Before you know it, fall days will be here again, the kids will be back in school and you might even miss their little cries of “I’m bored” every hour of every day. But until it’s back to parent-teacher meetings, bake sales and sporting events, you have a few precious weeks left to enjoy the end of summer. You know what that means? Time to take a quick break and indulge in a little family travel!
A short family vacation before the semester starts can be a great way to wrap up summer and kick off the school year relaxed, renewed and ready to go. Better yet, your family travel doesn’t have to be a headache. We’ve compiled some of the best and easiest destinations for short, easy family vacations.
1. Washington, D.C.
While you may think it's overrated, if you've never been, you're missing out. Washington, D.C., is not only educational and entertaining for the entire family, it’s also filled with affordable and free attractions and totally walkable. For a family vacation everyone will love, skip some of the more so-called “boring” attractions, like the Declaration of Independence and the Washington Monument, and head straight to the kid-friendly fun at the Smithsonian’s variety of museums. You’re sure to find one that fits your child’s budding interests, whether they’re into planes, trains and automobiles, or the country’s natural history (complete with dinosaurs!).
2. Florida Space Coast
If you’ve got a future astronaut on your hands, load up the car and their favorite Luvabub rocket backpack and head to Florida’s Space Coast. You can watch the rockets launch at Cape Canaveral and explore the Kennedy Space Center, for an up-close look at far-away galaxies. Of course, the rest of the family will have fun, too. Beyond all the space-age activities and attractions, you’ll find beautiful beaches (and even some uncrowded ones!) and a variety of resorts that range from luxury to budget-friendly. Don’t forget to pack your hiking gear, from your favorite hiking shoes to your children's backpack! As you head inland, you can find marshes and wetlands perfect for wildlife spotting.
Want to get out of the country, but don’t want to deal with the extreme hassle of international flights and a huge language barrier with a toddler in tow? Head north, to Toronto. The friendly, modern city has just enough to do, that you can easily see it all without overtiring your littlest traveling companions (because we all know that’s a huge risk of traveling with kids). See the CN Tower (little daredevils will love the glass-bottomed observatory and seeing the world hundreds of feet below their shoes), the Toronto Zoo, Royal Ontario Museum and maybe even catch a baseball game, all within the span of a short weekend trip.
If your family travel often includes outdoor adventures and pint-sized adrenaline, Gatlinburg and Great Smoky Mountains National Park could be a great fit for you. Pack up your favourite Luvabub children's backpack and hit the miles upon miles of trails for hiking and biking. If that’s not your style, the city has plenty of tourist attractions as well, including an aquarium, several museums and a main drag bustling with shops of all kinds. You’ll even find mini golf and go-karts, for some friendly family competition. There are a variety of resorts to choose from, whether you want a luxury log cabin in the woods or a budget property right in town.
An easy family vacation destination if there ever was one, Chicago has it all and everything is either very easily walkable or just a short Uber drive away. Visit the free Lincoln Park Zoo, walk along the lakefront, ride the Ferris wheel on Navy Pier, pay a visit to Sue the T-Rex at the Field Museum or enjoy the beautiful aquarium or planetarium, both located just next door. Plus, the food scene is very kid-friendly (think pizza and popcorn galore), which can make traveling with kids that much easier.
6. Outer Banks
The Outer Banks is a great East Coast beach destination that sports smaller crowds than what you might find in Hilton Head or further south in Florida. Instead, these barrier islands with their beaches offer serene shores perfect for active families. For the more bookish among us and the history nerds, there are also quite a few sites to see, once you’re tired of the sand and surf. See where the Wright Brothers learned to fly and where pirates once roamed the shores, before exploring a historic (and maybe even haunted) lighthouse or two. Rent a beach house affordably for the weekend and you’ll have all the space and convenience you need.
The streets of Philly offer plenty of walkable sites, whether you want to see the Liberty Bell or some creepy medical history (brains in a jar, anyone?) at the Mutter Museum. However, while you’re here, it’s also a great idea to rent a car and drive just a little further north to nearby Langhorne, Pennsylvania. It’s there that you’ll find Sesame Place, consistently named the world’s best amusement park for toddlers. Everything is perfectly their size and they’ll find all their favorite characters alongside scare-free rides.
8. Niagara Falls
This low-key destination is fun for the entire family and a super-easy family travel getaway, whether you visit the U.S. or the Canadian side. The views are gorgeous enough to make anyone’s jaw drop, regardless of your age. Enjoy the view even more when you’re under the falls — take a Maid of the Mist boat ride, which is sure to make everyone squeal with excitement. Don’t forget to snap a photo of everyone all together in their ponchos! At night, catch a view of the brightly-lit falls and get a high-flying point of view from Skylon Tower.
9. The Out Islands
If you want to soak up all the sand, sun and surf you can get before the dreary days of fall set in, but still want to keep things simple, there’s no need to venture into the great unknown. Keep things familiar, yet tropical, with a trip to the Bahamas, but skip the crowds of Nassau and go for the Out Islands. You’ll fill your family’s days with water sports, sandcastles and an easy-breezy way of life, no shoes or shirts required.
10. San Diego
On the West Coast, San Diego provides families with a quick, urban getaway and an endless amount of activities to choose from. The San Diego Zoo is frequently lauded as one of the best in the world and any animal lover will want to stop in. Other top family travel attractions include LEGOLAND and SeaWorld. Beyond the fun activities, San Diego also offers families beautiful beaches and a great food scene for mom and dad.
If leaving your city or state is out of the question then a family day or a backyard camp out can be just as fun before back to school season kicks in.