10 Times to Wake Your Kids Up Early on Vacation

You’re not supposed to wake a sleeping child, but sometimes you need to make an exception.

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To See a Bucket List Sunrise

A sunrise is not just a sunrise, particularly when you’re watching the sun climb above the clouds from the rim of a volcano at Haleakala National Park in Hawaii. This sunrise is so popular, in fact, that every car entering the park before daybreak requires a reservation. Book one up to two months in advance at Recreation.gov. Or, wake early to see the sun’s first rays shining down on the United States from Cadillac Mountain in Maine’s Acadia National Park between October and early-March.

To Watch Sea Turtles Hatching

It’s a beautiful thing to watch sea turtles hatching in the early morning, eager to safely make their way into the sea. The beaches of Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica are among the most well-known nesting sites for sea turtles. The baby green sea turtles race across the sand from late-August to November. Closer to home, sign the kids up to walk the beach with the Sea Turtle Dawn Patrol in search of nesting sea turtles and hatchlings at Sea Island, Georgia.

To Make a Rope Drop

For theme park fans, making a "rope drop" at one of the Walt Disney World parks in order to watch a welcome show and get a jump on the crowds is a must-do. Arrive at least 30 minutes before the park opens. At Magic Kingdom, make your way to Cinderella Castle when the gates open for a special five-minute opening show called "Let the Magic Begin." Extra Magic Hours, which allow park-goers staying on-property early access to select parks, is an extra reason to wake the kids up early.

To Have the Popular Trails to Yourself

Our national parks are more popular than ever, which means that the most popular trails at these parks, like The Narrows at Zion National Park, can be extremely crowded. Parking lots at these trailheads can reach capacity by 8:30 am, some as early as 6:00 am in the summer. Setting out on the trail as the sun is welcoming the day can help ensure some family time before you feel as though you’re hiking with a crowd. An early start also helps beat the heat.

To Make the First Tracks on a Ski Slope

For avid skiers, even those new to the sport, it can be a rush to make the very first tracks on the ski slope early in the morning. Another benefit to waking early on a ski getaway is that the runs won’t be all skied out by the time you and the kids arrive. Select mountains, including Whiteface in Lake Placid, New York and Park City Mountain Resort in Park City, Utah offer a First Tracks program that enables intermediate and higher skiers to ski the mountains before anyone else.

To Revel in the Calm of an Empty Beach

There’s nothing like relaxing on the beach, listening to the waves lap against the sand. It’s a magical feeling to stroll along the coastline before the folding chairs and umbrellas have been set up for the day. Pack breakfast and let the kids start their days on the beach. Swim in an empty ocean and take in the sights, whether typical palm trees and tiki huts or ancient Mayan ruins like those you can see from beautiful Tulum Beach in Mexico.

To Capture the First Whale Sightings of the Day

It may be tough to rouse the kids, but they’ll thank you when they see humpback whales jumping out of the water in Hawaii. Set out on an early-morning Wake Up With the Whales catamaran cruise on the Big Island with Ocean Sports. The calmest waters of the day are in the morning, making this an ideal time for those prone to getting seasick. Morning is also when humpback whales tend to be more active, so sightings are often guaranteed on the first cruise of the day.

To Visit Top Sites Before Big Tour Groups Arrive

Many must-see tourist sites, like Trevi Fountain in Rome and Sacre-Coeur in Paris, can become choked with crowds of tourists. Every tour bus wants to stop and every walking group tour wants to stand in front, blocking your view and keeping you from the perfect photo. Arrive early, before anyone else, and you’ll be able to snap an unobstructed photo with your kids. You’ll also be able to watch as the areas around the sites wake up, enabling you to experience each attraction in new ways.

To Spot the Big Five on Safari

For many, an African safari is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so you’ll want to maximize your chances of seeing the Big Five game animals: lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and buffalo. That means that you and the kids will need to be up before dawn for an early-morning game drive. The temperatures are cool and the animals are still very active, making the morning the very best time to spot wildlife. Plan to welcome the day with a brilliant sunrise bursting with pinks, purples and oranges.

To Enjoy a Local Breakfast

To really get to know a new city, sit down for breakfast at a local cafe or restaurant. Don’t grab a scone and a tall coffee to-go. Savor a toasted tomato and gruyere cheese croissant in Paris or an egg tort served on a banana leaf with rice and beans in Costa Rica. Explore local flavors whenever you can. As a bonus, if you opt for a local buffet breakfast, waking the kids up 30 minutes early can mean first dibs on the spread.

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