Despite gas prices, Covid outbreaks and heat waves – or because of them — American families are keen on last minute summer vacations. Since deals abound, let’s explore 15 of our favorite ones among the deals currently available. And since it’s not a summer vacation without a waterfront view, all of our picks are in, on or above the water.
According to the Allianz Global Assistance survey of “Top 10 Summer Destinations,” about 75% of you are traveling within the US this summer. To satisfy the other 25%, our deals also include options outside the 50 States.
One quick deal that applies anywhere is TIDAL, a streaming music and video app that works wonders after a long day of traveling. Get 6 accounts with the TIDAL HiFi Plus Family Plan – currently a $3 for 3 months trial offer – and know that 10% of your subscription fee supports artists you listen to who get royalties based on your listening.
Listening? Now read on for 15 fun waterfront, last minute summer vacations in no particular order.
North Shore, O’ahu, Hawaii
The Islands of Hawai’i have fully reopened after a strict COVID-19 lockdown, bringing back the challenges of over-tourism. However, Oahu’s remote North Shore, a two-hour drive from the much busier Honolulu, remains a Pacific Oceanfront getaway you’ll never forget. The town’s only large resort, Turtle Bay, has recently put 650 acres of land into permanent conservation while renovating existing facilities. There’s swimming, hiking, beach-going and surfing on different sides of peninsula. Some guests play golf, visit the resort’s farm and horseback ride before enjoying magnificent sunsets. Check out discounted North Shore Oahu hotels from Travelocity; Courtyard Marriott North Shore begins at $270 per night for last minute summer vacations. Okay, not waterfront… but very close.
Flathead Lake, Montana
Picture the mountains behind the navy-blue waters of Flathead Lake, star of Montana’s Flathead Valley. Packed with outdoors lovers from all 50 states, it attracts road trippers doing Glacier National Park and aspiring fishers. You can stay in charming downtown Kalispell and explore Flathead Valley’s 500 lakes. Or check into the famous Flathead Lake Lodge, a family dude ranch in Bigfork. Rentals and hotels abound in this popular summer destination. Book direct with the Best Western Flathead Lake Inn, for example, to get double rooms including free WiFi and breakfast from $271.
Lake Shasta, California
House boating is a super laid-back vacation option if you want to hit the water. While not as spacious as many Airbnb’s, your family will all fit into a space that is like a Winnebago RV. Houseboat rentals range in length and the largest can sleep 12 people comfortably. A good place to set sail is Lake Shasta in Redding, California, where you boat from Holiday Harbor and tour Shasta Caverns. A fully outfitted houseboat sleeping six starts at $584 for two nights. Aug. 5-18 are Holiday Harbor’s value weeks and, for last minute summer vacations after Aug. 19 till the end of the season, rates drop again.
Most families choose to see Alaska waterways by cruise ship. From May to September, the Inside Passage is open for whale watching, glacier hiking, sightseeing and fishing. The beautiful city of Anchorage, however, is a more affordable and flexible base to experience many of the same adventures. Take van tours out along Turnagain Arm and boat into Cook Inlet to see some of the 350 beluga whales. Rent a bike to cycle the 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail that loops along the inlet and boasts amazing sea breezes.
Kayak or whitewater raft the Eagle River. See icebergs and glacier hike outside Girdwood, about 90 minutes from town at Spencer Lake. If the temperatures rise, head to the Alaska Native Heritage Center and the Anchorage Museum, noted centers of Native American arts and culture. The traditional Captain Cook Hotel has large family suites overlooking Cook Inlet and the Chugach Mountains. The rooftop Crow’s Nest restaurant is another place to be waterfront this summer. To book hotels and alternative adventures, see Visit Anchorage.
Aruba, Netherlands Antilles
Dutch ownership doesn’t make Aruba any less familiar. This Caribbean island known for its crystalline water and constant tradewinds accepts US dollars and everyone speaks English. Entry requirements include a passport and a COVID-19 travel insurance policy ($15) for every family member ages 15 and older. (This supplements travel insurance you buy to cover everything else.) There are large family-friendly, waterfront resorts at all price points. Each of the island’s beaches feature their own Aruba family sights and special activities. Kite boarding and standup paddleboarding are popular at Palm Beach. Families snorkel right offshore at Arashi. The posh Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino has a double room from just $194 this summer.
Dinosaur National Monument, Utah
We promised you waterfront so you may be wondering how dinosaur fossils fit into last minute summer vacations. On a multi-day family rafting adventure at Utah’s Gates of Lodore, you’ll be so waterfront you are swimming in it. And that’s between hikes and breaks to check out dinosaur fossils and petroglyphs dating back millions of years. A river trip is about so much more than rafting. All-inclusive rates mean the necessary gear is provided, expert guides will lead you through the whitewater and delicious snacks and meal will be served en route. At OARS, rates begin at $1,199 for four-day, last minute, big adventure trips this summer.
Lake George, New York
New York State’s Adirondacks Park, established by naturalist President Theodore Roosevelt in 1892, is truly spectacular. Within its six-million-acre boundary, choose from any of 3,000 lakes. We especially like the bustling community of Lake George, where old-fashioned ice cream parlors, mini-golf and breezy sightseeing paddle wheelers keep all ages busy and cool. The Sagamore is a classic clapboard resort where August rates begin at $699.
For a more affordable and one-with-nature vacation, pitch the family at fully outfitted tents at the new Huttopia Adirondacks. You won’t be waterfront on Lake George but their heated pool, playground, hiking trails and outdoor movies thrill kids. Need more activity? Purchase a fun Escape Kit in advance, print out the props and costumes you need, and pack up a fun afternoon or evening adventure for all ages to play together.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
One of this summer’s top destinations, according to a recent Allianz Global survey, is the beautiful Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. It feels like Spain yet is easily reached. No passport required. Looking for delicious seafood and local cuisine? Hot Latin culture without the frenetic Miami vibe? Nightlife, star gazing and water sports? Active families love the many outdoor adventures in Puerto Rico such as ziplining, cave explorations, hiking and kayaking through bioluminescent bays. A family of four room at the Sheraton Old San Juan, on the water near the Teatro Tapia and Museo del Mar, is just $240 per night on Booking.com for August.
Salmon River, Idaho
The Salmon River runs through the heart of Idaho’s Lewis & Clark territory and has enough variety to suit all sorts of fans of #waterfrontlife. We, however, love the summer whitewater rafting trips run by ROW on Idaho’s Salmon River Canyons. ROW Family Magic Rafting Tours cater to ages 5 and older, with friendly guides focused on keeping things fun, cooking great meals and setting up neat camps. Check their website for last minute specials; six-day, all-inclusive and educational adventures start at $1,890 per person.
Lake Vermilion, Minnesota
Midwesterners in search of a breeze and a splash throng to Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes each summer. Lake Itasca, site of the Mississippi River headwaters, is one recreation area families love. Try fishing, of course, plus waterskiing, canoeing, kayaking and swimming in the chilly water. Itasca State Park has many rental and hotel options in Park Rapids, where you may score your own pontoon boat for sightseeing. Our favorite vacation deals site for hotel bookings is Booking.com.
On nearby Lake George (not to be confused with the Adirondacks), room rentals for a family of four begin at $187 per night.
Belize, Central America
Many associate the central American country of Belize with jungle and forest eco-adventures. Let’s not forget the beautiful mainland beaches and 200 small, sand bar-like cayes off the coast. Ambergris Caye is one of the largest, located within the world’s second longest barrier reef. Cruise the island in a golf cart, relax in a hammock, or swim, snorkel and fish in the Caribbean Sea. Soak up the water views from the deck of your family villa with a private pool or a lodge room at Victoria House Resort & Spa. Summer specials include a sixth night free and 20% discounts in early September. Another option is the luxurious Naia Resort and Spa on the mainland at Placencia. The 200-acre beachfront preserve is more wellness oriented, offering sea kayaking, watersports and natural spa treatments on the sand. Families are housed in small free-standing units. Get in touch about their special six-day packages including all meals, activities and a two-bedroom villa.
Seneca Lake, New York
This still quaint region of upstate New York is known for its long spindly lakes – finger lakes – that are now more prominent for their tasty wine terroir than for fishing. At Seneca Lake, a long-established resort area, families enjoy staying at some of the classic Finger Lakes resorts or rental homes. Like the other Finger Lakes, the water is swimmable, and some communities have lifeguards. However, last minute summer vacations may bring unseasonably hot weather and, in turn, algae alerts. Seneca Lake is a good base to explore both the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail and Keuka Lake Wine Trail, where lakefront vineyards offer wine tasting. Introduce kids to “wine” at Barrington Cellars, one of the first vineyards to welcome children with grape-juice tasting. Or check out the schedule at Watkins Glen International – if it’s not NASCAR races there’s always something going on.
Douro River, Portugal
Portugal has been one of this year’s breakout destinations for last minute summer vacations. You can avoid some of the crowds though by joining a river cruise along the beautiful Douro River. You will be waterfront, guaranteed, but this trip isn’t about swimming. It’s about appreciating the culture of the Portuguese, their cities and their cuisine. On a Croisieurope family adventure, no need to worry about meals, guides, gratuities, luggage – unpack once and you are transported to the very best the riverside has to offer. Shore excursions are included and children ages 16 and under cruise free in Portugal, Spain and Italy. CroisiEurope welcomes families with 30% off fares in Croatia and Montenegro too. A six-day Portugal adventure starts at just $1,995 per person during the summer high season.
With so many new ships to consider, this summer’s last minute vacation may be your best chance to grab a great rate on a family cruise. The CDC has removed all its warnings against cruise ship travel and most major ships are sailing with a vaccination rate of 90% on board. Mexico, the Bahamas and any Caribbean port are the top summer destinations. As Carnival Cruise Line continues its 50th anniversary season, the brand new Mardi Gras set sail with more outdoor space, deckside dining, a roller coaster at sea and immersive new evening shows. Carnival, which carries more children than any other cruise line, is an easy option because so many Americans live within 500 miles of one of their cruise ports. It’s not too late to book cruises for later this summer – just check out the up to 40% off cruise savings on Priceline now.
Brunswick, North Carolina
With nearly 12,000 miles of inland and oceanfront coast, North Carolina is bound to have a waterfront place to call your own. We like the Brunswick Islands off the coast of Wilmington, which extend south to South Carolina and include the popular and posh Bald Head Island. Brunswick is much more low-key. Choose your lodging, go fishing and boating in Boiling Spring Lakes and cook your catch at home. There are many nature preserves featuring wonderful swamps and bayous, and beaches where sea turtles come ashore at night. Sea kayak rentals are widely available. If you prefer to sleep in town, little Leland, NC has restaurants, shops and a Best Western Plus Westgate Inn & Suites that welcomes kids and pets at $130.15.
Last Minute Summer Vacation Tips!
Tip #1: Check the latest public health guidance before you set off on any last minute summer vacations. Carry extra masks and sanitizer.
Tip #2: Buy travel insurance to cover unforeseen delays (labor strikes, hurricanes) and the expected challenges (lost luggage, Covid quarantines).
Tip #2: Allocate the kids’ allowance before departure so you can all relax about souvenir shopping!
Please use the Comments Section below to let us know where you go on your summer vacation!
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