It’s the wail heard around the world: “But what about me?!?” Vacation planning parents have either heard it from their kids or thought it themselves. When the scale tips too far in favor of Dad’s obsession with world history or your youngest’s dinosaur fixation, someone in the family is not going to be happy. But you can banish those allornothing vacations with a bit of compassion and compromise. These five spots offer activities kids will love, lessons parents can get behind, and vacations that meet everyone’s demands.
The opportunity to understand Canadian aboriginal history has you excited, but the mere mention of “culture” has kids running for their iPads.
The Solution: North Vancouver Island, Canada
How to Make Everyone Happy: Look for tours where interaction is high and group numbers are low. On Seawolf Adventures—an aboriginal owned and operated company— stories flow naturally as you head into First Nations’ territory. No lectures. Just a chance to meet people whose ancestors first walked these shores. Even kids who shrug off history will be swayed when they glimpse a cub in the Great Bear Rain Forest, or watch orcas leap alongside their zodiac. Forget Snapchat streaks. Kids will care more about this off-the-grid experience they didn’t even know they wanted.
Your youngest won’t settle for anything less than Mickey, the middle swears she’s Hermione, and if your oldest doesn’t meet an astronaut, you’re all going to suffer. You just want peace and quiet.
The Solution: Space Coast, Florida
How to Make Everyone Happy: If it were up to you, the family vacation would start and stop on the beach. And though the kids are always up for a swim, they’ll soon be looking for more. On the Space Coast, everyone gets something they want. In less than 45 minutes you can don Mickey ears at Disney World or a cape like Harry’s at Universal Studios. In even less time you’ll be staring at the Space Shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center or watching a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral. In between? You can relax on the beach while they surf at Sebastian Inlet State Park or get up close with sea turtles and manatees at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Who are you? Parent of the year.
You’re looking for world-class cuisine that’ll fuel late-night fun; they’ve got “spaghetti with butter” palates and don’t usually get to stay up late.
The Solution: Lisbon, Portugal
How to Make Everyone Happy: In most cities, late nights and little people don’t mix. Not so much in Lisbon. Well past dark, you’ll see families outside enjoying dinner in Rossio Square or listening to traditional fado music in the Alfama neighborhood. Lisbon’s multicultural heritage offers up plenty of options for foodies and picky eaters alike: from Indian curries and Spanish paellas to market stalls filled with almonds and figs. Trips to the gelataria can be a fun lesson in compromise—lots of exotic flavors for you; the requisite vanilla for them.
A dive into American history has the educational experience you love—but makes your kids want to poke their eyes out.
The Solution: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
How to Make Everyone Happy: You could easily spend a week exploring the National Military Park. Don’t. Skip the lectures and instead choose tours that get everyone moving on a Segway or bike, or activities that offer a unique viewpoint of the battlefields via hot-air balloons or horseback. On site, licensed family guides keep kids engaged without sacrificing educational information. Getting kids to help mock-load a cannon and learn history? Yes, please!
You want to leisurely admire great art; they need energetic selfies.
The Solution: San Diego, California
How to Make Everyone Happy: Don’t tell your kids that Balboa Park is home to 17 museums— you’ll likely be met with more jeers than cheers. Instead, let their interests be your guide. Little ones will gravitate toward the San Diego Zoo, the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater, and the Model Railroad Museum, all within the park. Tweens can go selfie-crazy at the vivid murals at the Centro Cultural de la Raza while you pop over to the San Diego Museum of Art. Then up the adrenaline factor with a sea cave kayak adventure or sea lion snorkel tour that’ll prove you’re so not lame.