimate, which paves the way for the exceptional customer service that extends to the kids. While snorkeling with the turtles, swimming with the sea lions and watching the penguins swim by are always a hit amongst the whole family, these cruises offer so much more. Connecting with nature at a young age is important to teaching children about the planet and the guides aboard these ships know how to connect with them. Where else in the world can your 10 year old learn to anchor a boat, sleep in a treehouse and swim alongside a curious sea lion all in one day?

Galapagos Islands

8. Great Sand Dunes, Colorado

Sand, sand and more sand is what you will find at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado and we promise that the kids will absolutely love it here! This giant sandbox provides plenty of opportunity to bring out the kid in anyone as you slide down the hills on either a sled or sand board. This activity is actually legal in the park and sleds and boards can be rented at one of a few retailers in the San Luis Valley. The best time to visit this park is at the beginning of the summer before the dunes become scorching hot. This time of year is also when Medano Creek is flowing and families should bring inflatable tubes to float down it. Hiking, camping, horseback riding, four wheeling and fun ranger-led programs are all activities that families can look forward to here. Whether you travel here just for a day or spend a week camping; families won’t run out of fun and exciting things to do.

Great Sand Dunes, Colorado

7. New Mexico

If your family is looking for adventure, real cowboys and Indians and exceptional food, New Mexico may just be the perfect vacation destination. Although this destination is widely known for its art galleries, boutique shops and spirituality; there is plenty more to discover if you dig a little deeper. With ranch resorts surrounding the area, families can choose adventures such as horseback riding, watching the Rodeo, fly fishing, rock climbing and white water rafting. One especially unique adventure here is the opportunity to hike and camp in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Rio Grande Gorge area with Wild Earth Llama Adventures. Each member of the family is coupled with its own llama, which carries the gear and creates a great distraction for the little ones who often tire easily of hiking. This camping experience is complete with campfires, gourmet meals and a never ending variety of activities for the kids.

Pecos National Historic Park Santa Fe New Mexico

6. Costa Rica

If you are looking for a thrilling summer vacation that really get’s the whole family’s hearts pumping, Costa Rica is the perfect country to do so. One of the safest, if not the safest country in Central America, traveling here is easy and inexpensive. Trek through an impressive cloud forest, zip line over lush green mountains, hike a volcano and learn to surf in the warm waters. Kids will delight in listening to the howler monkeys in the trees, relaxing in the many hot springs and splashing in the waves. Eco-tourism has taken a big step in this country and there are endless choices for accommodations, whether you want a luxurious treehouse or a laid back hotel. With two major airports to fly into, English speaking guides and a plethora of adventure; Costa Rica is a perfect summer vacation.

Max Herman / Shutterstock.com
Max Herman / Shutterstock.com

5. Canadian Rockies, Alberta

Wildlife, mountain treks, sparkling blue lakes and hot springs are what await families in the Canadian Rockies. If your family loves to hike, mountain bike and swim; there is no better place in Canada to visit for a summer full of adventure and thrills. Many choose to make Banff their home base as it is full of kid-friendly restaurants, hotels that feature pools and waterslides and easy access to the surrounding mountains and lakes. The other option for adventure travel here is a custom designed organized tour, designed with families in mind. There are some exceptional tour operators in this area and from canoeing to white water rafting to cliff jumping to exploring the towns; these trips are perfect for families who want adventure but prefer someone else does the planning.

Canadian Rockies Alberta

4. Grand Canyon and Surrounding Area, Arizona

It would be a mistake to think that kids will be bored exploring the Grand Canyon but it would also be a mistake to assume they will want to spend a week doing so. Therefore to make the most of this adventurous vacation, we suggest splitting your time between the Grand Canyon and the surrounding areas of Page and Sedona. Hiking below the rim in the canyon is highly recommended for avid outdoor enthusiasts and the ranger led hikes are a hit with families as the ranger points out things like fossils in the rock layers, lizards basking in the sun, and desert wildflowers and wildlife. The surrounding areas of Page and Sedona offer outdoor adventures such as exploring Glen Canyon Dam, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell. Combine that with the smooth water float trip you can take and the kids will have the best outdoor adventure of a lifetime.

Horseshoe Bend

3. Big Island, Hawaii

Animal adventures, outdoor thrills and the chance to sneak in some education is what await families on the Big Island of Hawaii. Start off with a heart-pounding helicopter ride over the island, introducing you to the hidden waterfalls, lava lakes and fiery fresh lava flows. Next up head to one of the many beaches were you can build towering black sand castles, take a family surf lesson and try your hand at stand up paddle boarding. Depending on the swimming levels of the kids, scuba diving and snorkeling are very popular among these warm waters that teem with colorful tropical fish. For an even bigger adventure make sure to try the manta ray night dive. Climb a volcano, zip line through the jungle and pitch your tent in one of the many campgrounds and discover the ultimate summer playground.

Big Island, Hawaii

2. Glacier Bay, Alaska

Say goodbye to overcrowded family cruises and experience the unforgettable landscape of Alaska from your own personal floating base. Tour companies are now offering intimate, family orientated cruises through Glacier Bay; set at your own personal pace. An on-board naturalist is there to teach the entire family about tide pools, the underwater songs of the whales and local botany. Kids will love kayaking to hidden inlets, walking out onto frozen glaciers and hiking through majestic old-growth forests and coming face to face with incredible wildlife such as bears, bald eagles and humpback whales. The best part for parents may just be when the kids conk out and they are privy to the on-board hot tub or an after dark paddle through the sea. Instead of watching the glaciers pass by from a typical ship, why not get adventurous and explore them with a family orientated boat trip.

Glacier Bay, Alaska

1. Zambia Safari, Africa

This is the best adventurous family vacation to take if your family includes active teenagers. Not necessarily recommended for younger children, Zambia Safaris promise high thrills, excellent wildlife spotting and a chance to hike in the national parks; keeping in mind the minimum age to hike through these parks is 12. Visit the unforgettable Victoria Falls, raft in the class 5 rapids of the Zambezi River and come face to face with big game such as hippos and lions. Walking safaris are an amazing way to discover creatures you could never see from a car such as the dung beetle, and still offer luxury accommodations in the heart of the parks. Expect to kayak the lakes, swim in a natural infinity pool, visit a local school and have an experience of a lifetime. Teens love this adventurous vacation as guides do an incredible job of making them feel independent and many companies even offer teen only dinners, hikes and more.

Zambia Safari, Africa

The Most Popular Family Vacation Destinations

Once summer arrives, it’s a great time to take a family vacation. These trips can create memories that will last a lifetime that both you and your children will remember. Whether that time off is a yearly event or a special occasion, here are ten of the most popular family vacation destinations.

1. Orlando, Florida

Great Florida weather combines with Universal Studios, Disney World and SeaWorld Orlando to present one of the best vacation packages anywhere. Add water parks, numerous resort hotels and discounted tickets to create the right list of activities to please your family.

Orlando Florida

2. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

What will you find in Myrtle Beach? Start with sixty miles of beaches on the Atlantic Ocean, historic lighthouses, NASCAR SpeedPark, mini-golf courses, and roller coasters. End at the boardwalk with dozens of friendly resort hotels and you have an ideal location to relax and enjoy.

Myrtle Beach South Carolina

3. Biloxi-Gulfport, Mississippi

Biloxi-Gulfport provides the perfect combination of recreation and kid happy leisure time. Centered on the Gulf, this resort town showcases sugar-white sand on miles of beaches. When you need a beach break, check out the NASA Stennis Space Center, ocean cruises and miniature golf. A perfect mix of leisure time and activities will entertain every member of the family.

Biloxi-Gulfport Mississippi

4. Arizona

Get spooked in a ghost town, see the London Bridge and travel to the Navajo Reservation to see Monument Valley. Enjoy a day trip to the Grand Canyon or raft the Colorado River. See the O. K. Corral in Tombstone. Pick a dude ranch for your stay and absorb authentic Wild West history. This state delivers a memorable vacation.

Arizona
Vacclav / Shutterstock.com

5. Southern California

San Diego and Los Angeles offer families a busy trip with Disneyland, San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld San Diego, Legoland and the Hollywood Blvd. Step back to other less famous sites with the California Science Center or hit the beaches at Santa Monica and Malibu. This might be more expensive than other venues, but plan ahead and shop for deals.

San Diego Zoo

6. Oahu, Hawaii

Explore Hawaii with boat trips, dolphin shows, surf lessons, Pearl Harbor and sunny beaches. Great together time for the family comes from a visit to the Diamond Head Crater and hiking a tropical rainforest to see Manoa Falls. Include a visit to the Iolani Palace, the Dole Pineapple Plantation and the Waikiki Aquarium. If you want a once in a lifetime vacation, this is your destination.

Diamondhead Crater Oahu Hawaii

7. Nashville, Tennessee

This music city offers water parks, museums, children’s theater and live music. Combine your trip with kid friendly resorts and stellar restaurants. Plan trips to the Adventure Science Center, the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Nashville’s electric atmosphere has something for every family.

Nashville Tennessee

8. Washington, D. C.

Washington, D. C. is an endless list of free attractions steeped in American history. Your favorite museum or monument list should have these favorites: The Smithsonian, National Museum of Natural History, National Air and Space Museum, National Children’s Museum, Bureau of Engraving & Printing and the Washington Monument. Add great hotels and restaurants and bring your camera.

Washington DC

9. Vancouver, British Columbia Canada

For those families that want a foreign trip, Canada is the place to go. Family-friendly with no language hassle, that’s Vancouver. Stanley Park and Granville Island deserve a visit for their abundance of kid-friendly activities. Make the trip to Grouse Mountain to hike or choose Science World for a fun day exploring. Water activities include kayaking, windsurfing, and rafting. You’ll go home tired but rested.

Grouse Mountain Vancouver
Lissandra Melo / Shutterstock.com

10. Southern Texas and Matamoros, Mexico

Water activities prevail in South Padre Island. This resort community on the Gulf delivers surfing, snorkeling, parasailing, dolphin watching, beach tanning, and sandcastle building. Across the Rio Grande thirty miles away, pass over into Matamoros, Mexico for unique shops with handmade goods and delicious food served with history and culture. If that isn’t enough, venture back to San Antonio to visit the historic Alamo, Six Flags Over Texas and SeaWorld San Antonio.

Alamo Texas