Travel Tips

Six Great Back-to-School Family Vacation Ideas

Locations in this article:  Chicago, IL Orlando, FL San Francisco, CA

Family of bikersAmie O’Shaughnessy, editor of family travel site Ciao Bambino, explains why back to school doesn’t have to mean the end of family travel, and shares six great options for fall getaways.

For most parents, the end of summer elicits conflicting emotions. On one hand, kids back in school means more freedom to get work done, but it also means that rigorous schedules are back, and worse, family vacation season is over.

However, I’ve found that scheduling at least one fall getaway gives the family something to look forward to and alleviates some of those back-to-school blues.

First some tips:

  1. Fall travel doesn’t necessarily mean pulling the kids out of school. A weekend away is enough to get excited about, and a long weekend, like Columbus Day, provides a great opportunity for families to get out there and travel.
  2. Look for destinations that still have great weather and activities in the shoulder season. That can include mountain resorts, Northern and Central California, Washington, DC, and even parts of the East Coast and Midwest if you travel in early fall.
  3. If you have very young children, major family destinations such as Orlando and the Caribbean are often more affordable and far less crowded once school is in session.
  4. Some kid-friendly programs are seasonal, so call up the hotel to find out if their activities and kids’ clubs are still active in the fall.
  5. Go outside of your hotel or resort and take advantage of local community offerings such as the local library, YMCA and smaller museums, which often have free kid-oriented activities. GoCityKids (  is a comprehensive resource for current events and local activities in cities around the US.

Get more tips and travel ideas in our Family Travel section.

Lorien Hotel & Spa, Alexandria, Virginia

Teddy bear at the LorienLocated just outside Washington, DC, the Lorien Hotel & Spa provides a great base for exploring Northern Virginia and DC sights. Celebrate the beauty of fall by taking advantage of its Alexandria Weekender package. Families get free use of hotel bikes (kid-size bikes and trailers available), a gourmet picnic lunch, biking maps, tickets to Mount Vernon, and a Potomac River Cruise. In addition, families will love the Lorien’s room amenities including use of the lullaby library (an iPod stocked with relaxing music, white noise, and audio books) and the bedtime story library. Kids are even given teddy bear to snuggle. Cute!

Pricing for a family of four starts at $229 per night. 703-894-3434,

Intercontinental The Clement Monterey, Monterey, California

The Monterey Aquarium is one of the top attractions for families on the West Coast. Summer months get crowded in and around Monterey, so it’s wise to visit during non-peak periods. Two Vacations in One at Intercontinental The Clement Monterey is about fun for the family and romantic time for mom and dad. Families get tickets to the aquarium with Members Only access, i.e. no waiting in line. At night, kids get free admission to the VIP Kids Club for dinner, a movie, crafts, and activities (ages four-12, Friday and Saturday nights only). Meanwhile, parents get a few precious hours to enjoy the hotel or explore Monterey without kids-in-tow.

Pricing for a two-night minimum package for family of four starts from $700. 877-270-1390,

The Charles Hotel, Boston, Massachusetts

The Charles Hotel is in Harvard Square, the site of Boston’s 30th annual Oktoberfest Celebration on Sunday, October 11 with loads of food, games, music, and of course, beer! Families that stay at The Charles Hotel will appreciate the “Kids Quest” package including a Kids Kit with books and toys, milk and cookies at turndown, and kids under 12 eat breakfast for free at Henrietta’s Table restaurant.

Pricing for family of four starts at $289 per night. 617-864-1200,

Kids walkingAffinia Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Chicago has a long list of kid-friendly attractions that are best experienced before winter arrives. I just discovered the Affinia Chicago and love the right-off-Michigan-Avenue location and lively atmosphere for families. The My Affinia, My Family package includes a backpack with a kids’ city guide and toys, access to a chest of games, free Navy pier ride passes and trolley transportation (Saturdays only).

Pricing for family of four starts at $179 per night. 312-787-6000,

Cavallo Point Lodge, Sausalito, California

It’s a well-known fact that summer in and around San Francisco can be cold beyond belief when the fog rolls in. October on the other hand, is fog-free and glorious. The Navy’s annual Fleet Week runs from October 8-11 and a favorite San Francisco event for locals and tourists alike with daily Blue Angels flights. Cavallo Point Lodge, adjacent to the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County, is the ideal home-base to make the most of urban and outdoors-focused activities. The Stay 3 Nights, Pay for 2 package includes a complimentary night in either the historic or contemporary room categories.

Pricing for a family of four starts at $325 per night. 415-339-4700,

Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, Beaver Creek, Colorado

Mountains don’t close just because the ski slopes do. Visiting ski resorts in September and October can yield exceptional deals, while offering plenty of opportunity for hiking, biking and other outdoorsy activities, not to mention dining and spa activities.
Even better, skiing very early in the season is a perfect way to keep costs down. Beaver Creek in Colorado opens on November 25 this year and families can take advantage of value lift ticket pricing before the holiday rush. Convenience is key when skiing with kids and the Park Hyatt is ski in/ski out—it doesn’t get better than that! The resort is offering a Four for Three package from November 26 through December 17 where guests get the fourth night free, a room upgrade and free daily breakfast.

Pricing for a family of 4 starts at $229 per night.  800-404-3535,

Get more family travel advice: Tips for Finding Kid-Friendly Villa Rentals or try Kids’ Clubs and Activities: Top Tips and Travel Deals or get a Traveling Mom’s Tips on Easy, Family-Friendly Vacations.

And last but certainly not least, families visiting Beaver Creek can take advantage of free kids’ airfares when they book a vacation into the Eagle Airport thanks to American Airlines’ Kids Fly Free program. For each paid adult fare (age 18 and above), American is offering one free child’s ticket for ages two-12 which may be booked now through February 10, 2010. This offer is valid for travel December 1-17, 2009 and January 3 – February 10, 2010 with no blackout dates. Arrivals must take place between Sunday and Wednesday and departures must be Tuesday and Friday.  This offer also allows kids to ski and stay for free and Colorado Mountain Express allows kids to be transported for free as part of this package. Additional restrictions may apply. For information contact Vail Beaver Creek Reservations at 866-668-8245.

By Amie O’Shaughnessy for Amie is the editor of Ciao Bambino! (, a family travel blog and worldwide guide to the best, family-friendly hotels, resorts, and vacation rentals.

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