Spare yourself the hassle and stress with these 8 perfect family staycation destinations
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We all have those dream vacations we’ve been planning in our heads for years, but those often require passport applications or renewals, long-haul flights and the plotting of detailed itineraries to ensure the trip goes off without a hitch.
Those trips are all well and good, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait for everything to fall perfectly into place before you next pack your bags and head out on the road.
We don’t necessarily recommend dropping what you are doing right this moment and turning on your “out of office” message, but if you can hold out until the weekend, we found eight family-friendly staycation destinations all across the U.S. that are easy to get to, require minimal planning and have wide-open availability.
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Lake Luzerne, New York
Lake Luzerne is a small town not far from Lake George in the southern Adirondacks. Although it’s less than four hours north of New York City, its location in the pristine, upstate New York wilderness makes it feel like the polar opposite of the City that Never Sleeps.
If sleeping among trees and mountain streams is just the type of escape you’ve been after, check out the fully furnished glamping tents at Huttopia Adirondacks. The wood and canvas tents have a rustic feel with modern amenities like comfortable beds, plumbing and electricity and kitchenettes.
There are also hiking trails, a swimming pool, camp store, daily activities like yoga and candle making and a central lodge with a bistro and coffee shop. Prices start at around $107 per night (excluding fees and taxes) for a five-person tent. The property is closed during winter.
There’s plenty to do at Huttopia itself, but if you choose to venture out into the Lake George area, you’ll find family fun at the Six Flags Great Escape amusement park and rail biking along the Hudson River.
It’s a simple drive from New York City, or you can take a scenic Amtrak ride from Penn Station to Fort Edward, which is about 20 miles from Lake Luzerne. You can also fly into Albany International Airport (ALB) and drive the additional hour or so into Lake Luzerne. American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines often have flights from major cities for under $400 round-trip.
Mackinac Island, Michigan
If Midge Maisel of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” fame had grown up in the Midwest, she most certainly would have summered on Mackinac Island. Located on Lake Huron between northern Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas, Mackinac Island is well known for its hiking trails, historic forts and pedestrianized streets. Cars are not allowed on Mackinac Island, so you’ll have to park yours at the dock before taking the ferry to your resort and opt for cycling, walking or horse-drawn carriage rides during your visit.
It’s nearly certain that Midge Maisel, had she visited, would have stayed at Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel. The charming resort is more than a century old and is home to the world’s longest porch, which overlooks the waters of Lake Huron.
Room rates start at around $360 per night (excluding taxes and fees). The hotel is closed during the winter months.
It’s the type of place where you take afternoon tea in the parlor, play croquet and dress up for dinner, but there are more than enough activities on the island that don’t require a dress code. You can sign up to fire the cannon at Fort Mackinac, take a horse-drawn carriage tour of the island, hike to Arch Rock (a natural limestone arch) and take a dip in the Grand Hotel’s large pool complex.
Because you’ll have to leave your car behind, your best bet is to fly into Pellston Regional Airport (PLN) via Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) on Delta Air Lines. Flights from major Midwest cities and New York City are often available for under $500 round-trip.
If you are coming from the West Coast or the South, you may find better prices by flying into Traverse City’s Cherry Capital Airport (TVC) and driving the additional 90 or so minutes to the ferry dock.
New Buffalo, Michigan
If that dream vacation you’ve been planning includes long days lazing in a quaint seaside town where all you need to enjoy your day is a bike and a bottle of sunscreen, a visit to New Buffalo is just what you need. Located on the banks of Lake Michigan only about 70 miles east of Chicago, New Buffalo feels like an ocean getaway thanks to its more than 15 miles of sandy shoreline.
The Marina Grand Resort is situated on the New Buffalo harbor within walking distance of New Buffalo’s beaches. The hotel will even provide towels and chairs for your day at the beach. Back at the hotel, there are indoor and outdoor pools, complimentary bikes and a Ben & Jerry’s Hotline that will deliver ice cream directly to your hotel room.
Standard rooms and one-, two- or three-bedroom suites are available, with room rates starting at around $250 per night (excluding taxes and fees). If you visit in the winter, you may find deep discounts on room rates, as low as $150 per night.
If you can find a decent price, South Bend International Airport (SBN) in South Bend, Indiana, is the closest airport to New Buffalo, but you may find better pricing and more availability flying into Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD) and renting a car to complete the hour-or-so drive to New Buffalo.
From beaches to theme parks, San Diego has a little bit of everything for families. While it’s far from off the beaten path, it’s large enough and has enough hotel and flight availability that you can still visit on a whim.
The city spans 70 miles of Pacific Ocean beachfront and there are dozens of beachfront hotels to choose from, but the “California cool” vibes and family activity proximity of the Blue Sea Beach Hotel make it an instant favorite.
The hotel is located steps from the beach (it even offers seasonal surfing lessons) and some rooms come with furnished poolside cabanas. From the hotel, it’s less than a 2-mile walk to the Mission Beach Boardwalk, home to the Belmont Park amusement park and its historic Giant Dipper roller coaster.
If you can pull yourself away from the beach, be sure to visit Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, Legoland California Resort and SeaWorld San Diego, home to preschool favorite Sesame Place theme park.
Room rates start at around $250 per night (excluding taxes and fees) for standard rooms and around $520 per night for poolside cabana suites.
Related: Planning a family trip to San Diego
Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines make frequent stops at San Diego International Airport (SAN), often with flights under $400 round-trip from most major cities. If you are flying from New York or Chicago, however, you’ll probably find more nonstop availability on United Airlines.
Newport Beach, California
Newport Beach has the feeling of a far-flung, upscale beach town, but it’s within striking distance of Southern California theme parks like Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm.
In addition to its beautiful beaches and world-class theme parks, families will love exploring the tide pools and rock formations at Crystal Cove State Park and the whale watching tours at the Balboa Fun Zone.
Lido House, a Marriott Autograph Collection property not far from Newport Bay, offers a unique “luxury beach house” stay where families can swim in the saltwater pool, play lawn games and cool off with ice cream from the on-site creamery and coffee shop.
Room rates at Lido House start at around $450 (excluding taxes and fees) or 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night for standard rooms. Multibedroom cottages are also available if you are looking for more space.
The closest airport to Newport Beach is John Wayne Airport (SNA). Flying on United Airlines or Spirit Airlines, you should be able to find round-trip flights for under $600 from most major U.S. cities.
You may find better pricing into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) depending on your city of origin, but then you will be left to deal with the often grueling traffic between Los Angeles County and Orange County.
Summer is a great time to visit the Emerald City, named as such for its abundance of evergreen trees. You’ll enjoy a comfortable climate and less rain than in the fall and winter months, which is ideal for sightseeing.
Of course, you’ll want to hit up the classics like Pike Place Market and the Space Needle, but you should also leave time for the whimsical “Artists At Play” playground, the Museum of Pop Culture and the Seattle Children’s Museum or Pacific Science Center, all located at the Seattle Center tourism and entertainment district.
Located only a mile from the above-mentioned excitement in the heart of downtown Seattle is the Grand Hyatt Seattle. Rooms and suites look out over the city and the bay below and the location couldn’t be better for your family’s adventures.
Room rates at the Grand Hyatt Seattle start at around $250 (excluding taxes and fees) or 20,000 World of Hyatt points per night.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) serves as a hub for Alaska and Delta. If your dates are flexible, you can often find round-trip flights between $500 and $600 per person and sometimes even less from nearby West Coast cities.
Lying on the Atlantic coast just across the state line from South Carolina, Savannah has the good fortune of providing the best of both a historic Southern town and a beach town for vacationing families.
You can spend your days on the beach at nearby Tybee Island and your evenings strolling along the waterfront or beneath the moss-covered trees in Forsyth Park, both part of Savannah’s National Historic Landmark District, which happens to be the nation’s largest.
The JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District is situated directly on the waterfront within walking distance of shops, restaurants, art galleries and more. The modern style and luxurious decor of this hotel is complemented by industrial touches that harken back to the building’s past life as a power plant, most notably the twin smokestacks that sit atop the hotel.
Room rates start at around $300 (excluding fees and taxes) or 52,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.
Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV) has nonstop service from most major Eastern and Midwestern cities, as well as Los Angeles, Denver, Dallas and Houston. Our searches brought up round-trip flight prices for under $300 on Delta Air Lines and American Airlines.
Charleston, South Carolina
With its cobblestone streets, popular horse-drawn carriage tours and centuries-old military forts, Charleston’s history can still be felt today. Families can learn about this history at Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie and on walking tours of local art and architecture, or take in more modern sights like the South Carolina Aquarium or Whirlin’ Waters Adventure Waterpark. You can also spend the day at nearby Folly Beach.
Located on the Ashley Marina in downtown Charleston, the Hilton Garden Inn Charleston Waterfront/Downtown provides families a comfortable place to stay when they aren’t at play.
Two-queen studio suites sleep up to six guests and are well suited for families who need space and privacy. Prices for this room type start at around $250 (excluding fees and taxes) or 90,000 Hilton Honors points per night.
Finding round-trip flights between $200 and $400 from most major cities to Charleston International Airport (CHS) is fairly simple. We found the best prices and most nonstop flights on United Airlines and JetBlue.
These destinations are only a hop, skip and a jump away from home. Better still, they are all eagerly awaiting your arrival with family-friendly activities and widespread hotel availability (at the time of writing).
Sometimes, you just need to get away and you shouldn’t have to wait to do it. With these staycation spots, you don’t have to.
Featured photo by Merrill Images/Getty Images.
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