5 Summer Vacation Ideas the Whole Family Will Enjoy

By Valerie Kirk
mother and father laughing on beach during summer vacation

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic disrupting traditional summer vacation plans this year, many parents might be thinking about skipping a family vacation altogether. Really – who wants to get on an airplane right now, especially with children?

But you and your kids are already restless after months of distance learning, and there are limited summer camp options to keep them busy through these long summer months. As states start easing restrictions, consider these five safe summer vacation ideas the whole family will enjoy.

1. Take a Road Trip!

Road trips are a great way to see parts of our beautiful country that are off the beaten path. With gas prices the lowest they’ve been in nearly 20 years, hitting the open road for a family road trip is also economical. Road trips aren’t about the destination, but the experiences you have along the way.

Can’t decide where to go? The National Park Service manages 419 National Parks, Battlefields, and Historic Sites covering 85 million acres across all 50 states. Visiting any of our National Parks is also a fun, interactive educational experience. Make it really fun by joining the Passport Program, where your child can get a stamp at each park they visit. They can collect stamps for years to come, keeping fun memories of their visits to these American treasures. 

Be sure to plan ahead to avoid the dreaded “how long until we get there” questions. Pack daily activity bags for your child and be sure to have plenty of mess-free snacks. Map out a trip that includes daily stops for short hikes or to see interesting sites. Look for hotels along your route that have amenities like a pool to help kids stay active after spending time in the car. If you are worried about ongoing travel restrictions, check this interactive map from AAA that shows going COVID-19 restrictions by state.

2. Go Camping (or Glamping)

Sitting by a campfire, sleeping under the stars, and waking up to beautiful sunrises are just some of the benefits of taking the family camping. Camping is budget-friendly, and campgrounds by their very nature are built for social distancing.

Many campgrounds offer activities for the kids, including scavenger hunts, bounce pillows, outdoor movie nights and pools, so you don’t have to plan activities each day. Campgrounds are also near fun, budget friendly summer outdoor activities, such as canoeing and hiking, to fill your vacation days with adventures.

If sleeping on the ground in a tent just isn’t your thing, campgrounds often have rustic, family sized cabins that offer a good camping experience with the benefit of sleeping in a real bed indoors.

3. Rent an RV

Can’t decide between a road trip or camping? Get the best of both worlds by renting an RV. Rentals of RVs, which offer the most of the amenities from home but in a vehicle that can be parked in most campgrounds across the country, are skyrocketing this summer as families see the benefit of having space and nice accommodations while enjoying the natural beauty and family friendly activities found in campgrounds. Renting an RV is often cheaper than staying in a hotel, and with historically low gas prices, this is a budget friendly vacation option that your kids will remember.

4. Find Water – Visit an Ocean, Lake or River

There is something very relaxing about the sound of running water. It calms our nerves and even helps us sleep better. Instead of the usual, crowded major resort towns, explore places you might never considered as a beach vacation.

Michigan offers more coastline than any other state except Alaska. That’s miles of beaches just waiting to be enjoyed. The San Juan Islands, off the coast of Washington State, offer some sandy beaches that have shallow water, ideal for a fun – and relaxing – family vacation.

Look at smaller inland lakes, where you can rent cozy cabins or luxury vacation homes that have access to incredible lake scenery and fun family adventures. Many lake destinations have family friendly amenities like boat rentals, fishing spots, and plenty of places to hike. America’s waterways offer so much variety for a fun summer vacation. You can also have a fun vacation along a river, spending your lazy afternoons fishing, hiking or tubing.

5. Make Your Vacation a Staycation

Every town and surrounding area has something to offer. A great way to save money and have fun with your kids this summer is to plan a Staycationa vacation in your own town. Just with any vacation, it’s important to plan for a staycation.

Are there places that you’ve always wanted to go but just didn’t have the time? Plan a visit! Spend quality time with your kids without the distractions of work, sports, or school, just as though you went away on vacation. Take them bowling, find a Frisbee golf course, discover a new playground, or go for a long bike ride.

Make your home feel like a vacation home by adding cut flowers, plates of cookies in the afternoon, and turn-down service with a chocolate on everyone’s pillow at night. Get take-out from restaurants you’ve always wanted to try. You can even set up a tent in the backyard for a fun night of camping under the stars.

The past several months have been hard on many people. It’s important to take a vacation to rest your mind and soul, and to spend time together connecting as a family in a fun way. Happy trails to you and your family!

Valerie Kirk is a freelance writer and mom of a teenager and a tween who lives in Gambrills, Md.

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