Parents considering a family beach vacation might be stuck trying to decide where to go or when to travel.
Traveling with kids always requires additional planning, and a beach vacation is no exception.
Laura Epstein, SmartFlyer travel advisor, tells TODAY.com that when helping families plan, she makes sure that any chosen destination will suit parents' interests, children's interests and their budget and accommodation preferences.
"Many families go on beach trips for longer getaways, so making sure everyone is comfortable for a long stay is important," Epstein says. "If it’s your first time on a beach vacation as a family, you’ll learn quickly if your kids are in fact 'beach people,' so be sure you have plenty of other activities to enjoy with them just in case."
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9 Best Family Beach Vacations
Epstein offers nine family beach vacation destinations for parents looking for a sun- and sand-soaked getaways both in the United States and abroad.
6 Best Family Beach Vacations In The U.S.
Epstein says that family favorites include Palm Beach, "perfect for small town charm, but sophisticated restaurants and shopping," and Miami, which is often overlooked for family travel.
"I enjoy sending families here," Epstein explains. "The beach and water are gorgeous, plenty of water-based activities, Key Biscayne is close by to bike, hit the beach, visit the lighthouse and I love exposing young children to all of the diverse cultures in Miami."
Sea Island along the Georgia coast makes for a great family getaway, because of the various array of accommodations.
"They have options from hotel rooms, suites, multiple bedroom villas (condo style) all the way up to 'cottages,' which are larger individual residences," Epstein says. "There are many activities here and along other Carolina and Georgia beaches beyond the actual beach like fishing, kayaking and outdoor pursuits like golf."
Not too far further south from Sea Island is Amelia Island, another destination for beach-going families.
"Amelia is special as you can bike all around the island, which is covered with old live oaks and Spanish Moss," Epstein says. "I love all of the outdoorsy activities, too, and visiting historic Fernandina Beach is a must."
Epstein tells TODAY.com that visitors to the Lowcountry seeking a unique day trip can visit Cumberland Island.
"There are miles of empty beach and bike trails to explore, and you never know where you’ll find the wild horses," she says.
The Florida Keys are also a popular domestic beach destination to get that tropical feel without the hassle of customs and immigration.
"The Keys is so great for families to experience all of the fun water-based activities, like fishing, snorkeling, diving, sailing and paddle boarding," Epstein says.
Maine has always been a popular summer destination, but this New England state has been receiving more and more requests over the last few years, according to Epstein.
"The beaches along the Maine coast are so fun to explore, because of all of their natural sea life," she says. "Exploring the tide pools along the coast for sea creatures is so fun for children (and) parents will love all of the craft beer and lobster shacks along the way, too."
The “30A” area along the Florida Panhandle
“This is a special spot, because the sand is white and super fine, the water is quite clear and calm and you get lovely sunset views,” Epstein tells TODAY.com
Hawaii offers many fun activities for parents to enjoy with their children, allowing for a great bonding experience.
"I recommend Hawaii a bit more for families with older children to make sure they are able to participate in more activities, and also to avoid a lengthier flight and time change with smaller children," Epstein tells TODAY.com.
Family-friendly Hawaii resorts to consider outside Disney's Aulani property include Sheraton Waikiki or Fairmont Kea Lani.
3 Best Family Beach Vacations Outside The U.S.
Epstein says that narrowing down the top international family beach vacation destinations is hard, because there are many variables to consider depending on a family's wants and needs.
In her experience, families heading outside the United States tend to book Mexico, Jamaica and Turks and Caicos.
Mexico is a great option for families as there are multiple beach regions to explore, from Riviera Maya to the West Coast with Punta Mita, Cabo San Lucas to Riviera Nayarit.
"Mexico has great airlift from many U.S. airports making it easy to access for most of the country from California to the Northeast," Epstein says. "There are so many accommodation options at varying price points and array of amenities so it really appeals to a wide clientele."
Epstein tells TODAY.com that Jamaica is a top family beach destination, because it is accessible from many U.S. airports, the flight isn't too long and there are many hotel options.
"Jamaica is also known for its great villa offerings around the island," Epstein says, adding that this type of accommodation helps when traveling with multiple generations or friends. "This is a great way for families to have plenty of space with multiple bedrooms, kitchens, individual pools and even staff in the villa to assist throughout their stay."
Additionally, Epstein says that Jamaica's hospitality is known to be "warm and friendly" to children.
"This is reflected at many of the resort and villa properties where their kids clubs often allow children from a younger age than other destinations," she said.
Turks and Caicos
Turks and Caicos is becoming more and more accessible, particularly from departure points along the East Coast.
"The water here is so clear, sand is perfectly white and (there is) also an array of hotels to offer," Epstein says, noting that many of the hotels in Turks are residential style, so it’s easy to have more space to spread out. "The water here is typically calm, making water activities and beach play easy for children."
Tips For Planning A Family Beach Vacation
Epstein recommends planning ahead to make the most out of any family trip, but especially when it comes to considering a beach vacation.
- Consider the age of your children and what type of experience you’re after.
- Be sure to consider the time of year you’re traveling and how warm the water will be if your family is a “swim in the ocean” family.
- Be sure to plan ahead for any items you may not be able to get in your destination, or which may be quite a bit more expensive — sunscreen, sound machines for naps, pool and beach toys, for example.
- If you will be utilizing any babysitting or kids programming, be sure to check the requirements in advance to make sure your children are old enough to participate.
- For older children and teens, be sure to inquire as to what teen clubs or individual activities may be available for them to prevent boredom and get your child off their screens.
"I would also be sure to inquire as to how long the walk to the beach will be," Epstein says. "Will you walk right out to the sand, require a drive or potentially have a lengthy walk?"
How To Plan An Affordable Family Beach Vacation
Epstein's biggest tip is that families travel in low, or shoulder, season for their beach trip.
"Traveling in the summer to the Caribbean, for example, can be a fraction of the price of traveling during winter breaks or spring breaks," she says. "In addition to being a better value, there are more options as occupancies are lower, weather is warmer often with less wind, and the ocean is much warmer for swimming."
Epstein adds that planning ahead will also allow families to make choices for their trip and have the widest array of options, versus having to choose from “what’s left.”
"The more you avoid traveling over a school break, the better value and options you will have."