Family Vacation Ideas - Topeka,KS

Updated on April 27, 2014
T.H. asks from Beverly Hills, CA
21 answers

We have never taken a family vacation. We would like to this year. Our kids are Boy 10, Girl 6 and Boy 2. What are your favorite spots? We aer open to flying or driving. We are centrally located (KS) so any tips you could provide, things that did or didn't work for you. If we fly, what did you do about a car seat for the rental when you got there? Thanks!

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answers from New York on

Drowsy Water Dude Ranch I. Granby, Colorado. Hands down the best family vacation ever. Family owned small ranch. Awesome place.

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answers from Chicago on

Smokey Mountains. - if you like the outdoors, you can camp.
That camp ground was awesome!-

Disney- Pricy, but wonderful for all.

Chicago- plenty of mueums etc. you can get the chicago musuem pass for the week and hit a lot.

Family vacation is what you make of it. We like bieng out doors, so we do a lot of camping. But we also visit family for our vacations. Spring we go to FL to see my mom, Fall (now going to be summer with my son in school) we go see my husband Grandfather in TN.

We drvie to TN, fly to FL. Car seats we bring for my little one, my parent have a booster for my older one. We have a car seat cover that we put on and we gate check it.

Good luck.. I think if you give people ideas on what you like to do, it might help people to give you ideas.

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answers from Chicago on

San Diego is always my favorite family vacation destination.
It has (amongst other things):
Sea World
Lego Land
The San Diego Zoo
A US Naval base on Coronado Island that you can drive through (at least part of it) - the USS Midway is permanently moored in the harbor and you can tour it (WWII carrier)
Some of the best beaches in the US

You can rent a carseat at a car rental company for $10-15/day/seat. Different states have different carseat regulations, so be sure to look them up before you go.

ETA: Are you outdoorsy? If you like to camp, check out the Minnesota State Parks. You could go visit the source of the Mississippi River in Bemidji, MN. Duluth is gorgeous.

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answers from Washington DC on

Our favorite vacation was a cruise - kids were 5, 7, and 9.

We also loved Disney, we love beaches, and cities. We love history, so places like Williamsburg, Boston, and DC.

I guess it really depends on what you are looking for. Super relaxing beach on the east coast - Outer Banks. We stayed in Corolla, there's also Duck, Kitty Hawk, etc...all in OBX. Busier beach, Myrtle Beach - still family friendly. We also love VA!!! But very crowded in the summer. We live closest to Ocean City, MD...but haven't been.

Parks are a LOT of fun. Busch Gardens, Sea World, can do all of those in Orlando. Or if you want to go to the east coast you can get Disney and Sea World there too.

Cities on my list to visit: Boston, Chicago, San Diego, Vegas, Seattle, etc.

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answers from Boston on

If you're talking about this summer, how about Boston and Cape Cod? Not sure how long you have, but Cape Cod is extremely family friendly with many beaches ranging from calm, warm Mass Bay waters to very mild surf in Nantucket Sound to big breakers on the Atlantic coast. Zillions of activities (free and otherwise), plus little museums and petting zoos, boats to watch, very very casual restaurants even the ones with good food, and just 3 main roads to keep track of (so it's not hard to find your way around). There are paved bike trails over the old rail routes (so not in street traffic, go-karts (one parent and one kid fit fine), lots of ponds, libraries with fun programs for rainy days, and more. We go all the time and if you want to do this, get back to me and I'll make more specific recommendations.

Boston has a children's museum and an aquarium, plus a science museum with age-appropriate activities, and there are lots of trolleys and the Duck Tour (amphibious boats). There's a little history for the adults and a fun ride for the kids. Boston and Providence airports are pretty easy to access and just not all that big. I'd probably take the car seat for the 2 year old on the plane, and just rent a booster for the 6 year old through the car rental company.

We've also done the Jersey shore which has lots of similar activities to Cape Cod. You'd have to fly to Newark and rent a car. Bigger waves because it's all ocean beach and you have to check to be sure everything is back to normal after Super Storm Sandy (there are still a few places not repaired). I spent a lot of time there as a child but not recently.

You can rent homes in all these communities so you don't have to deal with restaurants for every meal - at least breakfast and make-your-own-picnic-lunch, then go out for dinner or get take out or have pizza delivered. When we've rented on Cape Cod, the homes almost always have a supply of beach chairs, umbrellas and beach towels, and sometimes beach toys. Otherwise you can rent for the week, and just go to one of the many discount places for a couple of buckets/shovels and a little fish net for catching minnows. Hours and hours of fun with minimal hassle and investment.

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answers from Washington DC on


What do you like to do?
What are you looking for in this vacation?? To chill and relax - soak up the rays??? or something more adventurous like zip lining through a forest?

What's your budget?

When I traveled via air with my kids, we checked the car seat. Made life much easier!!

For relaxing? Mexico, Cancun - still stuff to do - and reasonably priced.
and to top it off - you can do adventurous stuff there - zip line, Aztec exploring....and much more!!

If you want to drive - Denver has an amusement park and a great baseball stadium...then driving through the Rockies is a blast too...

Going east? Hershey Park, PA - great amusement park - things to do around - like Gettysburg and you're close to DC and Baltimore...

Texas - has South Padre Island.

Guess it would help to know what you want to do and how much you want to spend...

have fun!! Talk to a travel agent and tell him/her what you want to do, how much you can spend, etc. they can make some great things happen!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Since you live in the middle of the great plains I think a nice change of pace get-away is in order. With 5 of you airfare is going to be expensive and will reduce the budget you have for any other things. We almost always go on "minivan vacations" - with a few kids, expecially a 2 yr old it's so much easier to have everything you need in the car - do you have a mini-van? When you travel by air you can only take what can get in your suitcases - so no cooler and othe amenities. And if you fly you have to schlep through airports with a stroller, tote bags, etc. (My kids are teens and they handle their own luggage - but it 's still a pain to get on the plane, go through TSA screening, track tickets, lug stuff all over - smash it all into a rental car, etc.) With your own car you can leave stuff in the car as additional "storage".

Since you are centrally located I'd consider Denver, CO area (mountains), Albuquerque, NM (desert & mountains), the upper penninsula of Michigan (lake shore) or the Texas gulf coast (ocean beach). They would all provide a change of scenery - they're all very different and they're all drivable in a day (a whole day). Assuming you drive you'll have all that airfare money to use for boat rentals, or helicopter rides, or hot air balloons, horse back riding, etc.

We've also found that if we can rent a "housekeeping" unit or small cabin with a kitchen, living room and bedrooms if makes life so much more pleasant. Breakfast is easy that way, having things for the little ones to eat is so much easier, etc. (yogurt, milk, cereal, fruit, etc.) The only difference is that most housekeeping units don't include maid service every day - but you can often pay extra for that if you want it. When we do this we generally have 2 meals at day at our cabin and only eat out once a day. Young kids are not generally big fans of sitting and waiting in restauarants. Most places taht rent out these kinds of unti also have nice playgrounds and are family oriented so your kids will make friends. And, BTW - the meals can be easily done, on paper plates so mom doesn't spend her "vacation" cooking & cleaning up. Burgers or steak on the grill, carrot sticks, and macaroni salad from a local store, bring frozen casseroles, lasagna, meatballs, etc.)

We love amusement parks and roller coasters - but with the ages of your kids you'll spend a lot of time split up - with one parent going on roller coasters with the 10 yr old and the other parent with the 2 and 6 yr old going on the younger rides. Some parks, like Hershey have little kid rides mixed in with and next to roller coasters so the little ones aren't banished to a separate part of the park. Near Toledo or Cleveland, OH there's Kings Island that's suppsosed to be awesome and it's on the lake so wouldn't be too, too hot. Generally amusement parks tend to be really hot in the Summer. Last year we went to Disney - in August. Never. Again. Ever. It was a thousand degrees, humidity was about 110%, and the parks were waaaay over crowded. When you want to do Disney pull the kids out of school and go in November or early December when the weather is pleasant and it's not crowded. It cost a large fortune and it should be enjoyable.

One final thought - Although Chicago and Washington DC are both also pretty drivable I can assure you that a 6 yr old and a 2 yr old are not conducive to touring cities and going to museums. I chased my then 2 yr old son through Wash DC or carried him on my shoulders (or my husband did on his shoulders) for only two days and it was a rough 2 days. We hardly got to walk through some of the Smithsonians. And living by NYC we are there often - now that the kids are teens - but tracking little kids in the crowded city, on a hot Summer day is a new kind of torture. A lakeside beach would be soooo much more enjoyable.

And hopefullly you have some kind of DVD player, or streaming videos on your ipad for the car ride. When our teens (now 15 & 18) were 2 and 5 we traveled to from NY to Ohio to see family, then Wash DC for a police officer event then home in a 7 day period. We had invested $300 in a portable VCR with a 5 inch screen. (At the time it was pretty high-tech.) We must have commented about 100 times on that trip that the best $300 we spent was on the video player. Peace reigned in the back seat.

Regardless of what you end up doing you'll have a nice time and will create memories. Even if there are car sick kids or flat tires, or even a trip to an urgent care center for needed stitches - they're still memories that will weave through your family history and the kids will be talking about them 20 years from now.

Have fun mama!

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answers from Oklahoma City on

Silver Dollar City is a family place that your whole family will enjoy. You can shop if you like, we don't, you can ride all the rides until you can't stand up straight, I don't do rides except the log ride, and you can have the little one play with complete freedom in the little kids area.

They have rides specifically for that age in one corner of the park. The rides were way to young/small for our 5 year old. He loved the jr. level rides though. Then there is this huge play ground. My friends and I sat on the entrance and the kids ran off to play. We could spot them from just about anywhere they were. It's off to one side of the small pond in the middle of the park.

They have shows, rides, food, shopping, displays, and so much more.

We did the hotel and SDC for one price. We got 2 days at SDC and 3 days/2 nights at the hotel for about $400, I do think it might have been a little bit more but I am not totally sure.

We had $1000 to spend for the vacation and I think we spend about $800.

You can drive from KC, it's only 4 hours. We stayed at Boxcar Willies and weren't too happy with it. We did not have wifi in the room but it was "our" fault. We had new computers, our cell phones are smart phones and we have 4G and didn't have internet at all any time we were in the room. We did have access when we went to the lobby and sat on the couches.

The next time we go we plan on staying at a hotel with a water park. The pictures do tell all. The ones that have a few pics that show a lazy river and a shallow pool for play, that's probably all they have.

We loved going to SDC, I didn't wan't to do an amusement park. I do NOT like to do rides and walk around all day in the heat. To be honest I was pissed off and didn't want to go. I went because of the look on the kids faces when they found out where we were going.

I had an amazing time. We wandered around and visited all day. We didn't suffer from the heat at all and we carried a minimal amount of water we took with us. We put it in lockers so we didn't have to carry it.

It was a pleasant vacation and I plan on doing it again and again. I think your kids are the perfect age for their first time. The little one will only love it more the older they get and the older ones will get to ride the bigger and scarier rides.

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answers from Beaumont on

If money is any sort of an issue for you, I'd stick with driving because in the summer, airfare is sky high! My fav vacation with my kids was to TN and that wouldn't be too far for you. Went to the Pigeon Forge (sp?) area by the Smokey Mtns. Tons of stuff for kids to do. Tubing, white water rafting (guided so you'd be safe), Dollywood, dinner shows, lots of stuff for kids. We rented a house with some land and took our dogs as well. My FAVORITE thing we did was to spend the day, by one of the many creeks. It was only about 5 inches deep and rocky in that area so the dogs got to go explore with us. We took sling shots and launched small rocks to the other side etc. With lunch and snacks we stayed the entire day and it was our best memory. So happy for you guys! You will have a blast! Enjoy!

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answers from Dallas on

What do you all like to do? What is your budget?

Our most favorite vacations were when we went to Maui (twice). I LOVED the whale watch but that is not happening much right now. It is usually around Feb.

We went to Disneyworld every 2 years for YEARS and stayed at the Polynesian... my favorite place to stay.

We love the Hilton Golf Resort and Spa in SanDestin, FL

Hilton Resort at Marco Island FL

Don Cesar Resort in Tampa/St Pete

My daughter and I had a great trip to NY

I like South Beach in Miami but it is NOT family friendly, too wild for children.

San Diego is a lot of fun as well.

Just have fun whatever you choose!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

Since your kids are getting bigger a place like Embassy Suites is good. They have a living room and bedroom and some have 2 bathrooms. You can also look at VRBO.

Carmel Valley, CA -vrbo with pool
San Diego (La Jolla, Mission Beach area)
Mandalay Bay Embassy Suites (Oxnard, CA)

-Florida- A family cruise sounds fun

-Michigan Lake commercials are on a lot in my area for some reason. Looks beautiful.

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answers from Springfield on

If you fly, you will probably need to rent a car. You could bring your carseat with you, but we chose to rent one with the car. We just called the rental place ahead of time and reserved a carseat. Our son was not quite 1 1/2 at the time, so we did not pay for him to fly - he just sat on our lap.

Not that I have 2 kids I would think driving would be easier. We've been to Branson, MO, a couple of times. There are some great shows there, and Silver Dollar City is a lot of fun. I've also been to Denver and Boulder, CO. Boulder is so beautiful, but I admit I've never taken kids there. We went to Chicago a couple of years ago and bought the City Pass. So much fun!

I agree, it would help if we knew what kinds of things you are interested in. My husband's idea of a perfect vacation would be snowmobiling in Alaska! He would really not enjoy a few days on the beach.

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answers from Houston on

I love vacations! =)

Are you wanting to stay in the US? We have been to the Dominican several times. Very nice. Lots to do for the kids. All inclusives are very family oriented there.

Myrtle Beach or Hilton Head. We have been to both. I preferred Hilton Head. I thought it was more family oriented. Myrtle Beach is more young adult themed. Both have great beaches.

When we traveled by air with our kids, we checked the car seat with luggage. I believe you can rent them with your car so if you fly and rent a car, make sure that the car rental company has those available in your destination. Disney would be great as well.

So, really, what do YOU want to do?

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answers from Rochester on

We love San Diego. The zoo and Balboa Park area are really fun. The beaches on Coronado Island are great. We have been twice and the kids want to go again.

We did a road trip across South Dakota that was a lot of fun. There are lots of places to stop (lots of things to do in Sioux Falls, Akta Lakota museum in Chamberlain, Corn Palace in Mitchell, Wall Drug in Wall, 1880s town in Kadoka, the Badlands, and lots of things to do in Rapid City and the Black Hills).

If it is in your budget, we like Maui. We go about every two years and our kids love it! Lots of fun things and wonderful beaches!

Yellowstone Park and Grand Teton Park is also a great trip. I grew up 100 miles from Yellowstone and we went every summer. We are going again this summer and I can't wait! Book a hotel now!! Cody is a fun town to visit and so is Jackson. It might be a lot of time in the car for your 2 year old because there is quite a distance between sites in Yellowstone.

I like Chicago. The Museum of Science and Industry, The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Lincoln Park Zoo, and Navy Pier are all fun. There is a fun kids' museum at Navy Pier and at least a couple of other kids' museums in the greater metro area.

We had a great time in DC when my kids and my brother's kids were between 2 and 6. We didn't get to go through all of the museums, but even the little boys did great at the Natural History museum and the Air and Space museum.

I love Colorado! The Colorado Springs area, Denver, and Estes Park area have a lot of fun things to do. The Olympic training center in Colorado Springs is really fun to visit. I can still remember going to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and Santa's Village when I was a kid.

Minneapolis/St. Paul has a lot of fun things to do too. The Minnesota zoo is great. The Children's Museum and the science Museum are fun. The Wild Rumpus bookstore is one of the best kids' book stores you will ever find. Como Park zoo is fun and has a small amusement park that is good for little kids (your 10 year old might be on the edge of being too big for it). Valley Fair is a bigger amusement park. I personally don't like going to the Mall of America, but it is there. There are some great park/nature areas as well.

Where ever you decide to go, do a web search for festivals and kids' activities for the time that you will be there. Most bigger cities at least have web sites that have calendars of events. I always do a search like "San Diego with kids." You will find lots of links to sometimes lesser known events and places to visit.

If you do a road trip try to plan stops about every 1-1/2 to 2 hours. When we drove across South Dakota we did about two hours of driving and then stopped to at least eat or have ice cream and let the kids out to run for awhile. We also planned on stopping and spending a couple of hours at a tourist site about every 3-4 hours. We spent about 1/2 a day driving from SE Minnesota to Sioux Falls, a day hitting DeSmet, Mitchell, and Chamberlain. A day from Chamberlain to Rapid City, and then about 4 days in Rapid City and the Black Hills.

If you fly check your car seat. It is free. You can buy bags to put them in, or just put it in a garbage bag. It doesn't have to be bagged, but it does keep it a little safer and cleaner. You can take your car seat on the plane, but check ahead of time to see if it will fit in the airplane seat. Every car seat we have had was too wide for the airline seats. We fly 2-3 times a year and only once did we have any trouble with our car seat being damaged. (But I think the damage was due to a fault in the car seat and not necessiarly because of the airline.) I would not rent a car seat because I know how gross our car seats get and how hard it is to clean them. Yuck!

Have a fun vacation!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

My family loves beach vacations. There is nothing better than Miami beach in Jan/Feb, in my opinion. That warm sunshine, playing in the sand while everyone at home is freezing and complaining about winter, we all love it.

If you fly, you can check a car seat for free. Regardless of what airline you fly, it is always free to check a car seat, and it is not counted as one of your checked bags if you are flying on an airline with a limit.



answers from Raleigh on

Any of the kid places, anything Disney, Universal studios, Sesame Place, Bush Gardens, Sea World, Hershey's Park, beaches, zoos and or aquariums. Cross country trip sounds fun maybe to the Grand Canyon or a road trip to the fun New Orleans sounds cool too. There's so many fun, exotic and interesting places this country has to offer. Do some research on finding vacay bargains. I'm excited for you, after I have this baby I will plan our first family trip with the new baby!!



answers from Chicago on

Gatlinburg, TN is amazing for all ages
Puerto Rico is beautiful
Nassau, Bahamas (only stay at the Atlantis)
I love Cancun, Mexico
Canada is gorgeous
Of course Disneyworld or land


answers from San Francisco on

Our favorite place, bar none, is Kauai. It's the most laid-back of the Hawaiian islands, and is a fantastic place to take kids. Plenty of kid-friendly beaches, and TONS of outdoor activities to enjoy. We have gone on snorkeling cruises, sightseeing catamarans (we have always managed to get up close and personal with dolphins while doing so, and once, we even saw a mother and baby whale!), kayaking (they even have a river you can kayak on - the only one in Hawaii), hiking. It's called the garden island, and you can see why. It is absolutely breathtaking, even by Hawaiian standards. Even with your toddler, there are plenty of activities your whole family can enjoy. When we go, we stay in Poipu (the sunniest part of the island), but no matter where you stay, the island is small enough that you can go from one end to the other and back in a day. I hope you have fun, no matter where you choose to go!

Oh, and for the car seat, we have always just rented one when we got there. They're usually not too expensive, and all car rental places have them.



answers from Kansas City on

So many options!!! I vote for a beach vacation! We take our 3 boys to Sanibel Island, FL (west coast of FL near Ft. Meyers) for 2 weeks every July. My husband has been going there since he was a kid with his parents. We love it. It's relaxing and the kids never get tired of the beach, pool, and sand. Also, if you go to a FL beach, you can also hit Disney or LegoLand for a day or so.

If you fly, you can bring the car seat. You can either have him sit in it on the plane (if it is approved by the airlines) or you can check it for free. We always check it. You can get a car seat bag at Babies R Us or Target.

P.S. We just left KS. We were stationed at Ft. Leavenworth for 6 years and LOVED it!! Two of our kids were born in KC and one of them spent a lot of time at Children's Mercy (heart defects). We're hoping to retire there:)



answers from Portland on

Hi T.:

I'm over here on the west coast and thus, do not have any great recommendations in your area. Our favorite spots are mostly places on the Oregon coast. If we were to fly somewhere, I'd likely choose San Francisco as there are loads of fun options for the family.

Regarding the car seat; my husband and son recently flew and they took the booster on as Kiddo's personal item. If you have an actual forward-facing carseat, I do think you might be able to use that on the plane, check with TSA rules. My husband did that for the first trip with just the two of them, I think (it was a Britax marathon, quite a haul!).



answers from Washington DC on

When we fly, we take a seat of our own for the child in the car. When DD was little, we took our Marathon. This time, knowing it was mostly for taxis (and with her being older), we took a Bubble Bum. Not my first choice, but it was decently rated, and very portable. I felt it was safer than no seat at all, or a questionable rental. You cannot use the Bubble Bum for the 2 yr old, so talk to the airline and rental companies to see what your options are. Most airlines will let you have either a car seat or a stroller for no charge, so you might be able to say that the seat is for the 2 yr old and the stroller for the 6 yr old (or vice versa) and get them both on the plane without fees.

As far as favorite locations, what are you looking to do? See a city like Philly or DC? See a national park? Go to a lake? An amusement park? Do you like to sightsee or would you rather kick back and relax. If you go to an ocean, for example, Rehoboth in DE is pretty kid-friendly and you can drive to Chincotegue.

I also second a hotel or condo (you can sometimes rent condos or apartments - we did in the UK and it was great to have a couple of rooms but still have a kitchen and livingroom) or a suite with 3 kids. If they also provide a fridge and microwave, that's breakfast right there. We didn't have a suite on our last trip, but it was just us and DD. We used the microwave and fridge for snacks and breakfast, so we could feed DD without having to get her fully dressed, and take that time to sort out our day.

I'd look for someplace that had a few key attractions you can hit over the course of a week, and then bring a computer to check out more options or talk to the concierge. Locals know where the best things are.

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