Travel with Kids

20 Tips to Make Traveling with Kids Enjoyable

Traveling with kids can be a real challenge but it can also be an amazing family experience. The key is finding the balance between the stress of traveling and the joy of travel. Our goal is to give you travel tips to make your next family vacation stress free.

Use our family travel guide to be prepared for air travel, road trips, what you need to pack, travel checklist, hotel hacks and more. Everything you need to know about traveling with kids.

20 Tips for Traveling with Kids on a plane, in a car, packing & more. Get the best Travel Hacks for Families to survive family vacation and road trips. #travelhacks #travelingwithkids #familyvacation #roadtrips
This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to buy something using my link, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. For more information, see my disclaimer here.

20 Tips to Make Traveling with Kids Enjoyable

What to Do Before You Go

One of the keys to having a stress free vacation is to be prepared before you go on vacation. Here are a few things to do before you go on a family vacation.

Research your Destination

Find out what to expect in your vacation destination. Get answers to these questions

  • Where would be the best location to stay
  • Which airport to fly into
  • What Attractions do you want to see

This is a fun task to do with the kids to get them excited about your upcoming trip. Let them help you pick which attractions you’re going to visit while on vacation. Book some of them ahead of time so you have less to do when you get there.

Book Your Airfare

Now that you know the airport you need to book your flight. I would suggest booking the time of your flights based on what is best for your kids.

For example, think about nap times and when your kids need to eat, when are they most active. Some people like to fly during nap time in hopes kids will sleep others like to go in the morning when kids are less crabby.

Take time to scan travel websites to find the best deals. Tuesday and Wednesday usually have lower rates and Sunday tends to be the most expensive.

Decide on Hotel or Vacation Rental

I would think about where you’re going and decide if it’s better for your family to stay at a hotel or vacation rental. Both have different positives and negatives.

Hotels often offer more amenities such as restaurants, pools, kids clubs, stores, and concierge services. However, the rooms tend to be smaller and there is little separation between you and the kids.

Vacation Rentals usually have more space for families to spread out and nice amenities like kitchens, washer dryers, and separate bedrooms & living rooms. The downside is you are more on your own without help from hotel staff and there tend to have fewer amenities like pools and restaurants.

One of our favorite sites for finding hotels and rental deals is booking.com. We really like the reviews people leave and have found some great prices.

Booking.com

Budget for Your Trip

Figure out a budget for your trip so you know how much you’re going to be spending. This will help you decide how much you have to spend on airlines, attractions, food, and hotels. Use our Free Trip Cost Calculator to help you make your travel budget.

Pre Travel Checklist

Free Printable Pre-Travel Checklist - Get ready for family vacation.

There is so much to get done before you leave on vacation. Make sure you don’t forget anything with this free printable Pre-Travel Checklist of 30 Things to Do Before Going on Vacation.

Some of the tasks include getting your passport, transportation to the airport, putting mail on hold, getting pet care, paying bills and more. Use this comprehensive checklist and you’ll never leave home wondering what you forgot again.

What You Need When Traveling with Kids

What to Pack & Not Pack

One of the biggest keys to travel is not to overpack. This is really hard for me but I have found unless you’re traveling somewhere very remote you can get most things at your destination.

What you’ll need is clothes, toiletries, medicines and entertainment (books, iPad, small games). If you have smaller kids you might need a pack n play, diapers, wipes, and other baby items.

To make sure you have everything you need to take on vacation use our free printable Family Travel Checklist.

Ultimate Family Travel Checklist to get you prepared for traveling with Kids. Everything you need to pack for your vacation. You'll never forget things again.  #freeprintable #travelchecklist #travelingwithkids #familyvacation

Snacks

Snack container for road trips when traveling with kids.  Easy DIY Snack container. #snacks #roadtrip #travelingwithkids
DIY Snack Container for Kids

I find with kids snacks are the key to a great vacation. Even though you might limit them at home on vacation it will just keep everyone happy. You do not need a hungry kid having a meltdown on the plane or at an attraction.

I usually pack some small bags of goldfish, fruit snacks or pretzels in my purse for the plane ride or when at local attractions. If your driving pack a few bigger boxes of snacks for the hotel room. Then just bring a few reusable containers or zip lock bags and refill up the snacks in your room before you head out to an attraction.

This will also be a lot cheaper than buying snacks at the airport or local attractions.

Tip: Make a DIY Snack Container with an unused wipes holder. Kids can color it and fill it with snacks for your road trip. (pictured above)

Stroller or Car Seat

Stroller

Depending on your child’s age you might want to bring a stroller on your vacation. I find strollers are great to have in airports to keep the kids moving to your gate plus it can hold some of your carryons.

One of our favorites is the lightweight and compact Summer 3Dlite Stroller. Unlike umbrella travel strollers, it has a large storage space, higher handles for parents, and a 4 position recline when they need to nap. Plus it folds up easily.

Car Seat

You can also check a car seat when you get to the airport so that you have one for the car ride to your destination. Before you go check and see if your transportation from the airport or rental car company can supply a car seat for you. If they can great you can skip this step.

If your child is in a booster seat we love the cool mifold Grab and Go Booster Seat. It’s a fold-up booster seat you can throw in your purse. The booster adjusts the seatbelt so it hits your child in the correct spot. A great option for traveling families.

Air Travel with Kids

Leave Extra Time

There are lots of things at the airport that will take up your time. Check-in, security, bathroom stops, food, and boarding. To reduce your stress level traveling with kids get there early. This way when the line at security takes to long you’re not getting anxiety about missing your flight.

Backpacks and Rolling Bags for Kids

With kids, you always have tons to carry. Make it easier by having your child bring with a small rolling bag or backpack to hold their items. Let them help pack their bag to get them excited about bringing it and carrying or rolling it themselves through the airport.

Many of the rolling bags are also backpacks like this cute Minnie Mouse Bag. Perfect for Disney Vacations.

If you want it to last longer choose a bag that doesn’t have a character on it like this cool blue rolling backpack.

Entertainment for the Flight

Bingo Travel Games for Kids. Keep kids entertained on road trips and airplane flights with fun travel games.

Keep the kids busy on your flight by bringing games and electronics for them to play. We often bring cards, magnetic games, coloring books, and wiki sticks to keep the kids busy. I find when their busy they are not complaining.

Get some nonelectronic entertainment ideas in my Must Have Family Travel Gadgets from Amazon.

If you plan to bring an iPad for the kids make sure to download movies or shows before you leave home. That way they will have something to watch even if you can’t get wifi. Also, don’t forget to bring earphones to listen to their shows. I like to get headphones that limit the volume level to protect their ears.

Bring Extra Clothes

We have had a baby or two spit up on us on a plane flight and it’s not fun. I would suggest throwing an extra shirt for you and a change of clothes for your child in your carry on. It’s terrible sitting wet on a flight for hours and there is nowhere to get new clothes.

Help Your Ears To Pop

When you increase and decrease altitude in a plane your ears tend to pop. Pack the following items to help your kids pop their ears.

  • Gummy Bears or Fruit Snacks
  • Lollipops
  • Gum for older children
  • A bottle for babies – try to time it so you are feeding your baby a bottle while the plane is ascending and descending.
  • Pacifier for babies

Road Trip Travel Tips

Traveling with Kids Road Trip Hacks

Another great way to get to your destination is a car road trip. This will save you tons of money on travel that you can use for a great hotel or attractions at your destination.

General Road Trip Tips:

  • Start out the trip by getting yourself organized. I like to have a bin in the car with a top that holds all the kid’s toys. This can be placed in between them so they can easily get items by themselves. It also makes it easier to unload the car when you get to your destination.
  • Have some type of surface for the kids to play games and eat in the car. We like to use a travel tray for their lap.
  • Plan ahead where you are going to stop for the night to make sure you can find a hotel especially during the busy summer travel months. You’d be surprised how quickly roadside hotels fill up.
  • Have a general plan for your trip but be flexible for issues with traffic and how many times you may have to stop with kids.

Get more general travel tips in 15 Road Trip Tips to Survive a Family Vacation

Travel Apps to Help Your Road Trip

I love to use travel apps to help make our trip go smoothly. One of our favorites is the WAZE app which helps you find the best route to your destination.

It adjusts as you drive for any traffic jams or bad road conditions. What’s really cool is other drivers tell you what is happening up ahead so you know why you’re stopped in traffic.

Another favorite is the iExit App. This one tells you what is at all the upcoming exits along your route. Use it to find the restaurants you want to eat and gas stations to stop. It’s a great way to plan your stops and find restaurants for picky eaters or dietary restrictions.

Get all our favorite free Road Trip Apps for an easy ride.

Booking.com

Entertainment for the Road Trips

Busy Bags for Traveling with Kids on Road Trips. Pack fun travel games and activities to keep kids happy while on road trips or airplane travel. #roadtrips #travelingwithkids #travelgames #travelactivities #busybags

The key to a happy road trip is keeping the kids busy. There is a lot less whining and happier parents when they have things to do. Just like on the airplane ride you’ll want small games and maybe some electronics.

Busy Bags are a fun way to make the trip go faster. Create small bags to give out to your kids every few hours of the road trip. You can fill each bag with inexpensive small toys and coloring books. It’s more the excitement of something new rather than the price. Get inspired with our 15 Best Travel Games for Kids at Dollar Tree.

General Family Travel Tips

How to Save Money

  • A great way to save money while you travel is with food. Save on food by packing your own breakfast to have in your hotel room. It will give you more time to get ready in the morning and save you money.
  • Find local free events and free activities to do at your destination with the kids. You’ll be surprised how much you can find. Here’s a sample of Free Things to do in Naples Florida
  • Travel at off-peak times when hotel and airline rates are cheaper.

Get More Money-Saving Tips in How to Travel Cheap on Family Vacation.

Scheduled Downtime

It’s important to remember when traveling with kids to schedule in some downtime. If you are constantly on the go kids can get overtired and pretty cranky. Make it easier on all of you by enjoying some time just hanging out at the hotel swimming, reading or watching a movie.

Hotel Hacks

Make your stay at the hotel less stressful with the kids by using some simple hotel hacks. Here are a few quick tips but you can find more in our Ultimate Family Hotel Hacks.

  • Bring a roll of masking tape or painters tape to baby proof outlets.
  • Roll a shower towel under the door to block out noise from the hallway and light.
  • Use the Ironing Board as a table for your kids to eat
  • Make a baby changing station by a nightlight for quick diaper changes in the middle of the night.

Beach Hacks

Beach Hacks to make your Beach Vacation with Kids Easy and Fun.

If you’re headed to a beach destination you’ll want to spend most of your time hanging out at the beach with the kids. This can be amazing or make you a little crazy. Make your visit fun and memorable by doing a little pre-planning.

  • Make sure to pack a blanket, sand toys, drinks, and snacks.
  • Keep your cell phone protected with a waterproof case so you can take lots of pictures.
  • Use a Pringles can to hide your money and keys.
  • Get there early and stake our your spot

Get more ideas at 20 Beach Hacks to Survive A Family Day at the Beach. #4 is genius!

I hope these tips for traveling with kids have got your excited about your upcoming vacation. Just using a few of these travel tips will make your next family vacation less stressful and more relaxed and fun.

If you need some travel inspiration check out our Favorite Family Travel Destinations.

Do you have a great family travel tip? Please leave it in the comment. I love to hear from my readers.

Did you enjoy reading these tips? Join the Happy Mom Hacks community where we find ways to make a mom’s life easier and get our weekly newsletter. Bonus for signing up you get a free Ultimate Family Travel Packing List to be ready for your next vacation.

Subscribe to Happy Mom Hacks Newsletter and have access to the Ultimate Family Travel Checklist. Plus great Mom tips and tricks and family travel ideas.

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Don’t Forget to Pin this for Later

Top Tips & Hacks for Traveling with Kids. How to survive in a car or on a plane for family vacation. Get hacks for Road trips, hotel hacks, beach hacks, packing & travel checklists to make it a stress free trip with kids. Enjoy your upcoming vacation. #travelingwithkids #travelhacks #Traveltips #roadtrip
Ultimate Travel Tips for Kids & planning a family vacation. Car trips, airplane rides, hotel tips and more. Everything to do before you go on vacation, packing for a family and how to  entertain the kids while you travel. The compete family trip planner. Be ready for an awesome family vacation.  #traveltips #familyvacation #travelwithkids #traveltipsforkids #vacationplanner

Fun Family Travel Destinations

Ultimate Family Travel Checklist to get you prepared for traveling with Kids. Everything you need to pack for your vacation. You'll never forget things again.  #freeprintable #travelchecklist #travelingwithkids #familyvacation
Travel with Kids

20 Genius Hotel Hacks for Family Vacation

Want to make your next family vacation less stressful? Let me help you have a fun and relaxing family getaway with these unique hotel hacks for families.

20 Genius hotel tips and tricks from keeping the morning sun out, eating in your hotel room, entertaining the kids and so much more. These cool travel hacks for families are going to change the way you travel! No more family travel stress just fun family bonding. Following along with me and find some DIY travel hacks for your next family vacation.

This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to buy something using my link, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. For more information, see my disclaimer here.

20 Genius Hotel Hacks to Make Family Vacation Easy

Unbelievable Travel Hacks for kids and Travel Tips for Hotel visits. Perfect for Road Trips and Family Vacations. DIY Hacks to save you money and be stress free on vacation. Check it Out! #travelhacks #traveltips #diyhacks #familyvacation #familytraveltips

Cleaning Your Hotel Room

Update – I have added this update for cleaning your room during the COVID-19 pandemic. Feel better about traveling during this time with these simple tips.

Pack a container of Lysol or Clorox Disinfectant wipes. When you enter your room wipe down hard surfaces, doorknobs, light switches, and bathroom. Anything you think your kids or you will touch

Put the TV remote control in a big zip lock bag. This way you can use it without touching the buttons.

Skip using the decorative pillows and bed spread as they are not always cleaned after each use. If your on a road trip pack a blanket and pillow to use instead.

Don’t put your suitcase on the bed or furniture. Suitcases tend to be dragged around as you travel so may have picked up dirt or germs.

Keep the Sun Out

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If your kids are getting up when the sun cracks through the hotel room windows in the morning you need to make a change. Who wants to get up early on vacation.

Bring with chip clips, binder clips or wooden clothespins to hold the two drapes together. They are small and lightweight to bring with and easily fit into your suitcase. This will keep the sun out of your room in the morning and let you get a few more precious minutes sleep.

Painter Tape to Baby Proof the Room

You can do so much with a roll of painter’s tape in your hotel room. Use these hotel hacks with painters tape to let yourself relax a little while in the room with crawling babies or toddlers.

Covering Outlets

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Cover up the outlets for little ones by placing painters tape over the holes. This will keep them from sticking their fingers in the outlets.

Worried about packing all that baby gear? Guess what you don’t have to with BabyQuip! This amazing baby rental company featured on Shark Tank will deliver everything to you.

Keep Drawers & Cabinets Closed

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Does your little one love opening and closing drawers and cabinets but it’s driving you crazy? Keep them closed by placing painters tape across the openings.

You can also use bungee cords to keep drawers and cabinets in the room closed. It’s a simple way to baby proof the room.

Rolling off the Bed

Keep your little ones from rolling off the hotel bed by putting one or two of the pillows under the fitted sheet. This will work as a bumper to keep them in the bed while they sleep.

Another option is to bring inflatable bed bumpers like the one below. These fit easily in your suitcase and are great for visiting grandparents or friends’ homes.

Fighting Over Space in the Bed

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If you have more than one kid sleeping in a bed block off sides of the bed by lining pillows down the middle. This will stop the kids from arguing about whose side of the bed they are on.

For parents, it will keep the kids from kicking you all night long. Amazing right!

Related Article 15 Travel Tips to Survive a Family Vacation

Pack in Play

Want to put the baby down to bed early and not have to go to bed early yourself? Put the pack in play in the bathroom. You can close the door to the bathroom and still be able to have the lights on or watch tv in the room while the baby sleeps.

Keep it quiet for the baby by using the exhaust fan in the bathroom to keep the noise out.

If you are staying at a hotel that doesn’t offer pack n plays or if your visiting someone’s home the Baby Joy travel crib is a great option. (Pictured below)

It’s a lightweight fold-up travel crib that can double as a playpen in the hotel room. A travel crib is a safe place for the baby to play while you are getting ready for your day of fun on vacation. Then use it as a crib at night.

Keep the Noise Out

Want to keep your room quiet and block out the noise from other hotel guests? I have two easy hotel hacks to do this.

Use a Towel

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Roll up a towel and place it under your hotel room door. This will block out the noise and any light coming in.

Subscribe to Happy Mom Hacks Newsletter and have access to the Ultimate Family Travel Checklist. Plus great Mom tips and tricks and family travel ideas.

Fan

Unbelievable Travel Hacks for kids and Travel Tips for Hotel visits. Perfect for Road Trips and Family Vacations. DIY Hacks to save you money and be stress free on vacation. Check it Out! #travelhacks #traveltips #diyhacks #familyvacation #familytraveltips

When we drive on our family vacations I always pack a small fan to run in the room while we sleep. It blocks out the noise of other hotel guests and keeps the room from getting too stuffy.

Laundry Bags

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If you have little ones with diapers you tend to run out of space in those small hotel garbage cans quickly. Use the free hotel laundry bags as an extra garbage for all those diapers and wipes.

You can also use the bags for actual laundry to help separate what needs to be washed when you get home. It’s so nice to just pull a bag out of your suitcase and leave it by the washer to clean after a long trip. No more remembering what the kids wore on vacation.

Related Article How to Travel Cheap on Family Vacation

Wifi

If your hotel makes you pay extra for Wifi use your phone as a hotspot for your kid’s electronics. An easy hotel hack to save money.

Easy Travel Hacks & Hotel Hacks for Kids. Simple Tips & Tricks for a stress free family vacation. Use these on your next road trip with kids. #travelhacks #hotelhacks #travelwithkids #familyvacation #familytravel

Eating In Your Room

A huge hotel hack for saving money on Family Vacation is bringing food to eat in your hotel room.

Forget paying for a pricy breakfast when most hotel rooms nowadays have small refrigerators and microwaves. Here are a few hotel tips and tricks to make eating in your room easier.

Ironing Board

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Use an ironing board as a table for your kids. Genius right! Use one of the hotel room towels as a table cloth so no food gets on the ironing board. This is much better than having them eat on the carpet floor and spilling all over.

In-Room Coffee Pot

Unbelievable Travel Hacks for kids and Travel Tips for Hotel visits. Perfect for Road Trips and Family Vacations. DIY Hacks to save you money and be stress free on vacation. Check it Out! #travelhacks #traveltips #diyhacks #familyvacation #familytraveltips

Most rooms have an in-room coffee pot. This is great for coffee or tea for adults but you can also use it to make oatmeal in the morning for breakfast, hot chocolate or for lunch mac n cheese cups or ramen noodle cups.

Warm-up Baby Bottles

Use the coffee mugs provided and fill up with hot water from the coffee maker. Then put the baby bottle in the mug until you reach a warm temperature that’s right for the baby.

Related ArticleUltimate Travel Checklist of Things to do Before Vacation

Night Lights

Pack a couple of night lights to use in the room. We usually put one in the main room and one in the bathroom. It makes getting around at night so much easier, and the kids aren’t scared in the dark.

Changing Station

Set up a changing station area when the kids are little before you go to bed. I would place it near a night light so you can quickly change the baby without waking everyone else up. Plus not turning on the lights might help the baby go back to sleep quicker.

I like to use fold-out changing pads like the one below. It holds diapers, wipes and folds up into a small case I can throw in my suitcase.

Room Phone

Do your little ones love to pick up the hotel room phone? Stop fighting them about it and just unplug the phone jack. No one really calls you on a hotel phone and it’s one less battle to fight.

Extra Beds

Bringing travel beds is a great option for hotel rooms when you have multiple children or if you are visiting someone’s home on vacation and need some extra beds

Blow Up Beds

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We find sometimes sharing beds in hotel rooms just leads to no one getting any sleep. If we are driving to our destination we will pack a blow-up mattress and let the kids trade-off between the bed and blow up. This way everyone sleeps well and they think it’s fun to have their own beds.

Toddler Blow Up Bed

If you have a toddler that you are worried will roll off a big hotel bed try a small toddler blow up bed. The toddler size blow up has sides to keep them from rolling off and they fit in comfortably. Here is one that we used when our kids were little. Blow Up Toddler Bed

Portable Folding Cots

Another option is to bring a portable junior cot for kids. These fit easily in a bag and just unfold for simple and quick assembly. They are surprisingly comfortable too! Just bring along a sleeping bag and your ready.

Entertainment in the Hotel Room

Car Racing

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Remember that roll of painters tape you packed. Use it to make a cool race track on the hotel room floor. The tape won’t leave a mark and your kids will have something to keep them busy.

Card Games

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Card games are small to pack and can easily be played on a bed or the floor of a hotel room. We love to play Go Fish with little ones and Uno for the older kids. Another great game is Right Left Center. Super simple and fun to play as a family.

Road Trip Tips

Want some fun road trip games for the hotel room, airplane, and car rides? Check out my Awesome Dollar Tree Games & Activities on Road Trips. Includes entertaining games, travel hacks, and Busy Bag ideas.

No time to shop? Visit Our Favorite Road Trip Games on Amazon. You’ll love the Wiki Sticks and magnetic games for hotel rooms and restaurants too.

Can’t fit all your baby gear in the car or take it on the plane? No problem have them delivered to your hotel room by BabyQuip. They’re our favorite family travel hack for getting cribs, strollers, car seats, and more on vacation.

Beach Hacks

If you like these travel hacks you’ll love our cool Beach Hacks too! Get my sly ways to hide your money, keep your phone dry, get rid of the sand and so much more. 20 Beach Hacks to Survive a Day at the Beach with Kids

Are you ready to try out these amazing hotel hacks on your next family vacation? I hope my hotel tips and tricks make your family travel less stressful and encourage you to take more fun family getaways. Now go out and make some new family memories!

If you enjoyed this article get more travel tips, family travel destinations, easy family meals, and household hacks by becoming part of the Happy Mom Hacks Community. Receive our weekly email newsletter and never miss a new mom hack again.

Bonus – you’ll get our free printable Ultimate Family Travel Packing List for your next vacation.

Ultimate Family Travel Checklist to get you prepared for traveling with Kids. Everything you need to pack for your vacation. You'll never forget things again. #freeprintable #travelchecklist #travelingwithkids #familyvacation

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for family travel ideas, kid’s activities, household hacks, and fun parenting humor to give you a laugh each day.

Don’t forget to Pin these Hacks

Awesome Hotel Travel Hacks with Kids. Best Tips & Tricks for family travel. De-stress your next family vacation with simple DIY hacks to do in your hotel room. #hotelhacks #travelhacks #traveltips #travelwithkids #familyvacation
Travel Tips & Hacks with Kids. Tips & Tricks to make staying in a hotel room easier for family travel. How to make food in your room, cover outlets, block out the sun and noise and so much more. Check it out! #traveltips #travelhacks #travelwithkids #hotelhackswithkids #familytravel #familyvacation

More Family Travel Tips

Unforgettable Family Travel Destinations

Subscribe to Happy Mom Hacks Newsletter and have access to the Ultimate Family Travel Checklist. Plus great Mom tips and tricks and family travel ideas.
Genius Hotel Travel Hacks for Kids. DIY travel tips & tricks for an easy hotel stay on family vacation. Make your next road trip or vacation awesome and stress free. #hotelhacks #familyvacation #traveltips #travelhacks
20 Genius Hotel Hacks & Tips for Family Vacation. Plus how to clean your hotel room. Cheap hotels tips for kids to make your visit stress free.  You won't believe you didn't think of these easy fixes before. #travelhacks #hotelhacks #hoteltips #traveltips #familyvacation #travelwithkids
Tips and Tricks

Trip Cost Calculator | Make a Travel Budget

Are you trying to figure out a travel budget for your upcoming road trip or vacation? Use this cool Trip Cost Calculator to plan out all your travel expenses in advance.

You will find a category for each travel expense you may have on your trip. Fill in the form and get an idea of how much you will be spending by merely plugging in amounts into the travel cost calculator.

Once you see the total, you can decide if you’re ready for your trip or if you need to save a little more money. Adjust the amount you will spend in different categories to come up with a total travel budget you can afford.

Then send it to your email to help keep track of your travel expenses and keep yourself on track.

This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to buy something using my link, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. For more information, see my disclaimer here.
Free Trip Cost Calculator to help plan your Travel Budget. Use the worksheet to find out if you need to save money for your vacation. Great way to plan out your travel expenses.  #travel #traveltips #costcalculator #travelbudget

Trip Cost Calculator to Make Your Travel Budget

*** Make sure to fill in each field, even if it’s a zero, to get your total.

How to Save Money on Vacation

Best Money Saving Tips for Families . Cut down on travel expenses with these simple travel budget tips for vacation with the kids and save money. Moms and Dads will love these money saving ideas. Get more out of your vacation! #savingmoneytips, #savingmoneyideas, #familytravel, #familyvacation

Need some tips on how to save money while traveling on vacation?

I am always looking to save some money so we can do more traveling. In doing this, I have come up with a few tricks that work for our family.

Check it out and see if these money-saving tips will lower your travel expenses, too.

Want more great travel tips & tricks, family travel destinations, and more? Become part of the Happy Mom Hacks Community with our weekly newsletter and never miss a new travel hack.

Bonus -you’ll get the Ultimate Family Travel Packing List.

Ultimate Family Travel Checklist to get you prepared for traveling with Kids. Everything you need to pack for your vacation. You'll never forget things again. #freeprintable #travelchecklist #travelingwithkids #familyvacation

Let me know in the comments if this Trip Cost Calculator worked for you. I love to hear from my readers. Make sure to share this with friends on Facebook and Twitter too!

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Topsail Island NC | Best Things to Do & Tips

Topsail Island in North Carolina is filled with beautiful beaches, laid back towns, and fun activities for the whole family. This is the vacation you go on when you want to unplug and just enjoy some family time.

You’ll love strolling down the wide beaches, visiting Surf City NC, learning the island’s military history, and enjoying the Topsail Island restaurants. Use this guide on the Best Things to Do on Topsail Island NC to be ready for an amazing beach vacation!

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Topsail Island NC | Best Things to Do & See

Best Things to Do on Topsail Island NC. Families will love the amazing beaches, turtle sanctuary, restaurants, missile museum, fishing and more. This a perfect place for a vacation with kids. Get tips on how to have an unforgettable visit and you'll be ready to go. #northcarolina #topsailisland #eastcoastvacation #familyvacation #travelwithkids #traveltips

General Information about Topsail Island

Topsail (pronounced Tops’l) is made up of three communities on a 26-mile long island – North Topsail Beach is on the north end, Surf City is in the middle, and the southernmost part of the island is Topsail Beach. The largest of the communities is Surf City where you will find most of the restaurants and shops. The island has a rich history from Pirates hiding out in the Sound to producing missiles in WWII. These both add to the mystery and allure of the island.

Access to the island is limited as there are only two bridges, the Surf City Bridge in the middle of the island and Island Drive in North Topsail Island. The Surf City Bridge will take you to the downtown area of Surf City. Traffic was fairly heavy on the bridges on Saturdays when people are checking in and out of their vacation rentals, but the other days of the week seemed to be fine.

Topsail Beach NC

Best Things to Do on Topsail Island NC. Families will love the amazing beaches, turtle sanctuary, restaurants, missile museum, fishing and more. This a perfect place for a vacation with kids. Get tips on how to have an unforgettable visit and you'll be ready to go. #northcarolina #topsailisland #eastcoastvacation #familyvacation #travelwithkids #traveltips

The highlight of your visit will be playing in the surf at the beaches. The island has very few hotels so there are no crowds on the beaches even in high season. This reason alone makes it one of the best beaches on the east coast.

You will find many public access points with bridges over the sand dunes to access the beach. Parking for the beaches is limited as there are mostly homes dotting the coast. However, there are a few scattered small public parking lots with bathrooms if you would like to drive over for the day.

The beaches are all public and you can walk for miles. Make sure to bring anything you will need with you as there is nowhere to buy food or accessories on the beach. We brought chairs, blankets, sand toys, a cooler, and boogie boards. Look below to find my favorite beach chair. You can wear it as a backpack, it has a cooler, a towel bar, and a place to keep your cell phone. It’s pretty awesome. Get some more ideas of what you need for your beach day and cool beach hacks in my 20 Beach Hacks to Survive a Family Beach Day.

The waves on the Atlantic Ocean can get pretty big so make sure to bring boogie boards and ride the waves. This was our kids’ favorite part of the trip! I will also note that the waves can get pretty strong so stay close to little ones.

Best Things to Do on Topsail Island NC. Families will love the amazing beaches, turtle sanctuary, restaurants, missile museum, fishing and more. This a perfect place for a vacation with kids. Get tips on how to have an unforgettable visit and you'll be ready to go. #northcarolina #topsailisland #eastcoastvacation #familyvacation #travelwithkids #traveltips
Look at the small blue sign by the stairs, it has the beach access number

Tip: Each public access area to the beach has a number on a small blue sign. Make sure to look at this number so that if you take a walk on the beach, you remember where you need to return. Above is a picture with the number.

Sound Side Beach Access

Best Things to Do on Topsail Island NC. Families will love the amazing beaches, turtle sanctuary, restaurants, missile museum, fishing and more. This a perfect place for a vacation with kids. Get tips on how to have an unforgettable visit and you'll be ready to go. #northcarolina #topsailisland #eastcoastvacation #familyvacation #travelwithkids #traveltips

If you want calmer water for little kids, head to the southwest end of the island. Here you will find a small beach on the sound side with no waves. This beach was much easier for younger children to swim. There is a little parking lot and porta-potties but no other facilities. The area is called Topsail Beach Sound Side Access Site # 1 and is a little hard to find.

Directions: Take S. Anderson Boulevard (main road on the island) until it ends and turn left on Trout Avenue. Next, take a right on Ocean Boulevard and go three streets to Godwin Avenue where you will turn right followed by a left turn on Shoreline Drive. You should run right into the parking lot.

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Surf City NC

The biggest town on the island is Surf City, NC. Here you will find restaurants, shops, and a small grocery store. When you want to get out and find a little entertainment, this is the area to go on the island. You will also find the Surf City Pier for fishing and Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue. The city spans both the island and part of the mainland directly across the bridge.

Turtle Sanctuary Topsail Island

The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center is a must-visit with kids when you come to Topsail Island. It is located on the mainland of Surf City but only a short drive from the island. The sanctuary rescues sea turtles found hurt on the island and in the surrounding areas.

When you arrive, volunteers are located along several displays to teach you about different types of sea turtles, how they live, and the challenges they face. The displays and hands-on items to touch really helped keep our kids engaged.

After the displays, you can peak into the hospital area and see the most injured turtles in rehabilitation. Then at the end of the tour, you’ll walk through where the turtles are housed and hear from more volunteers on the lives of specific turtles waiting to be released from the facility. We learned a ton about sea turtles and really enjoyed watching them swim.

Tip: The facility is only open to the public limited times a day and because of this, it can get pretty crowded in season. Be prepared to wait outside in a line so dress appropriately to wait in the heat.

We were told Tuesday & Thursday were the busiest days and Saturday was the slowest day as it’s the day people are checking in and out of their rentals. Check here for visiting hours.

There was a food truck selling snow cones in the parking lot when we were there to cool you off. The staff was also handing out umbrellas for the sun. It really was a fun visit so don’t let the crowds keep you from going, it was definitely worth it.

Address: 302 Tortuga Lane, Surf City

Related Article – 10 Awesome Things to Do in Wilmington NC

Missiles and More Museum

Did you know that Topsail Island was the site of a top-secret Navy Program called Operation Bumblebee? It was the Navy’s secret guided missiles testing program from 1946 to 1948 which was conducted throughout the island. Learn all about this top-secret program in exhibits at the museum.

You’ll also learn about the rest of history and nature on the island. Find out about the pirates that hid in the coves around Topsail. The Women Air-Force Service Pilots who served in the Navy right on Topsail Island during the war. The history of the Osprey Helicopter developed in this area and how it works. Plus find out about the Barrier Island and how Topsail came to be. There are lots of knowledgeable docents to answer any questions you may have about Topsail as you stroll around.

Kids will love the hands-on area in the Barrier Island exhibit and finding out how the pirates lived in the area, including Blackbeard. At the end, kids can dig through the sand to find hidden shark teeth. Kids will get a sheet with pictures of different shark teeth to look for in the sandpit. Our kids really enjoyed this part!

Plan to spend about an hour exploring this local museum. It has free admission, they just ask for a donation. They do have limited hours so make sure to check their schedule before you go. Missile & More Museum

Address: Historical Assembly Building, 720 Channel Boulevard, Topsail Beach

Summer Aquarium Program

The NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher Outreach program hosts educational talks about different sea animals once a week in the summer at the Missile Museum. Each week in the summer is a different sea creature such as turtles, snakes, lizards, and hermit crabs.

Families can attend the one-hour educational program and at the end, kids get to touch the animals. The docent does a really good job of keeping the kids engaged during the discussions. The cost is a donation of $1.00 per child. To get dates and times, check out the Topsail Beach NC Events Page.

Consider combining this program with your visit to the Missile & More Museum.

Address: Historical Assembly Building, 720 Channel Boulevard, Topsail Beach

The Towers of Topsail

You will see tall concrete structures as you drive along the coast of Topsail Island. These are the remnants of Operation Bumblebee on the Island. The towers were used to observe the missile launches. There are seven structures left although a few have been incorporated into homes.

It was a fun game with the kids to try and spot a tower as we drove. Unfortunately, you cannot go into any of the towers as they are all privately owned. But it’s still fun to get a glimpse into the history of the island as you drive around. You can find the location in this article on Topsail Towers.

Day Trip to Wilmington, NC

Want to get off the island and do a little exploring? We spent a fun day in nearby Wilmington. This historic city is located on the Cape Fear River and has tons of things to do. Start out in downtown where you can learn about the history of the area on a horse & carriage ride, walk the cobblestone streets, and stroll through the Riverwalk to find shops and restaurants.

Next, head over to the Battleship North Carolina and explore a real WWII battleship. This was a really cool stop for the whole family. Then spend the afternoon touring the many museums in town. The kids will love playing and learning about the area in the Wilmington Children’s Museum, Cape Fear Museum, and Wilmington Railroad Museum. A visit to Wilmington is a great way to break up your days at the beaches on Topsail.

Find out everything you need to know about visiting Wilmington in my article 10 Amazing Things to Do in Wilmington With Kids.

Fishing

Best Things to Do on Topsail Island NC. Families will love the amazing beaches, turtle sanctuary, restaurants, missile museum, fishing and more. This a perfect place for a vacation with kids. Get tips on how to have an unforgettable visit and you'll be ready to go. #northcarolina #topsailisland #eastcoastvacation #familyvacation #travelwithkids #traveltips

A fun activity with the kids is to go fishing while on the island. There are three piers where you can fish on Topsail, one located on each of the three towns on the island. There is a fee to fish but it also covers a fishing permit to fish from the pier, which is nice. The amenities the piers offer are a place to rent gear, bait and tackle shop, fish cleaning station, snack stand, and restrooms. This was great because you didn’t have to pack your fishing poles.

If you would like to just walk down the pier there is a one dollar fee per person to enter the pier. We thought that was odd but if you think of all the hurricanes and the cost to rebuild a pier, this makes sense.

Rent a Kayak or Paddle Board

Best Things to Do on Topsail Island NC. Families will love the amazing beaches, turtle sanctuary, restaurants, missile museum, fishing and more. This a perfect place for a vacation with kids. Get tips on how to have an unforgettable visit and you'll be ready to go. #northcarolina #topsailisland #eastcoastvacation #familyvacation #travelwithkids #traveltips

The sound side is a perfect spot for kayaking or paddleboarding. You’ll find flat water and calm conditions which makes it perfect for a day to explore the island. You could bring your own board or there are several places on the island to rent boards.

There is also the option of taking a guided kayaking tour. You can find a few companies that offer this option which I think would be great for a family. Here is one I found but unfortunately we ran out of time to try. Topsail Beach Kayak & SUP Tours.

Playgrounds

Best Things to Do on Topsail Island NC. Families will love the amazing beaches, turtle sanctuary, restaurants, missile museum, fishing and more. This a perfect place for a vacation with kids. Get tips on how to have an unforgettable visit and you'll be ready to go. #northcarolina #topsailisland #eastcoastvacation #familyvacation #travelwithkids #traveltips
Nelva R. Albury Recreation Area

You will find several small playgrounds around the island.

Southside Park in Surf City is located on the sound side of the island and has a fun playground for the kids plus you can watch the boats go by in the water. There is also a wooden boardwalk to take a stroll and get a better view of the water. Keep your eyes out for dolphins, too. In the summer, this where the local summer concerts are held.

Address: 517 Roland Avenue, Surf City

North Topsail Beach Town Park – There is a lot to do in this park. A brand new tot lot is being installed for the kids. You will find a nature trail, kayak launch, as well as basketball, tennis and volleyball courts. Plus, there is a shelter and charcoal-ready grills.

Address: 465 New River Inlet Road, North Topsail Beach

Nelva R. Albury Recreation Area – This is the best playground we found on the island! It’s located just a little bit north of downtown Surf City. There is also access to the beach, a small parking lot, and accessible bathrooms. Perfect stop before or after heading to dinner in Surf City.

Address: 213 Broadway Street, Surf City

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Mini Golf

Who doesn’t love a little mini golf on vacation? There is one mini golf course on the island and one on the mainland not far over the bridge in Surf City.

Patio Playground – This is the activity center for the town of Topsail Beach. It has mini golf, a small arcade, and ice cream. It’s a little bit run down but still fun when you need a break from the beach.

Address: 807 S Anderson Boulevard, Topsail Beach

Shipwreak Point Golf – Located just over the bridge on the mainland in Surf City. This is a little nicer mini golf location. It has two courses with a pirate and ocean theme. This would be a great stop after going to the turtle sanctuary as they are both close by each other.

Address: 13705 NC-50, Surf City

Topsail Beach Roller Rink

Best Things to Do on Topsail Island NC. Families will love the amazing beaches, turtle sanctuary, restaurants, missile museum, fishing and more. This a perfect place for a vacation with kids. Get tips on how to have an unforgettable visit and you'll be ready to go. #northcarolina #topsailisland #eastcoastvacation #familyvacation #travelwithkids #traveltips

Need some indoor fun at night? Head to Topsail Beach Roller Rink. It’s located above the post office in the town of Topsail Beach. They have seasonal hours so make sure to check their website before you go.

Address: 714 South Anderson Boulevard, Topsail Beach

Restaurants

Restaurants on the island are small. If you have a large group, I would see if they will take reservations. If not, head over early during the season to get seats. People will be lined up when the restaurants open up.

You will find several local restaurants to choose in Downtown Surf City. We had a great dinner at Daddy Mac’s Beach Grill. They had a view of the ocean and kids’ meals, plus some great seafood dishes. Our family also enjoyed eating at Buddy’s Crabhouse and Shaka Taco.

Another fun idea that we ran out of time to try is the Topsail Steamer. They make steam pots filled with local fish and potatoes for you to take back to your rental house and cook on your stove. A super easy idea if you want a night at home to relax but don’t want to cook.

The other option is to head off the island to Surf City mainland. There are bigger restaurants and some chains if your kids need some familiar food.

Grocery Shopping

On the island, you will only find one small grocery store called Surf City IGA. It has a limited amount of grocery items but a good place if you want to pick up something quick. I would suggest before you get onto the island shopping at Publix, Walmart, or Food Lion in mainland Surf City. This is where you will be able to find all the food you need for your stay on Topsail.

Final Tips for Topsail Island

  • The bridge to Topsail gets lots of traffic on Saturdays when people are leaving and going to check into their rental homes.
  • There are cheaper souvenir shops in Surf City on the Mainland. There are also two large souvenir shops on Surf City in Topsail, we just found them a little more expensive.
  • Don’t forget to walk around the cute shops in Downtown Surf City on the Island.
  • Remember to pack beach umbrellas, chairs, beach blankets, and sand toys for the beach. Here are some cool Beach Hacks for families.
  • Don’t forget to take a look at the beach access number so that you remember which spot to return at the end of your beach day.

Here are a few more beach items we used while on Topsail Island. We really loved this beach wagon that we used to pull all of our chairs, boogie boards, and beach bags from the rental house.

Are you now ready for an amazing family vacation to Topsail Island NC? With so many fun things to do on Topsail Island you are bound to have a great time. Do you have any questions? Leave them in the comments. I love to hear from my readers.

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Related Article – 10 Awesome Things to Do in Wilmington and Ultimate Guide to Battleship North Carolina

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Ultimate Guide Topsail Island North Carolina. The Best Things to do and see on the island with families. Visit the beautiful beaches, turtle sanctuary, missile towers, fishing, fun restaurants and more. Plus tips on what to know about the island before you go.  #northcarolina #topsailisland #familyvacation #beaches #turtles, #traveltips #travelwithkids #vacationideas
Best Things to Do in Topsail Island NC for families. Enjoy beautiful uncrowded beaches, historical museums, fishing, cute restaurants and more.  Find out why it's the perfect family vacation. #familyvacation #topsailisland #northcarolina #vacationwithkids #beachvacation

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Chicago Family Attractions

Six Flags Great America – Ultimate Family Guide

Are you looking for a fun theme park in the Chicago Area? Our family loves Six Flags Great America. The park has a great mix of rides for both younger and older children so it’s perfect for families. The holiday events for Six Flags Fright Fest (Halloween) and Holidays in the Park (Christmas) are can’t miss experiences. In summer time, your family will also enjoy the epic Hurricane Harbor water park. Find out everything you need to know before you go in my Ultimate Guide to Six Flags Great America. It’s filled with tips on Six Flag tickets, location, season pass, where to eat, what to bring and more.

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Six Flags Great America – Ultimate Family Guide

Family Tips for Six Flags Great America Amusement Park. Everything you need to know before you go with kids. Tips on how to save money, the best rides, what to bring with you, holiday events, Hurricane Harbor and more. Be ready for a great day out with the kids at Six Flags. #amusementpark #familyvacation #traveltips #sixflags

Six Flags Chicago Location

The Six Flags location, or as the locals call it, Great America, is not located in the City of Chicago. Instead, it is located in the Chicago suburb of Gurnee, Illinois. The park is just an hour north of the city and only 15 minutes south of the Wisconsin and Illinois border, making it an easy trip from Milwaukee too. It is conveniently located right off of I-94 with easy access for drivers. Just take the Grand Avenue Exit East.

Address: 1 Great America Parkway, Gurnee IL

Six Flags Great America Tickets

I would suggest you buy tickets ahead of time to get the best price. You can often find discounts on the Six Flags website. If you are a local, there are usually coupons on the back of Coke cans which you can bring to the park to get your discount on tickets when you arrive. You also can get discounted tickets at Jewel Osco.

Six Flags Season Pass

Top Tips for Six Flags Great America Amusement Park with kids. Everything you need to know before you go. Tips on how to save money, the best rides,  what to bring with you, holiday events, Hurricane Harbor and more. Be ready for a great day out with the kids at Six Flags. #amusementpark #familyvacation #traveltips #sixflags

If you plan to go more than two times in one year, I would suggest you look into getting a season pass. Our family has purchased season passes for the last couple years and we have always gotten our money’s worth. The great part about having the pass is you can come visit for just a couple hours and not feel you have to stay the whole day to make up for the high ticket prices.

There are several benefits to purchasing a season pass. Each type of pass has different levels so you will need to see which best fits your family’s needs. All passes get you into the Six Flags amusement park and water park for free. Most of the tickets also include parking which is a big help. There are several days out of the year when season pass holders can bring a friend in for free. This is a great way to let your kids bring a friend with them to the park. The pass also includes access to all the holiday events. Find out if a season pass is right for you here.

Tip – We find the cheapest time to purchase a season pass is usually in the fall for the next year.

Six Flags Parking

Top Tips for Six Flags Great America Amusement Park with kids. Everything you need to know before you go. Tips on how to save money, the best rides,  what to bring with you, holiday events, Hurricane Harbor and more. Be ready for a great day out with the kids at Six Flags. #amusementpark #familyvacation #traveltips #sixflags
Six Flags Parking Signs

There is a fee to park in the Six Flags parking lot in addition to your ticket price. They do have a huge lot but it gets pretty full in the summer and weekends. You can pay more and get VIP parking which will get you much closer to the entrance.

Tip: – There are different numbers and characters for each area of the parking lot. Take a picture of the one closest to your car so you remember where you parked.

Eating in the Park

Top Tips for Six Flags Great America Amusement Park with kids. Everything you need to know before you go. Tips on how to save money, the best rides,  what to bring with you, holiday events, Hurricane Harbor and more. Be ready for a great day out with the kids at Six Flags. #amusementpark #familyvacation #traveltips #sixflags

They have a strict policy of not bringing in any outside food. When you enter the park, they will search your bag and take any food they see. So, your stuck buying food in the park. I will be honest, the food is pretty expensive, especially if you need more than one meal. Also, the service is slow and it can take awhile to wait in line for food. Here are a few ways to save money and time on food:

  1. I feed the kids a big meal in the car on the way to the park to fill them up before we go in.
  2. Fill the kids up on Popcorn – You can purchase a popcorn box and after that it only cost $1.00 to refill. This container can be used throughout the season you purchased it. I just bring it back with us every time we visit the park. Bonus: eating the popcorn keep the kids occupied while standing in line for rides.
  3. If you get a season pass, you can purchase a meal plan. We have added just one meal plan onto our family’s season pass and we get a snack, lunch and dinner which we share as family snack. Tip: The chicken finger basket can feed me and two little kids.
  4. Buy a refillable drink cup – Purchase a refillable drink cup for a one time fee and you can bring it back to the park every time you come in that season. If you only plan to go one time, they have a cheaper cup that is only good to refill for one day. You can refill the cup at stations around the park or any food stand.
  5. Bring a Picnic – Get your hand stamped and head out to your car for a picnic at lunch time. There are a few picnic benches in the parking lot to use. Or, most people just throw a few chairs in their trunk and eat right outside their car.
  6. Eat Outside the Park – Often, we will just feed the kids some popcorn or snacks and then head to a restaurant outside the park on our way home. You will find tons of fast food restaurants on Grand Avenue.
  7. Bring a refillable water bottle and you can use their water filling stations for a free drink.
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Related Article – 10 Awesome Family Getaways From Chicago

Favorite Roller Coaster & Attractions

Six Flags Great America has over 75 rides and attractions, featuring everything from kiddie roller coaster to big heart-pumping roller coasters. You’ll also find tons of games, a carousel ride, a scenic railroad ride, and much more. There is something for every age group in your family.

Big Roller Coasters

Top Tips for Six Flags Great America Amusement Park with kids. Everything you need to know before you go. Tips on how to save money, the best rides,  what to bring with you, holiday events, Hurricane Harbor and more. Be ready for a great day out with the kids at Six Flags. #amusementpark #familyvacation #traveltips #sixflags

The park has 14 big roller coasters to ride. The most popular ride is the Goliath which opened in 2014 as the world’s tallest, steepest, and fastest wooden roller coaster. Some more thrilling roller coasters are Batman the ride with non stop loops and twists, the high speed Demon, and Raging Bull the tallest, longest, and fastest ride at the park. If you want an old classic, make sure to ride the American Eagle. Be prepared to wait in long lines to enjoy these thrilling rides on busy days. Tip: make sure to take off your hat so it doesn’t fly away.

Medium Size Roller Coasters

Top Tips for Six Flags Great America Amusement Park with kids. Everything you need to know before you go. Tips on how to save money, the best rides,  what to bring with you, holiday events, Hurricane Harbor and more. Be ready for a great day out with the kids at Six Flags. #amusementpark #familyvacation #traveltips #sixflags
The Whizzer

There are two roller coasters that are perfect for kids who are not quite tall enough yet for the big roller Coasters. Try the Little Dipper, a family friendly wooden roller coaster, and the Whizzer.

Little Kid Rides

Top Tips for Six Flags Great America Amusement Park with kids. Everything you need to know before you go. Tips on how to save money, the best rides,  what to bring with you, holiday events, Hurricane Harbor and more. Be ready for a great day out with the kids at Six Flags. #amusementpark #familyvacation #traveltips #sixflags

There are two great areas to find rides for younger kids. Head to Kidzoplis in the County Fair area for a teacup ride, airplane ride, and krazy cars. There is also a spray pad and huge pirate ship to run around. When done there, head to Camp Cartoon in Yukon Territory for a small roller coaster and more fun kid rides.

Favorite Attractions

Top Tips for Six Flags Great America Amusement Park with kids. Everything you need to know before you go. Tips on how to save money, the best rides,  what to bring with you, holiday events, Hurricane Harbor and more. Be ready for a great day out with the kids at Six Flags. #amusementpark #familyvacation #traveltips #sixflags
Justice League Battle of Metropolis

There are two attractions that are not roller coasters or rides that we also love. The first is driving the Rue Le Dodge bumper cars, which is always fun when you’re with a group of people. The other is the Justice League Battle of Metropolis. It’s a 4D interactive experience that makes you feel like you are in the city of Metropolis fighting the bad guys. Everyone has a laser gun to shoot and at the end, you can see who has the highest score. Tip: Beware if you get motion sickness, you will feel it on this attraction.

Water Rides

Top Tips for Six Flags Great America Amusement Park with kids. Everything you need to know before you go. Tips on how to save money, the best rides,  what to bring with you, holiday events, Hurricane Harbor and more. Be ready for a great day out with the kids at Six Flags. #amusementpark #familyvacation #traveltips #sixflags

There are several fun water rides in the theme park that are perfect for warm summer days. Younger kids will love Buccaneer Battle where you pretend to be a pirate and shoot water cannons at passersby, but be aware that they can shoot at you, too. For the older kids, hop on Loggers Run and Roaring Rapids, both will have you soaking wet at the end.

Tip: Bring a poncho to try and stay a little dry. Here is a family pack of ponchos we like to use at amusement parks and for hiking. They easily fit into your purse.

Related Article – 7 Can’t Miss Things to Do in Chicago with Kids

Tips for Your Visit to Six Flag Great America

Here are 10 simple tips to make your visit to Six Flags easier.

  1. Wear comfy shoes. You will be walking a lot.
  2. Get to the park early before the crowds get too big
  3. When you get into the park, head to your left for smaller crowds. Most people automatically go to their right when they enter. Or head to a ride you know will have a longer line later in the day.
  4. Bring a lightweight poncho instead of a heavy rain coat. They are perfect for rain days or when you go on the water rides.
  5. Bring a stroller if you have younger kids. It’s a lot of walking and the kids get tired. Also, it’s a great way to carry all your stuff. You’ll find places to park your stroller outside each ride.
  6. Wear a fanny pack. When you get to the ride, you will have to put your purse or bag in a big bin before getting on a ride. I wear a fanny pack so I can keep my wallet and phone with me.
  7. Bring a cooling towel to use on hot days when you’re waiting in a long line.
  8. Don’t forget to wear a hat and sunscreen. There is not a lot of shade.
  9. Wear layers when you come in the colder months.
  10. Download the Great America App to see how long the lines are for different rides, find out show times, and view the interactive map. It will also give you directions from your location to where you want to go.

Six Flags – Hurricane Harbor

Best Water Park Hurricane Harbor at Six Flags Great America. Tips you need for your visit to Six Flags Water park and amusement park with kids. Everything you need to know before you go! #waterpark #kids #traveltips #amusementpark #sixflags

Did you know Six Flags has it’s own water park called Hurricane Harbor? You’ll find a huge wave pool, tons of water slides, kids area, lazy river, and big play pool. You can easily spend a whole day here swimming and having fun. Another option is to do half the day at the water park and the other half at the amusement park. There is an entrance to Six Flags amusement park inside of the water park so it makes it easy to go back and forth.

Tips – Get to the water park early if you want seats up close to the pools. There are lockers to store your belongings and changing rooms near the bathroom. Life vests are also available in different sizes by the pools. If you get hungry, there are several food stands and your meal plan for Six Flags also works in the water park. They have free water bottle refilling stations in the water park too.

When we are at the water park, we wear a waterproof cell phone holder around our neck or wrist. It also holds our Six Flags cards and money. That way when we leave our stuff on the chairs, we don’t have to worry about anything important being stolen. Find our favorite cell phone holder below and a few more of our favorite water park items.

Celebrating Holidays at Six Flags Great America

Fright Fest

If you love Halloween time, head over to Six Flags for Fright Fest. You will be amazed at all the Halloween decorations around the park. We would go just to see all the decorations.

During the day time, the event is family friendly and not too scary. However, after 6 pm, it is not recommended for children under 12. At that time, you will find roaming staff in elaborate scary costumes who’s job it is to jump out and scare you. They will sometimes even follow you around. There is a night time parade which is pretty cool to see but also scary. I would say attending this event at night depends on your children’s age and how scared they get. My youngest son loves it even though he’s under 12 while my older one not so much. Rides are open the whole time plus there’s a cool light show in Carousel Plaza.

Holiday in the Park

Six Flags Great America started a fun new Winter Holiday event in 2018. The park is decorated with Christmas trees, beautiful lights, and decorations. Watch a light show while you’re there and listen to the carolers.

There are not many rides open but if you get a season pass, I highly recommend strolling around the park to visit this winter wonderland. Throughout the park, you will also find s’mores stations and hot chocolate to warm up. We found this to be a really fun way to celebrate the holidays and will now make it an annual holiday tradition.

Related Article – 10 Best Christmas Light Displays in Chicagoland

Are You Ready to Go to Six Flags Great America?

Are you ready now for your family adventure at Six Flags Great America? Hopefully my tips for visiting the park will help everyone have a great day. If you have any questions or great tips of your own, please leave them in the comments. I love to hear from my readers.

Want more fun ideas of things to do in Chicago with Kids? Check out my Chicago Family Attractions Guide and be ready for more fun family adventures.

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Best Tips & Hacks for Six Flags Great American. What to bring and how to save money while visiting the park. Plus holiday events and tip on Hurricane Harbor water park. This guide will have you ready for an awesome day out! #amusementpark #sixflags #traveltips #amusementtips #familytravel
Save Money at Six Flags Great America with these 22 Tips. Be prepared for your visit with these easy travel hacks for families. Including tips to Hurricane Harbor water park and Holiday events. #amusementpark #sixflags #traveltips #familytravel
Six Flags Tip to Fright Fest. Six Flags Great America Amusement park and everything you need to know before you go what to bring, and ride. Best attractions for kids. #sixflags #amusementpark #halloween #traveltips

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Travel with Kids

20 Beach Hacks to Survive a Family Beach Day

Are you planning a family beach day or headed on a beach vacation? Make it a stress-free and fun day out with these 20 Easy Beach Hacks for kids.

You’ll be surprised at how these simple beach tips and tricks can make such a huge difference in your family day out. Follow our list of fun things to take to the beach to be ready to enjoy your beach day.

You’ll learn what to do before you go to the beach, what to pack for the beach, a cool fitted sheet hack to keep sand off blanket, how to hide your valuables and more. Don’t just survive your next family beach day have a great time making fun family memories.

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20 Beach Hacks to Survive a Family Beach Day

Genius Beach Hacks for kids to help families survive a day at the beach. Clever beach tips and tricks to help you on family beach vacations or just a day out at the beach with kids. You won't believe you didn't think of these beach hacks before! #beach #beachtips #beachhacks #familybeachday #kidsatthebeach #familyvacation #beachday

How to Prepare for Your Family Beach Day

Pack The Night Before

To make your beach day less crazy before you go, start packing up what you’ll need the night before. This way it’s one less thing to do when you’re trying to get your kids dressed and fed in the morning.

Pack Lunches and Snacks

Get your lunch and any snack made the night before. Then in the morning add them all to your cooler with water and drinks.

Get to the beach earlier in the day

The beach will be less crowded so you’ll get a better spot plus the kids are less crabby when they’re not as tired.

Stake out your spot

Now that you have arrived earlier in the day, you can stake out your spot on the beach with blankets, towels, and chairs. This way, when it does get crowded, you’ll still have some space for the kids to dig and play.

Decide if you would rather be near the water so you can see the kids easily swimming or further away so they can’t run into the water too quickly.

How to make a fun beach day by setting up your spot with all your cool beach hacks.

Bring a Blow-up Toddler Pool

For toddlers and babies, bring a small blow-up pool or use a blow-up boat as a small pool.

Fill the pool up with the lake/ocean water and place it under an umbrella for shade. This lets smaller children splash in the water and you won’t have to worry about them being in the ocean waves.

Worried about packing all that baby gear? Guess what you don’t have to with BabyQuip! An amazing baby rental company that delivers to your destination. Make your life easier and packing lighter with our favorite travel hackBabyQuip.

Keep Cool

Use a spray bottle to mist your kids and keep them cool.

This is great for when they are so busy playing in the sand and not interested in running in the water or when the water is too cold.

We love using one that has a fan on it. This O2Cool spray bottle worked great for us. (pictured in green below)

Beach Hack for keeping cool at the beach with a misting fan.

You can also freeze water bottles the night before so you have cold water to drink at the beach.

Cell Phone Protection

If you plan to bring your phone to the beach, make sure to put it in a case to protect it from sand and water. You can use a simple zip lock bag or we love the Moko waterproof cellphone case.

You can hang it around your neck and bring it in the water with you to take pictures of the kids. The Moko allows you to still use your phone’s touch features and takes clear pictures.

We take it on every vacation and even use it when going to our local pool. It’s shown in the picture below.

Protect your cell phone from sand at the beach with this cell phone cover case beach tip.

Wear flip flops

Make sure to wear flip-flops that can get wet so you can easily wash off the sand at the showers on the way out of the beach.

Bring a change of clothes

If you want to wash off in the showers at the beach and head out to restaurants or shops after your beach day, don’t forget to pack some extra clothes.

Bag for Wet Bathing Suits

Bring along an extra bag to throw your wet bathing suits in. This can be just a grocery store bag or a clean trash bag from your hotel room.

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Ultimate Beach Hacks and Beach Tips & Tricks for Kids. Easy & unique ways to keep everyone happy and meltdown free. Plus everything you need to pack for your beach day. Have great family memories with a perfect day out at the beach.  #beachhacks #beachtips #traveltips #beach #kids

What to Pack for a Day at The Beach

Beach Blanket Hacks

There are so many different beach blankets you can find. We like to find a beach blanket that folds up into a bag so you can easily transport it and that dries quickly.

This one below is great because it has pockets for your stuff and has stakes to hold the blanket down on windy days

Fitted Sheet Hack

Use a fitted sheet as your blanket to keep the sand off your blanket. You can place your cooler and bags to hold the sides up inside the fitted sheet. The sheet will go up higher and help keep the sand out. Which is pretty cool plus cheap.

Beach Bag

For the beach, you need a big beach bag for your towels but also one that has pockets to hold smaller things like your keys. The bonus is finding one that will also brush off the sand.

I love this beach bag because it folds up easily to pack in a suitcase and has tons of pockets.

Sand Toys

Save money when traveling by picking up some beach toys at the local dollar store or grocery store when you get there.

If you have room in your suitcase or are traveling by car, consider bringing the toys with you. Check out my Dollar Tree Travel Activities to find great beach items.

Beach Hack Put the toys in a mesh bag so that all the sand falls out. I often pick up a mesh laundry bag from the dollar store and throw all the beach toys in there. It’s a cheap and convenient way to hold all your beach toys.

Easy Beach Hack for Sand toys - use a mesh bag to hold your toys so you can keep the sand off your blanket and car. Just shake the mesh bag and let all the sand fall out.
My Dollar Store Laundry Bag

Hide Your Money

When you’re ready to head to the water, do you get nervous about leaving your purse or wallet on your beach blanket? Nothing ruins a beach day like having your money stolen.

Beach Trick to hide your money at the beach.

Beach Hack – Hide your money in an empty can of Pringles or a Chapstick holder. Thieves will think it’s just food and ignore it.

Bring a Bag for Trash

Make sure to bring with you a bag to throw out all your trash. If you plan to picnic or even just bring snacks, it’s nice to have a small plastic bag to throw out all your trash.

Beach Clothes

If you plan to be in the sun all day, it’s a good idea to wear a protective swim shirt or rash guards and a hat with SPF. This will help keep the sun and harmful rays off your skin.

Our whole family wears rash guards to the beach and it has been a huge help in reducing sunburns.

Sun Tent and Umbrella

Keep your kids out of the sun and cool on your beach vacation with an umbrella or beach tent. Our favorite beach tent pops up and is set up in minutes, which is great when you’re keeping an eye on excited kids at the beach.

If you want an umbrella, I suggest you use one that you can screw into the sand to make sure it doesn’t fly away in the wind. We like a fold-out handle to help you twist down the sand anchor on the snail beach umbrella. It makes the umbrella much more stable and easy to install.

Life Vests

If you have younger kids, I like to bring a swim vest for safety. It helps them stay afloat and makes it easier for you to swim with the kids.

I like that the one below has a handle at the top so you can easily grab your kid out of the water if they are struggling to swim.

Bring Baby Wipes

Use baby wipes to get sand off your hands before you have a picnic lunch or snack.

Cooler

Get a cooler that you can also use as a table. Try to find one on wheels that you can pull over the sand and has indentations for drink holders.

Beach Cart

It’s hard to carry all your beach supplies and your kids to the beach. Even if the kids can walk, they are not a big help in carrying your stuff. I suggest getting a beach cart if you are going to regularly go to the beach.

Make sure you pick one with big wheels that can easily be pulled over the sand and look for one that can hold your beach umbrella, too.

Beach Wagon

Another great option is a beach wagon that you can throw all your stuff in.

We found a great one that folds so it’s easy to pack up in your car. Plus it has good wheels to pull through sand. I noticed it had a bad review on Amazon but worked great for us and we filled it up. Quest Beach Wagon

Did you find a great beach hack for your next beach vacation? I hope these tips will help you have a great beach day with your kids! If you have any questions or your own beach hacks, please share in the comments. I love to hear from my readers.

Fun Beach Vacation Ideas

We love taking beach vacations in Florida and North Carolina. They all have beautiful beaches and tons of fun activities for the whole family. You just need to decide if you want to be on the Gulf or the Atlantic Ocean.

Our Favorite Beach Vacations

Travel Hacks to Keep Kids Busy on Family Vacation

Keeping kids busy on a family vacation is the difference between us all going crazy and having a great trip.

My favorite place to pick up cheap travel games and gadgets is Dollar Tree. You save money and if you lose it on vacation no big deal.

If you don’t have time to shop before vacation, check out these great Amazon Travel Gadgets for Kids.

We love the travel tray for the kids to play on in the car and kick mats to hold the kid’s iPads and games on a road trip.

Will you be visiting friends or family & need cribs, car seats, or strollers? Don’t pack it all have it delivered to their door with BabyQuipMake your life easier when traveling with kids with our favorite travel hack from BabyQuip

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20 Ultimate Beach Tips & Tricks with kids. Best beach hacks for a fun family beach day. Easy tips on how to plan for a day at the beach, what to pack, how to hide your money, get rid of sand & more. #beachhacks #beachtips #traveltips #familyvacation #packing #travelwithkids
20 Awesome Beach Hacks Moms will Love! Get these easy tips and tricks for taking kids to the beach. Clever ideas to hide your valuables, carrying things to the beach, safe areas for babies and so much more. #Beachhacks #travelwithkids #beachday #beachvacation #travelhacks #traveltips #familyvacation
Beach Hacks Every Mom Needs to Know. Simple Beach Tips & Tricks for kids to make your Beach day or Beach vacation fun and stress free. Save your next family vacation with the best Beach Tips for a memorable day out with the kids. #beachhacks #beachtips #familyvacation #beach #sand #travelhacks

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Family Travel Tips & Hacks

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Genius Beach Tips & Tricks Moms Need for a family beach day. DIY Beach hacks with kids for a stress free beach vacation. How to hide your valuables, get rid of sand, what to pack and more.  Be ready with these 20 Clever Beach Tips for Kids. #beachtips #beachtricks #beachhacks #beachwithkids #beachvacation
Travel with Kids

Best National Parks in the USA for Kids

Does your family love to get out into nature and explore amazing hiking trails, mountains, and waterfalls? We love it too! We’ve been visiting the best National Parks in the USA and want to share it with you.

Let me show you the best of American national parks from the East Coast to the West Coast. Families will love seeing the rugged coastline at Acadia National Park, amazing waterfalls at Yosemite and scenic mountain views in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Get inspired with our list of the 9 best National Parks in the USA to visit with kids before they turn 18.

This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to buy something using my link, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. For more information, see my disclaimer here.
Best National Parks in the USA. Which parks to visit with kids on Road Trips from the East Coast, to the Midwest, California and Arizona. In the list you'll find Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Arcadia, Shenandoah, Sequoia National parks and more. Find the Park that best fits your family. #nationalparks, #familyvacation # familytrips # traveltips #np

Best National Parks in the USA with Kids

Acadia National Park

Location – Bar Harbor, Maine

Acadia National Park has amazing views from the highest headlands along the Atlantic Coast. Here you will find a mix of seven peaks to hike, sandy beaches, and the ocean. Families can take a ranger-led boat tour and touch real sea life in season plus search for seals, porpoises, and birds.

They also have a great nature center with hands-on exhibits to learn more about this cool National Park. When the kids get tired, take a gorgeous drive along Park Loop Road.

If you are interested in hiking with the family, there are several great trails to try, such as Wonderland, Ship’s Harbor, and Flying Mountain. To keep the kids excited about the hikes, check out the kid’s program Acadia Quest. It’s a family-oriented program that lets families make teams to complete activities throughout the park.

The Bar Harbor area is known for its delicious Popovers. You can find them at the Jordan Pond House in the park. However, in the busy season, you will need to take the shuttle as parking will be limited. Or do what the locals do and enjoy them at The Asticou Hotel in Northwest Harbor.

While you’re visiting the park, make sure to leave some time to explore the cute town of Bar Harbor, too. It’s a great location to find hotels, restaurants, and quaint shops. If you are looking for a fun New England family vacation, this area has it all. Learn more about Acadia National Park.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Location – Ohio – In between Cleveland and Akron Ohio

One of the newest National Parks is located in Ohio and close to civilization which makes it easy to find Starbucks and hotels. However, once you are in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, you will feel miles away from anything. The park was started to preserve the interesting history of the canal lock system. Families can learn more about the history at their visitor center filled with interactive exhibits.

What we loved the most were the cool hikes through different types of terrain. Our two favorites are the hikes to the beautiful Brandywine Falls and climbing the amazing moss & boulder covered paths in Virginia Kendall Ledges. Both are kid-friendly hikes your family will love.

The location of this park is also a huge draw. Located on the edge of the Midwest, it is easy for families driving from the East Coast or Midwest to visit. Plus there are tons of hotels in the area to stay or camping.

Learn more about visiting this cool national park in my Best Guide to Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Everglade National Park

Location – Florida Everglades, Between Miami and Naples Florida

If you’re headed down to Florida, the Everglades National Park is a must-see. It is an interesting national park created to protect the unique ecosystem of the wetlands. Besides preserving the landscape, the park also protects the American crocodiles, alligators, manatees, birds, and panthers.

This is the only place in the world that alligators and crocodiles coexist. If your family wants to see crocodiles or alligators, this is the place to visit

In the park, you will find many boardwalk hikes to keep you out of the wetlands water areas. Find great boardwalks to walk at Anhinga Trail and Mahogany Hammock Trail.

The most popular site to see is Shark Valley. It’s a long drive to get to but a great spot to see wildlife. Once you arrive at the visitor center, you ride a shuttle or bike to a huge observation tower overlooking the everglades.

Want an adventure while you’re there? Take a ride on Florida’s popular airboat rides through the everglades. Zoom through the Everglades and glide over grasses while looking for local wildlife. This was our family’s favorite part and I detail all about it in Best Airboat Rides What to See & Do.

Everglades National Park is located between Miami, Naples, and Marco Island. All are great places to stay while visiting the National Park.

If you want to expand your trip, visit Big Cypress National Preserve located just north of the park and Everglade City. Once you’re done with your long day of exploring make sure to visit the beautiful beaches in Naples and Marco Island.

Grand Canyon National Park

Best National Parks in the USA. Which parks to visit with kids on Road Trips from the East Coast, to the Midwest, California and Arizona. In the list you'll find Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Arcadia, Shenandoah, Sequoia National parks and more. Find the Park that best fits your family. #nationalparks, #familyvacation # familytrips # traveltips #np

Location – Northern Arizona

The Grand Canyon is where you go when you’re ready to be in awe. The Canyon is one of the world’s most incredible natural wonders and pretty amazing to see in person. Take your time while you’re there to view the different colors in the rocks as the sunlight changes. Consider visiting the two different parts of the canyon, the more popular South Rim and longer to drive to North Rim (5 hours north).

If you are not serious hikers, then a half a day exploring the South Rim is probably enough. However, if you want to hike down the canyon, keep in mind it is 4 hours to get down and 6-8 hours to climb back up.

You will still get an amazing experience driving along the South Rim and getting out at the stops along the way for pictures and beautiful views. There are also a few short hikes for kids on the South Rim. Summer months can get very busy and you might want to take the shuttle rather than drive yourself.

Other fun ways to see the Canyon are to take a helicopter ride, mule ride, or scenic train ride. All would be fun and unique experiences for your family.

There is a hotel to stay in at the Grand Canyon but make sure to make your reservations early as it fills up quickly. We stayed in Flagstaff as we only made the visit a day trip so we could explore all of Arizona. Flagstaff has a really cute town plus tons of hiking and areas to explore. It is only an hour and a half from Grand Canyon Village.

Sequoia National Park & Kings Canyon National Park

Location – California’s southern Sierra Nevada mountains

Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park hold 7 of the largest Sequoia trees in the world. The parks are adjacent to each other and are just a couple hours south of Yosemite. You will be blown away by the sheer size of the Sequoia trees you’ll see on your visit.

You could easily do both of these parks in one long day with kids. However, if you want to do more hiking and exploring, then I would make it a two-day trip. There is lodging in both parks and camping options. The hotels book up fast so make sure to book these well in advance of your stay.

Sequoia National Park

At Sequoia National Park, start out by visiting the Foothills Visitor Center and the Giant Forest Museum. These are great places to learn more about the giant sequoia trees and ask the rangers questions.

Next, head to General Sherman Tree and Trail to see the world’s largest known living tree. Enjoy walking through the woods on a mostly paved trail to discover this huge tree. Afterward, head to the Congress Loop trail to see the 3rd and 4th tallest Sequoias.

If you want an easy hike with the kids, check out Crescent Meadow where you’ll find a huge tree to sit in and a house made out of sequoias called Tharp’s Log. Another fun hike is to Tokopah Falls which is a rockier hike along a river but still doable with kids. Plus the waterfall at the end is worth the hike.

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Kings Canyon National Park

Best National Parks in the USA. Which parks to visit with kids on Road Trips from the East Coast, to the Midwest, California and Arizona. In the list you'll find Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Arcadia, Shenandoah, Sequoia National parks and more. Find the Park that best fits your family. #nationalparks, #familyvacation # familytrips # traveltips #np

The second-largest sequoia, General Grant, is located in Kings Canyon National Park. This should be your first stop on your visit. Head to Grant Grove Trail and take the easy 0.6-mile loop around General Grant Tree. While there, look for the Fallen Monarch, a nature-made fort for the kids to explore.

After this, take a drive on Kings Canyon Scenic Byway and make sure to stop at the pull-off to take in the amazing views.

Next, take a scenic hike at Zumwalt Meadow, an easy 1.8-mile trail next to the Kings River. Make sure to look up and take in the view of the Grand Sentinel and North Dome towering above you.

Shenandoah National Park

Location – Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

Shenandoah National Park is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, not too far from Washington, D.C. The park covers over 300 square miles in the Virginia Mountains. As you drive along Skyline Drive, which runs through the whole park, you will see amazing views of the mountains and valleys.

Start off at one of the three Visitor Centers to learn more about the park’s history, nature, and wildlife.

The park has several family-friendly hikes to do. We loved the hike to Dark Hollow Falls to see the beautiful waterfall. The kids also really enjoyed the hikes on Stony Man Trail and Bear Fence Mountain Trail where they could climb the rocks along the way. Both end with stunning views across the mountains.

Find more easy family hikes and my tips for first-time visitors at Shenandoah National Park.

Like Acadia National Park, Shenandoah National Park is surrounded by great little towns to visit and tons of fun family activities in Shenandoah Valley.

We highly recommend exploring the stunning Luray Caverns. You will be in awe looking at the huge cavern with an underground lake and amazing stalagmites & stalactites. It was the highlight of our trip.

Also check out the surrounding towns of Winchester and Staunton, Virginia for fun museums, civil war history, great restaurants, and shops.

You can easily spend a week’s vacation here exploring the National Park and surrounding Shenandoah Valley. Learn more about the area in Fun Things to Do in Shenandoah Valley.

Smoky Mountains National Park

Location – Straddles the border of North Carolina and Tennessee

The Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the USA. Besides being a beautiful park, it also has a great location in the middle of the country. This park is easily accessible for people to get to and enjoy a few days living in the mountains.

Visitors will also find a portion of the famous Appalachian Trail running through the Smoky Mountains. But the best part of the Smoky Mountains is it’s Free!

Start your visit out at Sugarland Visitor Center to learn more about the park and sign up for some great Ranger-led tours. Then take some fun family hikes to explore the park.

We loved the easy hike to Cataract Falls. You can also hike along parts of the historic Appalachian Trail. If you want to get a great view of the Smoky Mountains, take the hike up to Clingman’s Dome. Just a warning though, it is a steep climb up a paved path.

Another great way to learn the history of the park is to drive Cades Cove Loop. It’s an 11-mile, one-way scenic drive with historic stops along the way.

Pick up the self-guided tour or download the app to find out what is at each stop along the way. You will visit historic homes, churches, a grist mill and more. This is a perfect activity in the afternoon when the kids are tired of hiking.

Make sure to check out these helpful tips for visiting the Smoky Mountains.

Outside of the Smoky Mountains National Park, you will find the touristy towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Both of these towns have tons of restaurants, shops, and lodging plus some slightly cheesy places like Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museums that the kids will love.

Tip: There are tons of cabins to rent if you want to get a great view but still be close to town. We found the pricing similar to staying in downtown Gatlinburg.

Learn more about visiting Gatlinburg in 7 Fun Things to Do in Gatlinburg TN.

Yosemite National Park

Location – Eastern Central California

Of all the National Parks on the list, I think Yosemite National Park has some of the most stunning scenery. Here you will see amazing waterfalls, mountains, sequoia trees, and beautiful meadows.

This also can be a very busy National Park to visit especially in the summer months. At busy times I’d suggest you use their great shuttle system to get around the park.

The main area you will visit is Yosemite Valley, a 7-mile stretch of glacier-carved granite and meadows. There are several great hikes for families from the Valley area. Try Glacier Point Loop for an easy paved path with stunning views of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley.

When you’re ready to see waterfalls, hike the Bridalveil Falls Trail and Lower Yosemite Falls Trail. Both will lead you to scenic waterfalls. Then, enjoy an easy walk through Cooks Meadow Loop and gaze up at the mountains around you.

Yosemite Village is where you will find all of the lodging, restaurants, shops, and Yosemite Museum. This is a great stop even if you are staying outside of the park to pick up food or souvenirs. There is only one loop road that drives through Yosemite Village which helps you from getting lost.

Tip: There are a lot of bears in this area so make sure not to leave food in your car or unattended at a campsite.

Every Kid in a Park

The national park system is trying to encourage all kids to visit the National Parks. To do this they have created a program called Every Kid in a Park. It allows 4th Grade kids and their families to get in free to all National Parks.

Kids are eligible for the full year including the summer before and after 4th grade. This is a great way to save some money and enjoy the parks as a family.

Hiking with Kids Tips

Before you go on a hike in one of these fabulous National Parks get a few of my best tips on hiking with kids. Simple ways to make your family day out less stressful and fun. Keep the kids interested in your hike with some cool trail games and activities.

Be prepared for your family hike with my free printable hiking checklist with all the hiking gear you need to bring on your family hike. Get everything you need to know in the Ultimate Guide to Hiking with Kids.

How to Plan the Cost of Your Trip

Find out the full cost of your upcoming vacation with my free Trip Cost Calculator. Use this easy tool to help build your travel budget and get a better idea of how much you need to save for a vacation.

You can adjust each travel item cost until you find a total amount that you can afford. Then build your dream vacation around your personal travel budget. 

Are you inspired now to visit the best national park in the USA on your next family vacation? I really hope this list of the Best National Parks for kids helps you narrow down the parks that are the best fit for your family.

I’d love to hear from you about your trip or any questions you may have. Leave me a note in the comments and I will get back to you. I love to hear from my readers.

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US National Parks with Kids. Best parks to visit on Road Trips in the United States. Visit park in the East Coast, California, Arizona and the Midwest. Use this list to find the best National Park for your family.  Find incredible Experiences you'll love! #nationalpark #np #familyvacation #traveltips #travelwithkids
Best USA National Parks for Kids-  Find the right National Park for Families from Yosemite, to Smoky Mountains, Acadia, Shenandoah, Sequoia, Everglades and more. Get details on each to plan your next family vacation or road trip. #nationalparks #nationalparksusa #familyvacation #roadtrip #travelwithkids #arcadia #smokymountians #yosemite #grandcanyon

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Can't miss United States National Parks with Kids. Visit awe inspiring National Parks like Yosemite, Smoky Mountains, Arcadia, Shenandoah, Grand Canyon & more. Use this family vacation guide to see which is the best park for your family.  #nationalparks #usanationalparks #familyvacation #acadia #yosemite #smokymountains #grandcanyon #nationalpark #travelwithkids
Travel with Kids

Best Guide to Cuyahoga Valley National Park & Brandywine Falls

Did you know there was a National Park in Ohio? Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a beautiful gem located between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio along the Cuyahoga River. This free national park is easily accessible and is very family-friendly.

On your visit, hike to a waterfall at Brandywine Falls and explore moss-covered boulders at Virginia Kendall Ledges. Pick up trail maps and learn the history of the canal system by stopping at the visitor centers. Or take a bike ride on the Ohio Erie Canal Tow Path.

If you are spending a weekend in Cleveland or traveling from nearby states, this is a perfect family weekend getaway. Check out all the things to do at Cuyahoga Valley National Park with kids.

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Best Travel Guide to Cuyahoga Valley National Park with kids. Great hiking and scenic waterfalls to visit in this Ohio national park. Find out the best trails and where to find maps and park information. Be prepared to visit this beautiful national park with these helpful family travel tips. #national park, #cuyahogavaleey, # Ohionationalpark, #familytravel, #travelwithkids

Guide to Cuyahoga Valley National Park – Things to Do

Cuyahoga Valley National Park was established in 2000 and is one of the newest national parks in the country. This makes it a little different than many other national parks as you have towns already built throughout the park. As you drive you will be going in and out of civilization.

We spent just one night and two days at the park and that was a perfect amount of time. This gave us enough time to see all the highlights of the park and not feel rushed. You will find plenty of hotels available in Akron and Cleveland at reasonable prices.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Trails

Brandywine Falls

Best Travel Guide to Cuyahoga Valley National Park with kids. Great hiking and scenic waterfalls to visit in this Ohio national park. Find out the best trails and where to find maps and park information. Be prepared to visit this beautiful national park with these helpful family travel tips. #national park, #cuyahogavaleey, # Ohionationalpark, #familytravel, #travelwithkids
Brandywine Falls


Brandywine Falls is a scenic 65-foot waterfall. There are several waterfalls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park but this is the easiest to access. You will find a small parking lot area near the entrance to the trail. I would suggest hiking this trail earlier in the day before the lot fills up.

A boardwalk with handrails from the parking lot leads you on a path to the waterfall. There are many stairs so it is not easily accessible for wheelchairs or strollers. The boardwalk hangs along the cliff so be a little careful with the kids. There is a flat landing area to view the falls and get great pictures.

If you go back up the stairs, there is a boardwalk that continues up the waterfall where you can get a closer view of the falls from the top. You will also find some ruins the kids can climb around from the old town of Brandywine.

From here, you can turn around and go back to the parking lot or continue on for a 2-mile loop hike on the Brandywine Gorge Trail.

More National Parks to Visit – 8 Top Things to do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Virginia Kendall Ledges

This area was by far our family’s favorite! You will arrive at a parking lot area that has bathrooms and a picnic area. Find the signage for the Virginia Kendall Ledges Trail and take a walk down a gravel path through the trees.

At first, it will seem like just a regular hike in the woods but then you will come upon the huge moss-covered boulders. All of a sudden you will feel like you are in another world.

Our kids loved following these paths and climbing all over the rock formations. And I admit it was fun for us adults too! You can find small caves and paths to walk on all around this loop trail.

Keep an eye out for the Ice Box Cave – it’s closed off for the safety of the bat that live in the cave but you can feel the cold air coming out of the cave which is pretty cool.

We did not see any bats in the daylight so don’t be scared (lol). When you are done climbing around the rocks, you can head back to the parking area or keep following the Ledges Trail for a 2.2-mile loop hike.

Hiking Tips

Need some tips before heading out on a trail to make it a fun stress-free family day out? In my Ultimate Guide to Hiking with Kids, you’ll find easy hiking tips, the best hiking gear, and cool trail games & activities.

Keep the kids engage with free printable Nature Scavenger Hunts for kids

Be prepared for your hike and outing to a National Park with a Free Printable Hiking Checklist.

Subscribe to Happy Mom Hacks Newsletter and have access to the Ultimate Family Travel Checklist. Plus great Mom tips and tricks and family travel ideas.

Ohio Erie Canal Tow Path

Best Travel Guide to Cuyahoga Valley National Park with kids. Great hiking and scenic waterfalls to visit in this Ohio national park. Find out the best trails and where to find maps and park information. Be prepared to visit this beautiful national park with these helpful family travel tips. #national park, #cuyahogavaleey, # Ohionationalpark, #familytravel, #travelwithkids

The Ohio Erie Canal Tow Path follows the historic routes along the Ohio & Erie Canal. The canals were built between 1825 and 1832 and were used before there were roads for farmers to transport their goods to the market. The paths are the ones mules used to pull the canal boats along the river. You can now walk or bike through these historic trails.

Along these trails, you will find beautiful views of forests, wetlands, and fields. The trails are hard packed and level so you are able to use wheelchairs, strollers, and bikes.

Best Travel Guide to Cuyahoga Valley National Park with kids. Great hiking and scenic waterfalls to visit in this Ohio national park. Find out the best trails and where to find maps and park information. Be prepared to visit this beautiful national park with these helpful family travel tips. #national park, #cuyahogavaleey, # Ohionationalpark, #familytravel, #travelwithkids

More National Park Idea – 9 Epic National Parks to Show Kids Before They Turn 18

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Visitor Center

The Visitor Centers at National Parks are a great way to get your bearings and find out all the great things to see while you are there. It’s also a great place to talk to the forest rangers and ask any questions you may have. We usually ask about the trails, directions, and where to see the best wildlife. Here are the two visitor centers we liked the best in this park.

Boston Store Visitor Center

The Boston Store Visitor Center is a great place to start your journey and ask questions of the park rangers. Inside, there is a small display on the history of the boats on the canal. Plus you can pick up a park map and brochures about the area. You will also find bathroom facilities and a water bottle refilling station. If you are riding your bike on the many trails, you can park it here at the bike racks and take a break.

Address: 1550 Boston Mills Road, east of Riverview Road
Peninsula, Ohio 44264

Another Great Ohio Family Hike – Hiking in Hocking Hills

Canal Exploration Center

The Canal Exploration Center is located on one of the old canal lock systems. The building is an old tavern that used to serve passengers while they waited for their boats to be ready. You can get an up-close look at how the locks worked and even attend a ranger-led demonstration. Then head inside to this two-story visitor center with a small store and large exhibit area.

The visitor center’s exhibits explain how the canal system worked and the history of the people who lived in the area. There are several interactive displays that are great for the kids. We spent an hour here exploring all the interesting exhibits.

Inside you can pick up a small snack, souvenir, and use the restroom facilities. The rangers are also available to answer any of your questions and provide maps of the trails.

Address: 7104 Canal Road, the intersection of Canal and Hillside roads
Valley View, Ohio 44125

More Weekend Getaway Ideas – 10 Awesome Weekend Getaways in the Midwest

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Maps

You will find Cuyahoga Valley National Park Maps at the visitor centers. If you would like to view them ahead of your visit, here is a link to maps. We found both the trail maps and map of the entire park very helpful.

The park is in the middle of towns and homes so it is helpful to have an idea where you are going. Also, I always feel better when I have a trail map for our family hikes.

After you enjoy Cuyahoga Valley National Park another great place to hike in Ohio is Hocking Hills, State Park. Learn all about it in Hiking in Hocking Hills.

So are you ready to explore Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park? The areas I highlighted were our favorite spots to visit in the park. Brandywine Falls and Virginia Kendall Ledges are not to be missed on your visit.

I would love to hear back from you after your visit about what you loved. Or if you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments. I love to hear from my readers and answer questions.

More National Parks to Visit with Kids

If you love visiting the outdoors with your family, be sure to read The Best National Parks in the USA to Visit Before Your Kids Turn 18. You’ll find information on cool National Parks like Shenandoah National Park, The Great Smoky Mountains, Acadia National Park, and more.

Enjoy traveling in the Midwest with your family? Get inspired by these 10 Family Weekend Getaways in the Midwest.

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Don’t Forget to Pin this Guide to use on your trip!

Best spots with kids in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Find hiking trail ideas with kids and beautiful waterfalls to visit. This travel guide tells you the best things to do with kids, where to find a map and park information plus family travel tips for visiting the national park.  Everything you need to know before you go! #cuyahogavalleynationalpark, #nationalpark, #familytravel, #travelwithkids
Easy hike to Brandywine Falls, Ohio - Cuyahoga Valley National Park is home to the beautiful Waterfall Brandywine Falls and it's a must see. A quick hike with the kids via a wooden boardwalk leading you to the scenic waterfalls. There are so many fun things to do with kids and adults in this national park. Check out my travel guide and be prepared for a great visit to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. #cuyahogavalleynationalpark, #waterfalls, #travelwithkids, #familytravel

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Best Things to Do in Cuyahoga National Park & Brandywine Falls. A complete guide to best hikes for families visiting this beautiful Ohio National Park and what not to miss. #cuyahoganationalpark #nationalparks #brandywinefalls #hikingwithkids #nationalparkswithkids #familyvacation
Ohio Hiking Trails in Cuyahoga Valley National Park with Kids. The best hiking trail to see Brandywine Waterfall and more. A fun day out or place to camp with the kids.  #hikingwithkids #cuyahogavalleynationalpark #nationalpark #ohiohikingtrails
Travel with Kids

Best Things to Do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Kids

Did you know the most visited US National Park is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? There is a reason for this it is absolutely beautiful and has a great location in the middle of the country.

The Smoky Mountains of Tennessee are easy to drive to and packed with great family adventures. You will find so many fun things to do in the Smoky Mountains National Park with kids from cool hikes, the Appalachian Trail, Cades Cove driving tour, climbing Clingman’s Dome, Pioneer History and more.

Plus you can’t miss the touristy towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Follow along with me to learn the best things to do in the Smoky Mountains with kids.

This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to buy something using my link, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. For more information, see my disclaimer here.

Best Things to Do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Kids

Best Things to do with Kids in Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. A fun family vacation with great hikes, scenic views and historic homes. Find info on Cabins, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge too. Click to find out all the awesome things to do in the Smoky Mountains. #smokymountains, #familytravel, #nationalparks #Traveltips

Smoky Mountains Map & Entrances

View of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

One of the best parts of visiting the Smoky Mountains is the beautiful view. The bad part is, GPS often doesn’t work in the mountains.

I would suggest either printing off the park map before you go or stopping at the Visitor Center for directions when you arrive. The park covers 520,000 acres and 800 square miles through Tennessee and North Carolina. With this many miles, a map will be a huge help.

There are three entrances to the park in Gatlinburg TN, Townsend TN, and Cherokee NC. You will find a visitor center near all three entrances to help get you acquainted with the park.

Of the three entrances, Gatlinburg is the bigger town with lots of hotels and cabin options plus many restaurant choices. More on Gatlinburg below.

Entrance Fee & Hours

Park Hours – 9:00 am – 6:30 pm

Entrance Fee – Unlike most National Parks there is no Entrance fee to the Smoky Mountains. Yeah!

Things to Do in the Smoky Mountains

Best Things to do with Kids in Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. A fun family vacation with great hikes, scenic views and historic homes. Find info on Cabins, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge too. Click to find out all the awesome things to do in the Smoky Mountains. #smokymountains, #familytravel, #nationalparks #Traveltips

Visit the Visitor Centers

The first thing to do when you arrive at the park is head to a visitor center. There are three main visitor centers in the park all close to the three main entrances.

At the visitor center take advantage of the park rangers to discuss any questions or hiking trail suggestions you may have. Pick up a map and the park newspaper to find out daily activities.

You will also find bathroom facilities at all the centers.

While at the visitor center check out the exhibits on display. Each site has different exhibits on nature, the park, southern mountain life, and culture. This will give everyone a better idea about the park’s history and what you are going to see while visiting. Plus the kids will enjoy it.

Subscribe to Happy Mom Hacks Newsletter and have access to the Ultimate Family Travel Checklist. Plus great Mom tips and tricks and family travel ideas.

Ranger- Lead Tours

While at the visitor centers make sure to find out the daily schedule for Ranger-lead tours. They have a variety of options from learning about local wildlife, hiking and learning about the people who lived in the area.

We took a great Ranger lead tour from the Sugarland Visitor Center about the local people who lived in the area. The Ranger takes you on a walk to visit local homes and a school that are still left on the property.

On the tour, you learn what daily life was like for the people who lived in this area and how it became a National Park. It was an easy walk for families and the ranger did a great job of engaging the kids to keep them interested. Bonus: these tours are free.

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Hiking Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Hiking trail near Sugarland Visitor Center

While you are visiting the park you’ve got to get out and do some hiking. There are tons of options to choose from based on your family’s ability level. While at the visitor center talk to the Ranger about the best options for your family.

Hiking With Kids Tips

Need some tips on how to make hiking with the kids enjoyable for the whole family? Check out my Ultimate Guide to Hiking with Kids. You’ll find top family hiking tips, best hiking gear, and fun trail games & activities. Plus get my Free Printable Hiking Checklist that we use for our hikes.

Here are a few of our favorite family hikes:

Cataract Falls Trail

Cataract Falls trail is an easy and fun hike for families. It’s located right behind the Sugarland Visitor Center making it easy to get to with the kids. Plus you are rewarded with a Waterfall at the end. If you enter through the Gatlinburg entrance this is a great first hike to get the kids excited about the park.

Appalachian Trail

Hiking the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Hiking the Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail was originally a footpath that was changed into hiking trails in the 1920s and now runs from Maine to Georgia. The whole trail stretches 2, 200 miles long and 71 miles of it runs through the Smoky Mountains. My family thought it was really cool to hike on paths that had been used by local Native Americans to local settlers and now hikers.

Newfound Gap

This is a great place to take an easy hike with the kids on the Appalachian Trail. From the parking lot, kids can climb some rocks to get to the trail which is pretty fun or just walk to the opening.

Then walk along a well-marked path for as long as your family can make it. This stop is also the dividing line between Tennessee and North Carolina. It’s pretty cool for the kids to stand with one leg in each state. Also a great photo op.

To get to Newfound Gap you need to take Newfound Gap Road. What you will find in Newfound Gap is a large parking lot, restroom and picnic facilities. Enjoy the beautiful views from the parking lot and the Rockefeller Memorial.

Clingmans Dome

Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Smoky Mountains. At the very top is a huge observation tower where you get amazing views. It’s pretty cool.

From the parking lot, it’s a 1/2 mile paved walk to the top. However, it is a very steep grade and can be a difficult walk. It would be hard to push a stroller or wheelchair although we did see some people pushing strollers. I will be honest I was out of breath when we got to the top but it’s worth the 360-degree views of the park.

Tips – The parking lot is very small so I would suggest getting there earlier in the day. Also if it’s cloudy you may not be able to see anything from the top so decide that before you climb up.

There should be a ranger at the bottom to answer any questions. There are also bathroom facilities. Lastly bring a jacket with, as it is significantly cooler and often damp on the walk up to the top.

Hiking Gear

Make sure to be ready for your hike with water and snacks. We love the fanny pack below to hold your water bottle, phone, snacks & keys without hurting your back.

Also, check out this great baby carrier for kids while you hike. It’s comfortable weighing only 5.5 pounds and holds kids up to 33 pounds so it can grow with your child.

Find a list of all our favorite hiking gear in our Ultimate Guide to Hiking with Kids.

Historic Structures in the Smoky Mountains

Best Things to do with Kids in Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. A fun family vacation with great hikes, scenic views and historic homes. Find info on Cabins, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge too. Click to find out all the awesome things to do in the Smoky Mountains. #smokymountains, #familytravel, #nationalparks #Traveltips
Pioneer Grist Mill in Cades Cove

The Smoky Mountains National Park has one of the best collections of historic log buildings in the US. You will find over 90 Historic structures throughout the park. These range from houses, churches, schools, barns and a grist mill.

I think what makes this National Park stand out from the others is the cool historical aspects of the park. It gives an extra element of interest to the whole family. Kids will love seeing how people use to live and where they went to school.

Cades Cove

Best Things to do with Kids in Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. A fun family vacation with great hikes, scenic views and historic homes. Find info on Cabins, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge too. Click to find out all the awesome things to do in the Smoky Mountains. #smokymountains, #familytravel, #nationalparks #Traveltips
Scenic View in Cades Cove

One of the best places to explore Pioneer History in the park is the Cades Cove loop. This 11-mile one-way scenic drive takes you through rolling meadows with mountains in the background.

Early settlers came to this area between 1811 & 1821 and have left a wide variety of historic structures. You’ll find log cabins, churches, a gist mill and more. The working gist mill was really fun for the whole family to see. The drive is broken up into several stops along the way where you can get out and take a closer look at the structures.

Guide to Cades Cove – We found it helpful to have a guide to Cades Cove to understand better the history of the structures. You can purchase an inexpensive self-guiding tour booklet at the entrance to the Cove.

The other option we really like was an audio tour that we could listen to while we drove. The tour was broken up by each stop and explained each structure to us before we stopped. It made the drive and buildings much more meaningful. We downloaded this app to our phones. It was great for the kids to listen to also.

Tips for Cades Cove:

  1. Give yourself 2-4 hours to complete this drive. In summer months it is more crowded and takes longer. Plus you will be getting in and out to view the buildings.
  2. From May to late September the drive is closed to cars until 10 am to allow for bicycles and hikers.
  3. Suggestion -Hike in the morning and do the Cades Cove drive in the afternoon when the kids are tired.

Don’t forget to grab your Free Printable Hiking Checklist

Junior Rangers Progam

A great way to keep the kids excited about hiking in the park is by joining the Junior Rangers program. Kids ages 5-12 can participate in the program.

They buy a booklet ($2.50) by their age group from the visitor center and complete all the fun activities. When they’re done, bring it back to the visitor center and receive a badge. I would suggest getting this booklet at the beginning of the trip as it does take a little bit to complete.

Where to Stay – Cabins, Camping & Hotels

Best Things to do with Kids in Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. A fun family vacation with great hikes, scenic views and historic homes. Find info on Cabins, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge too. Click to find out all the awesome things to do in the Smoky Mountains. #smokymountains, #familytravel, #nationalparks #Traveltips
The cabin we rented in the Smoky Mountains
Best Things to do with Kids in Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. A fun family vacation with great hikes, scenic views and historic homes. Find info on Cabins, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge too. Click to find out all the awesome things to do in the Smoky Mountains. #smokymountains, #familytravel, #nationalparks #Traveltips
View from our Cabin Deck. It even had a hot tub.

Gatlinburg TN Cabins

There are a variety of options for where to stay while in the Smoky Mountains. On our last stay, we rented a cabin in Gatlinburg, TN, which was great. We were in the mountains with great views and had tons of room for the whole family. Plus a kitchen to make breakfast in the morning and pack lunches for the park.

There are tons of options for Cabins but we used Park Side Cabin Rentals and really like it.

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Camping

Camping is another great option and you can stay in the park. How fun would it be to wake up in the Smoky Mountains! The park offers a variety of options and you can learn more here.

Hotels

The last option is to find a hotel or resort in the area. Some suggestions I have are the Hilton Garden Inn located right outside the entrance to the park. We always find Hilton Garden to be a reliable hotel when we travel and love their free breakfast.

Another option is to stay in downtown Gatlinburg so you can walk to all the attractions. We like Bearskin Lodge on The River near Ober Gatlinburg.

Want more lodging ideas? Take a look at Booking.com we love this website’s customer reviews and discounts.

Things to Do in Gatlinburg TN

The town of Gatlinburg is right outside the entrance to the park which makes it a perfect base for visiting the park. This touristy town offers lots of activities for the whole family. Just be ready to put on your tourist cap and dive into things like Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.

You will also find several restaurants and shops to buy souvenirs. Along the main downtown, strip are a few hotels that would be within walking distance of everything you’d need.

Best Things to do with Kids in Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. A fun family vacation with great hikes, scenic views and historic homes. Find info on Cabins, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge too. Click to find out all the awesome things to do in the Smoky Mountains. #smokymountains, #familytravel, #nationalparks #Traveltips
Chair Lift at Ober Gatlinburg

Another attraction in Gatlinburg is Ober Gatlinburg located in the downtown area. It’s a fun ski area in the winter and Amusement park in the summer. The cool part is it’s all located at the top of the mountain. Ride an Ariel Tramway from the town center up to the top where you will find all kinds of fun family activities. A great way to spend the day or just a few hours.
Learn more about Gatlinburg’s best family attractions in my 7 Fun Things to Do in Gatlinburg TN with Kids.

Things to do in Pigeon Forge TN

Pigeon Forge is another touristy town close to the entrance to the Smoky Mountains. Here you’ll find tons of activities for the whole family.

Their main attraction is the famous Dollywood Amusement park. You will also find miniature golf, go-karts, souvenir shops and an array of theater shows throughout the town.

Pigeon Forge has tons of lodging options too. You can find some chain restaurants here also if your kids need something more familiar. We bought some cheap souvenirs from a store with a giant Shark door which the kids loved.

Are you ready now to explore the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park? With so many things to do in the Smoky Mountains, your family is sure to find something to love.

Do you have any questions or have you found another great spot to visit? Please share in the comments so we can all learn together. Make sure to check out what to do in Gatlinburg TN too.

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Pin this article for your trip.

Best Family Guide to Smoky Mountains National Park. 8 things to do in the park with kids such as hiking, Cades Cove, Clingmans Dome, waterfalls and Appalachian Trail. Find great cabins in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. All you need to know before you go. #smokymountains, #familytravel, #nationalparks #Traveltips
Ultimate Guide to Smoky Mountains National Park. Find out the 8 Best Things to Do with kids. Fun hikes, visiting cades cove, walking the Appalachian Trail, clingman's dome and more. Find out everything you need to know before you go.  #smokymountians #nationalpark #hikes #travelingwithkids #familyvacation

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Subscribe to Happy Mom Hacks Newsletter and have access to the Ultimate Family Travel Checklist. Plus great Mom tips and tricks and family travel ideas.
Best Things to do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Kids. This Tennessee National Park is great for family hikes, seeing historical structures, driving Cades Cove, and enjoying nature with the kids. Get Tips on how to plan your Smoky Mountains Vacation from where to stay to what to eat and see. A Complete Family Guide. #smokymountains #nationalparks #Tennessee #familyvactaion #hiking #hikingwithkids #travelwithkids
Best Things to Do in Smoky Mountains National Park with Kids. Fun family hiking trails, Clingman's Dome, driving Cades Cove and more. Plus where to stay and what to do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Tennessee. Your complete visitors guide to the Smoky Mountains. #smokymountains #hikingwithkids #smokymountainsnationalparks #nationalparks #tennessee
Fun Family Trips · Travel with Kids

Best Family Weekend Getaways from Chicago in the Midwest

Wondering where to go on a family weekend getaway in the Midwest? There are tons of fun family road trips from the Chicago area. You’ll love exploring all the great cities, small towns, beaches, state parks & more on family vacations for spring break, summer vacation, or quick weekend getaways.

My family and I have enjoyed visiting all the cool weekend getaways from Chicago and are excited to share which destinations you should visit next. It’s amazing how many awesome travel destinations are just a short drive from Chicago.

After reading this you’re sure to find the perfect weekend getaways from Chicago right here in the Midwest. So, keep reading to get inspired by our updated list of the 11 best family weekend getaways in the Midwest.

This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to buy something using my link, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. For more information, see my disclaimer here.

Best Family Weekend Getaways from Chicago in the Midwest

Fun Midwest Road Trips & Weekend Getaways with Kids. 11 fun family vacation ideas just a short drive from Chicago. Find out why your family will love destinations like Indianapolis, St. Louis, Wisconsin Dells , Door County, Lake Geneva & New Buffalo MI. In Illinois visit Springfield & Starved Rock State Park. Plus don't forget the amazing National Parks too like Smoky Mountains & Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Start planning your next family Midwest getaway.

Let’s start planning where to go on your next next weekend getaway in the Midwest. Use this guide to decide on your next fun family getaway from Chicago whether it be a city, national park, or small beach town. Then get planning and create your family road trip bucket list.

Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis is located only 3 hours from Chicago and offers one of the best Children’s museums in the country. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is worth the drive down in itself! It hosts amazing exhibits for all ages of children with hands-on activities they will love.

While there, visit the great Indianapolis Zoo which houses Elephants (our favorite), dolphins, orangutans, and more. Then check out the super cool Conner Prairie, a historical museum with live people acting out the prairie life. Kids will love seeing how people lived years ago on the prairie and immerse themselves in that time period.

If the weather is nice, head to the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park, a 100-acre outdoor sanctuary. It’s free and the kids can run around, hike, and get some energy out while you look at cool outdoor art.

Where to Stay in Indianapolis

Michigan – New Buffalo & St. Joseph

New Buffalo Michigan is a quick weekend getaway from Chicago for families. Beautiful beaches, cute downtowns and fun hiking.
New Buffalo Beach

What I love about going to southwest Michigan is how close it is to the city. It’s only 1 1/2 hours to New Buffalo from Chicago and is easily accessible by train for a quick weekend getaway from Chicago. You’ll find cute little towns dotting the coast and great beaches.

New Buffalo has a small downtown with several fun restaurants and a big public beach area. It’s a little quieter and laid back than St. Joseph. There are great wineries and blueberry picking in season too.

Want more action? Head a little further up north to St. Joseph. This town has the Curious Kids Museum and a pretty lighthouse you can walk out to and take pictures.

As you head to the beach at Silver Beach County Park, you will pass the Silver Beach Carousel and water pad area for little kids. There is also a great playground on the beach.

When visiting this area, make sure to check out the Warren Dunes State Park and try to climb the huge sand dunes.

Before you go read our cool Beach Hacks with clever ways to make a beach day with kids less stressful and more fun.

If you want an easy family hike, check out Galien River County Park and take a walk up into the treetops for great views or walk down a low boardwalk to the marsh.

There is so much to do and explore in western Michigan, your sure to have a great time.

Where to Stay in New Buffalo, MI

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Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Lake Geneva Wisconsin is a fun and kid friendly weekend getaway in the Midwest the whole family will love.
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

You couldn’t get much closer than heading to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin for a weekend getaway from Chicago. This cute town offers tons of fun activities for families year-round.

Take a hike on the Geneva Lake Shore path and gawk at the beautiful homes. Then head into the historic town of Lake Geneva to shop, have some lunch, and ice cream. You’ll love all the delicious restaurants in downtown.

While in downtown, check out the Geneva Lake Museum and the displays on the history of Lake Geneva. Inside, you’ll walk down a re-created street displaying how people lived in the area. It’s a fun way to get in some history and entertain the kiddos at the same time.

If visiting in warmer months, head to the beach or take a guided boat ride on the lake. Kids will love visiting Safari Lake Geneva a conservation ranch with over 50 animals from 5 continents.

In the winter months, try skiing at Grand Geneva Resort and visit Winterfest including Ice Castles in downtown.

Need more fun ideas? Visit my Top Things to Do in Lake Geneva Wisconsin.

Want somewhere fun to stay with the kids? Try Timber Ridge Resort with its own indoor water park and ski hill in the winter. It offers nice rooms for various sizes of families and fun family activities.

We also love to visit the Lake Lawn Resort located about 10 minutes from Lake Geneva on Lake Delavan. It’s been around for 140 years and has a great history in the area.

Obviously updated over the years, it offers a big indoor pool (kids love it), daily kids activities like laser tag & art projects, golf course, spa, and restaurants. You’ll really enjoy their wonderful family-friendly atmosphere.

Where to Stay in Lake Geneva

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Door County, Wisconsin

We most recently visited this area for a fun weekend getaway from Chicago. I’ll admit it’s a little longer of a drive but so worth it to see this beautiful area packed with so many things to do for families.

Door County is not just one town but a collection of 15 cute towns on a peninsula in Wisconsin. You will find Lake Michigan on one side and Green Bay on the other giving you spectacular views of the lake.

Some of our favorite activities are visiting the State Parks, hanging out at the beach in Sister Bay, going to a fish boil (a must-do), wine tasting, visiting local museums, and checking out the small towns.

There is so much to see and do you could easily spend a full week up here and not see it all.

Want to learn more? Read Top 10 Things to Do in Door County Wisconsin with Kids to get more fun ideas for your visit.

Where to Stay in Door County

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

The Water Park Capital of the World is Wisconsin Dells. I am gonna be honest, the area is very touristy and a little cheesy but your kids are gonna love it!

You will find tons of amazing water park resorts in the area, each one filled with pools, slides, arcades, family activities, and so much more. Our personal favorites are the Great Wolf Lodge for their MagiQuest adventures and Wilderness Resort because of all the additional activities like laser tag, Go-Karts, ropes course, bumper boats, and a huge climbing playhouse.

If you are not looking for a resort, there are tons of smaller hotels and condos to rent, too. Take a look at all your Hotel Options to get a better idea.

Wisconsin Dells is a great weekend getaway at any time of year. You could stroll Downtown Wisconsin Dells to visit restaurants, shops, arcades, and museums all year long.

In the winter months, enjoy the indoor water parks, amusement parks, skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing. In the warmer months, you will find an unending list of things to do. Try out their famous Duck boat Tours, zip-lining, horseback riding, Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, water skiing shows, and so much more.

It’s a perfect family getaway for a weekend or even a full week. Get more ideas in my 30 Best Things to Do In Wisconsin Dells All Year Long.

Where to Stay in Wisconsin Dells

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Starved Rock State Park

Located on the Illinois River Bluff in LaSalle County IL it’s only 1 1/2 hours from Chicago. But when you get to Starved Rock State Park you’ll feel like you’re in a different world with beautiful bluffs, canyons, and waterfalls. The cool canyons which you can hike down to were formed from glacial meltwater and look stunning. In the springtime, you will see waterfalls flowing over the canyon walls.

The park has 13 miles of trails to hike with many easy trails for children to hike with you. However, there are some steep drops so be careful with younger children. The park also offers camping, picnicking, fishing, and boating. Plan at least a half-day here to do 1-2 trails. If you have more time or a weekend you can explore the whole park.

Turn your state park visit into a weekend getaway by staying at the Starved Rock Lodge. The lodge is from the 1930’s era and is located in the park with cabins and hotel rooms. It would be fun to just wake up and head out to explore the woods together in this pretty setting.

Another option is to stay at the local water park resort Grand Bear Resort. It boasts a 24,000 sq. ft. indoor waterpark and has family suites and villas. The waterpark is not huge like in Wisconsin Dells but still fun. With the addition of a waterpark, you can hike in the day and let the kids swim at night.

While in the area you can also hike at Matthiessen State Park located across the river from Starved Rock. This is a smaller park but also has pretty hikes through caverns, streams, forest, and prairie. You will also get a better view of the locks driving into this state park.

A fun second day in the area could be a morning hike at Starved Rock then lunch in downtown Utica followed by another hike at Matthiessen State Park. You will also find several touristy restaurants outside of Starved Rock and there is an area to get sandwiches in the Visitor Center.

Utica and Oglesby are the closest towns to Starved Rock if you are looking for other hotel options and restaurants.

Springfield, Illinois

Springfield is filled with tons of history and fun for your family to explore. Start out by visiting the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Next, get a feel for how Abraham Lincoln lived by visiting the only house he ever owned at Lincoln Home National Historic site. From there, stroll through the Bicentennial Plaza to the Illinois Governors Mansion and Illinois State Capitol.

In downtown Springfield, you will also find a great kids museum called Kidzeum of Health and Science Children’s Museum. It offers three floors of fun for the kids to get some energy out and explore.

Lastly, step back 200 years and walk the streets of a reconstructed pioneer village in Lincoln’s New Salem.

If you are looking for more museums in the area, there are tons. To name a few, the Illinois State Military Museum, Illinois State Museum (has a hands-on play area), Illinois State Police Heritage Foundation Museum, and Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Museum (civil war museum).

Want to explore the outdoors? Check out Henson Robinson Zoo, stroll through nature trails at Adams Wildlife Sanctuary, and Knights Action Park which has a water park, arcade, miniature golf, and go-karts.

I honestly was surprised how much there was for families to do while visiting Springfield. Turns out it is a great weekend getaway to keep the whole family busy and excited.

Where to Stay in Springfield

The Great Smoky Mountains

Visit America’s most popular National Park, the Great Smoky Mountains, and you will be in awe of the beauty. Your family will love hiking throughout the Smoky Mountain National Park and the Appalachian Trail.

There are perfect hikes and walks for all ages plus find great ranger-led nature and history walks for the whole family. The best part is that entrance into the National Park is free!

There is even a great scenic drive called Cades Cove which is an 11-mile loop tour where you visit restored log cabins, churches, a working mill, and beautiful scenery. This is a great option when the kiddos are too tired to hike but you want to see more.

Find a full list of Things to Do in the Smoky Mountains with Kids Here. Plus get tips on how to plan your trip.

Related Article – 15 Screen-Free Travel Games for Kids at Dollar Tree

Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge TN

The two biggest towns by the National Park are Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Gatlinburg is pretty touristy and the home to Ripley’s Aquarium, shops, and restaurants. You will also find Ober Gatlinburg, a four-season Mountain play area with an amusement park and ski area.

We went in the summer and the kids had a blast! Read 7 Fun Things to Do in Gatlinburg to learn more.

Pigeon Forge is the home to Dollywood and more touristy shops and restaurants. This is also a great place to stop while in the Smoky Mountains.

Looking for places to stay? We rented a cabin in the woods and really enjoyed being outside of the touristy town area. However, there are also tons of condos and hotels in town to rent. Plus there is always camping as an option.

Where to Stay in Gatlinburg, TN

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Did you know there was a beautiful National Park in Ohio? We recently discovered Cuyahoga Valley National Park and loved it. The national park is located between Cleveland and Akron Ohio and is perfect for weekend getaways from Chicago.

It is one of the newest National Parks in the US and was created to save the history of the lock system along the Cuyahoga River.

Some highlights of the park are an easy family hike to the scenic Brandywine Falls. Visiting two great visitor centers that explain the history of how the lock systems worked in the 1800s and the people who lived in the area.

But the biggest highlight for us was an amazing hike through moss-covered boulders that make you feel like your in another world. Your kids will love climbing all over these beautiful rocks and exploring the park.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is different than most because you will find towns mixed in throughout the park system rather than being in a more remote area.

The bonus is you have easy access to lots of hotels and lodging in Akron and Cleveland. Plus your near restaurants and shops. This would be a great day trip too if you’re passing through the area.

Learn more about all there is to do and tips for your visit in Best Guide to Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Brandywine Falls.

Where to Stay in Akron and Cleveland

Related Article – 20 Tips to Make Traveling with Kids Enjoyable

St. Louis, Missouri

There are tons of attractions to see while visiting St. Louis, Missouri. A favorite of most kids is their awesome 600,000 sf City Museum, a mixture of playgrounds, funhouse, things created out of found objects, and architectural marvels. It’s a must-see in St. Louis!

Another great museum is the St. Louis Science Center to get your kids curious about atoms, oceans, dinosaurs, and dark matter. Check out the Old State Capitol and make sure to climb up the stairs to see the murals. Ask the Park Ranger how to make your voice rise to the top.

Want to head outdoors? Get out and visit some animals at the St. Louis Zoo. There are also beautiful gardens and 79 acres to visit at the Missouri Botanical Garden with both indoor and outdoor conservatories.

No trip to St. Louis is complete without a visit to the Gateway Arch. Take a tram ride to the top of the arch for great views, explore the new Arch Museum, and watch a documentary on how it was built. Learn all about the people who passed through St. Louis on their journey out west.

After visiting the Arch, head over to the river for a riverboat sightseeing cruise. Then head to the heart of downtown to explore the Citygarden filled with art and water features for the kids.

Lastly, if it’s baseball season, check out a Cardinals game. Even Cubs fans will have fun.

Where to Stay in St. Louis

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Duluth, Minnesota

Have you been to Duluth Minnesota yet? It has been labeled the “Best Outdoor City in America”. Hike the outdoors with the kids, visit the beautiful lake walk and enjoy great food.

Find out more family-friendly outings in my friend Jen of Travelwithaplan.com blog Perfect 2 Day Family Getaway in Duluth Minnesota.

Where to Stay in Duluth

Family Road Trip Tips

Road trips tips for families on weekend getaways or family vacations.

Get ready for your road trip with our clever travel tips. Or visit our Travel Tips Page for even more ways to have a stress-free family vacation.

Dollar Tree Travel Games & Activities – Cheap travel games & activities to stay busy in the car, hotel room or restaurant.

No time to shop check out the best Amazon Travel Games & Gadgets for Family Road Trips. We love our cool travel tray for car trips.

Best Free Travel Apps – How to get there fast, find restaurants & hotels along your route, cheap gas and more.

Be ready for your Hotel stay with 20 Genius Hotel Hacks for Family Vacation.

Don’t leave without reading 15 Road Trips Tips to Survive Family Vacation.

Wondering Where to Stay

I am always searching the internet for the best hotel and lodging deals for our vacation. The site I am finding the best deals on right now is Booking.com.

They have competitive pricing, good pictures, and helpful reviews. Check it out and see if you find a great hotel deal.

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Isn’t it amazing how many great family weekend getaways from Chicago there are? So, many different types of options in the midwest to choose from based on what your family loves to do.

You can’t go wrong with any of these family weekend getaways in the Midwest. So do you know now where to go on your weekend getaway with your family? I hope this has helped you with your planning!

Make sure to visit our Family Travel Destinations to get more great family vacation ideas and tips for easier travel with kids.

Do you have another great suggestion for family weekend getaways from Chicago? Please let me know in the comments or any other questions you have.

Need a Chicago Staycation Instead?

Feeling like you just need a Chicago Staycation instead? Here is the Ultimate Guide to Things to Do in Chicago with Kids.

Or get inspired with things to do at home in our 40 Staycation Ideas for Families and 60 Fun & Free Things to Do with Kids Screen-Free. All will keep your family busy and happy while spending quality time together.

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