Spring Break Ideas

Are sun and sand, snow, or city lights among your spring break ideas? Maybe you want to sail away being pampered every minute (No meals to cook! No beds to make!) Maybe you want bragging rights to being among the first to ride a new theme park attraction.

Closeup of pink cherry blossoms on tree looking skyward. Photo c. The Smell of Roses-pixabay
Pink Kwanzan Cherry blossoms welcome spring. Photo c. The Smell of Roses-pixabay

Wherever you want to go this spring with your family, we’ve got you covered with our 24 spring break ideas for 2024. You can get away on a budget — or splurge if you want. Opt for a long weekend or a week. The main thing is to relax and enjoy yourselves. Remember, with kids it’s more about the journey than the destination. Don’t overspend and over program it. Who cares if you only manage half of what is on your itinerary?

It’s not too early to plan for summer, especially if you want to gather the extended family for a trip. In many cases, you can save significantly if you book early.

FIND YOUR HAPPY PLACE AT THE NATIONAL PARKS

There are now 428 diverse parks, monuments, lands and waters protected by the National Park Service to choose from. Activities include exploring Mammoth Cave, the world’s longest known cave system, and meeting the fossil of a new shark species found there. You can paddle the brackish waters reminiscent of “Swamp Thing” at Congaree National Park. Hike the snow-dappled, red quartzite quarries at Pipestone National Monument, a Minnesota landmark that attracted Native Americans who harvested its red quartz for pipes and effigies. Explore amazing sea life in tide pools (Olympic National Park in Washington).

Immerse yourselves in the majestic Grand Canyon in spring before the summer crowds and sky-high prices arrive. The bluebird skies are dazzling even though unpredictable blizzards and howling winds may occur. That’s why Family Travel Forum had such an amazing experience at both Grand Canyon West and the Grand Canyon NPS site on a March visit.

If you have a child in 4th grade, the complimentary Every Kid Outdoors Annual 4th Grade Pass covers park entry for all children under 16 and up to three adults per passholder and includes the vehicle entrance fee. If you plan to visit more than one park in a year, save with an annual America the Beautiful pass ($80) that also covers all federal recreation sites. Look for Senior Passes (ages 62+) and free passes for military and those with permanent disabilities. Check your park’s website to book ahead for special free activities, guided hikes and talks, and the Junior Ranger program. 

Two rowers in a red canoe paddle through the swamps at Congaree National Park in South Carolina.
Visit a new national park. Enjoy a paddle through the swamps at Congaree National Park in South Carolina, where guides bring the mysterious landscape to life all year round.

TOP WESTERN BEACH DESTINATIONS FOR SPRING

With over 95,471 miles of breathtaking coastline spanning the United States from coast to coast, there is an abundance of stunning beach destinations to select from.

Heading west, Washington and Oregon are known for their beautiful beaches. However, these beaches are more for strolling and playing catch with your dog – the Pacific Ocean here is too cold in spring.

California, however, has some of the most iconic and well-known beaches in the world. The Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles offers a mix of beach fun and tourist attractions with its amusement park rides and oceanfront restaurants. It’s the end marker of the historic Route 66, making it a popular spot for tourists.

Just south of the pier is Venice Beach, known for its eccentric street performers and colorful boardwalk. Further north along the coast lies Malibu, home to some of California’s most luxurious beachfront properties frequented by celebrities.

Further south, the beaches of San Diego are known for their laid-back vibe and perfect surfing conditions. With its year-round pleasant weather, San Diego offers a wide range of beaches to explore. Mission Beach, with its bustling boardwalk and Belmont Park amusement park, is ideal for families and thrill-seekers alike. SeaWorld, Downtown San Diego, and the 15 major museums and entertainment venues at Balboa Park are just a short drive away.

For a more secluded and scenic beach experience, head to La Jolla Cove. This small cove is perfect for snorkeling and swimming with its calm waters and picturesque cliffs. The nearby Torrey Pines State Beach offers stunning views of the rugged coastline and is a popular spot for hiking and wildlife watching. This part of the California coast is also a mecca for golfers, a plus if someone in your family is keen to play.

SUPPORT MAUI WHEN VISITING HAWAII IN SPRING

Maui is recovering after the devastating August 2023 wildfire that destroyed the historic port of Lahaina and killed nearly 100 people in West Maui. Now, Maui locals and Hawaiian officials are urging tourists to return as tourism dollars can help communities rebuild. However, locals caution visitors to avoid Lahaina, which is closed, and be respectful of all Hawaiian survivors.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority maintains an up-to-date site that recommends where to go and where to avoid. There is plenty else to see and do around the island. Support locals by booking a snorkeling or sailing trip. Viator has several options for luaus and whale watching as well. Opt for local restaurants. Take the famously winding road to Hana and stay awhile.

If your budget allows, the Four Seasons Maui is where the first season of the HBO dramedy “White Lotus” was filmed. Get a vacation rental in Wailea. Lend a hand, like cooking for first responders at Hua Momona farms. Shop local. And tip well!

PLAN NOW FOR EUROPE THIS SPRING OR SUMMER

Three generations stand on the Mediterranean shoreline and admire their CroisiEurope ship moored offshore. Photo c. CroisiEurope
Three generations stand on the Mediterranean shoreline and admire their CroisiEurope ship moored offshore. Photo c. CroisiEurope

Family owned and operated since 1976, CroisiEurope is Europe’s leading river cruise line with 50 ships sailing in 37 countries in Europe and beyond.

Plan now or plan ahead. The summer Family Club cruises in France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, on the Rhine, and to Croatia, include child friendly menus, family oriented excursions and onboard activities, and children under 16 years cruise free or 30% off. 

For 2024, CroisiEurope’s new Multigenerational Cruising program offers even more family savings, and can be applied to all European river cruises, including Family Club sailings. When parents, children and grandparents cruise together, the “second generation” receives a 20% discount and children under 16 years cruise free. CroisiEurope cruises include all meals, drinks onboard, excursions and free Wi-Fi.

TOP EASTERN BEACH DESTINATIONS FOR SPRING

Spring is an ideal season to start mapping out your beach escape. That’s especially true along the East Coast, where the Atlantic Ocean is already swimmable in the southern states.

Virginia Beach is a beloved mid-Atlantic beach destination. With its golden sandy shores stretching for miles, Virginia Beach offers something for everyone in spring. Whether you’re a nature lover looking to explore the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge or a water sports enthusiast eager to try your hand at surfing or paddleboarding, Virginia Beach has it all. Don’t forget to take a stroll along the iconic 3-mile Virginia Beach Boardwalk, lined with shops, restaurants, and entertainment options.

Heading down to the Sunshine State, Florida beaches boast some of the most remarkable strands in the country. From the vibrant energy of Miami Beach to the laid-back charm of the Florida Keys, there is a beach for every type of traveler. For a perfect spring break destination, consider visiting Destin, known as “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.” With its crystal-clear emerald waters and sugar-white sand, Destin offers a serene and picturesque escape. Shell Island, located off the coast of Panama City Beach, is another must-visit beach in Florida. It’s only accessible by boat, making it a secluded and peaceful spot to unwind.

Or drive Florida along our favorite routes A1A from Jacksonville to Key West for an unforgettable ride. Key Biscayne, at the very top of the famous Florida Keys, is another good lodging bet for families a short drive from Miami over the Rickenbacker Causeway.

Don’t forget the US Virgin Islands, a tropical paradise in the Caribbean where US citizens don’t need to pack their passport. With their pristine beaches, turquoise waters, and lush landscapes, these islands offer an idyllic spring escape, especially for eastern US families. St. John’s Trunk Bay, known for its underwater snorkeling trail, is a must-visit spot for nature lovers. If you’re seeking a livelier atmosphere, head to St. Thomas, where you can enjoy a vibrant nightlife scene and explore the duty-free shopping options.

ASTROTOURISM FOR A SKY-HIGH SPRING BREAK

This is a big year for “astrotourism,” the catchphrase that means everything from buying a seat on a Virgin Galactic spaceship to turning off lights for stargazing to eclipse-chasing. National Parks are organizing free dark sky viewings. Aurora watchers have waited for an increase in the intensity and frequency of sunspots to plan Northern Light trips. Space.com reports that the solar cycle maximum will occur through early 2025, according to solar physicist Frédéric Clette.

Plan now to see a rare total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. Thousands of travelers will show up to see the moon’s shadow totally obscure the sun for less than 5 minutes within a three-hour period on this Monday afternoon. Texas, ground zero for both October 2023’s annular solar eclipse and the upcoming total solar eclipse, is one place to go. According to NASA mapping, states from New York to Ohio, Kentucky to Tennessee, Oklahoma and parts of Canada and Mexico are also ideal. Even Alaska and Hawaii will boast a partial view of the total eclipse. Astronomy experts remind travelers to use eclipse glasses, special viewers, or welder’s glass to protect their eyes.

TAKING THE POOCH OR THE PET ON SPRING TRAVELS

Australian sheepdog holding red hydrangeas.
Time to get the whole family out to enjoy some of our spring break ideas. Photo by Spiritize for pixabay.

Don’t be surprised if you see pampered pooches in the fanciest hotels like the Four Seasons, smaller hotels like Kimpton, and budget properties like Red Roof Inn. Did you know that nearly eight in 10 of the 90 million American households with pets traveled with their pets in 2022, according to GlobalVetLink. Dogs and cats are the most popular animal companions. Thousands of hotels managed by the major hotel brands (check out Pets Welcome for suggestions) now welcome dogs, and many have facilities for cats. Some accommodations provide dog beds and bowls, though our dogs have always preferred their own. Most hotels charge a pet fee unless your animal is certified as a support animal.

Although you may dream of sharing the great outdoors with your pet, most national park lodges do not welcome pets. Personal pets are forbidden on many National Park Service hiking trails as well, for the protection of local wildlife and your pet. In most recreation areas, however, you will find some paved trails where they can go. Plus, these communities tend to have pet-welcoming places to stay just outside the park, such as in campgrounds. (KOA’s feature dog parks!) Many vacation rentals are also pet friendly. Friends use the service TrustedHousesitters.com (from $129/year membership) to find home swaps with people who will take care of their pets and vice versa.

Just be mindful on road trips not to leave pets in the car when it is hot — or cold. And they will appreciate stops to play, eat, and go potty as much as your kids will.

GET THE KIDS UP AND OUT FOR ADVENTURE TRAVEL

Ice fishing is one of the new activities your family adventurers will enjoy trying this spring. Photo c. FareHarbor
Ice fishing is one of the new activities your family adventurers will enjoy trying this spring. Photo c. FareHarbor

Spring break is the perfect time to take your family on an adventure-filled vacation. This type of vacation offers a perfect blend of excitement and family-friendly activities. It also satisfies active teens who may be concerned with their health, fitness, and weight.

First up, we have Costa Rica, a tropical paradise known for its stunning biodiversity. From zip-lining through the lush rainforests, to exploring Arenal volcano near La Fortuna, there’s no shortage of thrilling activities for both kids and adults. You can also embark on a wildlife safari to spot monkeys, sloths, and colorful birds in their natural habitat. For those seeking water adventures, Costa Rica’s pristine beaches on the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts offer opportunities for snorkeling, surfing, and even swimming in natural hot springs.

For colder weather spring escapes, make plans to visit Canada, a country known for its vast wilderness and outdoor activities. Head to Banff National Park and immerse yourself in the stunning Rocky Mountains. In late spring, go hiking, canoeing, or horseback riding amidst breathtaking scenery. You can also take a boat tour to explore the picturesque Lake Louise or go wildlife spotting in Jasper National Park. Families heading to the slopes and glaciers of Whistler can book a three-hour Ice Fishing tour (ages 16+) and bring rainbow trout back to their ski chalet for supper.

If that sounds too strenuous for a relaxing getaway, head to the family-friendly side of Las Vegas, a city packed with entertainment options. A two-hour Downtown Las Vegas Segway Tour introduces ages 12+ to the city’s history, most iconic attractions and must-see sites like the Mob Museum.

PLAY BALL IN ARIZONA AND FLORIDA for SPRING TRAINING

All of your baseball fans will love heading to Spring Training and so will your wallet. Whether you opt for Florida’s Grapefruit League or the Arizona Cactus League (16 teams across 10 stadiums), you are guaranteed a good time at the small stadiums. Your kids might even get some autographs! 

Because the tickets at most ballparks are half what they would be at a regular season MLB game (typically starting at less than $30), you won’t feel any guilt if you leave the game after the 7th inning stretch. Allow time to spend a few more days in Arizona catching the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Families love the Fields’ interactive Cold Stone Kids Fun Field and Taking the Kids has lots of other Scottsdale activity ideas.  

The Florida Grapefruit League comprises 15 MLB teams who play in 13 local stadiums along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the state. Clearwater is home to Bright House Field, the Philadelphia Phillies stadium, as well as plenty of family-friendly beach resorts. Tampa, nearby, hosts the New York Yankees and a beautiful waterfront. The Atlantic coastal town of Jupiter is a good base, because both the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals play in Jupiter. Nearby, the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals are based in West Palm Beach, giving families lots of options.

CHERRY BLOSSOMS & CULTURE IN WASHINGTON DC

The Ferris wheel dominates the skyline at National Harbor, Maryland, where spring visitors will find a grove of cherry trees.
Cherry trees blossom earlier in National Harbor, Maryland than at the Mall, so early spring visitors can enjoy DC attractions by basing themselves there. Photo c. National Harbor.

Nothing signifies the arrival of spring in the nation’s capital quite like the blooming of the cherry blossom trees. Running March 20 – April 14, 2024, the National Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates the city’s 3,000-plus trees, most located around the Tidal Basin. There are also 200 trees said to bloom earlier, located in the National Harbor development in nearby Maryland. Crowds create lots of car and pedestrian traffic on weekends, so you’ll have to plan your visit carefully. Many families like to rent bicycles with helmets and trailers, or kids’ bikes and e-bikes (try Pedego in Alexandria and Unlimited Bikes in DC). Biking is the perfect eco-friendly option to get up close to the blooms.

Washington, DC is a standout with more free attractions, especially at the National Mall, than in any other major city. Take a free tour with Free Tours by Foot. Discover gleaming monuments, great museums, the National Zoo, good eats, and more cherry trees in hundreds of acres of parks and wetlands. But DC is more than monuments and museums.

For example, Woodley Park/Cleveland Park is north of Dupont Circle and home to the famous National Zoo. Yes, there are plenty of animals to see although the pandas returned home to China. From this Metro stop, your family should explore Rock Creek Park and stop into the National Cathedral. The Waterfront stop, southwest of the National Mall, is where the Nationals play baseball. Georgetown and Foggy Bottom are among several neighborhoods along the Potomac River to the south. Dating to 1751, you’ll see lots of old houses, restaurants, shops, and Georgetown University here. Look for signs of spring at the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks.

Take a riverboat (from March) down the Potomac to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home. It’s one of the country’s most visited historic sites. Eileen Ogintz’s Kid’s Guide to Washington, DC can help you plan your stay! The third edition will be out this spring.

VISIT IRELAND AT ST. PATRICK’S DAY FOR A BUCKET LIST SPRING BREAK

Buskers performing on Grafton Street in Dublin, Ireland.
Buskers performing on Grafton Street in Dublin entertain visitors. Photo c Nicky Omohundro

Ireland is a country that truly comes alive during St. Patrick’s Day (Sunday, March 17, 2024), making it the perfect destination for a family spring break trip. With its rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning landscapes, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

One of the highlights of visiting Ireland during St. Patrick’s Day is experiencing the lively parades and festivities that take place throughout the country. From Dublin to Galway, cities and towns are transformed into a sea of green as people gather to celebrate Ireland’s patron saint.

In addition to the parades, there are plenty of other activities and attractions to explore in Ireland. Families can visit iconic landmarks such as the Giant’s Causeway, Wild Atlantic Way, Slieve Guillion and Cliffs of Moher. These breathtaking natural wonders offer stunning views and opportunities for outdoor adventures like hiking and exploring.

For those interested in history and culture, Ireland is home to numerous castles and ancient ruins. Places like Blarney Castle, where you can kiss the famous Blarney Stone, and the ancient site of Newgrange are must-see attractions. Kids will be captivated by tales of leprechauns, fairies, and mythical creatures that are deeply ingrained in Irish folklore. The classic guide to St. Patrick’s Day Traditions with Kids will spark lots of creative ideas.

Food lovers will delight in the traditional Irish cuisine, which includes hearty dishes like Irish stew, fish and chips, and soda bread. And of course, no visit to Ireland would be complete without enjoying a pint of Guinness in a cozy Irish pub.

TROPICAL BEACHES TO SUIT YOUR SPRING BREAK FANTASIES

Cancun, Tulum, St. Lucia, and Riviera Nayarit are the ultimate sun ‘n’ sand destinations for a memorable spring break with kids. These tropical paradises offer a perfect blend of natural beauty, family-friendly activities, and stunning beaches that will make your vacation truly unforgettable.

Let’s start with Cancun, one of the best places to go in Mexico with children. With its crystal-clear turquoise waters and powdery white sand beaches, Cancun is a dream come true for beach lovers. The whole family can enjoy exciting water sports such as snorkeling, jet skiing, and parasailing. The Cancun Underwater Museum is a unique attraction where kids can explore the vibrant marine life and discover submerged sculptures. Grand Residences Riviera Cancun is one we love for its huge suites – some sleep up to 11 – ideal for family reunions. Read more about what it offers in our recent site review.

Next up is Tulum, a hidden gem on the Yucatan Peninsula. This picturesque coastal town offers a more laid-back and eco-friendly experience. One of the highlights is the ancient Mayan ruin, a UNESCO World Heritage site, overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Kids will be fascinated by the Mayan history and culture while exploring the ruins. Tulum also boasts pristine beaches perfect for building sandcastles and splashing in the gentle waves.

For a touch of Caribbean charm, St. Lucia is the ideal choice. This island paradise is known for its lush rainforests, striking volcanic peaks, and luxurious resorts. Families can embark on a thrilling zip line adventure through the rainforest or take a boat tour to see the famous Pitons. The all-inclusive Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa on the very pretty island of Saint Lucia has just been selected as a Good Housekeeping 2023 Family Travel Award Winner for its baby care. Kids love the onsite water park. Parents will love the CocoLand Kidz Klub that welcomes infants to 12-year-olds. Supervised programs are divided by age, and cater to under-3s, ages 4-7 and 8-12. Childcare, included in rates, is available daily with extra evening hours for ages 3+ on weeknights.

Lastly, we have Riviera Nayarit, a hidden gem on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. This lesser-known destination offers a more tranquil and authentic experience compared to its popular neighbor, Puerto Vallarta. Riviera Nayarit boasts miles of pristine beaches, perfect for building sandcastles and playing beach volleyball. This area’s all-inclusive resorts along with small, top-value hotels and bungalows offer a more authentic experience. Families can also enjoy whale watching tours, where kids can witness the majestic humpback whales in their natural habitat.

NOT TOO EARLY TO PLAN YOUR SUMMER RAFTING TRIP

Family on an inflatable raft ride the rapids down the Grand Canyon with OARS outfitters. Photo by Josh Miller for OARS
Ride the rapids down the Grand Canyon this summer with OARS outfitters. Photo by Josh Miller for OARS

Trust us, a multi-day river trip in the West — free from all the busyness, chores, and electronic distractions of everyday life — is one of the best vacations a family will have together, and spring is the time to plan your family’s summer vacation. Veteran outfitter OARS has many family-friendly guided adventures for kids as young as 4 to families with teens who are looking for something a little more exciting and parents who want to get their kids away from screens and into the back country without all of the work a backpacking or camping trip typically involves.

Such trips inspire camaraderie between guests and staff as everyone works together, plus your guides do most of the work anyway, including all the meal planning, shopping, and cooking! OARS has been a trusted name in river running and adventure travel for over 50 years and they make vacation planning easy. Every year, more than 1,000 families, including many multi-generational family groups, choose OARS to outfit their family adventure vacation.

Maybe it’s rafting the Green River through the Gates of Lodore in Utah’s Dinosaur National Monument, floating through a stunning forested canyon on Oregon’s Rogue River or riding in a dory through the rapids of Grand Canyon. Request a free Adventures Catalog today!

Taking the Kids did a week-long raft trip down the Main Salmon River in Idaho last summer.

AFRICAN AMERICAN CULTURE BEYOND BLACK HISTORY MONTH

February is Black History Month. Did you know that Carter G. Woodson, the son of former slaves and a Ph.D. from Harvard, developed Black History Week in 1926 to celebrate African American culture nationally? Today it is much expanded, and families will find many special exhibits, performances and talks close to home and when they travel.

The National Park Service Journey to Freedom includes more than 750 sites – many of them outdoors across the country — with a tie to the Underground Railroad. Washington DC is home to the International Underground Railroad Project, which chronicles the stories of freedom seekers and communities on the Underground Railroad’s routes to Canada, the Dutch colonies, Brazil, and Mexico. In DC, allow at least a half day for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Black History Month exhibits there highlight the works from the art of resistance which inspired others, and here’s how to make the most of your visit. Don’t miss the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial. The latter is where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech and where opera singer Marian Anderson performed in front of 75,000 people when she was denied the chance to perform at Constitution Hall because of her race.

Louisville, Kentucky celebrates meaningful travel year-round. This month, the Aviation Heritage Park in Bowling Green highlights the restored Piper Cub plane flown by Willa Beatrice Brown. She was the first Black woman in the U.S. to earn a commercial pilot’s license. Ms. Brown spent most of her aviation career in Chicago where she and her husband co-founded the Cornelius Coffey School of Aeronautics to train aviators, including many who would go on to become Tuskegee Airmen.

Visit Providence and walk the Early Black History Tour. It provides an overview of the little-known history of enslaved and freed Black people in Rhode Island, one of the largest producers of Negro cloth, a low-quality clothing made with cotton imported from the South. All faiths and colors worshipped at the Cathedral of St. John & Burial Ground from 1722. Today, it functions as The Center for Reconciliation, an organization dedicated to educating the public about slavery and its aftermath.

Orlando, Florida offers opportunities to learn about African American culture and local history throughout the year. In Eatonville, visit the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts. In addition to their annual January ZORA! Festival, look for special events and ongoing exhibits of art by legendary and emerging artists of African descent. Historic Hannibal Square, known as West Winter Park, was home to Black families since 1881. The Hannibal Square Heritage Center runs walking tours the third Saturday of each month and does special Juneteenth programming. Or stroll through Parramore, Orlando’s oldest Black neighborhood, and drop into the Wells’ Built Museum of African American History and Culture housed in a former hotel. The Orange County Regional History Center also features a permanent African American history exhibit focused on Central Florida.

FUN IN THE SNOW OFF THE SLOPES

Three snow angels at Vista Verde Ranch in Clark, Colorado
Making snow angels while vacationiong at Vista Verde Ranch in Clark, Colorado. Photo c. Dude Ranchers Association

There’s nothing like a blue-sky day at a snow resort. And there’s no better time than spring when the weather is warmer and the snow is softer to enjoy the mountains, especially this year with so much snow. Check out our FUN IN THE SNOW section for ideas on where to go. Many states including Colorado, Utah, Maine and New York welcome certain schoolchildren to apply for kids’ ski free deals and passes to promote a lifelong love of the sport.

But there are also plenty of ways to have fun in the snow off the slopes, even at a traditional snow resort. Think spas, tubing, alpine coasters, ziplining and more. We’ve visited the historic (open in 1902) Omni Mount Washington Resort with its famous zipline, dog-sledding, and 25,000 square-foot spa. In the Midwest, Destination Kohler in Wisconsin offers everything from curling to fit-tire biking, S’mores by an outdoor fire, even a hot chocolate bar. There are cabins as well as a hotel. (Stay three nights by March 31 and get a complimentary third night.) 

Other alternatives include dude ranches or a budget friendly YMCA. The two YMCA of the Rockies near Rocky Mountain National Park, for example, have plenty of complimentary activities from ice skating to cross-country skiing and snow mountain biking. We had a memorable trip to Yellowstone one winter when we snowshoed and came face to face with a buffalo near Old Faithful. There are special Yellowstone in winter packages to learn more about wolves, take Snow Coach or snowmobile outings and learn from local naturalists.

On the East Coast, the Appalachian Mountain Club offers affordable all-inclusive winter stays with guided activities, including for those Wee Wanderers ages 4-6. Spring discounts mean kids stay and eat free during February school vacation weeks at Joe Dodge Lodge and the Highland Center. Guided outdoor adventures come complete with gear you can borrow.

Remember that many ski areas around the country, including the National Sports Center for the Disabled at Winter Park, Colorado offer special adaptive programs for those with physical and mental challenges.

GOLF SUSTAINABLY AND AFFORDABLY THIS SPRING BREAK

The Black Jack's Crossing golf course at Lajitas Resort, Texas
The Black Jack’s Crossing golf course straddles the canyons and valleys of the Chihuahuan Desert in the far west of Texas.

Picture yourselves golfing atop steep canyons overlooking Big Bend National Park. While the dry far west of Texas may not come to mind for many golfers, the Black Jack’s Crossing golf course at the Lajitas Resort is one of the country’s top-ranked courses for adventurous players. And spring, between the frigid winter and broiling summer, is the perfect time to play it.

You can play golf any time in most of California, and the Omni La Costa Resort in Carlsbad is a favorite destination. In addition to Carlsbad’s two PGA courses, this resort has smart programming for kids at the dedicated Kidtopia Club, plus Easter Egg hunts and hula hoop and limbo contests. Adults love the wellness offerings like a terrific spa, yoga, and fitness classes. If there are non-golfers in your group, the resort is close to the famous San Diego Zoo, Legoland California and Sea World San Diego for days out.

On the East coast, Myrtle Beach is one of the most popular conventional golfing destinations. Play here any time between early spring and late fall and you’ll discover how affordable the fees are, especially outside the summer high season. Nearly half of the region’s golf courses welcome children 16 and under to play free with paying adults.

Kidtripster.com touts top courses and resorts for families, including the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa in Arizona. This kid-friendly resort even has family golf carts and a cool and refreshing Adventure Water Park. In Pennsylvania, chocolate-lovers can enjoy the theme park rides while golfers tee up at the famous Hershey Country Club.

Minnesota, one of the best Midwest golf destinations, is home to Deacon’s Lodge, about 150 miles north of St. Paul. Play the historic par 72 championship course designed by Arnold Palmer. Golfers appreciate the eco-friendly greens planted with Bent grass, and fairways that cross forest and 500 acres of lake country. Cabins sleeping eight to 10 guests have golf-in / golf-out access plus a fireplace, kitchen, and pool table. Minigolf and the bikers’ favorite Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway are nearby. If you’re going before April, check out the Giants Ridge Resort north of Duluth, which offers both seasonal skiing and golfing on terrific public courses.

CHASE BIG EVENTS FOR FREE FUN OVER SPRING BREAK

Taylor Swift was Time Magazine's 2023 Person of the Year. Photo c. TIME by Inez and Vinoodh.

One of the year’s biggest travel trends (thank you, Swifties!) is the huge increase in activations or special activities surrounding a sporting or entertainment event. Research into immersive hotels families love highlights several public activities, immersive environments, and private, guest-only experiences that complement major local events.

Examples include Hilton Hotels, which creates pop-up family suites themed to Broadway shows to sell packages including theatre tickets. In Las Vegas, the Fashion Show Las Vegas mall features free Super Bowl events through Feb. 12, 2024. Football-themed photo ops include lounge chairs on a turf surface, an immersive broadcast booth where shoppers can get tips from real sportscasters on certain days,and a Big Game watch party Feb. 11 in The Great Hall.

Plan ahead for ticketed events so large you can experience them without a paid seat. This spring, the other BIG events include the Grammy Awards at Los Angeles’ Crypto.com Arena on Sunday, Feb. 4. Mardi Gras is Tuesday, Feb. 13 with festivities occurring for two weeks prior in many destinations. Your basketball fans will love the NBA All-Star Game, Feb. 18 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, home of the Indiana Pacers. Aspiring filmmakers will want to get as close as possible to the action at the Academy Awards (Los Angles, March 10). Stargazers should find the nearest path of totality for the April 8 Solar Eclipse. Head to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby (May 4), to Miami for the Grand Prix Formula 1 (May 3-5), and to the Paris Olympics (July 26 to Aug. 11.)

CAMPUS VISITS, COLLEGE TOURS, VOLUNTEERING TOP TEEN #SPRINGBREAKIDEAS

Universities and colleges come in all shapes and sizes. Visit a few this spring and watch the kids pick up on the differences during student-led campus tours. Children (especially younger siblings) get a better feel from a college visit when school is in session. If you are interested in more than 28 institutions of higher learning, San Francisco is a good base for touring UC San Francisco, “Cal” (UC Berkeley), Stanford, Santa Clara University, University of San Francisco, plus many others. Make time for fun. Stroll or picnic at San Francisco’s newest park, Presidio Tunnel Tops and bike, hike, dine at food trucks and take selfies with the Golden Gate as a backdrop.

Student travel blogger Derek Babine’s top campus visit tips include being really prepared. When Derek made his California road trip to visit the top schools on his list, he pre-arranged his own tours and talks with administrative staff and students. Additionally, many Admission Offices will set you up for an interview (in person, online or by phone) with local alumni if you can’t visit their school.

Alternatively, check out “alternative spring breaks” organized by many civic groups. Start research with your church, your teen’s school or in the community. In New York City, for example, groups ranging from libraries to hospitals welcome young volunteers. Opportunities for spring and summer student volunteering exist in countries throughout the world.

FRESH ALASKA ADVENTURES FOR SPRING VISITORS

Aurora Borealis and full moon seen over Wiseman, Alaska.
The aurora borealis (northern lights) over Wiseman, Alaska. Photo by Ron Bozman for Media Noche.

By early March, Alaska will get over 10 hours of daylight and warmer temperatures. Perfect for skiing, snowshoeing, fat tire biking, dog sledding and snowmobiling.

Don’t forget wildlife viewing. Millions of birds, including over 250 different species, and tens of thousands of whales make their incredible journeys to Alaska on their annual spring migrations. The best way to witness the migration is on a day cruise from Seward as the whales travel through the Gulf of Alaska. You may also see returning humpback whales, which arrive back to Alaska waters starting in April.

According to Travel Alaska, springtime tours and activities are often cheaper, just like accommodations and airfare. Spring is also a great time to see the Northern Lights as viewing season runs through April. After all that exercise, soak at the new Alyeska Nordic Spa in the forest. Or try the Chena Hot Springs Resort outside Fairbanks, a go-to thermal pool for locals for more than a century. The resort features a place to stay and a wide variety of activities, as Family Travel Forum discovered on a recent Alaska winter adventure

In Sitka, get up close and personal with rare wildlife. See bears up close at the Fortress of the Bears that cares for orphaned cubs and admire the Bald Eagles at the Alaska Raptor Center where they come after being injured. Taking the Kids had a great visit. Come to Fairbanks for the World Ice Art Championships (Feb. 17-Mar. 31, 2024) or in March, the famous Iditarod Sled Dog Race (Mar. 2-14). The 1,000-mile race starts in Anchorage and ends in Nome. See the start as the mushers wind their way through Anchorage on dog sleds, cheered on by thousands.

Of course, you can use this time to plan for an early-season cruise. Princess, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Carnival and Norwegian all start their seasons in late April.

Are your kids begging to go camping? The 2024 Camping Trends Outlook from Campspot found that more than 70% of those surveyed are looking for “calm-cations” this year. Fortunately, 93% of campers report feeling more relaxed or mentally refreshed after camping versus other kinds of trips. They cited the novelty of alternative accommodations, affordability, having a natural water source nearby, taking a break from their daily routine and nature’s quiet as benefits that most contributed to the calm. In a twist on being unplugged, 64% of those surveyed said that highspeed WiFi was crucial to their relaxation.

Campspot factored in data such as availability of sites, proximity to water and dark sky parks, ratings, and price, to guide 2024 campers. Their top five camping locations to satisfy this year’s trends are Denver, Oxford (central Florida), Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains, and Orlando with seven more Florida destinations making the top 25. By the way, their 2023 selection of the top family campgrounds identified the Jellystone Camp-Resorts brand (read more here) as a favorite for its RV and tent sites, cabins, glamping options, water parks, beaches, arcades, or mini golf.

Are your newbies ready to go camping? Overnighting in a local park (or the backyard) can prove a great trial run with some camping tips from Family Travel Forum.

MAKE SPRING ACCESSIBLE TO ALL DISABILITIES

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Breeze is the “nice” low cost carrier that supports every type of traveler. Photo c. Breeze

It’s not easy to travel with kids and even more difficult when they have special challenges, such as families who have a child on the Autism Spectrum. Fortunately, the world is becoming more inclusive.

Autism Double Checked is a welcome organization founded by travel professional Alan Day and partners who understand firsthand what precautions are necessary to create a safe and enjoyable space for individuals with ASD while away from home. They recently partnered with Breeze, a low-cost regional carrier with a reputation for being “nice.” (True! Breeze even offers complimentary family seating through its app.) “Breeze is on track to be the first domestic carrier certified by Autism Double Checked,” according to spokesperson Gareth Edmondson-Jones. Together, they offer practice flights for those on the spectrum, allowing participants to experience the check-in, plane boarding and on-board environment. The Autism Double-Checked concept of Practice Vacations will include Autism Flights, Autism Nights with hotel partners and Autism Sights at attractions whose staff have been certified in autism programs.

Expert Dawn Barclay shares her travel tips for the neurodiverse to make these vacations more predictable. The TSA Cares helpline (call 855/787-2227) provides travelers with disabilities additional assistance when you call 72 hours before your flight. The TSA notification card should help you get whisked through screening without waiting in long lines.

April is Autism Awareness Month, a good time to check out Autism Travel’s handy Adventure Travel Guide that focuses on destinations that have completed an autism friendly certification course.

BOOK CRUISES NOW TO RIDE THE WAVE SALES SEASON

Holland America Westerdam seen cruising in Glacier Bay, Alaska with glaciers along the shore.
Alaska is one of the best summer vacation ideas because cruise companies are offering more choice on Glacier Bay tours and more immersive experiences. Photo c. Holland America

Kids free… cabin upgrades… onboard credits and more. The cruise industry’s WAVE season deals, which may run until the end of March, offer some of the best cruise deals of the year. Finding and understanding them can be tough, however, and cruise travel specialists can be helpful in sorting out deals that meet your needs. Additionally, Cruisecritic.composts an ongoing round-up of wave season deals that will continue to be updated through March, 2024. 

Ships big and small, megaships, mass market liners, expedition vessels and more are on sale now. Even river cruises are offering discounts. Now through Feb. 29, 2024, Windstar (families with older kids love the sailing yachts with their water platforms)  is offering travelers a “Pick Your Perk” deal: one free hotel night (which can be used pre- or post-cruise) or up to $1,000 onboard credit. (We sailed with Windstar in Greece during the Pandemic.)

At Royal Caribbean, ever-changing WAVE season deals include $600 off a cruise, up to 60% off a second guest and some kids sail free itineraries. Holland America, which boasts pickleball courts on every ship, is offering a “Time of Your Life” incentive that features balcony upgrades, savings up to 40% on select sailings, and free fares for kids through Feb. 29, 2024. Princess Cruises is offering up to 40% off cruise fares, free room upgrades, plus third and fourth guests (read that:  kids) sail free. Some sailings are as low as $399 per person.

The 19 Norwegian Cruise Line ships, known for family friendly activities (how about the first racetrack at sea!) is touting the second guest free (and on some cruises, third and fourth passengers for $99), free airfare on select cruises, and Free at Sea deal, which includes free drinks, specialty dining, shore excursion credits and Wi-Fi. 

Hurtigruten, the undisputed expert on Norway and its stunning coastline, is offering discounts of up to $4,000 off per person and 50% off on kids’ rates. During WAVE season, check out their new HX Expeditions to the Northern Lights.

WHAT’S NEW AT THE THEME PARKS

There are more than 80 new attractions opening at theme parks around the world this year, with no end to the growth in sight. Some are fueled by pop culture hits, for example, the Barbie Beach House opening at the new Mattel Adventure Park in Glendale, Arizona. Within her beach house, fans will discover a Barbie Dream Closet hosted by a holographic version of the doll herself. The 9-acre, year-round Mattel Park promises both air-conditioned indoor and outdoor attractions that include a Thomas the Tank Engine: World of Sodor Land with seven rides. Look for Masters of the Universe Laser Tag, and UNO game climbing tower, and two new Hot Wheels themed roller coasters.

Other theme parks keep growing based on favorite children’s themes. That’s the story at Dinoland opening this spring in Legoland California. The Duplo Little Dino Trail is one of the first dinosaur-themed attractions to open but we’re excited about the huge Stegosaurus made of Legos, the first of 17 LEGO models that will make the Park’s newest land an instant classic.

Look for the  second stand-alone Peppa Pig Theme Park to open near the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex this year, joining the Orlando park as it celebrates its second birthday. With a laser focus on fun for preschoolers, the Texas park will open with the gentle Daddy Pig’s roller coaster, a tricycle trail and costumed character meets near the already popular Peppa Pig World of Play indoor attraction. And like the Orlando park, families can expect multiple rides, interactive attractions, fun live shows, themed playscapes and water play areas.

No matter how often you visit a theme park or a waterpark, you will always find something new—or something you missed last time. Super Nintendo World opened at Universal Studios Hollywood last year and offers Power-Up Bands to play interactive games, snacks at the Toadstool Café and a Mario Kart-inspired ride.

This spring, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay welcomes Castaway Falls, a new waterplay zone to their Adventure Island waterpark. For a limited time, guests who buy a 2024 Busch Gardens Fun Card annual pass get an Adventure Island Fun Card for free. It’s a great deal.

The Dolly Parton Experience is coming this spring to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Meet theme park founder Dolly Parton, learn about her youth in this area and follow her amazing career as you walk through this immersive attraction. This is a much expanded and more immersive experience than the Chasing Rainbows Museum, if you recall that.

CELEBRATE LOVE AND FAMILY WITHOUT KIDS

A chart highlights the top 2024 destinations where Valentine's Day travelers are headed from the US. Graphic c. Allianz Partners
This chart highlights the top domestic and international destinations where US travelers are going for Valentine’s Day 2024. Graphic c. Allianz Partners

Whether it’s a Valentine’s Day (or post Valentine’s Day getaway), let go of the guilt and enjoy a trip without the kids. Experts believe it is healthy for kids to see parents have lives and interests beyond them. The question is not if, but where, to go.

Allianz Partners USA 2024 Valentine’s Day Destinations report revealed increased interest in both Valentine’s Day travel (up 15% over 2023) and overseas travel (up 4%.) Warm weather destinations closer to home prevail among the romantics surveyed. Florida’s tourist meccas of Orlando, Miami and Fort Lauderdale took the top three spots followed by Phoenix and Las Vegas with their perfect spring weather. The majority of international travelers chose Mexican beach resorts at Cancun, San Jose del Cabo, and Puerto Vallarta, followed by those heading to the Caribbean islands. (See the chart.) 

“It’s no surprise that after the holiday season, couples and ‘galentines’ are ready to leave the cold weather behind and take flight to palm-fringed beaches,” says Daniel Durazo, director of external communications at Allianz Partners USA.

Our tips:

  1. Be sure to select a resort where you won’t be surrounded by other people’s children.
  2. Purchase a travel insurance policy to help protect your getaway in case of unexpected travel delays, cancellations, and baggage loss. 
  3. Gift your loved ones an annual travel insurance policy to build anticipation for upcoming vacations, with or without the kids.

In addition to Allianz Travel-branded travel insurance plans, the company offers event ticket protection, registration protection for endurance events and unique travel assistance services such as international medical assistance and concierge services.

This seasonal guide to the best spring vacation ideas is authored by Family Travel Consulting partners Eileen Ogintz, Nicky Omohundro and Kyle McCarthy. It contains sponsored content on behalf of Allianz Partners USA, CroisiEurope, and OARS. The travel ideas and tips expressed are those of the authors based on their experience and expertise.

Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.

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