Now that the holidays are over and summer is right around the corner it's time to start planning your family vacation! Choosing the perfect spot that will make everyone happy can be a bit tricky. Between the kids wanting to constantly be on the go, your partners dreams of visiting every historically site imaginable, and your wish of just finding time to relax it all can feel a bit overwhelming. So, we compiled our list of our favorite family vacation spots, along with some tips, to help you get started!
Of course we couldn't start off this without including the happiest place on earth! If you are traveling here with your little ones may we suggest that you read of previous blog post that talks all about the best rides for those toddlers in your life.
Here are our tips for choosing Disney as your summer vacation spot this year:
- If you stay at one of the Disneyland hotels you have the awesome advantages of being able to enter the parks an hour before it's open to the public. Now talk about avoiding crowds! If your little ones have trouble waking up early, you can set up a surprise wake up call from one of their favorite Disney characters, now we're sure that will get them out of bed.
- Another perk of staying at one of the Disney hotels is having the option to leave the kids at Pinocchio's Workshop while you and your partner take some time away from the little ones. Don't worry; your kids will be too busy watching movies, doing arts and crafts, and playing games to even notice you're gone.
- F neither of the tips above interest you then finding a hotel off property can be a great way to save hundreds. There are plenty of nearby hotels and many of them offer free shuttles and continental breakfast. We always recommend that your keep an eye out for Groupon deals or Living Social;there always seem to have great hotel options.
- Now since you'll be in sunny southern California we suggest that you take advantage of the other fun things to do in the area. Like the beach, Hollywood, Knotts Berry Farm, whale watching, Legoland, and other fun activities of that sort. That said, we recommend that when you plan out your itinerary for the week that you save Disneyland and/or California Adventure for the middle of the week like Wednesday, when it's the least crowded.
- Pack a water bottle! Packing a water bottle and refilling it along the way at water fountains is a great way to save money. Plus you help save the planet a little bit by not using up so many plastic bottles. Oh, and if you happen to forget your water bottle and don't want to spend the +$2.50 on water, just go to the nearest Starbucks and ask for some water in a trenta cup. Trust us they never say no, and it's free!
- Create a souvenir budget. This tip applies to really any vacation, but we know that sometimes souvenir buying can get a bit out of control at Disneyland. And who can blame you, there are TONS of adorable items to purchase! Creating a budget for each of the kids will help keep the spending to a minimum, and it really forces your little ones to think about which items they really want and which items they are willing to part with. Now this budget only works if you stick to it, so yes Mom and Dad it's up to you to enforce the budget and decide how you want to keep track of the funds (whether each child is given, lets say, the $20 up front or if that's something you want to keep track of mentally).
The Grand Canyon
I don't know about you, but it's always been on my bucket list to visit all of the seven wonders of the world, and the Grand Canyon is no exception! This is a great vacation spot to take little ones since they have so many fun activities that are sure to be a win with the entire family. Here are a few of our favorites:
- All Aboard! Grand Canyon's Railway is one of those activities that is always a highlight for those little boys in your life. The fascinations with trains is a phases that all kids seem to go through. Have fun spotting wild animals like mountain lions, eagles, and elk or enjoy watching cowboys sing and stroll around the passenger cars. Cowboys and trains?! I mean what more could your kids want out of a family vacation? Also this railway is especially magical during the holidays when it turns into the Polar Express.
- Mule Ride. This is an unforgettable activity that is a perfect way for anyone seven years of age or older to see the beautiful trails of the Grand Canyon. But if riding on a mule isn't really one of those things that is appealing to you then walking through those lovely trails is just as memorable.
- Become a Junior Ranger! Have little ones between the age of four to fourteen? Then they can earn a badge and become an official Grand Canyon National Park Junior Ranger. They will have tons of fun completing tasks in their activity booklet.
- Walk on Air. The Grand Canyon Skywalk is one of those activities that is sort of something that you have to do while you're there. This glass bottomed u-shaped observation deck juts out 70 feet over a 4,000 foot drop over the Colorado River.
Mall Of America
With 520 stores, 4 stories, a 7-acre playground, and over 30 rides and attractions Mall of America is guaranteed fun for the entire family. Now given that this is huge landmark that draws in large crowds due to all of the fun opportunities that are in store we've gathered a tips and tricks to help you plan your vacation here:
- You would think that having over 14,000 parking spots would mean that finding a spot should be stress free, but things can get still get a little crazy. Try to get there early and snag a spot that has covered ramps, mainly just so your car doesn't heat up too much in that summer sun.
- Toddler Tuesdays. Going with toddlers? Well Toddler Tuesdays are a wonderful day to go, espeially since it comes with some pretty awesome perks like featuring children's characters for meet-and-greets, craft activities, concerts, readings by children's authors and free stroller rentals. There may be a bonus, such as free breakfast, and kids eat free at more than two dozen restaurants.
- Nickelodeon Universe. If your kids love NickToons as much as mine they will be thrilled to meet all of their favorite characters and ride some pretty awesome rides. We recommend purchasing the wristband option since there are plenty of rides that are only valid for wristbands.
- Minnesota Sea Life Aquarium. With thousands of sea creatures, including sharks, sea turtles, rays, jellyfish, seahorses and more your little ones will be mesmerized by all of the amazing things to see. Plus with fun interactive activities like the Ray Pool where you can touch and feed stingrays this is sure to be a memorable visit.
- Amazing Mirror Maze. So this activity may be a bit unconvetional when it comes to family vacation activities, but trust us, it's one that is sure to bring lots of laughs. With endless hallways, unexpected twists and turns, this larger than life maze is a fun activity that wont break the bank.
- Moose Mountain Adventure Golf. Okay we know that miniature golf isn't one of those specialty activities that you can only find at Mall of America, but it's still loads of fun. Enjoy life live moose and horse in this old time north woods themed course.
- A.C.E.S. Flight Simulation Center. The center says that they've had children as young a six years old join in on all of simulation fun, but they usually recommend that your children be about ten years of age to really enjoy this activity. Fly both modern F/A-18 Hornet jets and classic WWII fighters such as the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair in this sophisticated flight simulator where you can choose to either fly combat against one another or try your hand at landing on an aircraft carrier. This could be a great activity for the hubby to do with the kids, as I'm sure they'll have loads of fun learning to fly.
A toddler's paradise: Sesame Place! Watch your little ones run around in delight as they meet Elmo and the gang. You wont be able to help but sing along and dance during the Neighborhood Street Party parade. And with age appropriate rides your tiny preschoolers will have a blast as they are able to enjoy all of the rides this amusement park has to offer. Ready to book your visit? First here are a few of tips:
- Since there are loads of water rides at Sesame Place, we recommend that you veer towards the right when you enter the park to enjoy some of the more popular dry rides first. This way you can beat the sun and enjoy the dry side before running off to cool off in all of the water fun.
- Speaking of the hot sun and water, Sesame Park isn't the best at providing shade so we highly suggest that you bring strollers that have shades over them, hats, and lots of sunscreen.
- If you have any children over the age of five years old they may not be all that thrilled over what Sesame Place has to offer, so I would recommend adding Hershey Park to the vacation itinerary if you have older kids with you.
Hershey Park & Hershey's Chocolate World
An amusement park and chocolate... dream come true! Plus, there are some pretty awesome things to do, like these below:
- You could easily spend two days at Hershey Park between the 70 rides and attractions and their waterpark side.
- Your admission ticket to Hershey Park also includes free admission into ZooAmerica where there are over 200 North American animals.
- Even entering Chocolate World is free! The only catch is that Hershey's Great American Chocolate Tour is the only activity you can enjoy at no extra cost. They have four other fun interactive activities like creating your very own chocolate bar, solving a mystery, or going on a tasting adventure of a life time.
- Hershey Gardens. No these aren't gardens full of chocolate flowers but they are full of themed gardens, butterfly house, rotating art exhibits and the children's garden where the plants are chocolate-scented.
- Fun fact: Hershey Park has complimentary WiFi (woohoo!)