If you are anything like my family, we start planning our travel for the summer about this time. Where are you going to travel this year with your family? Wherever you go, traveling with little ones can be challenging at times and is much different than before you had children. You can make almost anywhere work with young children if you really want to, but let’s face it, there are certain locations that are much more family friendly than others. I have been fortunate enough to travel all over the world and have had a lot of trial and error when traveling with little ones. To help make it easier for you this year, I made a list of the top five places to travel as a family, with young children in mind! Each location has what to do, where to stay, and even when the best time is to go!
#1: Orlando, Florida
What to Do: Orlando has the most to offer for families with little ones. Orlando often has great weather and houses multiple theme parks like Universal Studios Orlando, Wet ‘n Wild, and Islands of Adventure, as well as Sea World Orlando and Discovery Cove, Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, Disney’s Blizzard Beach, Disney’s Quest, and Disney’s River Country. Just a 50-minute drive away to Winter Haven is Legoland and just over an hour away is Busch Gardens in Tampa!
Where to Stay: If you are going to be spending a lot of time at the Disney parks, I suggest staying at one of their 30+ themed hotels and resorts. Prices range from approximately $200-$800 per night based on the time of year you travel. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/ They even have campsites and cabins at their Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. Many of the resorts offer vacation packages, so make sure you look into all of your options. If you are not planning on spending much time at the Disney parks, then I suggest staying at a hotel you can get points from and or to even book a hotel with either a daily complimentary breakfast or one that has a kitchen in the room. I know cooking on vacation doesn’t sound ideal, but you will save a lot of money from not eating out every meal and you will probably stay a little healthier.
When to Go: According to U.S. News, the best time to travel to Orlando is January to April. The weather is pleasant and you can get great deals on hotel accommodations. Summer is considered the worst time to travel due to the very hot, humid weather, the large amount of tourists, and the high hotel prices due to summer break. Even though it is not considered to be the most desirable time to go, many of us have no choice but to travel during the summer months. Another option is to travel in early fall, right after school resumes for the year and before the holiday season.
#2: San Diego, California
What to Do: Southern California is the second largest area in the country with the most theme parks and family friendly activity options including the World Famous San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Safari Park, Sea World San Diego, and Legoland. Just an hour north of San Diego is Disneyland and California Adventure Theme Park and Knott’s Berry Farm. If you travel just a little further north, you can visit Universal Studios Hollywood and or Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park if you like roller coasters. Unlike Orlando, the theme parks in California are much more spread out and you would definitely need to rent a car. San Diego also offers families places to visit like Coronado Island, famous for the Hotel Del Coronado, beautiful beaches, restaurants, and shops. Families can also visit Balboa Park for the beautiful gardens and many museums, the USS Midway, Seaport Village, Old Town, Scripps Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, the New Children’s Museum downtown near the famous Gaslamp District and did I mention the beaches? You can pretty much drive anywhere along the coast and stop at any beach along the way with your family for the day and swim and play until your heart’s content.
Where to Stay: San Diego does not lack in hotel accommodation choices. As I mentioned, San Diego is spread out so not everything is all in one area. If you are planning on going to the Zoo and to Disneyland in the same trip, I suggest staying at a hotel in between both locations. In this case, I would look for hotels in or around the Carlsbad area, which is considered North County, San Diego. Depending on what time of year you travel, you can get a great hotel room near the beach for as low as $100 a night. If you really want to splurge, you can book a room at the Legoland Resort http://california.legoland.com/en/LEGOLAND-Hotel/ or at the Omni La Costa Resort and Spa http://www.omnihotels.com/hotels/san-diego-la-costa
When to Go: San Diego is pleasant all year long. According to U.S. News, the best times to travel to San Diego are from March through May and September though November. Believe it or not, it does actually rain during January and February, but it can also be sunny in the 70’s! As any popular travel destination, anytime there is a break from school during the summer months or during the holiday month of December, prices can skyrocket and tourists will be everywhere. Honestly, you cannot go wrong traveling to San Diego anytime throughout the year. From personal experience, September and October are two of the best months to travel to San Diego.
#3: Maui, Hawaii
What to Do: Maui can be expensive to travel to and a long flight if you live on the East Coast, but if you can, take your family to Hawaii! Oahu has a lot to offer families but Maui is my personal favorite. I suggest you take your family to go whale watching, snorkeling, or parasailing. Go see a luau, build sand castles at the beach (I suggest Baby Beach), go to the Maui Ocean Center 5-acre aquarium, take a trip on the Atlantis submarine, take a surf lesson, swim in the pool, or go on a family hike to a waterfall! There is so much to do in Maui – you will not be disappointed. Plus did I mention Maui has the best weather year round and beautiful scenery and sunsets? Your camera will feel like it’s on vacation, too!
Where to Stay: I suggest staying at the Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa http://www.sheraton-maui.com, tucked on the end of the Kaanapali beach walkway, with some of the best snorkeling on the island right outside on the hotel’s beach. They have a daily cliff diving ceremony, their own luau, multiple pools, restaurants, and even yoga classes on the beach! They have special programs for children where kids “keiki” can make their own fresh flower lei, learn how to dance the hula, and learn how to play the ukulele. If you have money to splurge, stay at the Grand Wailea http://www.grandwailea.com where you and your family can swim in the multiple pools, drift away in the lazy river, jump off the rope swing, ride on the pool elevator, ride down the water slides, and play in the designated pool area with a mini beach. They even have a 20,000 square-foot facility home to child and teen programs called The Rock and the teen lounge called The Spot. Here children and teens can enjoy day and evening activities such as fresh orchid lei making, hula lessons, play video games, or play on the lego wall. They also have Camp Grande where your child can enjoy structured actives throughout the day and evening while you sip on a Mai Tai or get a massage at their famous spa! If a resort is not your preferred way to travel, then I would suggest getting a condo with a living room, a kitchen, and multiple bedrooms for a home away from home. This way you will also save some money on eating in restaurants, as you would be making the majority of your meals in your kitchen. The Kaanapali Alii http://www.kaanapalialii.com is a popular luxury oceanfront condominium option in the heart of Kaanapali beach, walking distance to Whaler’s Village and a short drive or bus ride to Lahaina where there are restaurants, shops, ice cream, and more!
When to Go: In my personal opinion, the best time to go to Maui is in May. If you cannot travel in late spring, then the next best time to travel to Maui is September through November. In these months, you will still experience amazing weather but will avoid the high prices and large crowds. If you want to surf, the best time to go is in the winter. For those summer travelers, summer is one of the best times to go for the calmest water conditions at the beach. This comes in especially handy when traveling with little ones.
#4: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
What to Do: Are you a road trip kind of family? Take a drive through South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. Yellowstone National Park, America’s first national park, is a must see for every family. The park is around 3,500 sq miles of wilderness that sits atop a volcanic hot spot. Yellowstone is best known for its gushing geysers, especially Old Faithful, but is also home to hundreds of animal species including bears, wolves, bison, elk, and antelope. There are also hot springs, canyons, rivers, and forests as well as biking, boating, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and more. They have online and in person activities for children and youth. Click on this link to learn more http://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/kidsyouth/index.htm Approximately 8 hours away from Yellowstone is Custer State Park in the Black Hills in southwestern South Dakota where there are bison a plenty that will actually come up to your car for a friendly visit. While you are in the area also go visit the famous Mount Rushmore National Memorial nearby.
Where to Stay: There are 9 lodging areas in Yellowstone. Here is the link to the site to make a reservation http://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/. They offer special packages all year round, but you must book early. You can also go camping if you are a camping kind of family, as there are 12 campgrounds in the park.
When to Go: According to U.S. News, the best times to travel to Yellowstone are March to May or September to November. These seasons offer milder weather conditions and fewer crowds. July and August are the busiest months for the park and the most popular months to visit. I’ve only been during the summer and the crowds were tolerable, so go when it is right for you. If you go during the winter you will most likely see everything covered in snow!
#5: Nassau, Bahamas
What to Do: Are you an all inclusive or cruising kind of family? The Bahamas has so much to offer a family but isn’t often on the top of the list when planning a vacation. The Bahamas is right off the Southeast coast of Florida where you and your family can visit Adventure Learning Centre’s petting farm, planetarium and nature trail, swim at the resort pool or build sand castles at the beach. Nassau, Bahamas is also home to the Ardastra Gardens, Zoo and Conservation Center.
Where to Stay: If you cruise to the Bahamas, most major cruise lines like Royal Caribbean http://www.royalcaribbean.com offer 3-9 night cruise options. The Bahamas is also the home to many all inclusive resorts like Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort and Offshore Island http://www.sandals.com/main/bahamian/ba-home/, Breezes Resort and Spa Bahamas http://www.breezes.com and the very famous Atlantis in Paradise Islands http://www.atlantisbahamas.com
When to Go: According to U.S. News, there is no bad time to visit the Bahamas. The weather is consistently beautiful, however, if you would like to avoid crowds, travel between May and November, the country’s offseason mostly because it’s considered the rainy season. Beware that hurricane season technically begins in June, even though the Bahamas typically sees the sun 300 days a year.
Wherever you end up traveling to this year, I wish you happy, healthy, and safe travels.