Where to go this summer? This can be a tough question when you’re deciding on a vacation. Whether it’s to the beach, a national park, or somewhere in between, there are a few different factors that need to be taken into consideration before you book your trip.
Sure, you want to spend some time away from home — but you also want your vacation to be something that the entire family will enjoy. To help make this decision easier, consider the following factors: How many people are going? Cost Budget including flights and lodging Do you have kids? Will your kids have fun? Is the destination kid-friendly? Age
When choosing a vacation destination and planning family trips, many parents and grandparents have in mind relaxing at the beach or going to fun theme parks and other attractions.
Popular summer vacation destinations for families
The No. 1 reason to book a vacation in this coastal town: the aquarium. Yes, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is that good. It levels up the typical touch tank experience by letting little kids crawl through tunnels surrounded by tropical fish displays and use squirt toys to learn how animals stand up to big waves. There’s even a padded zone with eye-level exhibits for toddlers!
And the whole family will be wowed by the aquarium’s newest exhibition, “Into the Deep: Exploring Our Undiscovered Ocean.” Some of the creatures in the 21 live exhibit areas are newly discovered and haven’t even been named yet. Mind blown! Stay at the hotel next door, InterContinental The Clement Monterey. Rates start at $343 per night.
Tweens and teens won’t roll their eyes if you suggest a vacay in L.A. — where, trust us, they’ll ask you to eat at In-N-Out-Burger. (Look cool and say you already had it on the list.) Some more must-dos: the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, where anyone 17 and under gets in free.
Visit the Griffith Observatory for the out-of-this-world exhibits and a stellar view of the Hollywood sign. Some outdoor shopping at The Grove L.A. and a beach day in Santa Monica with a spin on the iconic wheel at the Santa Monica Pier will get you more well-deserved parent cred. The new Thompson Hollywood exudes a laid-back California chic vibe — don’t be surprised if your teen wants to make TikToks from the rooftop pool. Rates start at $289 per night.
Disneyland Resort and California Adventure (Anaheim, California)
For a Disney trip with young kids, the Disneyland may edge out an Orlando vacay. Here are some reasons why: You can get on more rides without as much walking in California, so that means less tired and cranky kids. Summer weather is usually better in Anaheim than hot and humid Florida. And rides like Radiator Springs Racers, which looks like it’s right out of the movie Cars, is a Cali-exclusive. You can walk to the parks from the new Westin Anaheim, especially if little ones are in a stroller. Rates start at $330 per night.
Mohonk Mountain House – New Paltz, New York
With its jaw-dropping location on the shores of Lake Mohonk, Mohonk Mountain House is the perfect New York vacation destination for families who love swimming, kayaking, and row boating. Surrounded by thousands of acres of woodland, this all-inclusive resort is an especially beautiful fall family vacation spot for hikes and picnics when the weather is crisp and the leaves are changing.
Grand Hotel – Mackinac Island, Michigan
In the Upper Midwest, a stay at the nearly all-inclusive Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island has been one of the most popular family vacation ideas in the country since its opening in 1887. These Midwest family vacations at “America’s Summer Place” are only reachable by ferry (no cars allowed), and the historic island hotel offers family vacation packages that typically include meals (breakfast and dinner) and resort amenities.
Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa – Oahu, Hawaii
On the island of Oahu in Hawaii, family vacations get a decidedly Disney spin at Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa, where the resort’s mostly all-inclusive rates include nightly bonfires, character experiences, live entertainment, walking tours, ukulele lessons, a kids’ clubs, and a game room—to say nothing of its many kid-friendly pools, lazy rivers, and splash pad.
Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf and Beach Resort – Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
The Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico is another passport-free tropical family vacation idea. Located on the northeast side of the island of Puerto Rico, this sprawling resort borders El Yunque rainforest and is home to three lagoon-style swimming pools featuring a waterslide and waterfall. Its inclusive meal plan package includes unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, three meals per day, and use of the tennis courts.
Woodloch Pines Resort – Hawley, Pennsylvania
With bumper cars, go-karts, splash pools, and a jungle gym just for starters, you’d be forgiven for thinking the kids club at Woodloch Pines Resort is an actual theme park. At this family-run resort in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, the kid-friendly amenities go way above the ordinary. But don’t worry, adults will have plenty of fun too—family-friendly experiences here include hayrides, pony rides, and bowling.
C Lazy U Ranch – Granby, Colorado
Not far from Rocky Mountain National Park, the world-famous C Lazy U Ranch in Granby, Colorado, is an all-inclusive guest ranch that features both classic dude ranch activities (like trail rides) and modern kid-friendly amenities (like zip lining and a ropes course). A seasonal children’s program for ages three to 17 makes it an especially great pick for family vacations where the adults can use a little alone time while the kids go off and play.
Coconut Bay Beach Resort and Spa – Vieux Fort, St. Lucia
The Coconut Bay Beach Resort and Spa on St. Lucia is home to Splash Water Park, the island’s largest water park with two giant water slides and a lazy river. But what makes it truly special are the separate family (“Splash”) and adults-only (“Harmony”) accommodations areas and pools.
In addition to its five resort pools (two for adults only), there’s an on-site paintball facility, a kitesurfing and windsurfing center, a kids’ club, nine restaurants, and seven bars. And with adjoining rooms that sleep up to six and feature sitting rooms, sleeper sofas, and private balconies, Coconut Bay is a great vacation idea for larger families.
Club Med Punta Cana – Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
At Club Med Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, kids ages 11 to 17 get their own space called Club Med Passworld, which offers activities like horseback riding, water sports, archery, and even learning to swing on a flying trapeze. It’s a great vacation idea for families with hard-to-please teens and tweens.
Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts Riviera Maya – Playa del Carmen, Mexico
The kid-friendly Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts Riviera Maya in Playa del Carmen (about 30 minutes from the international airport and a host of other Cancun family resorts) brings SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to life in a five-star all-inclusive resort setting where every room is a swim-up oceanfront suite.
Family vacation highlights at this resort include character breakfasts, live Nick-themed shows and entertainment, and a six-acre outdoor water park with slides, rides, and splash pads.
Jewel Runaway Bay Beach Resort and Waterpark – Runaway Bay, Jamaica
At the all-inclusive Jewel Runaway Bay Beach Resort in Jamaica, it’s all about the water. The resort’s Jewel Lagoon Water Park boasts water slides, raft rides, and a lazy river with rock grottos and waterfalls. Kids and parents alike love the pool and beach, and in the evening the family fun includes live entertainment and drive-in movies.
Planet Hollywood Beach Resort – Culebra, Costa Rica
With its movie memorabilia, walk-of-fame, red carpet, and Stars Kids Club, Planet Hollywood Beach Resort in Costa Rica is a family vacation favorite for younger kids and teens alike. Other popular amenities at this Costa Rica family vacation hotspot include multiple swimming pools, a splash zone, a spa, and seven onsite restaurants. The all-inclusive resort also curates special experiences such as zip lining, canopy tours, horseback riding, and water sports like snorkeling and sailing excursions.