Our Very Best Summer Vacation Ideas

Kyle McCarthy
June 12, 2013
Our Very Best Summer Vacation Ideas

We have partnered with TakingtheKids.com to come up with the very best family vacation ideas for your summer getaway, the most rewarding time of the year for the 81% of families who vacation with both children and grandparents.

To score the best deals in this era of jam-packed planes and economic confidence, family planners will have to do their research and book as early as possible. We found one new tool: GetGoing is a travel site focused on helping families easily discover and book the vacation experiences they want, at a price they can afford. Their FlightFinder technology searches for the cheapest flights to specific places, or allows you to discover deals to destinations you may not have considered. And GetGoing's Pick Two, Get One system makes significant discounts available to travelers who are willing to travel to one of two fun vacation options the site offers, depending on availability.

So even if you haven't picked a recipe for the class potluck or bought a gift card for your child's favorite teacher, we recommend you kickstart your summer vacation planning now with some of our suggestions. And if it's already the dog days of August and the family needs a quick getaway, there are sure to be helpful ideas for that too. Let's start with good deals to the Caribbean and Central America, for those who are venturing beyond the U.S. beaches.

Caribbean & Central America Tropical Getaways

New routes on American Airlines and JetBlue to major destinations in the Caribbean, Central America and South America have opened up endless opportunities for family adventures. Although it's hotter, summer is a bargain compared to the winter high season and you usually don't have to worry about hurricanes till late August.

Tropical All-Inclusive Resorts

For a relaxing Caribbean getaway, consider an all-inclusive chain like Palladium. You can take your pick of resorts in the Dominican Republic at Punta Cana, Jamaica, Brazil and Mexico. Tourist areas like Mexico's Riviera Maya and, on the west coast, Riviera Nayarit (which has just undergone a $20 million renovation) have remained very safe. Families love all-inclusive resorts like this because there are organized activities for all age groups , suite accommodations, and everything is included: from drinks for parents, to meals, to kids activities and nightly entertainment. And there is plenty of culture in Mexico to explore at nearby Mayan ruins. Beaches Ochos Rios Resort & Golf Club in Jamaica and its sister resorts have special Sesame Street activities for the youngest travelers, a pirate-themed pool, and tween and teen clubs for older siblings. The Ocho Rios resort, fully renovated, now has a Greek Village with family suites and new restaurants, some serving food grown on the resort's own organic farm.

Tropical Islands Packed with Family Adventures

The Cayman Islands, with shallow waters and calm seas, are a great place for your kids to learn to snorkel, scuba dive or sail. Their Cayman Islands summer promotion means a 20% discount at the Turtle Farm, and many other attractions on Grand Cayman that offer kids free admission. Look online for offers posted by the participating partners. In partnership with the Fresh Air Fund, 10 lucky New York City kids can stay each year with Cayman Islands families: here's what one middle school student wrote about her experience in the Caymans.

The Islands of the Bahamas comprise a lot more than just Nassau, as you can see from this review of a recent stay at a tiny resort in the Bahamian Exumas which boasts more than 300 islands. Kids can learn to scuba dive on Green Turtle Cay in the Abaco Islands where many families like to sail and kick back. Join the Bahamas People-to-People experience and meet locals-at no charge. You'll be paired with a local Bahamian family who can share their way of life with your family. The Bahamas even has a Chief Family Officer to give you advice!

The sun-kissed island of Anguilla is a place for families to experience an off-the-beaten-path Caribbean vacation with luxurious and affordable accommodations, outstanding cuisine and serene settings. In summer, it offers island-wide rates starting at 30% off.

The island is best known for its 33 pristine powder-white sand beaches. Beyond the beach, kids of all ages can enjoy activities like swimming with dolphins, hiking Anguilla's Katouche Valley, learning about the island's rich history at the quaint Heritage Collection Museum and getting all-under one room at one of Anguilla's many villas. Anguilla also has more than 100 restaurants, from fine dining, to roadside barbeques, to beachfront bistros to please appetites of any age.

Exploring the Caribbean Coast of Mexico and Central America

The Mexican Caribbean coast along Riviera Maya is the place to explore ancient Mayan ruins at Chichen-Itza and Tulum, let the kids practice their Spanish and get in some serious beach time. Tulum is a fun waterfront site that's easily accessible from many resorts, or the place to find a low-key bungalow colony. Iberostar and RIU Hotels, among Playa del Carmen resorts, offer all-inclusive options. Nicaragua, Panama and Honduras are good bets for families who want to add adventure to their beach time. Hiking, watersports, horseback riding, beach combing, practicing a language, trying new fruits and foods - all are easily found at good prices. Opt for day hikes at an eco-resort like Morgan's Rock and try to spot monkeys, wild birds, sloth, and other wild animals that their naturalists can teach you more about. Explore the rain forest at The Gamboa Resort in Panama, or snorkel at Anthony's Key on Roatan off Honduras.

More of the Best Summer Vacation Ideas

Of course, families love the beaches of the East Coast and West Coast of the U.S. as well as urban getaways, farm stays and eco-tourism adventures, theme parks, cruises, national parks and outdoor excursions, volunteer vacations, wellness resorts. For more of the best summer family vacation ideas, visit the MyFamilyTravels.com site.

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