Central Travel’s Colleen Taylor, Libby Capps, and Renee Christian share the top destinations that are a great fit for families with children of all ages. 

As the school year draws to a close, many families are beginning to plan summer vacations. Whether you have small kids or high school to college-aged children, these popular destination ideas from Central Travel will help you create fun summer memories to last a lifetime.

Summer Vacations for Small Children

For families traveling with small children, Colleen Taylor recommends Caribbean cruises, Disney cruises and land packages, or beach vacations, while Libby Capps recommends the Florida coast as a great option for families. “Many families choose to go with condos, which offer the convenience of being able to cook your own meals and feel at home,” she says. For those looking to go outside the U.S. with small children, Capps says Cancún and the Riviera Maya area are great options that offer activities for all ages while still being all-inclusive.

Renee Christian echoes Taylor and Capps by saying that any beach in Florida or Alabama is popular, as are all-inclusive packages to Mexico and the Caribbean. “I would also recommend Mexico, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Turks and Caicos,” says Christian. Entertainment is a must — look for destinations that have on-site gaming such as beach volleyball, bocce ball, water parks, and water sports.

“Plan a trip the whole family can enjoy, especially when the kids are young,” says Capps. “I’ve talked to a few parents who wanted to plan the trip of a lifetime for a young child even though they had little interest in going to the destination themselves. I think that type of trip is a disaster waiting to happen and everybody will be unhappy. If you’re planning a trip for a child, wait until they’re old enough to enjoy it and remember it.”

Several of the same destinations, like cruises and resorts, are great options for families with high school and college-aged kids. The key is making sure the activities offered fit the ages and interests of your children. Taylor recommends all-inclusive beach vacations, European trips, adventure travel, and experiential travel for this age group.

“All-inclusives offer great teen clubs with lots of fun activities to participate in,” says Capps. Universal has been a popular option for high school and college-age kids due to the awesome additions of Harry Potter attractions. She adds that cruises really offer something for everyone from small kids to adults. “The new cruise ships sail to a lot of great destinations full of history, adventure, and relaxation. In the middle of the Caribbean ocean you can zip line, skydive, surf, ride go-karts, ice skate, rock climb, go down large waterslides, and watch live performances of Broadway shows.”

“It is a good idea to set some ground rules with the children, especially if they’re older. Stuff like, ‘You have to check in with me before you run off to an activity,’” says Christian. “Share the information of the resort with the children so they can get an idea of what they want to do when you arrive at the destination.”

Tips and Challenges When Choosing Your Destination

“I think families in Mid-Missouri value the ease of travel, cost, and the activities at the destination to keep the kids busy,” says Capps. Taylor says that nonstop flights, all-inclusive food, and activities tend to be the top three things families value when choosing a destination.

Whether your children are small or nearly adult-aged, some of the biggest travel challenges for families are finding rooms that accommodate the entire family and being able to schedule the trip around the children’s activities and school dates, explains Taylor. To address these challenges, Taylor recommends booking a trip that keeps everyone interested. “The all-inclusives help with the always hungry teenagers and college kids. For the younger children, both cruises and all-inclusives have children’s programs, and some even have nanny services,” says Taylor.

Christian says the biggest challenge for families is “to make sure there are enough activities for all family members traveling. Not everyone going to the beach enjoys just sitting on the beach.” You have to fit the family to the resort. “If a resort only offers activities for smaller children, then your older children will not enjoy it and vice versa. Most resorts today, if they’re considered a family resort, offer activities for people of all ages, including adults,” says Christian.

Capps says another big challenge is finding something to keep everyone entertained. “I think the destinations [mentioned above] have something for everybody,” she says. “All-inclusives and cruises do offer something for everyone. From child care for the younger kids to the teen clubs for the older kids to the adults-only area for the parents, everyone can enjoy their vacation.”

“Traveling with children can be challenging no matter how old they are,” says Christian. “Children’s passports are only good for five years, whereas adults are good for 10 years. Always check the passport expiration dates.” She also adds that it’s important to be prepared for any type of illness or malady, so travel with Band-Aids, antibiotic ointments, and medicines for colds, flu, and stomach issues.

Keeping these tips in mind and choosing a vacation that fits your family will ensure a great summer trip. And remember, “You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a great time somewhere,” adds Capps.