10 Surprising Trips to Take with the Kids

Taking a vacation with the family is tough.

For the young and adventurous, the internet has almost more flashpacker blogs and passport Pinteresters than cat videos. For the middle aged and childless, that mid-career money opens doors and sets tables. For parents, though… well, their life gets a lot trickier.

Families, especially those with young children, face a particular kind of challenge in finding a trip that the kids can hack and the parents love.

Fear not! The adventurous, brave and creative can solve this problem. Here, for example, are ten great trips that families can take together.

10. National Parks
10. National Parks

America's best idea can also become your best vacation.

Many parents shy away from the outdoors. Some worry about bored and restive children shoved into the wild. Others simply aren't sure that young children can handle moving around so much or being in such an often-untamed environment.

But the kids are tougher than you'd think.

"A lot of people do the national parks," suggested Kay Merrill, owner of Are We There Yet Family Adventures. "That's really family oriented. You can rent all kinds of vehicles now that you can tour around in, and you can go to any of the parks."

You might have to tone down the more strenuous hikes for the little ones, but kids can camp and hike with the best of them. They just need a chance to try.

9. History and Culture
9. History and Culture

Step aside Colonial Williamsburg, we're talking real history here. This is an entry dedicated to the Pompeiis, the Anasazi ruins, the Angkor Wats and the Gettysburgs.

The kids will get it.

It's easy to skip some of the world's more complex destinations out of a fear that the kids will neither understand nor appreciate the things they've seen. Why, after all, spend the time and money it takes to drag three pre-teens around southeast Asia if they'll only remember complaining about the heat?

That might be what they talk about on the flight back but in the long run, Merrill said, they internalize more than you'd think.

"You do talk about things the rest of your life with your family," she said, "about the things that you experienced… And if you know what they're doing in school and the destination you're going to can touch on any of that, it makes them perk up a little bit."

8. The Caribbean
8. The Caribbean

Fun in the sun doesn't have to mean a lavish beach resort.

One thing to remember about kids is that most of them are bundles of energy looking for a direction to run. They're far more up for trying new things than adults give them credit for. Those junior surfing lessons or little fish snorkeling adventures might not lead to a lifelong passion for watersports, in fact your kids' interest might not even last the day, but they're usually game for trying.

Don't look at the Caribbean and decide that the kids aren't ready for rum cocktails and string bikinis. They'll love the chance to run around in a new environment and splash things in a whole new place.

Just, do yourself a favor and maybe save those drinks and two-pieces for the second honeymoon.

7. The Grand Canyon
7. The Grand Canyon

Yes, the Grand Canyon, but also American monuments from Mount Rushmore to the Golden Gate Bridge. Depending on where you live, America almost always has something to offer within a few days' drive.

It can be the perfect way to spend that long weekend.

Like historic monuments, America's natural wonders will sink in. Don't expect the kids to appreciate why mommy and daddy need a few more minutes to stand in wonder, but don't write it off as a wasted trip.

For the cost of a motel room and a few gallons of gas you'll create a memory that resurfaces every time someone says, "I've heard the Grand Canyon is pretty cool." If that's not a bargain, what is?

6. Washington, D.C.
6. Washington, D.C.

What separates a winner from a dud? According to Merrill, much is about your attitude as parents.

"If your enthusiasm is up about a destination and you've gotten them excited about it, they will enjoy it," she said. "They will come up for it… I think most kids, they feed off of their parents' energy. If you're excited about something or if you're upset about something they watch you carefully."

Now, admittedly Washington, D.C. might mean some extra lifting on your part as a parent. This is a trip dedicated to history and civics lessons, but also one dedicated to soaring marble and some of the most impressive architecture the United States boasts.

Meanwhile, your destinations all cluster around one relatively compact area of the city where there's no shortage of coffee shops and cafes for when the little ones get tired and cranky. It all works.

5. Europe
5. Europe

"If you do go into Europe," Merrill said, "most people tend to do an easy combination of London, because they speak English, and then Paris, because there's a lot of sights."

"And," she added, "the Italians love children, so that's great. They're very kind to children and the food [in Italy] is something they can always eat."

A trip to Europe isn't without its challenges. Cobblestone streets are brutal on strollers and many of the Continent's most legendary draws won't suit the kids. (Yes, Oktoberfest sounds cool, but we here at TheStreet just can't condone that.)

Still, Europe has several things going for it that many parents might overlook. The food is often child-friendly, from the spaghettis of Rome to the pastry dishes in Paris. As a destination centered around cities you'll rarely be that far from the hotel, and it's relatively easy to get kids excited about sights that they already know something about. They might not get out of bed for the My Son Sanctuary, but they'll at least have some interest in the Eiffel Tower.

4. China
4. China

Here's one good thing about flying to China: despite the trans-Pacific hop, flights to Beijing from America often come surprisingly cheap.

Here's another good thing about flying to China: that daunting travel time doesn't necessarily have to be a deal breaker.

Yes, Merrill said, babies and the very young might struggle with that long flight, but your 7-year-old? Your pre-teen?

"They can handle a lot more than you think they can, if its handled correctly," Merrill said. "When I would travel with my son. I used to use bribery. I'd have little presents wrapped for him and I'd give him little things to encourage him or little snacks that he was used to."

Creating a sense of familiarity on the flight can help a lot, as can settling the kids in with the anticipation of a long flight. Plus, she suggested, don't forget that the kids sleep a whole lot easier than the grown-ups do.

3. Food Tours
3. Food Tours

Some travelers vacation on their stomachs. They pick their next destinations based on the exotic and interesting ways to light up dinnertime and may worry that the kids just won't get it. Well, allow us to set your fears to rest:

They won't. At first.

For food, as with so many things, children set their sense of normal quite a lot based on how they grow up. A high schooler whose family wants to go away every weekend all winter might consider this the end of the world, while one who grew up in a family with a ski condo would think nothing of it. So, too, with food.

Take the kids to the French Laundry and Penang and out for sushi on a Tuesday night. Will they love the first time they can't order chicken fingers? Certainly not. They'll thank you when they're the only 18-year-old who can handle a ghost pepper without crying though.

2. Road Trips
2. Road Trips

Tried, tested, true, forgotten, the family road trip is an increasingly dying staple of American vacation life. The reason?

Many parents just don't think their kids can handle so many uninterrupted hours in the car.

This isn't necessarily true though. Just like flying across the Pacific, driving across the Great Plains doesn't have to make everyone miserable. With some planning you can create a comfortable environment for the kids, one which is familiar and in which they can access their favorite snacks and books and games.

Does this mean that they'll magically settle in for a stress-free 18-hour ride? No, we're not peddling snake oil and miracle serums here. It just means that this can become a trip the family really can take together.

1. Adventure Travel
1. Adventure Travel

When the first baby came along, did you put away that dream of zip-lining over the rainforest or learning how to scuba?

Well, unpack those dreams.

"Doing things like zip-lining, surfing, snorkeling, kids like to do all of that," Merrill said. "I just did a trip for a family with four children that range from 10 to 20 and they're going to the Mayan civilizations, they're going to do fishing, some of the kids scuba, some of them snorkel."

"What activities can your children actually do?" Merrill added. "Can they snorkel, can they even swim? Do they like horses, that kind of thing."

Kids like to do stuff. We don't suggest taking them along for anything particularly dangerous, but don't give up on the idea of active and adventure travel just because the young ones are coming along. They'll probably be a lot more game for it than you are (and, let's be honest, will recover faster anyway).