Monday, June 14, 2021

15 Top Picks from 51 Great Summer Vacation Ideas

How's your summer going? We're still busy planning some vacation time. If you're in the same boat we are, here’s our pick of the 15 very best summer vacation ideas from the amazing #bestsummer directory issued by  

We love that they’ve done the homework, and we can load our cart with some of the best ideas for our family. In the hopes of providing you with hope for a (somewhat) normal summer vacation, please read on!


Meet sled dog puppies on your Holland America land excursions in Alaska. Photo c. HAL 

This year for the second year in a row, there will be no big ships in Alaska as Transport Canada has banned almost all cruise activities in Canadian waters until next February. Families who don’t want to wait until 2022 have the opportunity to see Alaska a different way—and spend more time on land in and around Denali National Park as well as elsewhere. The largest players in the region -- Holland America Line and Princess Cruises -- have committed to operating their Alaska-based lodges this year. Adventure Smith Explorations also offers small-ship and other Alaska adventures, including yachts potentially available just for your group. The  summer of 2019, spent a few magical days kayaking, canoeing and just taking in the views and wildlife  at  the small  (just 18 cabins and 40 guests) at  Kenai Fjords  Glacier Lodge within the national park and accessible only by boat from Seward. And really good news: Denali National Park will allow road trippers to venture farther on their own. Check out one of the state’s newest campground sites, K’esugi Ken RV & Tent Campground, where you can pitch your tent in the shadow of North America’s largest peak. To find more campgrounds and plan your trip, visit


Take the kids to the museums and historic sites around the country that are putting the civil rights struggle in context for 21st century youth. The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC may still be closed but you certainly can visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Open destinations worth the journey include the African American Museum in Philadelphia, the first built by a major U.S. city to interpret the life and work of African Americans, Plan a weekend around the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute or the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.


Yogi Bear and his pals will soon be your pals when you stay and play at one of the Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts in the US. Photo c. Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts 

So, what if you haven’t been camping since Scouts? Record numbers of families are camping, often for the first time, and Yogi-Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts make it easy. With more than 75 Jellystone Park locations across the US and Canada, you’ll find a campground nearby packed with amazing attractions such as pools, water slides and splash grounds like the Jellystone Park Camp-Resort that Family Travel Forum visited. Hike, fish, explore and take advantage of family activities such as jumping pillows, mini golf and foam parties. Beloved characters Yogi Bear, Boo Boo, Cindy Bear and Ranger Smith from Jellystone make an appearance, too. Accommodations ranging from premium cabins and treehouses to deluxe RV sites and traditional tent campsites suit every family. Book now at, as prime summer dates are already selling out. Plan ahead for popular theme weekends such as Christmas in July, Chocolate Lovers Weekend and Halloween Spooktacular Weekends. Remember you can borrow or rent, rather than buy, any gear you might need.


New York is waking up and welcoming visitors once again, encouraging you to help rebuild the city’s $60 billion tourism industry. One of the summer’s cultural highlights is the outdoors show at the New York Botanical Garden, KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature, showing through Oct. 31, 2021. Immerse yourselves in sculpture and art installations from the famous Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama, who lived in New York from 1958-1973. Kusama’s lifelong obsession with nature, thanks to a childhood spent in the greenhouses and fields of her family’s seed nursery, will find full expression at the NYBG. New monumental sculptures highlight the show; Dancing Pumpkin and I Want to Fly to the Universe make their worldwide debut. Watch for the first-ever obliteration greenhouse, Flower Obsession. Infinity Mirrored Room - Illusion Inside the Heart, a signature Kusama experience in which visitors interact with mirrored walls and the sense of infinite depth, is set to open August 3. NYBG is in the Bronx and is easily accessible by subway or the Metro-North Railway. NYBG is open daily; purchase timed entry tickets online at NYBG as early as possible. At 250 acres, NYBG is quite large so we recommend going early in the day to allow time to see it all and dine at one of the garden’s restaurants.


Princess Cruise Line guests use a wearable Medallion Pass as their ID when embarking on their ship at port. Photo c. Princess Cruise Line 

While cruise lines are working to figure out how and when they can start cruising from US ports this summer, they also are getting creative with alternatives. Luxury Seabourn Cruise Line, known for unique all-inclusive cruises on smaller ships, will be cruising in Greece and from Caribbean ports this summer. Holland America is finding great interest in their Alaska land tours this summer while offering value-added amenities on 2022 cruises, including half-off drinks, WiFi, excursions and dining. Additionally, they are scheduling weeklong Greece and Mediterranean cruises between August and November aboard the Eurodam. And Princess Cruises, for those planning ahead, is touting deals that include drinks, gratuities and with your Medallion wearable, flexible new Dine My Way schedules. MedallionNet is super charged WiFi internet connectivity that leverages a new constellation of satellites, if you can’t leave work behind. Plan ahead as most cruise lines will require passengers to be fully vaccinated before boarding.


Disneyland and California Adventure Park have reopened to Californian residents and hope to open to all later this summer. As at Walt Disney World, there is limited capacity, fewer shows and no character meet and greets, though additional parades and pop ups have been added. At the Orlando theme parks, guests like the virtual lines for rides and ordering food via a Disney Experience App so that it is ready when you arrive. There are also new attractions -- like Micky and Minnie’s Runaway Railway in Disney’s Hollywood Studies, the first time the world’s two most famous mice have been featured in an attraction. The Taste of EPCOT International Flower & Garden Show runs until July 5, followed by the Food and Wine Festival July 15-Nov. 20 while EPCOT undergoes a multi-year transformation. Disney Cruise Line has announced new itineraries and its much-anticipated new ship Disney Wish that will begin cruises to the Bahamas next summer complete with the first AquaMouse water attraction, a revamped Oceaneer’s Club, new restaurants, including a Frozen dinner theater and more adults-only options, including a Star Wars Hyperspace Lounge with otherworldly concoctions. 


Gift the family a barge trip on a French canal with Croisieurope. 

River and canal barge cruising continue to grow in popularity, letting more guests experience more European destinations aboard the comfort of a floating hotel. For families, the formula seems right: All included amenities, visiting many ports without the need to pack and unpack each day, and variety of tours for all interests mean a worry-free vacation for parents. Customize a barge trip for your group of up to 22 for the ultimate in social distancing. CroisiEurope welcomes families on board all cruises: Children under 2 travel free, under 10 at a reduced rate year-round. Cabins for singles, doubles, triples and quadruples mean every size family can be accommodated. Kids under 16 travel free in Spain, Portugal and Italy – and at 30% off fares in Croatia and Montenegro on summer departures. Vaccinated families should consider the special offers on their current departure schedule. Activities for families are built into the itinerary, so it’s the relaxing way to experience Europe. Here’s a review of a recent CroisiEurope Duoro River cruise in Portugal.


With road trips all the rage this summer, many families are likely to drive part of their route along I-70, a central component of the US Interstate System founded by President Eisenhower’s Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. What many families don’t realize is just how much fun the stops along I-70 in Kansas can be. It’s more than 500 miles of 18-wheelers and corn fields. Kansas boasts classic small towns with huge artworks; talk about the summer of Van Gogh – have you seen Goodland, Kansas’ 80-foot-tall “Three Sunflowers in a Vase?” Other places worth a stop along I-70 include cinemas, arts festivals, military forts and local history museums to ease the road trip boredom for passengers of every age and interest. Read more about Kansas’s roadside attractions to plan just where your family will stay the night.


The Seabourn Odyssey is moored offshore in the Caribbean. Photo c. Seabourn 

Summer traditionally has been considered family season in Mexico and the Caribbean; wild sales and kids stay free packages at all-inclusives are the norm. However, each destination has different entry requirements and even vaccinated travelers may be required to show a negative COVID test result for entry. Order Let’s Get Checked home COVID-19 testing kits by mail, now approved for minors (aged 2 and over) for at-home Covid-19 testing, using this 30% off COVID testing link. Note that travelers from most international destinations will have to present a valid negative COVID-19 test to enter the US. We also recommend family travel insurance to anyone booking resorts during the June to November hurricane season. Jamaica offers options from staffed villas to all-inclusive resorts like Beaches, known for their commitment to children on the Autism Spectrum, to Half Moon Bay with the chance to swim with horses, and Golden Eye, where Ian Fleming famously wrote the Bond books and where you can take your pick staying in a beach “hut” or two-bedroom villa. Families interested in a cruise to more off the beaten path islands should plan ahead to November, when the luxury Seabourn line resumes award-winning 7- to 21-day cruises to the Caribbean, with 10% off for early bookers.  


Yup. The world’s theme park capital is open and welcoming families with new attractions as well as enhanced COVID-19 safety protocols. For those planning ahead, Walt Disney World will celebrate the resort’s 50th anniversary starting Oct. 1 and continuing for 18 months. (Follow #DisneyWorld50 on social media platforms.) Of course, a visit will be different this year, requiring masks and advance reservations. The kids won’t be able to hug their favorite characters. We’re Orlando fans because in addition to the theme parks, there’s so much else to do: great outlet mall shopping, several small art museums, lots of fun dining experiences and plenty new outside the parks too. Dr. Phillips Center’s Frontyard Festival is the first socially distanced music festival in the U.S., offering everything from music performances to comedy shows to big-name concerts, through May. The Museum of Illusions Orlando offers 50 interactive, immersive and mentally deceptive exhibits based on math, science, and psychology. Dezerland Park, an all-new indoor attraction on International Drive, boasts a trampoline park and the longest indoor dual go-karting tracks in Florida. There are also plenty of options for free things to do outdoors, from farmers markets to Sunday morning yoga in the 43-acre Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando. Play outside at the 20-plus mile West Orange Trail (rent bikes from West Orange Trail Bikes & Blades Co., which offers delivery to area hotels) and the Nemours Family Zone at the US Tennis Association National Campus. (Play for free but you must pre-register!)


Keep cool -- no need to carry on with your paddling when you're on an escorted river trip with OARS. Photo c. OARS 

The legendary outfitter OARS has been sharing the world’s great rivers with guests since 1969, contributing more than $5 million in donations and fees toward the preservation of the environment and to various conservation initiatives since the company’s inception. After an abbreviated and challenging 2020 season, OARS is looking forward to fun, low-stress whitewater conditions for many of the family-friendly rafting trips they offer in the West. They're forecasting lower, but reliable water levels this summer for popular river trips like Utah’s Green River through Gates of Lodore and Desolation Canyon, which can count on water releases from upstream reservoirs. Five-day family trips (minimum age 7) for Green River Rafting through Desolation Canyon promise more than 50 Class II and III rapids. OARS experts say that in California, a mild winter and statewide snowpack that’s at 59% the normal average isn’t expected to heavily impact rafting on dam-controlled rivers like the American River and the Tuolumne River. The 3-day Lower Klamath Trip departing Happy Camp, California is ideal for young adventurers ages 4+. From June to mid-August, families are guaranteed warm and gentle Class II rapids, easy rafting, fishing and fully supported camping along the Klamath River. Due to the region’s rich Gold Rush history, discovering gold may be a highlight of the trip. For 2021, expect many of the same COVID-19 protocols that were put in place last summer to minimize the risk of transmission on the river. For more information on OARS’ eco-friendly adventures, visit or call 800/346-6277.


An off season ski resort condo should be a bargain whether you choose Steamboat Springs in Colorado for its weekly rodeos and free concerts or Lake Tahoe for yoga paddleboarding. In Park City, Utah, spend summer careening down an alpine coaster or facing the Olympic bobsled track. Hike and mountain bike through Montana’s Big Sky or Oregon’s Mt. Hood regions, among many other almost-four-season resorts. The good news is that lodging is a lot cheaper in summer at snow resorts  and more on-mountain activities are returning this summer, like the Lost Forest at the top of Snowmass’ Elk Gondola. You don’t need a pricey lift ticket to hike or bike – but they are great value for scenic sightseeing with less fit family members. It likely won’t be as hard to get into the top restaurants either. Here’s an account of celebrating a pre pandemic July 4th weekend in Vail.


Watch Juvenile Southern Seals fight for dominance with a show of strength on your Antarctica expedition. Photo by Michel Verdure for Atlas Ocean Voyages. 

For many American families, this summer will be about staying local and saving up for a really big bucket list vacation. With nearly 15 months to think about what could be the most amazing destination ever, Antarctica is topping many wish lists. While several expedition companies are touting their special sailings, none compares with the luxurious new offering from Atlas Ocean Voyages. Families set sail for Antarctica aboard World Navigator, Atlas’ Polar Category C- and Ice Class 1B-certified ship, after a private flight from Orlando to Ushuaia, Argentina. Fewer than 200 fellow explorers join naturalists and experts dedicated to helping you and kids ages 10+ get the most out of your refined adventure. You can even make or renew wedding vows at ‘the end of the world’ on the Valentine’s Day 2022 departure. Atlas’ wedding package is complimentary for guests when registered in advance plus, the bride enjoys a 50% stateroom savings when the wedding party books five or more rooms. As with all Atlas luxe-adventure expeditions, guests travel in the brand’s signature All Inclusive All The Way style, which, on Antarctica expeditions, includes all meals, beverages, activities, shore excursions and more. Their flexible travel policy also provides travelers a 100% refund of deposited funds up to 91 days prior to sailing. Plan now because you can change your reservation as often as you want, and even switch to a different Atlas itinerary, up to 15 days before your voyages’ sail date.


The Moab Adventure Center will help you achieve new heights when adventuring in Arches, Canyonlands or the great outdoors around Moab, Utah. Photo c. Moab Adventure Center 

Moab Adventure Center focuses on day tours and adventures, whether you want to river raft, take an off-road Hummer safari, hike with a guide in Arches National Park, horseback ride, have a unique mountain biking adventure or raft in Cataract Canyon. They’re family welcoming too, with Hummer safari tours available to ages 3+ and laidback rafting trips for ages 5+ and 50 lbs. Enjoy each of their adventures knowing safety protocols have been put in place to maintain a safe and fun environment. Moab is a very popular, eastern Utah mountain town that can get crowded, making Moab Adventure Center the easiest way to reserve any outdoor experience without worry or stress—and get out of your comfort zone trying something new!


Start your tour of Biden Country in Newark at The Biden Welcome Center, a visitor’s center packed with maps and brochures about the state the 46th president has called home for years. Renamed for the entire Biden family and their service to Delaware prior to the election, it reminds us that even the Wilmington railroad station is named after the First Commuter who was nicknamed “Amtrak Joe.” Did you know that both the Bidens and reggae legend Bob Marley lived in Wilmington’s Eastlake neighborhood? From the estates of the du Pont family which have become fantastic museums of American arts and crafts to the casual, homey eateries that the President and his family still frequent, the first state is full of surprises every family will enjoy. And no, the St. Joseph on the Brandywine Church in Greenville was not named after the president.

Note that this summer, vaccinated Americans traveling within the US won’t need COVID-19 testing or post-travel self-quarantine as long as they continue to wear masks indoors, avoid crowds, social distance and wash hands frequently. Additionally, vaccinated travelers will likely be safely allowed to travel in many European countries. Travelers going to destinations that require a negative COVID-19 PCR test should take advantage of our partnership with Let’s Get Checked to get home COVID-19 testing kits by mail, now approved for minors (aged 2 and over.) Use our 30% discount COVID testing link and get results back in 72 hours or less.

Let us know where you’re off to!

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