When the weather starts to heat up, all children have the same thought…SUMMER VACATION!  Most parents know to book reservations for popular destinations months, sometimes more than a year in advance, but some unique, relatively unknown vacation ideas might surprise you with their availability.  Start with the individual family members’ interests, and plan away for one of the more memorable trips your family will ever take!

1. Fuel Their Interests/Talents:  Many kids attend summer camps around their sports, music or drama interests, so why not include a family vacation stop as a destination that supports and expands their interests?  Maybe the family drama queen/king might love a stop at an Oregon Shakespeare Festival performance during your trip through the North West.  My 10 year old is a serious Paleontologist wannabe, so our family participated in a Paleontologist-for-a-day “Dino Dig” program in Thermopolis Wyoming.  We planned this as the first stop on our two week+ first-ever driving vacation last summer, and the fossils we dug up are now officially cataloged with our names as the ones who “discovered” them.  We actually got to dig up and touch rocks that were once bones 65 million years ago…how cool is that?!  Our stop-over on the way from our Northern California home to Wyoming was also the World’s Largest Dinosaur Museum near Salt Lake City, Utah…yes, he really does want to be a Paleontologist when he grows up!  Getting late elementary school to middle school aged children thinking about how their interests and talents might fit into their adult lives will help fuel their passion and focus through the tough times of puberty.


2. Traditional Destination With a Twist:  Okay, just because our most famous National Parks are immensely popular summer destinations for many families in the U.S., that doesn’t mean your family needs to follow the herd in Yellowstone, stop in the middle of the road when you see people congregated with binoculars, and hope they spotted a bear!  There are wonderful guided programs whose very purpose is to educate children and families on the nature unique to the park that was created just for your visit.  You guessed it…our next stop last summer was Yellowstone.  We participated in one of the coolest programs ever – The Lodging and Learning program put on by the Yellowstone Association Institute.  This four day program took three families of 4 on an amazing adventure through the unTourist-inhabited parts of this huge National Park.  Our guide was one of the biologists who helped introduce the wolves back into Yellowstone, so the stories and history made those amazing animals come alive for all of us…and YES! we saw wolves, and visited one of the original wolf dens!  We also saw bears, eagles and more geysers than I ever want to smell again – all accessible from the comfort of a small bus driven by somebody else, and great hikes through untouched wilderness.  The kids received their Junior Ranger badges, and memories that will never fade.  Grand Canyon and  Yosemite offer similar adventures, as well as your favorite National Park, so why not take a unique look at a traditional family destination?

3. Parent’s Pick:  I can’t imagine planning and taking a family vacation without some part of the trip devoted to the parent’s relaxation and fun!  Disney cruises have separate adults-only pools and restaurants, and most resorts do also, so there are plenty of opportunities for mom and dad to relax, while still vacationing with the kids.  Me…all I need is a spa visit while Dad takes the kids swimming! For our summer driving vacation, we decided to end our trip at an amazing ranch resort along the Colorado River – Sorrel River Ranch, Moab, UT.


We planned this so both the kids and adults could have the amenities they wanted, but still stay together.  White water rafting, horse back riding, spa (*wink*) and a private guided hike into the Fiery Furnace of Arches National Park capped off our vacation perfectly.  I still long to go back to this resort, and so do the kids!  That is proof we had not only a great family vacation, but a totally unique trip!

Since I’m sure you don’t want the type of unique family vacation the Griswalds usually have, start with one big destination, and plan uniqueness around that.  When you tailor the standard family trip around the uniqueness of the family members, you produce a more memorable, less stressful vacation for all – not to mention less bickering when the kids know they are doing stuff they love!  There is only one drawback to this type of trip…now you need to plan ALL your vacations like this!  Enjoy!

Mary Kathryn Johnson
Author ~ Entrepreneur ~ Mom