Our research is editorially independent but we may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
If you haven’t already booked your summer vacation, it’s time to get started as the season will be here before you know it. A trip during this season usually requires some advance planning whether you’re looking for a getaway that’s nearby or across the globe. From America’s stunning national parks to exotic cities across the globe, these ideas are sure to get you packing.
YOU'RE ALL SET!
Look out for our newsletters in your inbox soon.
The Black Hills offer fun for the whole family. Visit Custer State Park to spot wildlife like bison, elk, pronghorn, deer, coyotes, prairie dogs, eagles, and wild burros. Swim or paddle around the park’s crown jewel, Sylvan Lake, and visit nearby Mount Rushmore National Memorial for a firsthand look at some of America’s history. In Hill City, you can hop on a historic steam train for a ride through the scenic Black Hills to Keystone and back. There are caves to explore and all sorts of tourist attractions like Bear Country USA where you can watch cubs roll around in the grass.
Yellowstone National Park is filled with spectacular natural attractions and wildlife. You’ll be able to witness iconic Old Faithful skyrocket water up to 135 feet into the sky in the Upper Geyser Basin, which is home to some 150 geysers within just a one-square-mile area. Marvel at Dragon’s Mouth Spring, where it really looks like a dragon lives inside the cave, and the incredible rainbow-hued Grand Prismatic Spring. Along the way, you’re sure to glimpse a ton of wildlife, including countless bison, elk and Bighorn sheep, and possibly an elusive wolf or bear.
Iceland offers a magical experience with its other-worldly landscapes filled with erupting geysers and hot springs. Discover remote springs to soak in or head to the popular Blue Lagoon to soak in the warm milky turquoise waters that are surrounded by black lava rocks. Kids will be fascinated with the country’s “Huludufok,” or “hidden folk” that are said to be invisible to the human eye. Talk with a local, and you’re likely to hear a story about these little elves. Riding gentle Icelandic horses, viewing adorable puffins and walking behind roaring waterfalls are just a few of the other highlights here.
Tokyo is another great place that the whole family is sure to enjoy. Kids and adults of all ages are sure to love Tokyo Disney Resort, a version of the Magic Kingdom that blends Orlando’s Walt Disney World and Anaheim’s Disneyland, but adds even more. Teens will even be happy exploring Akihabara, which is lined with Japanese-style comic books stores known as mangas, video game shops and toy shops. There are plenty of museums and parks, a wide range of mouthwatering foods to try, and much more.
The Oregon Coast offers a ton of fun, and at its north end is a family seaside favorite, the town of Seaside. You’ll have access to a nearly three-mile stretch of beach and attractions like the Seaside Aquarium, where you can feed the sea lions. Funland Arcade hosts bumper cars, pinball, video games, skee ball and numerous carnival-type amusements. There are affordable hotels right along the oceanfront promenade, which is a great place to ride bikes or all sorts of pedaling options, like surreys, which can be rented at multiple outlets near the beach.
Families that like to swim, snorkel or dive may want to take advantage of one of the best underwater world destinations on the planet: Grand Cayman Island. This is a water lover’s paradise with dazzling white sandy beaches framed by warm blue waters that are as clear as a swimming pool along with family-friendly activities and attractions. At Stingray City, you can wade out into the sea and immediately have hundreds of gentle stingrays all around you. You can even hand feed them for an especially unforgettable experience.
There’s no place like the Galapagos, so if you’re looking for the ultimate bucket list trip, it’s hard to beat this place where Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution. Here animals have no fear of humans and no natural predators, so you can swim with turtles and dolphins, and get right up next to sea lions. One of the best ways to experience it is to book an organized boat tour led by naturalist guides. There are many different options like three- to seven-day eco-cruises that will bring you on a tour through the islands to visit giant tortoises and hike volcanoes while watching for lizards and birds like the rare blue-footed booby.
On the Big Island in Hawaii, you’ll not only have beaches and warm water to enjoy but you can explore two massive volcanoes, including Kilauea, one of the most active in the world. A visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a 350,000-acre lava field that’s unlike anywhere else on the planet, is sure to thrill all. While eruptions aren’t guaranteed, you can almost always see lava flowing somewhere and it’s a truly surreal experience. During the day, walk trails that lead by vast craters, black lava rock and smoking steam vents.
San Francisco offers lots of family-friendly activities. Pick up world-famous chocolate in Ghirardelli Square and ride a cable car, chugging up and down the nearly vertical hills, with bells clanging the whole way. Check out Fisherman’s Wharf and watch the countless sea lions that are always barking away on the docks and visit Golden Gate Park with its fascinating museums. Take a tour of Alcatraz Island for a fascinating glimpse into America’s most notorious island prison and a fun ride across the bay. Families with older children may even want to take a night tour to delve into the prison’s alleged hauntings.
The kids are sure to be excited about a trip to London, visiting places they’ve probably seen in Harry Potter films. There are opportunities for teens to hear ghoulish tales at the Tower of London, Europe’s first fortress, while Princess lovers won’t want to miss Buckingham Palace, the home of a real-life Queen, Queen Elizabeth. Gather at the big iron gates for the Changing of the Guards, where soldiers march out in their trademark red coats and black hats and ride the iconic London Eye for a bird’s-eye view over it all.