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From family-friendly resorts you can book with your hotel points, to exploring somewhere brand new, using a few thousand airline miles to go visit family and friends on a short-haul trip and more, here are five trips that families should consider taking this summer…

Today is the first official day of summer and that means it is also the longest day of the year. I can think of no better time to make or review a list of places you want to go with your family this summer! Maybe you think you already have summer all planned out, or perhaps you are just putting away the book bags and beginning to imagine the summertime possibilities. Either way, you are in the right place as we put our heads together and outline what this summer can hold for our families.

While I won’t give too many specific lists of places to visit (though I’ll give a few), there are five types of trips I highly recommend you consider for the summer in order to dream big, explore local, make a difference, and (re)connect with the people you love the most.

Go somewhere brand new

Whether it is in the Poconos, the Catskills, the Outer Banks, beaches of Florida, a National Park, a theme park, or somewhere entirely different, many families have their favorite summer travel spots that they return to their year after year. I traditions like that are phenomenal, and we have one of those spots ourselves at the Hyatt Lost Pines outside Austin, but I would challenge you to not solely press repeat on a summertime travel list. Keep the familiar favorite, but take your family somewhere new as well.

Take in the view somewhere new

It is amazing what can happen when your family gets to experience and explore a brand new place, create new unique memories, and carve out entirely new trails together. This new place can be relatively nearby, or on the other side of the planet, but find a new spot and make it happen. Who knows, it might even become a favorite spot to return to in the future.

Go play at a resort

Summer vacation is meant to be fun. There doesn’t have to be learning and life-changing experiences packed into every single day. In fact, it would be missed opportunity to have a summer break without some old fashioned play time. Even if you like the majority of your travels to be more adventurous, I highly recommend at least a weekend of letting someone else do all the work while you just play with your family.

Lost Pines “Beach”

Float a lazy river, roast s’mores at night, ride some horses, sip a cool drink by the pool, stay up late to watch an outdoor movie, and just play until you are all ready to crash. The nicer family-friendly resorts can have exceptionally high paid rates during summer weekends of easily $300 – $500 per night, but this is exactly where your hotel points can come in handy to create a weekend of playtime without your wallet feeling the pain at check-out.

Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort

Some nice points-friendly resorts to consider in the United States are:

Hyatt Regency Coconut Point

Finding standard award availability close-in to a summer weekend can be tough, so book as far out as your schedule allows, check to see if a minimum stay requirement is in effect, and keep trying different dates until you find one that works.

Go visit family or friends

I know it can be harder to coordinate logistics to spend time with friends and family members than it is booking a long weekend somewhere for your own family, but it is almost always worth it. Depending on where your friends and family live, this may be a good time to brush up on your short-haul airline redemptions so you can maximize your time on the ground with them instead of spending the bulk of your time road tripping to get there and back.

Short haul saver award flight options:

  • American Airlines flights of 500 miles or less: 7,500 AAdvantage miles (6,500 miles if on Reduced Mileage Award list)
  • United Airlines flights of 700 miles or less: 10,000 MileagePlus miles
  • JetBlue and Southwest: Can be as low as a few thousand points each direction, based on selling price of the ticket
  • Delta and Alaska Airlines flights can start at around 5,000 miles (or less) each way
  • Fly United and Star Alliance airlines within certain zones: 7,500 LifeMiles, Citi ThankYou transfer partner

As an example, you can fly on United Airlines from Texas to Florida for just 7,500 LifeMiles each direction, which is a much better deal in my book than driving the 10 to 20 hours that trip can take by car.

When you get together with friends and family, it may make sense to go in on renting a house or Airbnb somewhere fun. Or perhaps you go right to the hometown of your friends or family. In that case, I would consider using hotel points to rent a room nearby so you can spend some time together, without spending too much time together.

Get the cousins together in the Outer Banks

Go somewhere you can make a difference

Whether you take a trip to somewhere with the purpose of helping others in mind, or you simply incorporate helping others into a pre-existing family trip, there are many travel-related helping opportunities out there. If your kids aren’t old enough yet to take a trip with volunteering at the forefront, you can make a difference closer to home by volunteering at the local animal shelter, selling lemonade to raise funds for a cause close to your family’s heart, visit and bring small gifts to a local nursing home, or collect small toys for a children’s hospital ‘poke’ chest.

At the shelter contemplating my way out of this mess
Find ways to volunteer near or far

Go explore your own backyard

Travel sites can sometimes emphasize the distant and exotic over the local and accessible, but this summer I recommend making it a point to explore your own backyard. Pick somewhere within about an hour’s drive that you don’t get to visit often enough and then spend the afternoon enjoying your local state parks, children’s museums, sporting events, ethnic neighborhoods and restaurants, green spaces, or cultural events. Speaking for myself, I probably fly to New York City more frequently than I bring my children into Houston for the day. One requires about an hour of driving and one requires more than 1,500 of flying, so it is somewhat ridiculous that we don’t get into Houston more frequently.

20140227-113135.jpg
Playing in Galveston, Texas

We have some dates penciled in this summer to enjoy local treasures in Houston, Galveston, and even a ‘Blue Lagoon’ about 70 miles north of Houston. If we didn’t write those things on our calendar the way we would other trips, they likely wouldn’t happen.

Playing in the ‘Blue Lagoon’ in Huntsville, Texas

If you have a Bank of America debit or credit card, it is a good time to double check the list of ‘Museums on Us’ attractions you can visit the first weekend of each month for free. There may be included children’s museums, botanical gardens, science centers and more that you can visit in your own community showing nothing more than a credit card you already have.

Where will your adventures take your family this summer?

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