I can almost feel the sand between my toes – summer is approaching that quickly. If you are hoping to make some summer vacation memories with your kids, but are struggling for a plan, consider these flexible and memory-making ideas.
1. Houseboats – Take a mini-cruise by renting your own houseboat for a lazy week on a river or lake. Several states across the country offer houseboat rentals. Depending on the size of boat, you could even share the trip with other family members to reduce the cost and increase the fun. There are usually suggested stops along the way for outings, swimming, and sight-seeing, and you can specifically search for houseboats that offer great fishing or bird watching opportunities.
2. Music Festivals – From local concerts in the park to major artists gathering for a weekend of summer songs, music festivals can be great for families with kids of all ages. The babies can boogie while Mom and Dad get to relax and enjoy the surroundings. If you go for an afternoon, pack a picnic lunch or see if the music festival has vendors. For weekend music festivals, plan to pack the tent and have some late nights – probably best for older kids and parents young at heart.
3. State Park Pass – Visit a new state park every weekend and enjoy hiking, swimming, boating, fishing, bird watching, picnicking, and even camping. You can go for just the day or arrange to stay for several days. Check to see if your state park system offers a junior naturalist program. Our state gives kids passports with activities to do at each state park they visit. They can earn badges and certificates for completing certain tasks.
4. Ghost Town Adventure – Teens might be more enthusiastic about a family vacation if you throw in a little drama. You can visit a ghost town or take a scenic ghost train ride that travels by various “haunted” locations.
5. Road Trip to Anywhere – My kids love it when we travel with no particular destination. When they were younger (before they had iPods with map aps), they would just shout out directions as we drove, and we would end up where we ended up. We always managed to find something new and interesting to see. Just pack a cooler, an atlas (or a teen with an iPod), a tent (just in case), and a sense of adventure. You can go for just a day, or really travel far – setting a time limit of perhaps 4-5 hours of travelling to reach your spontaneous vacation destination.
6. Train Ride – One of my favorite memories as a child was a train ride my family took. You can take an excursion for one afternoon, take a sleeper train for an extended scenic tour, or use a train to travel from one destination on your vacation to another. Check out the National Railroad Museum for some fun ideas and destinations.
7. Horseback Riding – Again this is probably for the older kids, but horseback riding can be a great way to get the family outdoors together. You can just take an afternoon of riding lessons or go all in on a week-long trail ride. My daughter spent several days with her grandmother on a trail ride – a great experience for them both.
8. Bloom Where You’re Planted Vacation – Make the most of wherever you have to be this summer – family reunions, business trips, or even staying at home. This summer will be a calendar full of baseball tournaments for our family as our son plays on a travelling team – none of games in particularly noteworthy cities across the region. We, however, are going to make the most of these weekend excursions and bloom where we’re planted. For each city we will visit for baseball games, I am compiling a list of sight-seeing adventures from local Chamber offices. None of the sights will include Disney or theme park adventures, but we will see some unique and interesting attractions – making the most of our travels.
9. Beaches – Sand between the toes and the smell of suntan lotion always make me smile. The kids giggle as they hit the waves, and spend just as many hours swimming as they do building castles and creations in the sand. If a beach is on your to-do list this summer, check out the listing of America’s Best Beaches, released Memorial Day weekend by “Dr. Beach” that details his recommendation for the best beaches to visit.
10. Water Adventures – What’s a summer vacation without water? Visit a local water park, tube on a lazy river, or go whitewater rafting. One of my favorite childhood memories was whitewater rafting with my best friend’s family. We camped, swam, and had the adventure of a lifetime rafting a river. For your younger kids, consider renting a canoe, kayaks, or even a peddle boat for an afternoon. Maybe this will be the summer your kids tube behind a boat or learn to waterski (thanks to Uncle Jim for making sure all of us as kids knew how to water ski as soon as we knew how to swim!).