It’s no secret that I think travel should be a pillar of every child’s education. Taking vacations with kids exposes them to the world’s classroom. By traveling, children learn everything from history and geology to modesty and gratitude.
But it doesn’t have to be expensive or long-term. You can start piquing curiosity with a Lonely Planet Kids book. And there’s plenty to see and do in the United States and nearby countries. For many of us, adventure and education through travel can be found very close to home.
If you’re raising kids in America, here are our picks for five of the best vacations with kids under 10. They include a range of travel experiences from relaxation and education to building savvy travelers and street smarts. These five trips will go a long way towards creating enthusiastic travelers and world citizens for life.
The five best vacations with kids:
Experience Native America Culture at Mesa Verde Colorado
Mesa Verde Colorado is perhaps the most inspiring and educational of all the Native American ancient dwellings. In fact, located in the Southwest corner of Colorado, this archaeological area is one of the best-preserved in the world.
Today, Mesa Verde National Park protects over 4,000 known archeological sites, including a staggering 600 cliff dwellings, and most these are open for viewing and exploring by the public. Kids love Mesa Verde because they can wander through the dwellings, climb down wooden ladders for further exploration and generally have a very hands-on experience.
This fun, outdoor experience is a perfect way to educate kids about our ancient history and is very easily accessible. Plus, they make great climbing shoes for kids who are enthusiastic about the sport.
Spend a Week at the Beach Together in Mexico
This concept behind this travel blog was formed after a magical week at the beach with my family.
Like many families across the United States, my family is extremely busy. My husband and I both have careers we love and our kids stay busy with hectic social and extracurricular schedules. Life is fun, but extremely busy.
Taking vacations with kids to the beach, where you can do nothing but relax, is important not just for the health benefits of relaxing, but for your kids to SEE you in that state. Better yet, get them a durable camera to capture those special moments.
It’s important for kids to realize life isn’t only about making it to soccer practice on time. By enjoying time together in a relaxed state, you will model for them a healthy life balance that can be difficult to attain at home.
As regular readers of this blog know, we love Mexico’s Riviera Maya. It’s easily accessible via quick flights from most U.S. destinations, affordable, has amazing beaches and offers so much for families to do. Plus, heading south of the border provides a great opportunity for kids to practice their Spanish and experience a new culture.
Combine U.S. History with a Great American Road Trip
Small towns, wide-open roads and stunning landscapes make up a large portion of the United States. Packing up the car and driving across the country should be a right of passage for every American child.
As I’ve explored quintessential American communities with my kids over the years, these small towns have started to intrigue me as if I was a foreigner. Or a child.
Destinations like Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Yosemite National Park in California offer fun, age-appropriate education for kids under the age of 10. These sites are intriguing and also an opportunity for kids to understand how forward-thinking our past political leaders were in protecting and preserving significant places.
Other history-packed destinations like Washington DC, Boston and New York City can be experienced when kids are a bit older, but national parks and other outdoor monuments are a great option for vacations with kids because they can learn about our nation’s history while seeing magnificent regions of the United States. And these fun, scratch-off maps will help your kids track their journeys.
Take your kids to Disney World (Sigh)
For years, I fought this trip kicking and screaming. With so much to see and do in the world, why would we want to “waste” time at a theme park in Florida?
Well, we went to Disney World and of course the kids had an absolute blast. We spent time together as a family and experienced something new together. Particularly with young children, this emotional connection and experience is as important as the destination itself.
Kids are kids and should be allowed to have fun. So yes, take your kids to Disney World before they turn 10.
Besides, as children mature and reflect on their travels they will come to understand the poignant differences between a manufactured Disney trip and an authentic travel experience.
Introduce Children to Developing Countries in Central America
Flights to destinations across Central America are only a few hours from most cities across the southern United States. This ease of access makes Central America an excellent, easy opportunity to introduce your children to developing countries and Latin culture.
While countries like Costa Rica have a very well developed tourism infrastructure, other Central American destinations like Nicaragua remain relatively undeveloped and have retained authentic culture and charm.
What other destinations would you add to this list of destinations Americans must visit with kids under 10?