Back-to-School Weekend Travel Ideas for Families

Squeeze in a fall weekend getaway with the family.

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The kids may be back in school, but there are good reasons to squeeze in a weekend getaway this fall: the weather is still warm and prices are more affordable than during the busy summer season. From lakeside retreats to big city explorations, here are our five favorite weekend getaway ideas for families.

1. Lakeside Retreat: Lake Placid, New York

Photo by: Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort

Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort

Get out of town and out on the water at a lakeside retreat, like Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort in Lake Placid. Spend a fall weekend kayaking, paddle boating and canoeing. You’ll find fewer bugs, smaller crowds and more room to play on the lake than during the summer season. Grab your life vests and test your balance on a paddleboard or pedal out onto the lake with the kids (but don’t go too far since you’ll need to pedal back).

Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a short hike around Mirror Lake in the town of Lake Placid. Or, aspire to become a Saranac Lake Sixer, climbing the six peaks that surround neighboring Saranac Lake. Want to climb just one? Start with Mount Baker, which is best-suited for families. This will give you plenty of time to get back on the lake before the school bell rings on Monday.

Photo by: Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival Cruise Lines

2. Tropical Cruise: Carnival Cruise Lines

Start the weekend early by hopping on a Caribbean cruise departing from Miami on Thursday afternoons. Bound for Key West and Cozumel, Mexico, these popular four-day cruises are cheaper than ever in September and October, but offer the same amount of family fun. Kids will love WaterWorks, the cruise line's onboard waterpark, complete with twisting slides and soaking splashdowns. Moms and dads will love Serenity, the adults-only retreat on board many ships, including the Carnival Victory.

West coasters, enjoy a two- or three-day cruise to Mexico on board the Carnival Imagination. Bound for Baja Mexico, cruises feature plenty of activities and attractions, like the WaterWorks park and Camp Carnival. There’s even a spa when you’re ready for a massage or aromatherapy. Hop off when you reach the port in Ensenada for activities like horseback riding or kayaking. Or, simply spend the day shopping and exploring the town.

3. Historic Escape: Williamsburg, Virginia

Photo by: Kingsmill Resort

Kingsmill Resort

Incorporate fun and learning into a weekend getaway by exploring a historic destination, like Virginia’s Historic Triangle, which includes the cities of Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown. Explore replicas of ships that landed at Jamestown or take a guided Segway tour through Yorktown.

Children can rent period costumes to get into the spirit of 18th-century life and even spend time learning a trade, like wooden barrel making, to become an apprentice to a tradesman. Be in the middle of the action by staying at Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, which offers free shuttle service to Colonial Williamsburg, a breakfast buffet and kayaks for use along the James River.

4. City Weekend: New York City

Photo by: Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group

Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group

Spend a fall weekend exploring a new or favorite city in a unique way, like on a scavenger hunt. Stray Boots offers a variety of two- to three-hour self-paced scavenger hunts you can download to your smartphone. In New York City, for example, it’s a fun way to explore attractions, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or parts of town, like Times Square and Broadway. Guided bike tours are another great way to learn about a city’s history and culture as a family.

If you want to see it all over the course of a weekend, pick up a New York Pass for admission to 80+ popular New York City attractions, like the Empire State Building. Or, try a CityPASS, which offers savings on top attractions in multiple cities, including New York. Spend the weekend at Eventi, a Kimpton Hotel, which is not only centrally located (and pet-friendly), but also offers PlayStation Vita handheld gaming devices, iPad Minis and Instagram printers to turn Big Apple pics into photo albums.

5. Classic Family Fun: Walt Disney World

Photo by: Disney


When school goes back in session, the prices go way down at Walt Disney World, just outside Orlando. Even better, free dining deals come out when you stay at select on-property hotels. Throughout the month of September, families enjoy two free meals and snacks per person each day across the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and more, even at Downtown Disney and popular resorts, like Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Stay at a hotel, like Boardwalk Inn, which is walking distance to multiple attractions, allowing you to spend less time on shuttle buses. Kids will also love watching street performers, like magicians and acrobats, who come out each evening on the boardwalk. Take time to enjoy the rides, parades, characters and fireworks that make Walt Disney World a classic American getaway.

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