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Family Vacation Spots: What Are Your Favorites?

By Angela Hallstrom

I am writing this post at 10:00 p.m. after a two-day road trip across the great midsection of America. We’ve made the treck from Minnesota to Utah and back again a number of times, and I have to admit that as my kids get older, the road trips get easier. (Although we did have to make an emergency Wal-Mart stop early this morning and buy a bottle of Pepto Bismol, some Gatorade, and a cheap plastic bowl. Viruses on vacation! My favorite.)

At any rate, it was a wonderful trip. My extended family — mom, dad, two brothers and their families, little sister and her family, and me and mine — all managed to convene on the shores of Bear Lake in Northern Utah at the same time. Not a small feat, considering how jam packed summer schedules can be and how spread across the country we all are. But despite the aforementioned stomach virus, which ran its way through most of us, and a little rainy weather (seriously, Utah, you’ve been scorchingly hot without a drop of rain for weeks on end, and the one day we rent a ski boat, you rain on us?), our Bear Lake trip was just perfect for a large family gathering. Lots of sandy beach, wide lawns for volleyball and frisbee games, condos with lots of beds for all the bodies that needed a place to curl up and sleep, a place to rent boats and water trampolines right on the water. There’s even a ward that holds church on Sunday at 12:30 — not too early, thank you — with the expectation that they’ll be deluged with sunburned vacationers who plan to skip out after sacrament meeting. (You should have seen how packed that chapel was. The overflow AND the stage couldn’t hold all the people, who spilled out into the foyer, and my heart expanded a bit with gratitude for all those ward members who deal with so many strangers — and have to keep their wiggly kids quiet for super-long sacrament services — every June, July and August.)

Which brings me to the point of this post. Where do you like to vacation with family? What hotels / campgrounds / resorts / spots-of-earth-off-the-beaten-path do you love? I am most interested in recommendations that work for families with kids. I’m also interested in less obvious recommendations, meaning not so much Disneyland (although I am no stranger to the FastPass), but those parts of the world that not everyone knows about but that you really love. We stayed at Ideal Beach Resort, and they had lots of options, ranging from large condos to small hotel rooms. And no, there are no benefits to me, monetary or otherwise, for mentioning this place by name. Just thought I’d pass along that we really enjoyed staying there, and thought others of you might like it too. (And if you DO go there based on my recommendation and find spiders in the sink and a clogged up toilet? I am not responsible.)

So, friends, let me know: where are your favorite places to vacation with kids? We can all use some good suggestions!

About Angela Hallstrom

(Advisory Board) grew up in Utah, then moved to Minnesota, then came back to Utah, then packed up her husband and four kids and moved to Minnesota--again!-- in the summer of 2010. Although she loves the Land of 10,000 Lakes, she dearly misses Slurpees, Sunday dinners at her Mom's house, and eating a whole entire Cafe Rio pork salad while lunching with her Utah-based Segullah sisters. And yes, she finds it telling that everything she misses about her hometown is somehow related to food. She has an BA in English from BYU, an MFA in creative writing from Hamline University, and has taught writing to high school and college students.

8 thoughts on “Family Vacation Spots: What Are Your Favorites?”

  1. I was going to say Sweetwater, Bear Lake (now the very same Ideal Beach Resort) since we've been going there for over 32 years…and get to go again in two days for a week of our annual extended family reunion. There are way too many people at this time of year (we also go up in April over conference and it is bliss for different, quieter reasons) but it doesn't matter, it is a favorite spot for the reasons you outlined and more (including a tandem bike riding date searching for my favorite chocolate-covered fresh raspberries and ice-cold ice cream milk)! I just love that you highlighted it, now I'm even more excited. 🙂

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  2. We rent the same beach house every year in Oceanside, CA. It's literally right on the beach. We do nothing all week but play in the water/sand. If we're feeling super energetic, we walk to the pier and buy an ice cream cone. Hands down its the best week of the year for my whole family, including my six kids ages 3-15.

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  3. Growing up, we rented a beach house for a week on a private beach road in Capistrano. Dreamy. We also had a family cabin shared with the extended family which we loved (1.5 hours from our home.)

    Now we have an extended family house in St. George, UT and we still haven't tackled all the things there are to do in the area. Nevermind the hours and hours the kids spend in the indoor pool.

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  4. Right now, we are in the midst of our 36th extended family vacation in St. Augustine, Florida. The first 5 or 6 years, we rented a big beach house, but as the family grew, we moved to condos. We now all stay at Ocean Gallery, right on the beach. This year we have 4 condos of family, plus one sister who has moved here and has a home and another sister who owns a beach house and is there.

    We love it!

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  5. When the kids were little, we had a place on Beaver Mountain we loved. The road to it was kind of hidden; only a few people knew about it. But there were streams and meadows and a wonderful spot to camp. Those were the best times.

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  6. My favorite trips growing up were to the beach houses we'd rent in Carmel, CA.

    Ironic that this is the post for today as our family is frantically trying to decide what to do next week. We had a longtime solid plan of staying at the farm where we get our meat twice a year (organic, grass-fed, free range, etc) to learn about farm-life and swim in the fishing hole. Then our farmer emailed to let us know that with the unbearable temps the little cabin is pretty hot and the bunk house is 100 degrees at night. Suddenly sounds not very fun for a pregnant lady, her intolerant of high heat husband, and their five young children.

    So…plan B…go to UT to see family? That is not a vacation, but a trip to me. And a long drive.

    Rent a last minute house in Wisconsin or Michigan? Selection isn't so great on this short of notice.

    I'm having a tough time finding a solution that makes everyone happy, and until we can figure out what we are doing, I'm not sure what I should be doing to get ready.

    Ah…the joy of family vacations!

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  7. My family rarely went anywhere outside of Utah–we'd usually spend a few weekends a year up at my grandparents' cabin since my parents couldn't afford anything else. It was a sad, sad day when the cabin had to be sold to pay for my grandma's cancer bills. 🙁

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  8. We go to Bear Lake a lot for mini trips, but we like to go different places for vacation because its kind of boring to go the same place every time, unless its Hawaii. As a kid we always went camping and to national parks, my husbands family drove to Ut to see family. I will say mix it up and just make sure theres a pool.

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