51 Great Family Summer Vacation Ideas

Thanks to Eileen Ogintz of TakingtheKids.com for sharing her 51 top summer family vacation adventures for 2012. In alphabetical order, they are:

1.   ADVENTURE  Costa Rica… The Galapagos Islands… Machu Picchu… American Canyonlands.  You can have all the memorable adventures you want without any stress when you let the experts lead the way on trips that are geared and designed for families.  Consider companies like Austin-Lehman(especially known for Yellowstone), Lindblad-National Geographic(known for family Galapagos trips), Thomson Family AdventuresWildland AdventuresREI Adventuresand Mountain Travel Sobek. Check outwww.fsguides.comfor other guided adventure options in beautiful wild places.   Australia-based Intrepid Traveltouts trips that might include a home stay with a local family.  Try searching for whales with Sea Kayak Adventuresin British Columbia.  Here’s what I wrote about climbing Kilimanjaro with my daughter and touring the Galapagos Islands. 
 
2.  ALASKA You can cruise the Inside Passage on many large cruise lines including Disneythis year—great for multi-generational families and those with young kids. But you can also tour Alaska on a different kind of cruise—from the 12-passenger Sea Wolf  that enables you to kayak every day in Glacier Bay to discovery ships with special family sailings from Inner Sea Discoveriesor Lindblad Expeditions  with National Geographic photography instructors on board.  Here’s what I wrote about Sea Wolf.  

3.   ALOHA HAWAII Especially if you are on the West Coast, you’ll find great deals in Hawaii like those fromPleasant Holidays, where you can score an air-car-condo deal.  Concentrate your stay on one island like Kauai where you can stay at an upscale resort like Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort, the centrally located Kauai Marriott Resortor a relaxed condo like The Colony Resorton the North Shore and take your pick of adventures—surfing, snorkeling, hiking.  Opt for Disney’s new Aulani Resorton Oahu or visit the big island of Hawaii where you can visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Parkand see Kilauea Volcano. Here’s what I wrote about a recent trip to Kauaiand to see the Aulani. 
 
4.   ARIZONA may be hot in the summer but it’s got great hotel bargains and sites like the Grand Canyon. You can escape the heat lounging at the spectacular Scottsdaleresort pools congratulating yourself on the great deal you’ve gotten. Stay at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, with fireworks every summer Saturday night for just $159 per night, which includes a $50 resort credit for dining, spa or tennis. The kids will love the dive-in movies!  Take a ride down a 110-foot long waterslide and float down the lazy river at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spawhen you book a family fun pack with rates starting at $169. Plus, receive a $100 daily resort credit for dining, spa, golf or the Kid’s Club.  My gang loved the 2.5 acre water playground and the Native American experiences at the Hyatt Regencywhere you can get a fourth night free. When you’ve had enough of the pool Explore the Musical Instrument Museum’scollection of 15,000 instruments from around the world through interactive displays for only $15 for adults and free for kids five and under or Take a flashlight tour atDesert Botanical Garden.  Let’s not forget Tucson  with equally terrific resorts, dude ranches and the first-rateArizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  Here’s what I wrote about a stay at a Scottsdale resort  and on a train to the Grand Canyon.
 
5.   ATLANTIS, the gargantuan (3,500-room) Paradise Island resort boasts everything from a teen club CRUSH to cooking lessons for kids to interactions with dolphins and sea lions and an expansive Aquaventure Waterpark as well as spa treatments (for kids as well as parents), some 40 restaurants and lounges andsummer fantasy campsfor everything from LEGO building to marine adventures to cheerleading. But despite kids eat and stay free deals, Atlantis can be expensive when you add up all of the activity charges. Here’s what I wrote about Atlantis.
 
6.    BOSTON AND CAPE COD  There’s no better city to begin the college hunt (there are more than 50 in the Boston area), learn a little American history (think Freedom Trailand Boston National Historical Park) and  experience a historic baseball park (Fenwayis celebrating its 100th anniversary!). That’s not counting the wonderful New England Aquarium(go whale watching!), MIT Museum(think robots) and the Museum of Fine ArtsMuseum of Scienceand Boston Children’s Museumamong them. The iconic Fairmont Copley Plazais celebrating its centennial with several family packages.  In celebration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner, majestic Tall Ships and Navy Ships from around the world will gather in Boston in the week leading up to July 4th.  Head to The Cape for some fun in the sun on beach along the Cape Cod National Seashorewith lighthouses, wild cranberry bogs, miles and miles of beaches. Rent a house or opt for a resort like the newly renovated Ocean EdgeResort and Golf Club with tennis, pools, beach, golf and access to the 26-mile Cape Cod Bike & Rail Trail.  Here’s what I wrote about learning African American history in Boston and to Provincetown.
 
7.   CALIFORNIA   Take your pick of Disneyland (look for deals from Southwest Vacations), Universal Studios Hollywood or Legoland. You can head to beach towns like Huntington Beach, explore  museums and restaurants in San Francisco, shop till you drop or check out a huge dino in Los Angeles, maybe spying a celebrity. Want to commune with the animals? Go to the Monterey Bay Aquariumin Monterey,  the famous San Diego Zooor Sea World. Relax at a resort like the historic Del Coronadoin San Diego touting special family packages, kids and teen club and even a teen spa.   If you’ve never camped or just don’t want to sleep on the ground, check out places like El Capitan Canyonin Santa Barbara, CA. There are bikes, hiking trails through the Canyon's 300 acres of undeveloped foothills, a heated swimming pool, and even massages in either a spa cabin or an open-air spa tent by the creek. Here’s what I wrote about the San Diego Zoo and Monterey.
 
8.   CITY LIGHTS  Amtrak offers significant discounts for kids to let you explore a nearby city over a weekend when hotels are eager to fill rooms which means you will score a deal. For example, Omni Hotels & Resortshas launched Camp Omni, a deal that is good all summer and  includes room discounts, breakfast buffet for kids, gift card for kids to use and even a collapsible water bottle. Check websites like www.getaroom.com andwww.hotels.com , or check www.craigslist.comfor apartment rentals in cities where you want to visit. Take a weekend to visit a city near your home—BaltimoreIndianapolisDenverKansas City  and explore like a tourist.  Go to a baseball game, a museum, a festival, a theatrical performance, a locally run restaurant; Check the city’s official tourism website for the latest deals and to see what special family offerings are available. Let each child plan a day of the itinerary. You will be amazed where they lead you!  Here’s what I wrote aboutBaltimore  and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the largest in the country.

9.   COLLEGE TOURING  Leave the other kids in the family behind and opt for some one-on-one time with your high school junior. Stay in a Bed and Breakfastnear the campus to pick up some intel from locals. Don’t try to cram too many schools into one trip.  They all start to seem the same! Check out www.goseecampus.com, a free website offering the first online college trip planner for high school students and parents. Bring a lap top or iPad and have your high schooler jot down some thoughts after each visit. What did he like? What didn’t she like?  And if you drive up to the campus and they refuse to get out of the car, keep driving. Here’s what I wrote about Boston college touring.
 
10.  COOKING TOGETHER  Learn how to make a delicious Italian pizza or pasta by hand, while exploring regions of Italy famous for the culinary traditions along the way. Boston-based Lauren Birmingham Piscitellileads culinary tours in Italy with a focus on kids cooking — whether they are three or 18. Opt for a cooking class where you are visiting.  Here’s what I wrote about a family cooking class in Mexico and in Italy.

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