How to Survive a Summer Vacation With Your Kids

"Kids are not rational. They don’t realize the road trip rainbow ends with fat lobster rolls and a plunge in the hotel swimming pool. There’s no future, only now. And no, we’re not there yet." Credit: Getty Images

"George, daddy! More George!” my daughter, Violet, screamed from her car seat in our rattling red Subaru, waving the iPad like a drunk failing to snag a bartender’s eye. “George!!!”

I hate that monkey. My wife and I were halfway into a seven-hour road trip from Brooklyn to Portland, Maine, and proceedings were going as well as one could hope with a two-year-old. Our (mostly) potty-trained daughter hadn’t pooped herself, she’d slept a bit, and was narcotized on cartoons like Peppa Pig, a family of fun-loving British swine, and havoc-wrecking Curious George.

I cued up another misadventure. Violet’s eyes glazed like a doughnut. Only four hours left till I could kick back and crack open a beer. Or was that three?

Before Violet, my wife and I were carefree travelers. We’d cruise Morocco’s coastline, then fly to Vietnam to slurp phở. Our plans were looser than decade-old sweatpants, emphasizing off-the-cuff adventures over rigid itineraries.

As a parent, that method quickly falls short.

It’s a Boy! Now Is That a Blessing or a Life Sentence?[2]

During Violet’s first 10 months, she was content to be strapped to our chests and flown to North Carolina weddings and Ohio family reunions. Sated with milk, clean diapers, and sleep, Violet was only slightly harder to care for than a Cabbage Patch Kid.

Her calm was land-mined by learning to walk, confinement a fate worse than losing her blanket. We discovered her hard-wired wanderlust — chalk one up for heredity — on a 10-day road trip to Asheville (beer, mountains) and Nashville (hot chicken, honky tonk). Like a pissed-off, lassoed bull, our 13-month-old kept fighting to escape her car seat. She wailed as miles melted glacially, her tears endless salty rivers.

Life Advice from Famous Dads[3]

That might be the moment in my mid-30s when I started going gray.

Did that disaster deep-six future summer travel? Nah. Escaping sweltering New York City is a necessity. So is being smarter about travel. Our daughter’s needs, no matter how maddening (George!), come first. Her comfort level and our sanity sit on the same teeter-totter. It’s in everyone’s best interests to let her burn energy at a playground, devour rest-stop pizza, or watch a tiny monkey’s idiotic misadventures. Kids are not rational. They don’t realize the road trip rainbow ends with fat lobster rolls and a plunge in the hotel swimming pool. There’s no future, only now. And no, we’re not there yet.

Here, a handful of survival tips on your next kid-equipped summer vacation.

The Beach

Provide plenty of shade, a chair, and an array of sand tools and toys. True story: During a recent trip to Pawleys Island, South Carolina, Violet spent hours in the beach daily making “dinner” for everyone out of sand while we drank frosty beverages.

Woods and Outdoors

Aching to hike with kids? Be prepared to carry them back. Children might seem like Energizer Bunnies, but their batteries run dry when least expected. Keep nature strolls short, bug repellant plentiful, snacks at the ready (puréed food pouches are a godsend), and sticks plentiful. They allow your kid to transform into everything from a chef to a wizard.

On the Road

No shame: The iPad is your best friend. Load it with your kid’s favorite shows and let them watch until the cows come home. It’s a treat, not our everyday M.O., so it doesn’t feel like feeding our daughter fistfuls of candy for dinner.


Everyone loves a drink on vacation — except your kid. Skip the industrial-park beer maker and seek spacious breweries that are all-ages friendly, such as New Belgium, Hopworks, and Burial, and keep visits to the daylight hours.


Keep it simple. My wife and I once icily battled after she insisted that we feed our famished kid at a travel plaza (McDonald’s, Subway, subpar pizza, sadness) instead of my favored century-old hot dog restaurant, miles off the highway. The extra time would’ve merited a meltdown, I later realized. And unless you’re a glutton for pork belly and punishment, nix the multicourse meal at that hip new spot.


  1. ^ FATHERHOOD: All the Advice Dads Need (
  2. ^ It’s a Boy! Now Is That a Blessing or a Life Sentence? (
  3. ^ Life Advice from Famous Dads (

11 Money-Saving Tricks for Booking Vacations on Kayak

Chances are, you've used the popular travel search engine KAYAK to book a trip (or 85). First launched in 2004, the company now processes 1.5 billion searches a year and operates more than 40 international sites in 20 languages. And sure, you could make like a 23-year-old planning his first stint to Vegas and leave your vacation to the whim of crafty software calculations. Or, instead, use these tricks to get more out of your vacation, save money, and stay more organized along the way. 

1. Use the "freebies" filter when booking a hotel.
First, useful filters like neighborhood, location, and review scores can all be helpful in your hotel search. To make your search even handier though, after typing in your search results pop up, look for the "freebies" filter on the left rail. There, you can select options like free Internet, cancellation, breakfast, parking, and airport shuttle to zoom in on assets that are important for your trip.

2. Wait until the last minute.
Anniversary flowers, taxes, grocery shopping before a dinner party... we all know that waiting until the bitter end isn't always our best bet. But recent analysis of KAYAK's data shows that waiting until the very last minute (i.e. the day you want the room booked) can sometimes give you the best steals for hotel rooms. 

Get a Room: 23 Hotels That Are Perfect For Vacation Sex[2]

3. Sync Kayak with your Amazon Echo.
Besides the novelty of asking "Alexa, ask KAYAK where I can go for $500 dollars" being fun, adding the KAYAK skill to Alexa comes in handy for travel planning. The voice-activated travel search helps with flight tracking, plus checking prices on hotels, flights, and rental cars. (Learn more about this here.)[3]

4. Or hit up Slack to book your travel.
If communicating via bot on the Slack messenger is more your speed (or you simply don't own an Echo), you can integrate the Kayak app for your booking convenience: "/kayak rental cars in New York City this Friday" or "/kayak direct flights from New York to Columbus," and you'll be on your way. Just wondering when one of your co-workers will land in Chicago for his sales meeting? Slack can tell you that, too. Note: To enable this app, you'll need to be a team admin on Slack or get approval from one of your colleagues who is.

5. Book your car at the right time.
You may be tempted to book a hotel, flights, and car rentals in one fell swoop, but sometimes strategically timing your purchases can pay off: A recent analysis of KAYAK's data revealed that you should book your car at least two weeks in advance for the best prices. For larger cities (think: New York, Chicago, L.A.), do it three weeks in advance to save the most money.

6. Spend less on flights with Kayak Explore.
Go here[4] and search by price and flight time (check off the "nonstop only" box to search only for flights without connections) or routes to plan your next adventure. You'll be able to see all the available flights in a given time frame for up to about a year out while staying within your budget. A recent search for flights from Nashville for "Summer 2016 under $500" gave us choices ranging from Portland ($244) and Costa Rica ($338), to Boston ($137) and Anchorage ($469). You can also use Hacker Fares[5] to keep more dough in your pocket on round-trip flights: These results in your flight searches combine multiple one-way flights to get you the best possible price.

How to Survive a Summer Vacation With Your Kids[6]

7. Trust the "Price Forecast" tool.
Book today? Wait it out? You know flipping a coin won't help. And polling friends and family members will just lead to impasse. Instead, after entering your flight search, look to the left rail in your results screen to see a price trend report. The sophisticated algorithms used in the "Price Forecast" tool uses data from over a billion annual queries to anticipate whether airfares will rise or fall in the coming week.

8. Make group trip planning easier.
That shared Google doc of who's booked Park City flights and what time they're arriving isn't living up to your best-man duties in planning your buddy's bachelor party. Let everyone breathe a sigh of relief by using KAYAK's share function. After you book, select "Share this trip..." and you can also configure things so friends, family, and co-workers can edit the trip, instead of just viewing it. Always want your assistant or spouse in the loop for your travel? Go to your "Trips Settings" page here and enter their email address to the "Share new trips with..." section (again, you can also decide if you want to give them just viewing or editing access).[7]

9. Select "Show flexible dates" when searching for flights.
You may know that mid-week travel during the summer is a no-brainer way to snag a deal. But a simple way to find better deals is making use of KAYAK's flexible dates options. After you click the drop-down arrow to "show flexible dates," you'll be presented with a "+/- 3 days" menu where you can select flight days from one to three days before/after what you've input (with options to select "use exact date" if you need to depart/return on a certain day). Easily compare value for the various available flights and book from there.

10. Book a vacation package.
Save clicks and cash: KAYAK found savings of up to 32 percent by choosing a flight and hotel package versus booking your flights and hotel separately. Savings vary throughout the year and where you want to go, but it's worth a quick perusal of their "Vacation Packages" tab to see if it makes sense for you.[8]

11. Set Price Alerts to find the best deal.
Still owe your college roommate in Kansas City a visit (since 1999)? Use "Price Alerts" on your account, which does the grunt work for you and searches while you’re offline based on your criteria. As soon as hotel rates or airfares change, they'll send you a text or email.  [9]


  1. ^ KAYAK (
  2. ^ Get a Room: 23 Hotels That Are Perfect For Vacation Sex (
  3. ^ here (
  4. ^ here (
  5. ^ Hacker Fares (
  6. ^ How to Survive a Summer Vacation With Your Kids (
  7. ^ Trips Settings (
  8. ^ Vacation Packages (
  9. ^ on your account (

Island Getaway: Your Chance to Win a Trip to St. Croix

Your neighborhood pool or local lake will do. But, let’s be real, you’d rather be on an island, where the crystal clear turquoise waters are beckoning you to surf or flyboard and the rum distilleries are calling your name. Let’s get you to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands stat. Step one: Sign up for this sweepstakes[1]

We’ve partnered with Fatherly, Wellpath, Road & Track, Mantry and Pinch Me to send you to the beach. You’ll get a four-night stay for two in an oceanfront room in the Virgin Islands at The Buccaneer in St. Croix. On top of that, you’ll get $500 towards airfare, daily breakfast for two, and a choice of golf or spa treatments for two.

RELATED: Last-Minute Beach Getaways[2]

The island of St. Croix[3] offers up an adventurous itinerary with more than 50 dive sites for scuba divers, Stand-Up Paddleboarding CrossFit classes, and advanced surfing in Judith’s Cove. More leisurely options include snorkeling in Buck Island’s coral grottoes, hiking to tide pools, touring the rum factories, and listening to steel pan music. Your stay at The Buccaneer[4] will get you access to its three beaches, each which have a water sports center with kayaks and snorkeling gear. The resort also features an 18-hole golf course, eight tennis courts, and a spa.

For a chance to win, sign up here[5] and agree to receive newsletters and special offers from WellPath, Men's Journal, Fatherly, Mantry, Pinch Me, and Road & Track.

The sweepstakes begins June 10, 2016, and ends at 12:01 ET on July 14, 2016.


  1. ^ this sweepstakes (
  2. ^ RELATED: Last-Minute Beach Getaways (
  3. ^ St. Croix (
  4. ^ The Buccaneer (
  5. ^ sign up here (

Shelter of the Week: An Unreal Ski Lodge in British Columbia

The Place: A 9,000-square-foot imperial mountain palace with seven bedrooms and bathrooms, the Belmont Estate[1] sits on 15 acres of pristine land in British Columbia and comes with every amenity you could want, like a state-of-the-art-media room; and a 12-person hot tub and heated swimming pool — but it also comes with all the amenities that nobody should ever really need like a helipad, private office (don't use it; you're on vacation), a food service elevator, a private chef, and more. And if that's not enough, there are also optional add-ons like your own sommelier, masseuse visits, and villa pre-stocking. Thanks to the warm champagne reception you're greeted with, it's also pretty much impossible to arrive in damper spirits.

RELATED: Shelter of the Week: A Dwelling for Reindeer Herders in the Swedish Lapland[2]

The Cost: There’s a seven-day rental minimum, and prices can vary depending on season, length of stay, and which additional services are employed (that sommelier doesn’t come cheap), but prices generally start at about $90,000 for the week (and can go up to $155,000).

RELATED: Shelter of the Week: The Underwater Room[3]

The Region: The Estate is in Whistler, a resort town in British Columbia that sits between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains and is considered to be one of the skiing capitals of North America; Whistler even hosted many of the alpine events in the 2010 Olympics that took place in neighboring Vancouver, which is 70 miles south. The area is just as much a draw in the summer for a legendary network of dozens of mountain biking and hiking trails that wind for miles across mountains and the surrounding alpine lakes. The Belmont Estate itself sits near to two renowned bike trails, Danimal and, ironically enough, Cheap Thrills.


What to Do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

There's no getting past it: The Smokies[1] are popular. It's the nation's most touristed park, with about 10 million visitors annually. But for good reason. At 522,000 acres, it's a massive hardwood wilderness with rippling mountain views and a seemingly endless labyrinth of creeks and waterfalls to explore — all only a few hours from some of the Southeast's biggest metro areas. The key is getting away from the gawkers by veering toward the park's less-traveled corners, like its northeastern border, home to some of the Appalachians' more technical whitewater. "There are some for-real, no-joke Class V runs," says Charles Conner, of the Nantahala Outdoor Center. For more casual paddlers, the nearby Sinks has Class II and III rapids. As for the park's renowned hiking, seek out the more strenuous climbs, which weed out the majority of parkgoers. "The 3,000-foot climb up Mount Cammerer is remote, and the views are some of the best in the park," says Jeff Doran of[2]. A successful elk-reintroduction program can make sections feel more Rockies than Smokies, but in summer there is no mistaking you're in the South when fireflies congregate in a select few meadows, all blinking at night. It's the Smokies version of a disco ball and, yes, it will make you want to dance.

RELATED: The 23 Best National Park Adventures[3]

Paddle and Camp on Fontana Lake

The southwestern region of the park sees the fewest visitors and is home to one of the serenest overnight experiences in the East: camping on the remote shores of Fontana Lake. To do it, you'll need to rent a canoe or kayak (or even a standup paddleboard) from Bryson City Outdoors, then put in to Fontana Lake. (The easily accessible Cable Cove launch point is best and only 30 minutes away.) From there it's a 3.5-mile paddle north to the mouth of Hazel Creek, a small stream brimming with trout. "Once you get into the creek from the lake, the gorge skinnies up, the sides get steep, and the scenery gets stunning," says Conner. Want more solitude? Beach your kayak and hike upstream. "The higher you get, the more you'll feel out in the middle of nowhere," he says. When you've had your fill of fishing, head back to the lake and find your home for the night at one of the backcountry sites along Hazel Creek Trail, or paddle to island campsite 87, which is accessible only by water.

ALSO: The Complete Guide to Big Bend National Park[4]

Hike to LeConte Lodge

Perched on several rock outcroppings at 6,300 feet, LeConte Lodge[5] is a hike-in-only cabin with meals included ($140 per person). "You have to book a few months out, but it's totally worth it," says Conner. There are easier ways to get there, but the most rewarding option is a 34-mile, multiday trek starting at Big Creek trailhead. Over a mile in, you can stop to cliff jump into the water at Midnight Hole. Farther on you'll connect with the Appalachian Trail, which runs along the highest ridgeline in the park and is full of the epic views the Smokies are known for. The final leg of the hike is a short ascent — with rails and a rope-aided traverse to keep things from getting too interesting — before arriving at the lodge, where, for $11, an endless wine pour awaits.

Smokies at a Glance

Miles of Hiking Trails: 200

Backcountry Campsites: 100

Number of Elk: 900


  1. ^ The Smokies (
  2. ^ (
  3. ^ RELATED: The 23 Best National Park Adventures (
  4. ^ ALSO: The Complete Guide to Big Bend National Park (
  5. ^ LeConte Lodge (
  6. ^ NATIONAL PARKS CENTRAL: All Our Parks Coverage in One Place! (