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From the Beach to the Mountains: 5 Hot Summer Family Vacation Destinations

May 06, 2019
13 min read
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The countdown is on to summer, and if you are still on the hunt for a perfect family getaway, TPG has some great suggestions -- and no, you don't need a trust fund to explore this summer.

Our top summer travel picks are loaded with fun activities for everyone and offer lodging that can be easily booked with points to free up your cash budget for more experiences and tasty treats. Our list even includes two international destinations, so be prepared to dust off your passports, if you pick those spots.

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For Adventurous Families: Asheville, North Carolina

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this continuously evolving hot spot is perfect for fun-loving, outdoorsy families.

American Airlines included Asheville (AVL) in its summer 2019 regional route updates, now flying twice daily from New York City’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA); the airline also added nonstop daily flights from Philadelphia (PHL). In fact, the airport is one of the fastest-growing aviation markets. Here's how to maximize American’s award routing rules this summer. Or, booking American Airlines-operated flights with British Airways Avios (especially before May 30), may be a good bet if you can find saver award space (which can be tough in AVL).

Beautiful views near Asheville, NC. (Fine Art Images by Rob Travis Photography / Getty Images)

There are also several new can’t-miss adventures located here. The famed Biltmore Estate is offering two new and very cool experiences this summer. The first is falconry lessons for adults and kids aged 8 and up; there's also an off-road tour for adults and teens on an electric trike that reaches speeds of up to 20 mph. Both activities are offered to a maximum of four people at a time and cost $125 each. There is a 10 percent discount on the falconry experience for guests of the Biltmore's Inn and Village Hotel.

The Biltmore also offers a well-rounded summer concert series. Visit at the end of July and you can get some “Good Vibrations” with the Beach Boys. Remember to pack a credit card that provides a bonus on entertainment charges!

Dates to keep in mind:

  • July 25: The Beach Boys; tickets between $60–$85
  • July 26: The B-52s; tickets between $65–$90
  • Aug. 6: Chicago; tickets go on sale May 8
  • Aug. 9: The O'Jays and Kool & the Gang; tickets go on sale May 15
Biltmore estate summer concerts
Photo courtesy of The Biltmore Company

Another unique nearby activity this summer might be to check out the "abandoned" Wizard of Oz-themed park that is in Beach Mountain, North Carolina.

Where to stay: Family-friendly lodging options abound in this city. We like the Homewood Suites by Hilton Asheville-Tunnel Road (33k to 50k Hilton Honors points) in downtown Asheville. It’s close to all the action and just minutes away from the Biltmore and the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s got an indoor pool, a free shuttle to area attractions and the suites with kitchenettes make it easy to save a few bucks by eating breakfast at the hotel and storing snacks for in between adventures. You can book a suite with two beds, a Keurig for the adults and snacks for the kids. Here are options for racking up additional Hilton points for your family's summer vacation.

You can also check out the Hyatt Place Asheville Downtown, which offers rooms for 12,000 World of Hyatt points per night.

For Thrill-Seeking Families: Orlando, Florida

This may seem like an obvious choice for a summer vacation with kids, but there are a bunch of new attractions and bigger-than-ever roller coasters at nearly all of Orlando’s major theme parks such as Disney World and Universal Orlando.

"Everything is awesome" at Legoland’s new Lego Movie World, where brick enthusiasts (we know that includes parents too, it's OK to admit it) can experience all-new attractions including the Masters of Flight ride on a triple-decker couch.

Legoland Florida
The LEGO Movie characters Emmet, Wyldstyle, UniKitty and Benny at LEGOLAND Florida Resort. (Photo courtesy of LOCK + LAND, Chip Litherland for LEGOLAND Florida Resort)

Disney World is also unveiling a host of new rides and attractions this year. This summer, the whole family can get the full race car experience at Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, while Disney's Star Wars: Galaxy Edge theme park opens in Orlando on Aug. 29. For more on Disney’s offerings, check out our 9 New Disney World Attractions You Won’t Want to Miss in 2019 and there's even a big sale on Disney resort stays going on now for summer travel dates.

Other high-octane rides for your family of daredevils include the new Tigris, Florida’s tallest launch coaster, at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, and KareKareCurl, a powerful waterslide that leaves you weightless on a vertical wall, at Aquatica Orlando.

Where to Stay: At TPG, we like the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista — Disney Springs Area for its awesome Disney perks, which include Extra Magic Hours and 60-day-in-advance FastPass+ reservations through 2019, bookable using points. You can nab a standard award room for around 50,000 points per night, less on somewhat off-peak dates. If the kids’ school doesn’t start back until September, aim for August when the rates dip below 50,000 points.

Want more suggestions? Check out our guide to using your points at Disney World area hotels and our ultimate guide to visiting Walt Disney World.

Toy Story Land (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

For Outdoorsy Families: Anchorage, Alaska

If you are looking to beat the scorching summer heat, the beauty of Alaska is unmatched and summer is the perfect time to take it all in.

Lazy Otter Charters has added a new 46-foot boat, the Voyager, to its fleet for a breathtaking day trip. The boat is specifically designed for glacier and wildlife cruises — eagles and otters and bears, oh my! — and the company is known for its education on wildlife conservation.

If you happen to stay over June 22, you can take part in Anchorage’s summer solstice celebrations that take full advantage of the region’s 22 hours of functional daylight. There are fishing derbys, road races, block parties, concerts and the Children’s Rainbow Factory, which includes a kayak pool and a giant sandbox.

Horseback rides in Alaska (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

Worried about the long travel time? Don’t be! American, United and Delta have all started their seasonal routes with nonstop flights to Anchorage from several major cities in the lower 48 states including Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Newark, Salt Lake City and Minneapolis, to name just a few. This might be a good opportunity to use the companion certificate available with the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card.

Where to stay: Check out the Anchorage Marriott Downtown (Category 5, from 35,000 points per night) for its walkability and views of the city and the mountains. The hotel offers several family-friendly amenities including an indoor pool, on-site dining, upgraded rooms with kitchenettes, and connecting rooms if you have older kids who want their own space. Note that it can be difficult to snag a room with double beds on points, so try to book early or use the up to 35k free night certificate that you earn annually from the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card at your card holder anniversary each year. Just be sure to explore beyond, Anchorage, too! Here are some nearby suggestions.

Alaska is gorgeous in the summer (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

For Anglophile Families: London, England

Summer 2019 is a great time to travel to jolly old England. If you want to catch a glimpse of the royal family (and those royal babies!) make sure to book your trip for the weekend of June 8 for the annual Trooping the Color. The Queen’s birthday parade is not to be missed with all the pomp and circumstance the British have to offer.

There’s also a great selection of new children’s activities in and around London. We are excited about the Marwell Zoo’s BRICKOSAURS exhibit, running through Sept. 1, featuring two surefire kid favorites — Legos and dinosaurs. The zoo, located about an hour and a half outside London, has welcomed several new animals this year including a red panda named Peter.

Visiting London is cheaper than ever thanks to Brexit. Photo by Luca Micheli on Unsplash.
Photo by Luca Micheli on Unsplash

British Airways offers nonstop flights from a host of US cities, even including cities such as Charleston, Pittsburgh, Austin and New Orleans. If you plan to use your Avios, just be sure to consider any fuel surcharges, which can be hefty -- here are some of the best ways to use miles to get to Europe.

Where to stay: Check out the Park Plaza County Hall London, which boasts views of the London Eye from higher floors. This hotel is walkable to several great attractions, including the Sea Life London Aquarium and Big Ben, plus the Tube (subway) for exploring the rest of the city. Kid-friendly amenities include free cots and cribs, a goody bag at check-in and a play area.

You can book a Radisson Rewards family room in June for 87,500 points per night for two adults and two children ages 12 or younger; the room includes a separate living area and bedroom along with a kitchenette and free Wi-Fi.

You can read more about the Park Plaza County Hall in our round up of 8 Points-Friendly Hotels in London for Families of 4. And here are tips for getting around London with kids.

Image courtesy of Park Plaza Westminster

Want to make the most out of your points in London? Check out our new site, The Points Guy UK, and our picks for the top posh hotels for families in London.

For Beach-Loving Families: Oranjestad, Aruba

You didn’t think we’d give you a list of top summer vacations without including the Caribbean, did you? Aruba is full of family-friendly activities and stretches of the perfect beach.

Several airlines have routes to this island nation from major US cities, making paradise closer than ever. American Airlines will fly direct to Aruba with regular flights from several cities including New York, Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth. Delta Air Lines has added Aruba to its list of Caribbean destinations from Boston with new, nonstop Saturday flights.

Aruba’s famed white sand beaches and crystal blue waters speak for themselves, but where best to enjoy them? We love the option of all-inclusive resorts, which are routinely adding new experiences and amenities that cater to families and children.

Tamarijn Aruba sunset
Tamarijn Aruba (Photo courtesy of@2DadsWithBaggage)

Where to stay: Check out Divi Aruba All Inclusive, a highly rated, all-inclusive resort which proudly caters to families with kids programs and tons of beachfront activities, from pool volleyball to windsurfing lessons. The best part is that kids under 5 stay, eat and play for free, while kids ages 6–12 are just $50 per child, per night. Chase Sapphire Reserve card holders can use their Chase Ultimate Rewards to book a standard garden-view room with two queen beds (sleeps up to four) from 35,750 points per night. A room with a view of the pool costs more at 37,050 points per night. (If you hold a different Chase credit card, you may be offered rooms at different point rates.)

If that's not the right spot for you, there are lots of family-friendly points options in Aruba that won't break the bank such as the Hyatt Regency in Aruba for 25,000 World of Hyatt points per night (or transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio).

Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa & Casino

Bottom Line

Great vacations are what summer is made of — don't worry about being (a little) late to the party. There is still time to book a family trip that everyone will enjoy.

For the latest travel news, deals and points and miles tips please subscribe to The Points Guy daily email newsletter.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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  • Annual Fee

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  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases