Top 5 Destinations for This Year’s Summer Vacation From Family Adventures Await

Have you been waiting for your kids to be “old enough to appreciate” a truly amazing family vacation? Jen Shanks, Founder of Family Adventures Awaits believes this is one of the biggest mistakes a family can make.

So often parents get caught up in the idea that their child needs to remember every event of a vacation to truly appreciate it. Jen thinks the opposite is true.

“I believe that children truly gain so much more from travel at a young age. Giving your child epic experiences and adventures will help shape the person they become and the desires they will possess as they grow older. It becomes a piece of their narrative and their favorite photos to look back on. They may not remember the exact details of a trip, but they will always remember the feelings of those incredible moments with their family fully engaged in a journey together.”

These are Family Adventures Await’s favorite summer vacations spots for families this year.

vacation in iceland with green fields and snowy mountainsICELAND

There is a reason why it seems like everyone you know is talking about Iceland lately. It is a spectacular destination. How about learning about the geology of the country, and seeing the place where two tectonic plates meet  walking on glaciers?  Or walking on moss-covered lava fields, watching geysers erupt, playing in black sand? Maybe boat rides through glacier lagoons, and walking behind waterfalls? These are only a few experiences in nature you can find in Iceland. You can experience all of this and more by staying in Reykjavik and taking day trips out into the countryside. But I recommend renting a car and driving the Ring Road, which is the road that takes you in a circle around the country.


The Azores is a group of islands off the coast of Portugal in the Atlantic Ocean. They have a few international airports on the Islands and offer nonstop flights to the Azores from Boston, MA and Oakland CA. The Boston flight is only 4 ½ hours, which is closer than most Caribbean Islands. For those who are unable to fly direct, I would recommend flying through Lisbon and spending a few days in this charming historical city. Combing a few days enjoying nature and relaxing in the breathtaking Azores with the culture and history of Lisbon is sure to please every member of the family. And did I mention the wine?

Hawaii vacationHAWAII

If you are looking for a tropical paradise filled with natural wonders and cultural appeal but do not have passports for the whole family, Hawaii is the perfect destination. One of the all time best experiences Hawaii has to offer is watching lava flow into the sea. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience for everyone. What makes Hawaii so special is that it is made up of 5 islands, each with unique landscape and mind-blowing activities for all the members of your family. By combining more than one island in your vacation, you are able to experience something for everyone.

vacation Montana with moose at a Glacier National ParkMONTANA / WYOMING

There are so many amazing National Parks in the US that it is impossible to choose just one. However, there is a reason Yellowstone National Park tends to jump to the top of the bucket list for so many families. There are hikes for all levels and huge variety of wildlife, and scenery; It is truly magnificent. Going on a sunrise wildlife spotting adventure will be the event that your children will talk about for years to come. In addition to this national gem, the area offers so much more. Adding a Dude ranch stay to your National Park visit is the perfect way for your family to disconnect, and make memories to cherish forever.

vacation San Jaun Islands watching Orca breechSEATTLE / SAN JUAN ISLANDS

Seeing Orcas in the wild has become increasingly more popular with families who want to teach their children about our animals in their natural habitat. Once your little animal lover has this experience, they will never look at ocean animals the same. There are several places to see orcas in the wild, but San Juan Islands are a gorgeous stop and only a few hours from Seattle. Creating a vacation spending time in both Seattle and San Juan Islands is a perfect way to combine an amazing city and a life changing experience in the wild.

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Traveling Across The World to Reconnect With My Former Self

Traveling to South Africa. Woman looking over Table Top Mountain

I spent my formative years traveling quite a bit. Driving across the country a handful of times, backpacking across foreign lands, even just moving to new cities. There is a part of my soul that is a traveler; it has been that way since I was young. I was born with a wanderlust trait, inherited from many family members that came before me.

Two Babies Equals Less Me-Time

Once I was pregnant and had twins, traveling the way I once had, ceased to continue. Flying with two infants is not exactly easy and with limited time off work, my air miles were filled flying to visit family members. So, buried deep under the many layers of being a new mom, my need to explore new places lay dormant.

The few trips away had always been for work, until this year when my best friend’s sister was getting married…in South Africa. To say I was torn was an understatement. To miss my dear friend’s wedding saddened me, on top of the fact that going to Africa has always been at the top of my travel bucket list.

It Takes A Village

My former self, the girl that spent three days on foot with the Hill tribes of Thailand, was in a proper battle with my current, mom-self. My parents generously offered to come out and stay with the boys and their dad would still be there, as he couldn’t take off work to come with me. I knew they would be fine, probably have the time of their lives being spoiled for a week by their grandparents.

But there were two things that prevented me from being able to let go. The first was letting go of control. I made almost every decision regarding the boys and to not be able to do such left me quite stressed. The second was being judged for being a crap mother for leaving her two toddlers to go across the world. This was not a trip to the Bahamas. It’s a full day’s travel to get to South Africa. Not easy to get back if there was an emergency.

Gratefully my husband and a couple dear friends, also moms, made me feel better about going on this trip. They spoke of using this time to get centered and also to show the boys that exploring new places is good for the soul.

Traveling to South Africa. Market in Capetown

Traveling is Therapy

In so many ways, traveling forces you to step outside of the small box in which you live. We can get caught up in the “must haves” of American life, and being in a new country will always re-ground you and help you re-establish the sense of gratefulness of the life you have back home. I want my boys to experience the education, excitement, adventure that travel brings and I am their example for doing so.

So I did it and spent a week in magic. It wasn’t easy being away, but I allowed myself to enjoy an incredible country, filled with incredible people. I reconnected with friends and made new ones. I also re-discovered that part of myself that is always looking at a map, wondering where to go next. It felt amazing.

Traveling to South AFrica. woman on safari at Aquila Reserve




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