Parents looking to get their kids out of the house this summer have lots of family-friendly vacation options. However, narrowing down the list to a truly kid-friendly, affordable destination everyone agrees on can be a challenge. The best summer family vacations are the ones that bring you and your family closer together to make memories that last a lifetime. These family summer vacation ideas are just what you need for an awesome trip!
Travel Tip: Set up your family for a fun summer vacation by taking time to plan ahead.
Enjoy Lake Life
Rent a house (ideally with an outdoor shower and grill on the deck) to enjoy warmer weather and calmer surf than an oceanside destination.
Take a trip to Lake Michigan. From Chicago at the southern end to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in the north, Lake Michigan offers a variety of landscapes to enjoy with kids. Hike, build sandcastles, and explore museums on this Great Lake’s shores.
Explore the Finger Lakes. Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, and Cayuga Lakes all offer campgrounds, rolling hills, and kayak rentals. There are 11 Finger Lakes total and they’re all close enough to explore in a single trip.
Head to SoCal’s Big Bear Lake. Bike trails, year-round chairlift rides, a nature center, and boat tours make Big Bear Lake an excellent family summer vacation destination. Plus, this charming lake town is close enough to both Los Angeles and San Diego for a day trip.
Connect with Nature
Both national and state parks offer fun vacation options. You don’t necessarily have to tent camp either; many of these family summer vacation ideas have fully stocked cabins or onsite hotels.
Head north to Custer State Park. South Dakota’s Custer State Park, part of the vast Black Hills National Forest, has interesting rock formations, easy hikes, and multiple lakes. The kids may even see some cool animals, including buffalo, prairie dogs, and mountain goats.
Cook by a campfire at Silver Falls State Park. Take your family vacation in the northwest this summer and make yourselves at home in Oregon’s Silver Falls State Park. Beautiful waterfalls and a natural play area are more than enough to keep kids busy.
Become Junior Rangers at Rocky Mountain National Park. This park caters to families on summer vacation with a cool Junior Ranger program, the ability to drive to the park’s peaks via Trail Ridge Road, and lots of lakes.
Not every summer vacation has to mean sweating on a crowded boardwalk or busy city street. If your kids love spending time outdoors, try a cooler destination.
Drive up the coast of southern Maine. The charming New England towns along the southern coast of Maine are fun for the whole family. There are quiet beaches, nature preserves, convenient hotels, amusement parks, and more!
Hike, bike, or boat in Yellowstone National Park. This family summer vacation destination is a classic for a reason. Kids of all ages (and kids at heart) will love how many different ways there are to explore the park.
Explore the PNW from Seattle. Seattle—home to tons of kid-friendly museums and parks, as well as the Seattle Great Wheel—is the perfect home base for exploring the Pacific Northwest, including Olympic National Park and San Juan Islands.
Lay on the Beach
For some families, a great summer vacation always includes a beach. The best seaside destinations include plenty to do beyond the sand and offer captivating indoor activities for when you need to get out of the sun.
Fill out your itinerary in the Outer Banks. If your family likes to stay busy, this summer vacation destination is for you. There’s so much to do in the Outer Banks, including museums, mini-golf, and lots of lighthouses.
Enjoy island life in the Florida Keys. A fun summer vacation for kids isn’t always parents’ idea of a good time. However, the Florida Keys have something for everyone, with incredible marine life, beautiful beaches, and great food.
Combine city and sea in San Diego. For a beach vacation with all the amenities of a city destination, try San Diego. This family summer vacation idea is filled with charming neighborhoods, amusement parks, and Balboa Park.
Plan a Staycation
Stay close to home for all the fun of the best summer family vacations without anyone asking, “Are we there yet?”
Book a hotel with a pool. Enjoy a night or two of ice-cold air conditioning and splashing in the pool at a nearby hotel. Room service and a good movie make for an extra special family pajama party.
Visit a new museum. Is there a museum you keep meaning to visit with the whole family? Make a day of a trip to a museum with a picnic lunch or dinner out. Because you’re so close to home, you can have the kids invite friends along.
Bring home a new game. Whether it’s a brand new game or just new to your kids, a family-friendly game can keep kids busy for a few afternoons. Board games and lawn games are good candidates for multiple ages.
Take a Road Trip
It’s about the road trip journey, not the destination! So check your tire pressure, grab some snacks, and hit the road with your favorite tunes blaring. Contact a travel advisor to set the vibe with a safe and comfortable road trip rental vehicle.
Meander in the East Coast mountain ranges. The Blue Ridge, Alleghany, and Appalachian Mountains are all located on the East Coast. Each offers its own unique scenic splendors easily accessible from the interstate. The Blue Ridge Mountains are home to Cascade Falls and Craggy Pinnacle. The Alleghenies offer the Rimrock Overlook, while the Appalachians boast the famous Cooper’s Rock.
Drive scenic West Coast highways. Stop in Northern California and take a family snapshot among the ancient redwood trees that your kids will love showing their friends online. Then head south to explore San Deigo County’s famous watersports scene and delightful beachfront cafes. Capture timeless videos of your kids trying wakeboarding or surfing for the first time.
California may get all the headlines, with the scenic views offered by its legendary Carson Pass Byway and San Marcos Pass, but the West Coast road trip route possibilities don’t stop there. Pacific Northwestern states like Washington and Oregon boast their own scenic highways connecting famous attractions like Seattle’s Space Needle and the breathtaking Mt. Rainier.
Travel and history are a perfect pair, especially when the kids are involved! Take a family field trip to a cultural heritage center to make the most of your next summer vacation.
A multi-city trip can be a way to sample an entire region’s culture. Many have world-class accommodations that can enhance the historical immersion. Discover prestigious and inspiring sites that will leave a lasting impression on your family.
Visit our nation’s capital. In Washington D.C., you and your kids will be moved by the hundreds of awe-inspiring sites dedicated to telling our nation’s story. Filling out your family’s D.C. itinerary is easy with so many free and easily-accessible attractions, all within close proximity. Take your family to the world-famous Smithsonian Museum of Natural History where you can discover prehistoric relics and priceless artifacts. Your kids will dream big while at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, with its exhibits commemorating some of the nation’s greatest achievements in aerospace science.
Learn the fascinating history of Florida. Discover the Sunshine State through a plethora of sites, landmarks, and museums capturing its unique story. Originally a Spanish colony, and later a Confederate state during the Civil War, relics of Florida’s complex heritage can be found alongside timeless attractions like its award-winning beaches.