This post is Part 3 of 4 of our series on Where to Travel with Kids. Catch up on Part 1: Where to Travel with Babies and Toddlers and Part 2: Where to Travel with Preschoolers and Young Children.
In our Where to Travel with Kids series thus far, I’ve offered destination ideas and tips for traveling with babies through young children, but I won’t lie: school-aged kids are the best travelers. Old enough to appreciate culture and history (and carry their own luggage), but young enough to still enjoy vacationing with their parents, school-age kids are a vacation dream.
Family Travel Ideas with School-Age Kids
1. Theme parks: School-age kid may not become starry-eyed at the sight of Mickey any longer, but they’re tall enough for all the attractions and old enough to weather longer days in the parks.
2. National parks: Once kids can hike longer distances, they’re prime for a national park vacation. Old enough to participate in all Junior Ranger activities and outdoor exploration, they’re also great campers.
3. City touring: School-age kids have (hopefully) had the social studies lessons necessary to understand the significance of city sights such as the Liberty Bell or the Statue of Liberty. They’re also old enough to be exposed to cultural or urban experiences.
4. Historical sights: This is great time for a history lesson at a national historic site, battlefield, or town. School-age kids can drink in the information presented to them at museums and cultural centers.
5. Ambitious road trips: Thanks to electronic devices and kids old enough to read, the best road trips with kids are within this age range. Not only are road trips now do-able, but a very rewarding (and economic) way to travel.
Top 5 Destinations for School-Age Kids
1. New York City, New York. The Big Apple is perfect for school-age kids: they’re old enough to walk the city, use public transit (and learn to read maps), and enjoy the many art and natural history museums. We love to stay in midtown for easy access to both Central Park and Times Square, and pick boutique hotels that offer personalized service, common lounge areas to relax, and kitchens so we can shop locally and prepare some of our meals. Top attractions for families include Ellis Island, the Empire State Building, and the Museum of Natural History.
2. Glacier National Park, Montana. Of course, any national park is a great option for school-age kids, but Glacier gets my pick because of its stunning beauty and fun but difficult hiking and boating opportunities. Stay in the park at the amazing Many Glacier Hotel to enjoy alpine sunsets on the expansive decks and bear watching along the banks.
3. Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. Williamsburg is a history lover’s dream… but not terribly fun to explore with toddlers and preschoolers. School-age kids will love the costumed historical figures, the tutorials in blacksmithery and candle making, and the opportunity to put each other in the stocks. Stay on-site to get the most of your stay (it can be humid and hot in summer, and you won’t want to commute far) or extend your vacation to include a Great Wolf Lodge stay, where they teach eco-responsibility in their water parks and hotels.
4. National parks road trip. There are too many great national parks to limit this list to just one region: no matter where you live, you have a national parks road trip (including a string of 2-4 national parks) near you. Our personal favorite (so far!) has been a tour of Southwestern national parks, which included a route through Grand Canyon, Zion, Mesa Verde, and Great Basin national parks.
5. Boston, Massachusetts. In few other cities can school-aged kids experience urban culture, outdoor activities, and extensive U.S. history. Kids over age five are old enough to walk the Freedom Trail in its entirety, and still have energy to explore the Boston Children’s Museum and Science Museum to boot.
Where have you traveled with school-age kids? What would you recommend adding to a kid-friendly itinerary for this age?