Everything Kids

Creative Ways to Spend Your Summer Vacation

Recent research into the topic of happiness suggests the benefits of a vacation kick in long before we're lying on the beach. Turns out, looking forward to fun is good for us.

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This finding doesn't surprise me; I love getting away, seeing new places, spending time with my family, relaxing by the water... all the diverse riches of travel. But for me, the anticipation doesn't start working its magic until I'm past that anxious stage of pre-booking looking for just the right place.

Fortunately, I happen to have some expert researchers of my own to steer me in the right direction: the writers and editor of FamilyFun's travel stories.  If you're fast and furiously (or bewilderedly) scanning the Internet for family vacation ideas, this sampling of their suggestions is for you.

As counter-intuitive as it might sound, a ski resort can be just the place for a summer getaway. Among the attractions they offer are hiking trails, zip lines, botanic gardens, alpine slides, playgrounds, swimming, boating—and lower lodging prices.

If a seaside vacation is what you're after, maybe it's time to check out our SoCal beach finds for "surfing for beginners" spots, tidal pools, boardwalk ice cream stands, and more.

Seeking urban adventure? These super playgrounds in Brooklyn, St. Louis, Dallas, Berkeley, and McLean, Virginia will stretch your kids' minds—and their restless legs—with such fantastical features as two- story slides, a garden maze, or a carousel with easy access for kids in wheelchairs.

Then there are weekends at kid-friendly music festivals, family camp stays, historic village sleepovers... thousands of ways to have fun.

Wherever you go, pack these secrets of happy travelers in your suitcase. For example, "embrace the unexpected." Maybe the rental cottage's a little funkier than you'd expected or the weather rainier, but some cute dollar-store dish towels and a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle might just fill the gap between funkiness and fun. In fact, sometimes it's the oddball stuff that become yet another benefit of vacations: happy memories.

Faye Wolfe, FamilyFun's copy chief, has done her share of Charles Wysocki jigsaw puzzles with her family to the patter of rain on a cabin porch roof.