Spend valuable time together on a transformational trip.
With a rising number of parents seeking meaningful travel experiences for their children, there's growing demand for digital detox getaways that allow families to disconnect from smartphones and electronic devices and enjoy quality time together. To break away from the stressors of everyday life, it's easy to plan a nature-centered vacation that offers the chance to engage with impressive surroundings. From tropical getaways that inspire marine exploration to big-city adventures that introduce children and teens to unique cultures and festivals, here are 10 great trip ideas to reconnect as a family.
Plan a family dude ranch vacation.
Ride horses, dine beneath the stars and learn the basics of horse care during a weeklong family stay at a dude ranch. Look to Cody, Wyoming, which is home to multiple dude ranches, including Blackwater Creek Ranch. Just 15 miles from Yellowstone National Park, this dude ranch offers all kinds of family activities, including horseback riding, fly-fishing and whitewater rafting. While in the "Rodeo Capital of the World," attending a nightly rodeo is also a must. Or try Grand County, Colorado, home to the popular Bar Lazy J Guest Ranch and Drowsy Water Ranch, for an outdoor getaway to remember.
Slip away for a tropical getaway.
For a family-friendly tropical escape, head to Grand Cayman in the Caribbean for soft white sands and gentle waters that are ideal for first-time snorkelers. Take a break from smartphones and tablets on a six-hour eco-boat tour with Six Senses Cayman Adventures, which makes stops at Stingray City, where you can hold stingrays, and Starfish Point, home to dozens of beautiful starfish. Book a stay at Comfort Inn and Suites Seven Mile Beach, a cost-effective property where you'll be steps from chaise lounges and calming waves. The hotel is also an easy walk into George Town to pick up souvenirs.
Organize a trip to a national park.
There's nothing quite like camping beneath the stars and enjoying quality time together as a family. For a memorable camping trip, try to score a campsite inside one of our iconic national parks such as the Grand Canyon National Park or Glacier National Park. Many campsites take online reservations, and while the most popular sites book up months in advance, some do offer first-come, first-served campgrounds, which tend to fill up by noon each day during the peak seasons. Not ready for camping? Rent an RV from the company Cruise America, which has rental locations across the country, or book an RV vacation with an outfitter that sets up custom national park itineraries.
Embark on an eco-friendly escape.
Costa Rica, a renowned eco-friendly destination filled with lush rainforests, waterfalls, volcanoes and tropical beaches, is an ideal place for an unforgettable family getaway. Start with a stay at Peace Lodge, which is the well-situated base for exploring nearby Poás Volcano and Doka Estate, the largest coffee plantation in Costa Rica, which offers daily coffee tours. Walk the hanging bridges through the rainforest for incredible views of Arenal Volcano, before heading south to see howler monkeys and two-toed sloths at Manuel Antonio National Park. Set up a custom vacation with Il Viaggio Travel, which specializes in family travel to Costa Rica.
Head on a family rafting adventure.
Rafting is a great way to bond as a family since it's easy to leave your smartphones and electronics behind while on the water. Whether you want to enjoy an easy float or a more adventurous rafting ride, there's a rafting expedition that's well-suited for every thrill seeker's comfort level. Outfitter Adventures on the Gorge in West Virginia offers rafting adventures on the New River Gorge for children as young as 6. As a bonus, look for treetop canopy tours, zip lines, fishing, hiking and rock climbing. Meanwhile, the Idaho-based company Far and Away Adventures offers multiday family rafting trips on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.
Retreat to the Outer Banks.
North Carolina's Outer Banks have long been a top getaway choice for families. Book a vacation rental along the beach or arrange a stay at one of multiple family-friendly properties. One such option is Sanderling Resort in Duck, North Carolina, which boasts dune-side pools, fire pits and an award-winning spa. Go biking, take the ferry to explore scenic Knotts Island or embrace water sports at Kitty Hawk Kayaks & Surf School. Book a half-day excursion with OBX Crabbing & Shrimping Charters to catch, sort and take home your own crabs and shrimp. It's a must-do for seafood-loving families.
Enjoy a family retreat on the lake.
Some of the best vacation memories can be made while enjoying quality time together at a picturesque lakeside retreat. For a serene family getaway, venture to the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort in Lake Placid, New York, where you and the gang can enjoy gorgeous mountain views and plenty of outdoor pursuits, from swimming to stand-up paddleboarding to canoeing to kayaking to rowing or even taking a private gondola cruise. On the West Coast, consider a Lake Tahoe getaway at the Resort at Squaw Creek. As a family, you can hike, bike, horseback ride and try fly fishing together. Younger visitors can even enjoy replenishing treatments at the Kids Chillax Spa.
Escape to an all-inclusive.
For a wallet-friendly escape, retreat to a kid-friendly all-inclusive, where activities, dining and lodging are covered in the rate. One all-inclusive to consider is Woodloch Resort in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains. All meals are included, and there are plenty of activities to choose from that encourage family togetherness, from scavenger hunts to music contests to nightly bingo games. Alternatively, head to the Caribbean to enjoy a beach getaway at an affordable all-inclusive property like Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa. Ideally suited for small children, the property hosts "Sesame Street" characters all across the resort, as well as plenty of water activities such as snorkeling, sailing and kayaking.
Take a city break.
From museums to zoos to art galleries, there's so much to see in the big city. Chicago is a great destination to explore as a family since it's so easy to get around to visit must-see attractions such as Navy Pier and Lincoln Park Zoo. In the summer, there are a myriad of lakefront music festivals, which are perfect for spreading out a picnic blanket and relaxing. Or go overseas to Portugal, a family-friendly destination that continues to grow in popularity. Kids will love the Oceanarium and taking Tram 28 around Lisbon. Book a stay at Martinhal Lisbon Chiado Family Suites, a city center hotel designed with families in mind.
Plan an 'Amazing Race'-inspired vacation.
For families that want an adventurous outdoor vacation that requires working together to solve riddles and engage in hands-on challenges, look to the company Competitours, which just launched a new intergenerational trip in Europe from July 23 to Aug. 3. Throughout the competition-themed trip, two-person teams tackle daily challenges that range from an "Iron Chef"-style cooking competition in an Italian villa to an alpine race in the French Alps. Teams receive just 12 hours' notice before the next challenge begins, which adds to the excitement for everyone.
Erin Gifford writes about family travel and travel trends for USNews.com. Her articles have also appeared on TravelChannel.com, TravelAge West, FoxNews.com, Fodors.com and ShermansTravel. A mother of four, she publishes Kidventurous, an award-winning family travel resource. She was previously a Smart Family Travel expert for Scholastic Parent & Child magazine, dispensing tips and advice to families interested in memorable vacation experiences, as well as a member of Merck's Active Family Project Play Council. Follow her on Twitter at @Kidventurous.