Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Sleep in a Floating Cabin
- Rent a Houseboat
- Indulge Your Inner Cowgirl
- House Swap with Friends
- Get to Know a State Park
- Opt for Luxury
- Explore Your Own Backyard
- Take the Whole Family
- Rent a House with a Pool
- Learn Something New
- Go Camping
- Get Wet
- Go Glamping
- Visit the Right National Park
- Ditch the Kids and Head to a Vineyard
Pandemic or not, we still want to get away with our families. Happily, there are many places you can go to find wide open spaces, cozy spots for focusing on family and gorgeous vistas where you won’t have to rub elbows with a crowd or worry about whether face masks are required. These 15 socially distant summer family vacation ideas will keep you safe in a pandemic and make everyone happy long after the pandemic ends.
After two years of a pandemic that limited travel options, grounded flights, drydocked cruise ships and left families wondering where they could travel safely, we’re ready for a real vacation. But with the Omicron variant raging and the end of the pandemic still not in sight, safety remains a top concern.
This list of our 15 favorite summer family vacation ideas offer socially distant safety during a pandemic. But these are so much fun that chances are you will want to visit there even after the pandemic ends.
Sleep in a Floating Cabin
Sure, you can rent a cabin at a campground or a state or national park. But that’s so traditional. Attach the cabin to pontoon logs and — voila! — the cabin floats! We found floating cabins for rent in Indiana, Kentucky, Texas, California, Tennessee, Alabama and Florida.
According to marine biologist Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, who wrote a best selling book about Blue Mind science, seeing or hearing the soothing sounds of moving water triggers a response in our brains that induce relaxation.
It certainly worked for TravelingMom founder Kim Orlando, who says staying in a floating cabin is the ultimate relaxation. Not only are you lightly rocked to sleep at night, you are constantly surrounded by water and beautiful views.
The cabins on Green River Lake in Kentucky are moored at a dock, which makes it easy to rent a fishing boat or pontoon for the day. There’s even a store so you don’t have to go into town to get supplies. Or just walk outside and go for a swim!
TravelingMom Tip: If you are a mom with small kids, check with the cabin rental company to see if the cabins are fenced in. You can’t relax if you are constantly worried about kids falling into the water.
Rent a Houseboat
RV road trips took off during the pandemic, but houseboats are where it’s at. Like RVs, houseboats come with a kitchen so you can cook your meals. The lake provides constant entertainment and the “house” provides new walls and new views.
Houseboating.org lists 29 lakes in the United States and Canada where families can rent a houseboat. Move in, start the engine and take your “house” for a spin around the lake. Look for a nice, quiet, socially distant anchorage and spend the night or the whole week in peaceful repose.
When we rented our houseboat on Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, we had a blast driving it around the lake — until the speed boaters arrived and started zipping around our plodding vessel. We quickly recaptured our Zen in one of the many hidden coves and dropped anchor. It was a cozy, shady spot, well away from the choppy waters of the lake. We set up the grill and started dinner while the kids (then ages 8 and 10) took turns racing down the slide into the lake.
Read More: Cheap Family Vacation Ideas the Kids Will Love!
Indulge Your Inner Cowgirl
Dude ranches, the original all-inclusive vacation, are all about fresh air and social distancing as measured by the distance between one horse’s tail and the next horse’s nose. Your family can have its own cabin, but the meals generally are shared experiences, so you’ll need to ask about that when you call to book your dude ranch vacation.
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My daughter and I are enthusiastic horse lovers. We find it comforting just being around horses. Not so much for my husband and son. They’re animal lovers, but they could take horses or leave them — and they are apt to choose to leave them. Fortunately for them, most dude ranches offer lots of non-horsey things to do. Hubby found his inner Zen at the C Lazy U Ranch in Colorado: Chillin’ in the hot tub.
House Swap with Friends
This is the time to take advantage of friends — and let them take advantage of you. Home in on friends who live in a place you’d like to explore, then negotiate a family vacation schedule that works for both of you.
I haven’t done this, but Kim Orlando is an enthusiastic supporter. She likes houseswapping because there are fewer worries and logistics. You get all of the advantages of having a home — separate bedrooms for parents and kids, plenty of space to spread out and a kitchen already stocked with necessities like ketchup.
But, she warns, you need to ask lots of questions before you agree to house swap — like asking whether there’s a cat. She and her allergic husband learned that the hard way.
Get to Know a State Park
National parks became meccas for families seeking wide open spaces during the pandemic. It go so bad that some of the more popular national parks instituted capacity limits that still are in place today.
That’s why we recommend exploring state parks. Not only are they likely to be closer to your house, they are the less trafficked version of a national park. But state parks still offer hiking, biking, fishing and camping adventures. Plus, state parks are often free, which is always the right price for families.
Our family’s favorite state park is Starved Rock State Park near Ottawa Illinois. It’s less than a two-hour road trip from our home in Chicago but it feels like a world away from the bustle of the city.
During our first visit with kids, our daughter was still in a backpack. On subsequent visits, the kids learned the joy of hiking in the woods — an easy lesson when they were rewarded with a stunning view of a waterfall and some really fun mud puddles to splash around in.
TravelingMom Tip: Check your state’s rules for fishing licenses before baiting the hook. Some states require kids as young as 10 to have a license.
Opt for Luxury
You might not have a Lear jet or a private island, but you can still spent a night in luxury. Check out VRBO or Airbnb and book a night in one of those extraordinary vacation rentals like this converted mill, just two hours from New York City, or this Texas property that has its very own waterpark.
If you can’t afford a whole week at one of these upscale properties, just splurge on a night or two. You deserve it, now more than ever.
Explore Your Own Backyard
No, we don’t mean camping in the backyard (although that definitely qualifies as a socially distant vacation), we’re talking about exploring your own area. That botanic garden you always meant to visit? The weird roadside attraction you’ve always driven past? Now’s the time to finally check out the fun things to do near you.
I don’t know about you, but I seem to always overlook the wonders closer to home, opting instead for heading to O’Hare Airport and a flight to somewhere more exotic. But there is so much to see in Chicago and within a day’s drive of the city.
Take the Whole Family
There are small ships that cater to small groups — think grandma and grandpa, sisters, brothers and their kids. Or rent a beach house where you can all spend time together. (Check out our beach vacation packing list before you go so you don’t forget anything!)
Rent a House with a Pool
It doesn’t matter if the house is four blocks away or four hours — it’s NOT YOUR HOUSE. And IT HAS A POOL.
There’s something so relaxing for parents to sit on the deck and sip a glass of wine (from a non-breakable glass, of course) while the kids splash around. Unlike a public pool when I’m always nervously looking to make sure my kids’ heads are still above water, a private pool is so very chill.
When we stayed in a house with a private pool, I don’t think the kids got out of the pool except to eat (only because I refused to serve them lunch while they were still in the water) and to pee. At least I hope they got out of the pool to pee.
TravelingMom Tip: Find kid-friendly houses on VRBO by filtering results to include listings that have a private pool and that are highly rated for families.
Learn Something New
Have you always wanted to learn stand up paddleboarding? Kayaking? Archery? If it’s an outdoor activity, it’s likely to be safely socially distant. Take your phone along and queue up a YouTube video and you won’t even need to get close to an instructor but you’ll still get the satisfaction of conquering a new skill.
Load up the car with the tent, sleeping bags and Coleman stove and hit the road. The upside: You can stop at any socially distanced spot along the way and pitch the tent to sleep for the night.
Looking to upgrade? Look into a JUCY rental. Think of it as a mini RV. A tent pops up on top for sleeping! Or visit an RV rental site like RVshare and book one of the luxurious RVs. Some owners will even drive the rig to a campsite and set it up for you!
Head to the nearest body of water and jump in. Or take an inflatable and spend your socially distanced day floating merrily along.
My TravelingMom pal, Breeze Leonard, and her three girls love it. She says it’s one of the best ways to get your feet wet in Texas.
This is camping for people (like me) who don’t really like to camp. It comes with a fancy tent and — this is the important part — an actual bed! Super glampy places even have air conditioning piped in.
Look for a glamping spot with a composting toilet to limit the number of times you need to use shared facilities.
This is, by far, my preferred method of camping. When my husband and I glamped at Westgate River Ranch in Florida, we even got served coffee and muffins in the morning. That’s camping the right way! Check out these spots for glamping in Texas and glamping in California.
Visit the Right National Park
It seems like everyone suddenly discovered our beautiful US national parks during the pandemic. That means the parks are crowded. Being socially distanced will mean visiting the parks others will pass by or parks that are so big that it would be tough to feel crowded.
Try Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve in Alaska. At 13.2 million acres, it’s larger than Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park and Switzerland combined.
Or Death Valley National Park. At 3.4 million acres, it’s the hottest, driest, and lowest place in the U.S.
In Florida, Everglades National Park covers 1.5 million acres of wetlands, the largest tropical wilderness in the country.
Or head to Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Monument near San Francisco, California. It honors the worst homeland disaster of World War II. Some 320 African American sailors who served in segregated units at Port Chicago loading weapons and ammunition onto ships died when more than 5,000 tons of munitions exploded. The terrible tragedy was one of the events that led to the desegregation of the U.S. Navy and, subsequently, all U.S. armed forces. The memorial is on an active military base and reservations to visit are required at least two weeks in advance.
Whatever park you choose, the key to being socially distant is to go where the others aren’t. For example, if you’re heading to Yellowstone, expect to find a crowd waiting for Old Faithful to erupt. But if you ask a park ranger, you’ll be able to walk some virtually deserted trails.
Ditch the Kids and Head to a Vineyard
Who doesn’t need a drink after all we’ve been through the last two years? Staying overnight at a winery is just the thing! I recommend this as a romantic getaway. Leave kids with Grandma. grab your significant other and head to the nearest overnight winery where you can relax and watch the sunset over the vineyards.
If you are feeling adventurous, find a winery that allows camping on property and be socially distant and romantic. The best part? You’ll never run out of wine!
Who said social distancing can’t be fun?!