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.
Where to Travel with School-Age Kids
In our “Where to Travel with Kids” series, I’ve offered destination ideas and tips for traveling with babies through young children. However, I believe that school-aged kids are the best travelers. They are old enough to appreciate culture and history (and carry their own luggage), but young enough to still enjoy vacationing with their parents. It is a magical time. They are still naturally curious and still are excited about so many things. Everything can become an adventure. Read on for great ideas about where to travel with school-age kids.
Family Travel Ideas for Elementary-School Age
1. Theme parks: School-age kid may not become starry-eyed at the sight of Mickey any longer, but they’re tall enough for most all of the attractions and old enough to better handle 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. Most have hiking, wildlife viewing, and camping. Some even have sand dunes to explore and “sled” down.
3. City touring: School-age kids may have 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. What an impact it would make to visit a place your child recently learned about in school.
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 who are 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. In addition to the electronics and other road games we enjoy, we make it a goal to read aloud one longer chapter book during each trip. (We took turns reading “Charlotte’s Web” on our last 4-day getaway. And yes, I did most of the reading, but the kids were captivated.)
It is so much easier to eat healthy when on a road trip, which will make your kids feel better during the course of traveling. And if you are dealing with food allergies and sensitivities, a road trip is a lot easier than restaurant choices. You will save money and vary their diet (as mine children will usually only eat fries and chicken strips at restaurants) and you don’t have to rely on restaurants the entire time. Pack your cooler, and visit a few stores when necessary to pick up fresh produce and other items.
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 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 blacksmithing 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. Depending where in the United States you live, you probably have a national parks road trip near you. Our personal favorite 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.
Now that you have some ideas of where to travel with school-age kids, we hope you thoroughly enjoy this special time in your child’s life. You can fuel their curiosity and sense of wonder and help develop their love of traveling.
Where have you traveled with school-age kids? What would you recommend adding to a kid-friendly itinerary for this age?