18 Family Vacations To Take Before Your Kids Turn 18

Treehouse slumber party, anyone?

Among the most popular high school graduation gifts is Dr. Seuss’ “Oh the Places You’ll Go.” But if there were a foreword to that book, it would aptly be titled “Oh the Places You’ve Been.”

Before your kids start taking spring break trips with their college friends, or, down the line, embark on family vacations of their own, now is the time to travel with them and share the wonders of the world.

Need convincing? Studies show that family vacations can be good for your children’s emotional growth and even help them get better grades.

Here are 18 trips to consider taking with your kids before they turn 18.

1. Sleep in a tipi or treehouse

Camping is a quintessential family activity. And while s’mores and campfire stories sound great in theory, setting up camp can be a lot of work after a long day of traveling or if your family isn’t really the “camping type.”

Enter “no-tent” camping. You can rent tipis at a state park in Northern Colorado, for example, or even sleep in a treehouse you rented on Airbnb.


2. Watch whales migrate off the California coast

Skip SeaWorld and trade waiting in lines for a much more authentic vacation where you can witness majestic sea creatures in their natural habitats.

Terranea Resort, A Destination Hotel, for example, is perched on the craggy coast of the Pacific Ocean, with telescopes along the bluffs so you can expertly scout the waters. Sea lions will play a friendly game of peek-a-boo with you while you’re out on a kayak. Or the resort’s casual lunch spot, Nelson’s, has a bell that guests ring when they spot a whale passing by. Both California Blue and Pacific Gray whales migrate in the waters just 50 yards offshore and can be viewed year-round. The resort also extends a program that lets guests participate in an official whale count.

The property also has a falconry program, and your kids can learn about the birds of prey and even meet a falcon. The falcons came to the resort in 2009 as an eco-friendly way to rid the property of pesky seagulls. And speaking of all things birds, when you’re empty nesters, you can come back here and enjoy the adults-only pool and spend more time in the spa, which offers panoramic views of the ocean.

Terranea Resort - Nelson's Sunset
Photo courtesy of Terranea Resort

3. Play in a National Park

The National Parks are coming off their 100th birthday celebration. They’re America’s greatest playgrounds, especially for the intrepid types.

Your kids can sandboard in the Great Sand Dunes in southern Colorado, watch the wild horses gallop between Virginia and Maryland in Assateague Island or take a river hike through the narrows in Utah’s Zion National Park.

Assateague photo
Getty Images | Mark Wilson

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4. Take a beach vacation

Being buried in sand and building sandcastles are childhood musts. A good place to do just that? The white sand beaches of Panama City Beach in Florida.

Here, the sunsets are so spectacular they get their own nightly ritual at Schooner’s, a beachfront restaurant that does a cannon blast right as the sun drops.

Or, you can escape to St. Andrew’s State Park, where you can cast your line off of Tiller Pier and fish for Spanish mackerel, red fish, flounder and sea trout from the Gulf of Mexico. You can also follow the park’s “Gator Lake Trail” to a viewing area where, from a safe distance, you can spot alligators and wading birds.

panama city beach photo
Flickr | dconvertini

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