Did you ever stop to think about the fact that we really only get 18 summers with our kids to make precious memories? It won’t be long before they want to spend vacations with their friends and significant others (they do come back later though, don’t worry!). If COVID stole your summer vacation last year, it’s even more important to take a family trip this summer. Here are 10 amazing destinations you can visit that are open and ready for your family to enjoy!
1. Riviera Maya, Mexico
If you have never checked out Riviera Maya, it is a fabulous destination for families. Not only are there some great family-friendly resorts but there is so much to do within a short drive from your resort. You can check out everything from cenotes to Mayan ruins. You can even take a ferry over to Cozumel and it’s easy to get to from most major airports! Riviera Maya is very safe for tourists and unlike Cancun has a more neighborhood feel. It is also a very walkable area!
Pro tip: If you are a beach lover, not every resort has a great beach, in fact, many do not. Make sure if the beach is your priority, you ask your travel advisor or look to another destination. 2. Aruba You can never go wrong with Aruba! The weather is typically beautiful, hurricanes don’t visit often and unlike many other islands in the Caribbean, you may not want to stay in an all-inclusive resort. Why? Because there are so many fabulous activities and restaurants outside the resorts that you will want to explore the island. Aruba offers everything from flamingos to fishing expeditions to casinos for the grown-ups. And the beaches can’t be beaten!
Pro tip: When eating out there is a 10-20% gratuity generally added to your bill. If you want to leave a little extra, a 15% tip is the average. 3. Costa Rica Want to wake up to the sounds of wild birds and howler monkeys outside your window? Costa Rica is your place to visit! You can get to Costa Rica within about 4 hours from Charlotte and just under 6 hours from Boston.
Not only is there great wildlife to visit, but your family can also see a volcano, go ziplining through the jungle, swim at some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and take an ATV or motorcycle tour.
Pro tip: If you want to self-drive in Costa Rica, consider a 4X4 vehicle. Some major roads are paved but the majority are dirt paths. In a rainstorm, it would be easy to get stuck without a 4X4.
Hawaii has eight major islands so it is important to note that the big island, Maui, and Oʻahu are extremely popular right now, and not only is it hard to find affordable accommodations and flights, rental car availability is at an all-time low. So for summer 2021, my picks are Kaua‘i, Lāna‘i, and Molokaʻi. These islands are a little less touristy and will offer more in the way of family-friendly accommodations right now.
Kaua‘I is actually the fourth biggest island in Hawaii and is often referred to as the Garden Island. Here your family can appreciate beautiful waterfalls, forking rivers, and tropical rainforests. Adventure seekers will be able to go kayaking, snorkeling, and hiking to name a few activities.
Lāna‘I is the smallest inhabited island you can visit in Hawaii. Your family will quickly see that it has two distinct personalities. On one hand are the luxurious resorts, championship golf courses, and first-class restaurants. On the other hand, are the rugged back roads with plenty to explore off the beaten path.
Molokaʻi is Hawaii’s fifth-largest island and is home to the highest sea cliffs in the world. Your family can also see the longest continuous reef in all the world. True to its roots, the island is made up of a high percentage of persons with Native Hawaiian ancestry who continue to preserve their rural lifestyle thanks to their love of the land. You can also find some of the most beautiful, secluded beaches here.
Pro Tip: Once you are in Hawaii it is easy to visit several islands. Many carriers offer inter-island flights which are generally pretty short. For example, from Honolulu to Molokaʻi it is only a 20-minute flight. You can also take a ferry from Maui to Lāna‘I. 5. Greece Yes, it seems like European travel may not have opened back up yet but it has! Most countries are welcoming Americans and other tourists back and what a beautiful place to visit with your family. First of all, many people may not be ready to travel to Europe just yet, meaning lower crowds. Secondly, if you want to visit some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, the water is refreshing without being cold with a max temp in most areas of 77⁰F. There are also 14 hours of daylight in the summer!
Like Hawaii, there are several islands to choose from but you can easily island hop. Almost all restaurants and tavernas are family-friendly where your children will be welcomed with open arms, quite literally.
Pro Tip: High chairs are not a common thing in most restaurants in Greece so a stroller will be a great asset if you have young ones. 6. The Galapagos Islands and Cloud Forest Ecuador Known as “Las Islas Encantadas” (The Enchanted Isles), the Galapagos are a unique place on this planet for a family vacation. A cruise of 4-5 days across the isles gives time for snorkeling, swimming, trekking and get up close and personal with the unique flora and fauna of each destination. Say hello to penguins, iguanas, blue-footed boobies, giant tortoises and so much more. Cruises in the Galapagos are not relaxing affairs, you will be busy every day and that makes for a wonderful family adventure.
Once back on dry land venture to your lodging in the heart of the cloud forest with waterfalls, exotic flora and fauna, adventure trails, and even cycle a bicycle across the sky over the treetops! This truly is one of the best family vacation spots in South America.
Pro Tip: Guides (for both group and private tours) expect to be tipped and rely on these tips, so budget in about $5-10/person per day for group tours and $10-20/day for private guides.
7. Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah The Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument has been quietly doing its thing for between 275 million and 50 million years. But it’s relatively new to us humans: It was the last part of the lower 48 United States to get cartographed, and once people started poking around, they realized they were dealing with an un-spent wealth of ancient and modern science and culture. It’s a big empty playground for off-roaders, canyoners, and regular old hikers. Lots of jeep trails, cliffs, and other photo-hungry rock forms across GSENM’s 1.9 million acres, too, which are broken up into three geographic sections. From west to east they are: Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits Plateau, and Canyons of the Escalante. Your family can enjoy everything from hiking to fishing to horseback riding and ATV tours.
There is also no shortage of accommodation styles with everything from luxury glamping to RV parks and hotels.
Pro Tip: Flash floods and runoff from heavy rain will make desert roads impassable to all but high-clearance 4WD vehicles. Always inquire about road conditions with the local BLM office and visitor centers prior to driving any unpaved road.
The last frontier is an excellent vacation spot for families and summer is the best time to go! Cruise lines and local officials have expressed muted optimism about Alaska Travel in 2021, which may be the best year to see Alaska given that cruise ships are unlikely to sail full and coastal towns won't have their typical crowds even with the vaccine rollout. You can also skip the civilization part and head right for national parks such as Glacier Bay, Misty Fjords, and Kenai Fjords which are best reached by boat.
Pro Tip: The climate in Alaska is very dry. It is essential to bring body lotion and perhaps eye drops and saline mist for your nose!
9. Northern Minnesota
You may be thinking, Minnesota, really? But clear views of the cosmos — and even the Northern Lights, if you’re lucky — are only part of the fun in this water-rich region. If your family loves adventure, head to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness’ 1.1 million rugged acres to paddle 1,200 miles of canoe-portage routes and camp under the stars. You can also visit the neighboring 218,000-acre Voyageurs National Park. This treasure is a watery wonderland, making motorized houseboats a novel way to stargaze and explore the park’s five main lakes and deciduous forests.
Pro Tip: State parks in Minnesota have a program called “I Can!” where your family can try outdoor activities for the first time. You can pick things like overnight camping to mountain biking. You’ll receive hands-on instruction and gear is provided.
The Historic Area of Willemstad, Curaçao is one of the most interesting areas you can visit in the Caribbean. When you see the brightly colored building from across the Queen Emma floating bridge it's an odd juxtaposition because the weather and colors scream Caribbean while the architecture feels like you've just entered a quaint Dutch town. This is a great destination for history lovers and beachgoers alike. The people are welcoming, the pace is a little slower and the food is amazing. Plus, it is pretty easy to get here with a roughly 4-hour flight from Charlotte or Boston.
Pro Tip: Take a visit to the Hato Caves, a 12-minute drive from the airport. You’ll be led underground by your tour guide who will explain the ancient history of the 300,000-year-old cave system and point out interesting features. The cave is well paved and very safe, although be warned that you do need to first negotiate the 49 steps before getting to the cave entrance. There’s also a cactus garden to explore and food and drink stand for refreshments.
With all travel, this year, check your destination's COVID restrictions and rules before you make your choice and book early! This is the time to get out and experience life but many of us have the same idea so flights and hotels are booking quickly in many areas. If this list has inspired you to take your family on a summer vacation, please get in touch. I would love to help you plan your next favorite family vacation! Just click on "Schedule a Consultation" and we can chat about your summer vacation plans.