By Eileen Ogintz
Tribune Content Agency
Taking the Kids

Are you looking for bragging rights, or just some fun in the summer sun?

Maybe you snagged tickets (and hotel reservations) for the Paris Olympics. Maybe you are getting your camera lenses ready to photograph polar bears in the Arctic. Maybe you just want to kick back on a beach, hiking or biking in the mountains or indulging your inner foodie as you explore a new city.

It seems lots of us will be heading away. As the summer travel season begins this weekend, AAA projects 38.4 million people will travel by car over Memorial Day weekend, the highest number for that holiday since AAA began tracking in 2000. AAA expects 3.5 million air travelers Memorial Day weekend, the most crowded Memorial Day weekend at airports since 2005.

Panoramic view of the Calgary Stampede at sunset.
Panoramic view of the Calgary Stampede at sunset.

Whether you are taking the kids or getting away without them while they are away at camp or visiting relatives, we’ve got lots of choices for you. With our partners at Family Travel Forum and Little Family Adventure we have put together 51 terrific options for summer fun that are guaranteed to please wherever you want to go and whatever you want to do.

Heading across the pond? You will have a lot of company. According to Allianz Partners’ Top 10 Summer Travel Destinations survey for 2024, international travel will be up 15 percent this summer over last year. Cancun leads the Top 10 international roster of global beaches, including Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic and Montego Bay, Jamaica, as the cities of London (always a family favorite), Paris (likely because of the upcoming summer Olympics) and Dublin nab the top three spots.

Domestic travel is predicted to cool by 5 percent, however, but domestic hotspots still take the lion’s share (68 percent) of Americans’ summer itinerary bookings. Orlando, Seattle, Boston, New York, and Honolulu are in the top five of domestic destinations this summer.

Olympic rings in Paris
Olympic rings in Paris

And despite concerns about inflation, the latest Longwoods International tracking study of American Travelers reports that 30 percent of us plan to spend more this summer compared to last year while more than half of us plan to spend about the same.

Here are seven of our favorite summer bets:

Save big on Caribbean getaways over the summer when prices on flights, as well as hotels, drop significantly. The U.S. Virgin Islands offer exclusive deals for travelers looking for beautiful beaches and rich cultural heritage. U.S. citizens won’t need a passport, for example, to attend the free St. John Celebration (June 30 to July 4), a colorful celebration with music, food and, of course, fireworks. St. Barts is making a play for families, highlighting kid-friendly accommodations at Le Sereno and Hotel Manapany, touting 25 percent off for a five-night minimum stay. Barbados, famous for its African-British heritage and history (it gained independence from Britain in 1966), and adventures from caving to surfing, offers good deals on all-inclusive resorts, including the island’s newest, the Wyndham Grand Barbados Sam Lord’s Castle where we recently stayed.

CRUISE ON A SMALL SHIP. As long as you don’t mind that there won’t be water slides, glitzy entertainment, or dozens of eateries, you can have a much more personal experience. Small means you can kayak past snacking bears in Alaska, snorkel where and when you choose in the British Virgin Islands or get up close to amazing wildlife in the Galapagos Islands. You likely will find that the costs will be the same or perhaps less than aboard megaships, as everything, even excursions, are included. AdventureSmith Explorations can arrange cruises everywhere from Alaska to the Galapagos Islands to Hawaii, the Amazon, Belize, Europe and more. Adventurous families can opt for a crewed sailing trip on a private yacht with The Moorings everywhere from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean to Thailand.

Wyndham Grand Barbados aerial view
Wyndham Grand Barbados aerial view

GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE on a white water raft trip, some appropriate for kids as young as five, others adults only, as we did last summer with OARS on Idaho’s Main Salmon River. (Think camping without any work.)

EXPLORE UNSPOILED FLORIDA. The Fort Myers area is home to more than 100 barrier and offshore islands. This Gulf Coast region is where the entire family can play on the beach, kayak, paddleboard through mangroves and more. (In inclement weather, take the kids to see inventions and antique cars at the winter homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.) Make sure your visit supports sustainable tourism at these fragile destinations damaged by Hurricane Ian (September 2022). Both Sanibel and Captiva Islands are featuring special nightly rates on vacation rentals and condos as they recover fully.

GO BEYOND CROWDED PARIS for your Olympic fix. Lille is hosting basketball (July 27 to Aug. 4). Bordeaux, famous for its wine, is hosting soccer games (July 24 to Aug. 2) as is Nantes (until Aug. 8.) Soccer, or football, as the French say, comes to Lyon, the gastronomic capital of France (July 27 to Aug. 9) and to the Riviera in Nice (July 24 to 31.) Marseille hosts windsurfing and kitesurfing (July 28 to Aug. 8).

GET READY FOR FISH TACOS in San Diego. Local theme parks, SeaWorld San Diego and Legoland California always please. Legoland California is also now a Certified Autism Center. SeaWorld’s Arctic Rescue, reputed to be the longest and fastest straddle coaster on the West Coast, puts you on a snowmobile racing through the Arctic at 40 mph to help endangered animals. Sesame Place San Diego is the city’s newest theme park.

China has pledged a pair of pandas for the San Diego Zoo, but until they arrive, there’s plenty to see, including the new Wildlife Explorers Basecamp for the youngest zoo visitors.

Balboa Park boasts 18 museums. Bike around San Diego’s incredible coastline. Belmont Park is San Diego’s amusement and entertainment center, complete with its historic Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster and new Shipwreck Cove, a pirate-themed play area complete with a sunken ship with a slide, telescopes and more.

Sunrise Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Sunrise Great Smoky Mountains National Park .

HEAD TO THE SMOKIES where Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are three fun Tennessee cities with all varieties of good eats and attractions set amongst the backdrop of the nation’s number one visited National Park – Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This summer, the very popular Cades Cove Loop Road will be closed to motorists every Wednesday so bicyclists and pedestrians can take over. Additionally, adaptive programs for the disabled have been expanded.

Pigeon Forge is home to Dollywood, the Appalachia- themed amusement park founded by Dolly Parton. Summer specials at the two Dollywood resorts – DreamMore and Heartsong – include passes to the waterpark and a Timesaver Pass for five expedited entries to any participating attractions or shows, as well as one-hour early admission.

Have fun out there!

(For more Taking the Kids, visit and also follow TakingTheKids on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments. The fourth edition of The Kid’s Guide to New York City and the third edition of The Kid’s Guide to Washington D.C. are the latest in a series of 14 books for kid travelers published by Eileen.)

©2024 Eileen Ogintz. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.