8 sunny spring break getaways, no passport required

Feb 22, 2022

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Dreaming of a sun-filled family spring break? You’re not alone. According to vacation rental platform Vacasa, more than half of Americans (56%) are planning to travel during spring break this year, nearly twice as many as in 2021 (29%). 

After a long winter of shifting COVID-19 restrictions, waves of omicron, intense weather systems and the age-old issue of kids who no longer want to get up in the morning to go to school, spring break is a much-needed respite for exhausted parents and kids alike. However, with travel restrictions still a reality in many international destinations, this might not be the season to plan a getaway for your family that includes passports and foreign borders. 

But we’ve got good news! There are plenty of warm-weather getaways in the continental U.S. that offer sunny beaches and plenty of fun for the whole family, no passports required.

In fact, heading to the southern shores of Florida, Texas and California means the ability to drive from many locations in the country and the possibility of finding affordable flights. We’ve rounded up spots away from the usual crowds, plus we’ve discovered plenty of points hotels and resorts, so your family vacay won’t break the bank.

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Florida

Make a beeline to the southern shores of the Sunshine State for warm temperatures and bluebird skies. A Florida vacation should be a fit for every member of the family. With 825 miles of coastline, it can be hard to know where to start, but there are some family favorites that almost always offer fun for kids and parents alike.

Miami

South Beach, Miami. (Photo by muddymari/Getty Images)

Miami can be a hot spot for college kids and young adults for spring break, especially the buzzing streets of South Beach. But there are plenty of options for families here, too. One top option for a points stay is The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, a kid-friendly resort nestled into the golden sands of one of Miami’s barrier islands. You’ll have direct beach access without the crowds, and the kids can splash in the small water park or in the two pools. Plus, there’s a kids club with programming from Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society, with lots of immersive outdoor explorations. Staying in Key Biscayne also puts you just a quick car ride from the kid-pleasing Miami Children’s Museum, and it’s just a short hop to Lincoln Road and South Beach for an (early) dinner out. 

Florida Keys

The southernmost point in the continental U.S., the Florida Keys offers a Caribbean experience without leaving the country — swaying palm trees, aqua water and temperatures in the low 80s nearly every day. Boating, fishing, snorkeling and kayaking make the Keys a perfect destination for water lovers. And, of course, the beaches here are a big draw for sun and sea fun; check out the quiet sands of Smathers Beach, a top option for families. There’s also the nightly sunset festival in Key West and plenty of spots for family-friendly dining.

When it comes to places to stay, Henley Vazquez, co-founder of online travel agency Fora, advises, “Prices are up and availability is down across Southern Florida, which is why I’m thrilled to see the opening of the Kimpton Fitch Lodge in Key West,” a great option with IHG Rewards points. “The hotel is in the center of the old town so has easy walking access to all the great restaurants,” she adds, “plus there are fun beaches to visit, great fishing and the funky Key West vibe everyone loves, but with the fresh look of a new hotel with a load of personality that the destination has been lacking.” 

Other top points options for families here are the Casa Marina Key West, A Waldorf Astoria Resort and The Reach Key West, Curio Collection by Hilton. 

Related: 9 of our favorite points hotels in the Florida Keys

In the mid-Keys, between Key West and Miami, there are two family-friendly resorts worth a special trip (although note that neither are part of rewards programs). Hawks Cay is a sprawling 60-acre resort on Duck Key with 427 villas and hotel guest rooms, six restaurants, a saltwater lagoon, five swimming pools, on-site water sports, fishing charters and its own dolphin facility. Cheeca Lodge is a bit farther north in Islamorada and encompasses 27 acres that include 214 guest rooms, suites and bungalows, multiple pools, a private palm-fringed beach, a fishing pier and lively Camp Cheeca.

Southwest Gulf Coast 

Fort Myers Beach. (Photo by Philippe Turpin/Getty Images)

Over 100 islands frame the Southwest Gulf Coast, offering everything from a secluded hideaway to buzzing beachfronts. With abundant adventures and unique natural wonders, island hopping around Southwest Florida is a getaway for every type of vacation experience. Each island has a distinct personality, but best known among families are the barrier islands of Captiva and Sanibel (over 60% of which is a nature and wildlife preserve).

Kids especially love Sanibel, known as the “seashell capital of the world,” where beaches twinkle with jewel-like shells that you can collect and keep. There’s lots to do on Sanibel and Captiva islands that’s not looking for shells, including biking, boating and swimming, as well as seeing the colorful birds and other wildlife at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

For a stay that will provide enough room for the whole family to spread out, Sundial Beach Resort & Spa is a good choice for its condo-like setup with multiple bedrooms and kitchens (although it’s not part of any points programs). On neighboring Captiva Island, the South Seas Island Resort is spread across 330 acres and offers spacious villas and a wide variety of activities, including a 2 1/2-mile beach, fishing pier, marina, nine-hole golf course, tennis courts and kids programs. To get breakfast included and a property credit, consider booking through Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection.

Related: Booking hotels for a large family in Florida, California and Texas

Texas

Big cities and steakhouses, instead of beaches, might be the first things that come to mind when you think of Texas. A surprise to many, the Gulf coast of the Lone Star State offers sunny spring days and easy family getaways along more than 600 miles of rolling sand dunes, with plenty of quaint coastal towns to explore and a full menu of seaside adventures. 

Galveston Island

Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier. (Photo by DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images)

Galveston Island’s golden sand beaches and warm gulf waters are less than an hour’s drive from Houston. In addition to beach time, you’ll also be close to old-fashioned midway rides and beachside fun at Pleasure Pier. Another area highlight, the Schlitterbahn Water Park boasts some of the tallest and fastest water rides in the country. 

Popular points options for families include the Hilton Galveston Island Resort, a lushly landscaped 30-acre beachfront resort, and Holiday Inn Club Vacations Galveston Beach Resort, which offers spacious suites and villas with kitchenettes, a great perk when you’re traveling with kids.

Port Aransas

Farther down the coast in Port Aransas is Cinnamon Shore, a pedestrian-friendly planned community nestled behind the protective dunes of Mustang Island State Park. The low-key vibe makes it a favorite for families, and you’ll find plenty of Airbnb and other vacation rental options — you’ll benefit from more elbow room for your crew and good opportunities to use credit card vacation rental rewards

South Padre Island

South Padre Island, Texas. (Photo by Jeff R Clow/Getty Images)

Corpus Christi is home to more than 80 miles of scenic coastline, including the picturesque Padre Island National Seashore. The clear gulf waters here are perfect for exploration, and outfitters offer nature tours that look for friendly bottlenose dolphins. On shore, the island is the preferred nesting ground for several endangered sea turtles, and families can view turtles up close at Sea Turtle, Inc. Beyond the beach, families can enjoy an array of fun and educational attractions. The Texas State Aquarium not only showcases a diversity of marine species, but admission includes entry to the H-E-B Splash Park, a zero-depth water play area. Vacation rentals are a top choice in South Padre.

Southern California

Southern California is a justly popular destination for a sunny spring break, with 100 named beaches just in San Diego County alone, and another 150 spanning the coastline from Orange County to Los Angeles. Plus there are plenty of family activities, including wildlife adventures and Legoland, to plan your days around. 

San Diego

Marine Street Beach in San Diego. (Photo by Stephen Simpson/Getty Images)

San Diego is an especially great getaway for spring break with plenty of things to do with kids. A few favorite options include getting up close with the wildlife at the San Diego Zoo, exploring Balboa Park, visiting the sea lions in La Jolla and riding a roller coaster next to the sands of Mission Beach at Belmont Park.

You can also enjoy island living on Coronado Island, a quiet enclave on the Pacific Ocean. This is the home of the iconic Hotel del Coronado, part of the Curio Collection by Hilton. The turreted castle sits right on the sand and offers everything from craft activities around the heated pool to bike rentals for exploring the coastline.

A quick hop down the road leads to the Loews Coronado Bay Resort, a family favorite for its massive pool deck and kid-friendly programming. And, says Vazquez, “In Southern California, where we’re seeing lots of requests come in for the San Diego area, we’re booking Four Seasons Aviara for families who want the residential setup and Rancho Valencia for the active types. Their tennis program is the best in class!”

Related: 12 stops to make on your Southern California road trip

Carlsbad

Heading up the coast a bit from San Diego you’ll arrive in Carlsbad, a top spot for kid-friendly attractions without the crowds of Anaheim and Disneyland farther north.

Carlsbad is home to Legoland, a perennial favorite with the under-12 crowd for its not-too-scary rides and hands-on building fun. There’s also a 10-acre water park where you can “build” a Lego raft before hitting the lazy river or whizzing down a waterslide.  

The Cassara Carlsbad, Tapestry Collection by Hilton is near Legoland and a perfect spring break escape. In addition to two resort pools and a splash pad for kids, it’s just a few minutes’ drive from the 7 miles of Carlsbad beaches and flower fields that are in full bloom in spring.

Featured photo by Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images.

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