Author Topic: Fun family vacations for little ones  (Read 3559 times)

aceyou

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Fun family vacations for little ones
« on: August 24, 2017, 06:02:41 PM »
Situation: DW and I have 5yo son and 2yo daughter.  Wife wants to travel with them and do cool things.  I agree with the concept of this 100%.  However, her suggestions often involve air travel for a 3/4 day trip, which would decrease our ability to invest in tax advantaged retirement accounts by the amount of the trip. 

My problem: I feel it's unfair of me to shoot down my wife (who has totally bought into FIRE, and has been terrific about helping drastically cut our expenses) repeatedly without offering counter suggestions, especially since I also think it's good to travel with kids. 

So, please help me come up with some ideas for family trips she'll be excited about. Some parameters:
-  Less than a 6 hour drive from West Michigan...we'll say from Grand Rapids, even though I don't live in GR.
-  Multiple fun things to do for kids once there. 
-  Extra bonus points if there's something memorable there that is specific to that location.  Could be a kick butt museum, or natural landmark, etc. 

Please help!!!


SimpleCycle

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Re: Fun family vacations for little ones
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2017, 06:41:38 PM »
Oh, I'm excited for this thread, because we are in a similar boat and live in the Midwest too.

Sleeping Bear Dunes
Chicago (Airbnb makes this relatively affordable and there's tons of free stuff to do)
Mackinac Island
Traverse City Cherry Festival
Great Lakes Folk Festival
We did an amazing getaway to Marshall, Michigan of all places
A lake house anywhere in the Midwest
Sheboygan, WI for the beach
Madison, WI (farmers market, children's museum, contemporary art museum)
Springfield, IL

me1

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Re: Fun family vacations for little ones
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2017, 06:51:08 PM »
I second St. Louis. But mostly for the city museum, which was not mentioned (and is not a museum at all, but an old shoe factory transformed into a crazy playground from artists' imaginations with 10 floors of places to slide, climb and crawl through) and is my 6 year old's favorite place in the world. It's the most magical place I have ever been to. It may be too overwhelming for a 2 year old, but most 5 year olds would would love it. Hell, I love it!

Smokystache

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Re: Fun family vacations for little ones
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2017, 07:08:22 PM »
Wisconsin Dells are just at the 6 hour mark, could include a ferry ride (if that sounds fun).

aceyou

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Re: Fun family vacations for little ones
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2017, 08:12:01 PM »
These are all great ideas.  I'm looking into some of them right now.  Please keep adding more if you have your own unique ideas. 

Thinks like the old shoe factory in St. Louis are the kinds of things that just don't show up on a google search, but are probably way cooler than lots of stuff that's heavily advertised. 


jo552006

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Re: Fun family vacations for little ones
« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2017, 01:28:48 PM »
I couldn't tell from your post if you camp.  Camping is one of the cheaper ways to be able to travel places, and 6 hour range may give lots of options.  We prefer camping to hotels often.  I am guessing you already camp, but if not it is definitely a great way to do fun and less expensive vacations.

You didn't ask, but I figure it's worth mentioning when you do plan for bigger vacations.  Save, plan, and stick to the plan.  We LOVE Disney World (not Land) and actually got engaged there.  When we go there or any more expensive places, we know exactly what is and isn't allowed to be brought in.  When last going to Disney I brought in lunch and dinner every day, except the one we had budgeted to go to a restaurant.  All our vacations cost us close to what we expected when we left because we stay the course.

In direct answer to the question you asked: Frankenmuth MI.  It's like a German village, with the US (world's?) largest Christmas store.  I visited here years ago with my parents, I'm waiting for a convenient time to take my wife.  She'll go nuts.  Much in the same way that I like Disney for the atmosphere, just walking the street in this town is fun for me, food, and shops are also unique compared to lots of places.  I've been to tons of coastal towns, and find them all the same.  I've never been anywhere like Frankenmuth.

Trifele

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Re: Fun family vacations for little ones
« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2017, 03:44:03 PM »

Thinks like the old shoe factory in St. Louis are the kinds of things that just don't show up on a google search, but are probably way cooler than lots of stuff that's heavily advertised.

X2 on City Museum.  Coolest place on Earth.  We have been there many times, and it never gets old.  I think it may be more than a 6 hour drive for you, but so worth it.   St. Louis also has the Arch, the science museum, and a great zoo.  love St. Louis. 

FireHiker

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Re: Fun family vacations for little ones
« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2017, 03:59:15 PM »
When your kids are a tad bit older, I recommend going to Sandusky, OH. We went to the Great Wolf Lodge and Cedar Point when ours were 2.5, 4.5, and 13.5. Even the younger kids had an absolute blast. It was part of a crazy 18 day road trip that also went through St. Louis, so I definitely second (third?) City Museum.

We look forward to going to Mackinac, the Dells, and camping up at Isle Royale the next time we can get up to that part of the country. The kids are a bit older now though.

Finally, yes, if you can be disciplined and open rewards credit cards, you can get free or almost-free air travel. We went to Italy in April, and it wasn't free (there are 5 of us) but we did pay much, much less because of points. And following deals on secretflying and airfarewatchdog.

aceyou

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Re: Fun family vacations for little ones
« Reply #8 on: August 25, 2017, 05:44:10 PM »
And following deals on secretflying and airfarewatchdog.

Thanks for these links.  Wow!

And thanks all for the continued suggestions.

the_fella

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Re: Fun family vacations for little ones
« Reply #9 on: August 25, 2017, 07:25:06 PM »
If she's really set on flying, there are ways to get free or very cheap flights. Credit card rewards churning is the most popular way. This is a good starting point: https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/travel-hacking-1-million-miles-per-year/ but there are many other communities dedicated to the same thing.

Pylortes

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Re: Fun family vacations for little ones
« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2017, 11:19:26 PM »
Another vote for Wisconsin Dells.  We've been all over the country with our two kids, and this was the first and only place we've made a return trip to because it was so fun for the family because of the water parks.  And we live a lot farther away than you do.  Once was a flight to Milwaukee the scone time was a two day drive up there. 

StarBright

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Re: Fun family vacations for little ones
« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2017, 02:44:18 PM »
I second St. Louis. But mostly for the city museum, which was not mentioned (and is not a museum at all, but an old shoe factory transformed into a crazy playground from artists' imaginations with 10 floors of places to slide, climb and crawl through) and is my 6 year old's favorite place in the world. It's the most magical place I have ever been to. It may be too overwhelming for a 2 year old, but most 5 year olds would would love it. Hell, I love it!

We are planning a trip to St. Louis next summer JUST for the city museum. Our kids will be 4 and 6 and we've heard nothing but amazing things.

researcher1

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Re: Fun family vacations for little ones
« Reply #12 on: August 28, 2017, 10:37:32 AM »
However, her suggestions often involve air travel for a 3/4 day trip.

So, please help me come up with some ideas for family trips she'll be excited about. Some parameters:
-  Less than a 6 hour drive from West Michigan...we'll say from Grand Rapids, even though I don't live in GR.
-  Multiple fun things to do for kids once there. 
-  Extra bonus points if there's something memorable there that is specific to that location.  Could be a kick butt museum, or natural landmark, etc. 

I'm curious what destinations your wife has in mind that require flying.

It shouldn't be hard at all for you and your wife to come up with dozens of cool trips that meet your parameters.  Just start finding cities within a 6hr radius and use TripAdvisor to see what there is to do.

There's plenty of things to do in your own state of MI...
- As others have mentioned, the Upper Peninsula/Mackinac Island
- Beaches along Lake Michigan
- Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village in Dearborn (this is a must see)

Indiana
- Indianapolis (Indy Childrens Museum, Zoo, Conner Prairie, White River Trail, Monument Circle, Mass Ave, Indianapolis Speedway, several great historical museums)
- Santa Claus (Holiday World Amusement Park)
- French Lick

Ohio
- Lake Erie (Kelley's Island, Put-In-Bay, Sandusky, Cedar Point, Maumee Bay State Park)
- Dayton (National Air Force Museum)
- Cincinnati (Zoo, Parks, Sports Teams)
- Hocking Hills, The Wilds

You also have places like Niagara Falls, St. Louis, Chicago.

BigRed

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Re: Fun family vacations for little ones
« Reply #13 on: August 28, 2017, 01:24:29 PM »
Just want to further pile on and say the City Museum in STL is incredible.  It's part playground, part industrial art exhibit, and an incredible feat of imagination by its creators.  I've never seen anything like it.  If you have kids in the 2 - 10 year old range, you have to go, even if you don't live anywhere near St. Louis.