Summer Travel

10 Summer Family Vacation Ideas

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when it’s time to book that annual family summer vacation. With so many possibilities, how do you come up with a plan without spending hours online?

Nancy wrote a great post a few weeks ago with tips for family vacation planning. What kind of trip are you in the mood for this year? … Mountains? Beach? Urban adventure? Cultural trip?

One nice aspect of traveling with kids is the fact that it’s best to create simple itineraries — this means in a 7-14 day trip you only need to figure out 1-3 stops, particularly if you create a homebase at a single accommodation for a week or more.

The cruel reality of my job as the Editor of Ciao Bambino is that I’m continually reading about fantastic vacation venues — talk about torture for a woman with perpetual wanderlust!

Here are 10 summer family vacation ideas to get brainstorm juices flowing …

Resort at Squaw Creek swimming pool

Visit a ski town

Ski resorts are exhilarating over summer months when the weather is glorious and there are endless outdoor attractions for active families — swimming, hiking, biking, fishing, rafting, boating and more. Moreover, this can be a great way to stay at a top-notch resort that is otherwise cost prohibitive during ski season.

Ski areas typically have a wide array of accommodations. VRBO can be a good resource if you want a home or condo rental (we’re working on growing our list of family-friendly villa rental agencies), or opt for a full-service hotel where you get like a pool, onsite restaurant, and structured kids’ club. An increasing number of hotels in ski venues offer condo-type rooms too.

A few stand out options from our family ski hotel list include Sun Valley Lodge in Idaho and the Resort at Squaw Creek in Lake Tahoe, and I’m absolutely drooling over the Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont.

Turks and Caicos beach.  Photo Credit Nancy Solomon

Head to the Caribbean

A Caribbean beach vacation is a good option for last minute planners assuming you have access to affordable airfare and confirm there are no forthcoming hurricanes. If you can make it work, the reward is deals on luxury hotels that may be otherwise unaffordable. Yes, the weather may be hot and steamy, but there is plenty of water nearby for cooling off.

A few stand out luxury options from our Caribbean family hotels list include Grace Bay Club on Turks and Caicos and CuisinArt Resort and Spa in Anguilla where summer rates are 30-50% off.In addition, many of the resorts offer family-focused promotions with even more juicy savings.

Giddy up at Smith Fork Ranch

Check out a Dude Ranch

Dude ranch vacations are one of my all-time favorite vacation options for families. The all-inclusive structure means that you will be miles away for the day-to-day rigors of managing schedules and meals. Ranch vacations are costly — there is no question about that — but there is value in these holidays once you add together all that is included in the nightly rate (meals, lodging, activities).

A few stand out options from our portfolio include Vista Verde Ranch outside of Steamboat Springs, Smith Fork Ranch in Colorado, and Red Horse Mountain Ranch in Idaho.

Tuscany with kids

Spend a week in Tuscany

In addition to an insane number of family-friendly things to do and eat, the beauty of visiting Tuscany is the sheer number of family accommodations available. We like what we call “resorts” on Ciao Bambino where you get apartment-like amenities in a resort setting with other families. Many of these options are surprisingly value-oriented.Yes, the flight over can ruin the savings party, but once you get there, Italy can be more affordable than other top European tourist destinations for meals and activities (not car rentals).

If travel time is limited to 10 or less days, visit Florence with kids in a day trip or two, but avoid staying in the heart of the city for the full vacation as it is hot and crowded from June through August.

Sunriver Lodge

Explore a new state – Oregon anyone?

I’m dying to get back to Oregon. The natural beauty is phenomenal and it seems off-path enough that you feel like you are doing something different. Nancy still talks about her trip to Sunriver Resort. Kid-friendly biking, hiking, swimming, and relaxing — it’s all there and easy to access. Another plus is the wide array of resort rooms and rental homes.

Summer in Chicago

Take an urban adventure

Summer in New York City doesn’t have much appeal to me, but Chicago? The Windy City is glorious over the summer months given all the lakefront real estate and there are plenty of attractions for children to keep every age and interest engaged

San Diego Surf Camp. Photo Credit Nancy Solomon

Experience San Diego

San Diego is an incredible year-round family vacation destination. There is a bit of everything to do from beaches to Legoland to San Diego Surf Camp to the San Diego Zoo to golf to shopping — it’s endless.

We have a fantastic list of San Diego family hotels on Ciao Bambino. Stand out options include the Hotel Del Coronado for the beachfront setting combined with a kids’ club that gets rave reviews. The Four Seasons Aviara is just minutes from Legoland and amazingly family-friendly (Four Seasons is one of our top family-friendly hotel chains).

We also have a client that stayed at the Homewood Suites Del Mar; he reported back that it works well for its suites, space, and kitchen facilities in a central location to all of San Diego’s top attractions.

Galway family fun. Photo Credit Nancy Solomon

Take an Irish road trip

This is the one place where you can ignore my simple itinerary rule and stay in a variety of accommodations.Ireland is best seen by car in a moving trip where you can visit a variety of sights and regions. See the fantastic tips for Ireland with kids article we published earlier this year by Kate of for travel advice.

I wish we had more hotels reviewed on our Ireland family hotels list. Stay tuned for more. Nonetheless, Ireland is spectacular and fun place to roam.

Get outside and go camping

I can’t say I’d want to camp for an entire week at a time, but camping is a blast for 2-3 day getaways. You can’t beat the price, scenery, or fun! Note that the really popular destinations will book early so take the time to make reservations — besides if you can’t go you’ve lost $25, not a few hundred dollars. Reserve America is one of the main sites where you can book campsites.

For our California readers, DL Bliss State Park in Lake Tahoe is one of my absolute favorite campgrounds. The park smells amazing, looks amazing, and has a premium lakefront location (with showers!) with all the usual fun families have in Lake Tahoe. See my post from last year covering camping with kids.

Rovinj in Istria. Photo Credit Heather Cowper

Explore Istria

Where? I know, I said the same thing when I first heard more about it but everyone I talk that has been there simply raves about Istria in Croatia. Ever since I published Heather Cowper’s post on visiting Croatia it’s been on my list of places to see — pricing is more reasonable than much of the rest of Europe with a strong Italian influence around food and culture, i.e. sign me up!

Start a Discussion

  • I would definitely recommend Chicago as a great place to visit with kids. I lived there for 7 years and go back just about every summer. There really is a ton of stuff to do there; aquarium, navy pier, museum of science & industry, and a bunch of other things. I would absolutely recommend it for a trip with kids.
    Also, for the Caribbean I like the Bahamas a lot. A really fun place with a lot of cool things to do and beautiful beaches. I believe they have a number of family friendly hotels also.

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