On the beaches of Cape Cod, MA

On the beaches of Cape Cod, MA

By Eileen Ogintz

Tribune Content Agency

Is it that time already?

In some places around the country, the kids are already out of school. Those who aren’t soon will be and everyone’s thinking about summer vacation, whether they’ve started planning or not.

I’m sure the kids have lots of ideas, and they may not all involve theme parks. It’s a good idea to talk to the kids about what you’re thinking for a summer trip, whether it’s a long weekend somewhere, a week at the beach, in the mountains or a “big trip,” perhaps even overseas. Take into account what they want to do. Talk about budget and how much they can spend on souvenirs. Anyone who has ever traveled with kids knows that if they’re happy, everyone will be happy. And they’ll be happy if they’re not just being dragged along but have had some input in the itinerary. Encourage the teens to share their past vacation experiences by submitting a travel blog to the Family Travel Forum Teen Travel Writing Scholarship. There are cash prizes and a chance to win a GoPro and other prizes.

Family Travel Doesn’t Mean Always Taking the Kids

Memorial Day Weekend traditionally kicks of the summer vacation season and this Memorial Day Weekend, AAA says, more of us are planning to travel than any year since 2005 — 39.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home this year, a million more travelers than last year. Most will drive, though we’ll pay more for gas.

Together with our partners at Family Travel Forum, we’ve put together 51 Great Ideas For Your Best Summer Vacation Ever.

Here are five that are guaranteed to please:

Sunrise at Chatham on Cape Cod, MA

Sunrise at Chatham on Cape Cod, MA

Boston and Cape Cod. There’s no better city to learn a little American history (think Freedom Trail and Boston National Historical Park) and experience baseball than Boston. This June, more than 50 tall ships from more than 20 countries will make port in Boston Harbor, the largest number of ships in the area since 2000. (Boston Harbor is the only U.S. port on the worldwide circuit of six nations.) After a few days in the city, head east to Cape Cod with its famous summer Cape Cod Baseball League featuring top college players. (No tickets are required — just a donation to the nonprofit organization, if you like). Cape Cod’s full of quaint towns and famous beaches. The Chatham Bars Inn opened in 1914 for wealthy Bostonians and today welcomes families from all over with more than 200 rooms and suites and a variety of recreational options on one of the prettiest beaches. There’s also an exclusive spa and a daily kids program where kids 4 to 12 can bake, visit the resort’s farm and perfect their kitchen crafts at the Chopping Block Institute. (Have the kids check out my The Kid’s Guide to Boston!)

The Caribbean in summer is often called family season because so many families take advantage of discounted hotel and flight deals. Low season in the Caribbean and Central America starts in mid-April, and prices drop throughout summer for a dreamy tropical vacation. If the Zika virus is of concern where you’re headed, be sure to check with your doctor before making your travel plans. Then consider St. Croix’s pastel pink Buccaneer, Antigua’s posh Curtain Bluff or Virgin Gorda’s classic Bitter End Yacht Club, which are family-welcoming options. Many families opt to cruise. (Kids cruise free on MSC cruises from Florida, for example.)

Check out packages from Cheapcaribbean.com or gather the gang and rent a luxury villa at a place like The Tryall Club where a house that sleeps eight with a private beach pool and staff averages just $135 per person. Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana’s Summer for Everyone Sale, which is a great bet for young families, offers savings of more than 40 percent per person. Try the swim-up suites and the Aqua Nick water play area! Here’s what I wrote about my visit last summer.

Houseboating is a super laid-back vacation with family and friends. Cruise among spectacular sandstone canyons and 2,000 miles of coastline on the border of Arizona and Utah — but do check the water levels before you head out. You can pause to swim, water ski, fish, explore side canyons or camp on the beach. Share a boat and the trip is even more economical. The agency Houseboating.org gives you options around the country with regular pricing specials, and it’s fun. Just read our account of a Lake Powell family reunion. Or you can be the captain of your own ship while celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal. Rent a canal boat and cruise through the locks between Seneca Falls and Tonawanda, N.Y., with options to explore the beautiful Finger Lakes on three- or seven-day journeys

Say happy birthday in Canada. This year marks the 375th anniversary of Montreal, as well as the 50th anniversary of Expo 67 with special events and festivals in Montreal all throughout the year. Download a special passport app for 14 events that are part of the official program. Don’t miss the open-air art walk past 67 works of art! All of Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday with free entrance to the country’s national parks and some of the biggest July 1 Canada Days events ever. Here’s where Lonely Planet suggests celebrating!

Take the fourth-graders to a national park. Thanks to the government’s Every Kid in the Park program, fourth-graders and their families can visit all national parks, lands and waters for free. Order your parks pass and start planning at their website, which notes that Amtrak is giving a 75 percent discount to all fourth-graders traveling with adults as part of the effort to reach 500,000 children this year. Rather than Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, consider less crowded parks (with cheaper hotels). See towering trees in Sequoia and Kings Canyon in California, hike the fantastic Badlands of South Dakota and watch bats fly out of Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.

Happy summer!