We often associate Spring with cleaning out the old and making room for the new. It’s a time to dust away the winter blues, let go of the habits that no longer serve us, and embrace a spirit of productivity and optimism. And as moms, we are often the ones encouraging the little ones to form healthy new habits.
The habit in need of the most reform these days? Tech usage.
Research confirms that the way the brain responds to technology is akin to that of other addictions – like sugar and heroine. And if you’ve ever tried to wrestle that iPhone or tablet away from your kids, you know firsthand that screen-time is reaching new highs and time spent in nature is reaching new lows.
Travel can serve as a much-needed “reset” to reignite childrens’ curiosity with the natural world. So this season, pack up and unplug at one of these tech-free family vacation ideas — all tried and tested by Moms around the country.
(After a full afternoon of exploring the woods, beach, and beyond, we won’t judge if you let them use just a little bit of hotel WiFi!)
Tech-Free Family Vacation Ideas
Key West, Florida
Key West is one of the most vibrant cities in the country. The warm breezes and laidback tropical vibe make this jewel of a city loads of fun for your entire tribe. The sandy, sun-kissed beaches and crystal-clear water are a feast for the eyes and the Caribbean-inspired food is a feast for the belly. From creamy key lime pie to crunchy conch fritters, the fare suits the palette of kids and adults alike. The sunsets are brilliant, and the temperate weather promises a relaxing stay.
Where to Stay in Key West
Ideal family accommodations are found at Rose Lane Villas where you can get a spacious suite with plenty of room for everyone. This quaint establishment is centrally-located and close to the beaches. Shops, restaurants, and landmarks are within easy walking distance, meaning the kids won’t be tempted to lounge on the couch with their tablet. Each villa has a kitchen, so snacks and meals are easily prepared, giving you the opportunity to feed your group on your own schedule. There’s a heated pool on the property to splash around in day or night, free parking, and it’s even pet-friendly.View Hotel
Tech-free Time: Adventures in the Water
A day in the water is guaranteed to provide endless fascination and keep the kids from missing their tech. Snorkeling in Key West is one of the most memorable experiences that your family can have. The live coral reef displays a myriad of rainbow-colored fish and mesmerizing sea life. There are countless snorkeling tours offered every day. If you’d rather stay above the water, a deep-sea fishing charter (like one from Delphine Charters) is an entertaining option and you may even see a playful dolphin or two. With phones in the room and toes in the sand, Key West is a sublime family vacation.
— Vicki Floyd, Coupondipity
Away from screens and back to nature
Ready for a family vacation that gets you away from screens and takes you back to nature? Head to Seaside, Oregon for a beach getaway that everyone will love. The miles of sandy beaches offer stunning ocean views and gorgeous sunsets. As you walk along the beach, you’ll hear the peaceful sounds of the soft wind, rolling waves, and cawing seagulls. Across town, you’ll find forested trails filled with ferns and evergreens. Spend time in the town center for access to quaint shops and historical statues filled with stories from the town’s past.
Where to Stay in Seaside, Oregon
Stay at the Rivertide Suites for a luxury experience within walking distance of the beach. Their two-bedroom suites allow parents and kids to have their own space, while the living area provides the perfect place for the whole family to gather. Enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast or take advantage of the full kitchen to cook meals, make your morning coffee, or store your leftovers from one of the many nearby restaurants. After a long day at the beach, toss your sandy clothes into the in-room washer and dryer and spend the rest of the evening in the heated pool and hot tub.View Hotel
Tech-free Time: Forested Trails and Sandy Shores
For some much-needed tech-free time, fill your day splashing in the waves and building sand castles at the beach just minutes from the hotel. Don’t forget your sand buckets so you can walk along the shore searching for hidden beach treasures. Take a quick drive down the coast to Ecola State Park in Cannon Beach. This beautiful state park offers a full day of beach activities, impressive views of Haystack Rock and the Tillamook Head Lighthouse, and access to the Lewis and Clark Trail. This nine-mile trail is a heavily-forested wonderland of hemlocks and pines with plenty of opportunities to view wildlife.
— Jess Olson, Just Me Growing Up
Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia is the beautiful Bavarian village of Helen. Surrounded by the serenity of the mountains, this alpine German town is the perfect family getaway. You can enjoy walking down the cobblestone sidewalks, take a ride in a horse carriage, try some fresh fudge, enjoy a bratwurst while sitting on the terrace by the river, relax with a coffee or ice cream cone, and so much more all within the two square miles of Helen.
Where to Stay in Helen, Georgia
The Country Inn & Suites is perfectly located so that you can easily take the sidewalks into town. A delicious complimentary hot breakfast offers a great way to wake up and start your day. The heated indoor pool and hot tub is open year-round and is a destination in itself when you have children. The complimentary coffee and cookie in the lobby was a great “welcome back” when we would return to the room each day. The lending library had a large selection of books we were able to pick from for some afternoon reading.View Hotel
Tech-free Time: River Tubing, Waterfalls, and Festivals
If you can pull your kids away from the pool, there is so much to see and explore near Helen. From activities like miniature golf and zip-lining to adventures in nature like tubing the river and hiking to the gorgeous Anna Ruby Falls, there is something for everyone. (The falls are only a short drive away in the Unicoi State Park and the hike is only a half mile on a paved trail.) Not to mention, Helen has many festivals throughout the year, so keep an eye on their website and you may catch something extra special.
— Pamela, Pam Gann
Spring Break is on its way, and the warm, sunny weather gives us the perfect opportunity to get our kids outside and away from their screens. The southern California coast is a beautiful family-friendly destination that encourages exploration and adventure. Our kids won’t even be tempted to sit inside the house staring at a screen if they’re enjoying the beautiful Pacific Ocean and outdoor attractions. Oceanside is a beautiful coastal town that the whole family can enjoy, with sandy beaches, warm weather, and the longest wooden pier on the West Coast.
Where to Stay in Oceanside, California
Head to Oceanside Marina Suites, a quaint hotel tucked into the ocean harbor and surrounded by water on three sides. The deluxe suites are spacious enough for your whole family and each room has a cozy fireplace and fully-equipped kitchen. The hotel also boasts a heated outdoor pool that the kids will love, gorgeous walking grounds, and a glorious view of sailboats cruising in and out of the harbor.View Hotel
Tech-free Time: Cool Cruisers and Candy Shops
With the ocean shore being just steps from the Marina Suites entrance, tech-free activities are right on your doorstep. You can take the kids sailing, swimming, paddle boarding, surfing, or paddle boating. Cruise down the beach strand on two, three, or four wheels by renting beach cruisers, or specialty cycles for the whole family. If you want the quiet beach town atmosphere, the Oceanside Harbor Village is within walking distance from the hotel and it has an assortment of popular restaurants, candy stores, and souvenir shops.
Cate Rosales, Sweet and Simple Life
Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Kiawah Island is a perfect place for families to get away and make lasting memories in nature. There are beautiful beaches full of exciting wildlife and miles of bike trails that weave between giant oak trees for your family to explore. Kiawah Island is also known for its famous golf courses, so this is the perfect opportunity to take the kids for a golf lesson. When the sun goes down, there are plenty of restaurants, ice cream shops, and retail stores to keep the family full, busy, and happy.
Where to Stay on Kiawah Island
There is no better place to stay on the entire island than the Charleston Kiawah Island/Andell Inn, which is perfect for families who want to be surrounded by nature. At the Andell, you are just a short walk from the beach and the Bohicket Marina, which means water activities are abundant. There is also a family-friendly pool on the property. While the kids nap, you can relax on one of the large swings on the hotels wrap-around porch while taking in the 360-degree scenic views of the Kiawah River.View Hotel
Tech-Free Time: Winding Trails and Wildlife
To get away from the screens and into nature, rent a few bikes for the afternoon and explore some of the many trails around Kiawah. This island is full of nature and wildlife so you are likely to see some turtles, deer or even an alligator while you are cruising through the surrounding woods. You can always take your bikes on to the beach to cool off for a bit in the Atlantic Ocean. The memories your family makes on these bike rides through beautiful South Carolina will be long lasting and your kids will burn off some energy, too!
Mattie Givens, Growing The Givens
If you’re looking for a way to get your family to unplug from their devices and plug into the beauty of their natural surroundings, Yosemite National Park is the perfect escape to lift those little heads out of technology and into the mountains, trees, and waterfalls of this immense wilderness. With hundreds of miles of hiking trails, memorable views, wildlife sightings, and highly entertaining and educational ranger programs, technology will take a back seat during your immersive visit.
Where to Stay in Yosemite, California
For a great family wilderness experience with a major touch of comfort, Tenaya Lodge is the best place to stay for families visiting Yosemite National Park. Situated just several miles from the park entrance and only several hours from the surrounding major airports, Tenaya Lodge is easily accessible. Nestled between a forest of sugar pines and dogwood trees, Tenaya Lodge offers many room types for different families, including large family suites and cabins.View Hotel
Tech-free time: Endless adventure at Activities Camp
Plan to spend at least an entire full day at Tenaya Lodge to take advantage of the Activities Camp for kids where they will learn about the surrounding area and create arts and crafts that they can take home. Be sure to save time for other activities, such as archery, guided hikes, outdoor barbecuing during the warmer months, and snowshoeing, sledding and ice-skating during the winter months. If the lodge’s activities or your time in Yosemite didn’t wear your family out enough, go for a swim in the outdoor pool and splash pad during summer months or the indoor pool during the winter.
— Vanessa Hunt, Wanderlust Crew
Legend has it, once the sands of Chincoteague and Assateague Islands get between your toes, you’ll always come back. There’s so much to explore on these neighboring islands! Driving across the marshy land bridge from mainland Virginia to the quaint island of Chincoteague, your senses come alive. The smell of the marshlands tickles your nose, swooping flights of birds catch your eye, and their cries echo in your ears. Chincoteague, home to the famous horse, Misty, immortalized in Marguerite Henry’s books, is a thrilling family adventure destination.
Where to Stay in Chincoteague, Virginia
Our family has enjoyed stays at The Refuge Inn, a comfortable family hotel with a sense of seclusion, but close to everything you’ll explore on both islands. Fuel up for the day at The Refuge Inn’s free continental breakfast, and grab a book from their Beach Books library. Kids can enjoy the wild ponies on site at the hotel any time of day. After exploring nature and history on the islands, families can relax by the indoor/outdoor pool and grill out on hibachi grills provided. The Refuge Inn and Chincoteague and Assateague Islands give families a place to unplug and enjoy the outdoors together. Parents and children will leave this island getaway wanting to plan their next trip back.View Hotel
Tech-free time: Earn Your Badge
Boating, fishing, and crabbing are within easy reach on Chincoteague Island, and more adventures await on the uninhabited neighbor island of Assateague, pinpointed by a striking candy-striped lighthouse. Peel kids away from the screens and rent bikes to traverse the four hiking/biking paths on Assateague: Black Duck Marsh, Swan Cove Trail, Woodland Trail, and Wildlife Loop. You may spot the island’s herds of wild ponies grazing in the marsh! Learn about local wildlife at Tom’s Cove Visitor’s Center, where kids can earn a Junior Ranger badge.
A perfect tech-free morning might include a quick hike to Assateague Lighthouse where, for a small fee, you get a view from the top. Or, if you’re an early riser, head out to Assateague Beach to enjoy a sunrise and perhaps see dolphins at play. Then enjoy miles of shoreline and powerful Atlantic Ocean waves for swimming and boogie boarding, sand castle building, and shell collecting.
Julie Kieras, Happy Strong Home
Medora, North Dakota
Part wildlife sanctuary and part wild west, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a lesser-known national park in the badlands of North Dakota. With colorful, wide-open landscapes, easy hiking trails, and an abundance of incredible wildlife, this unassuming national park is full of surprises. Herds of wild horses and bison call these burnished hills home, as do thousands of prairie dogs, elk, deer, coyote, and pronghorn. The wild-west town of Medora is situated right outside the park’s south entrance, making it the perfect home base for all of your national park explorations.
Where to Stay in Medora, North Dakota
Located in the heart of Medora, AmericInn of Medora is within walking distance of all the town has to offer, including dining, shopping, and the national park entrance. Rooms are spacious and include a mini-fridge, microwave, and coffee maker for DIY meals. Suites and efficiencies are available for larger families. Kids will love the indoor pool and hot tub as well as the free breakfast buffet. At AmericInn, pets are permitted and kids always stay free. While all the rooms include a flat-screen TV and free WiFi, you’ll be having too much fun exploring to take advantage of them.View Hotel
Tech-Free Time: Start a Love Affair with the Badlands
The 36-mile loop road around the south unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park provides plenty of vantage points for viewing wildlife, and if you drive the loop at sunrise or sunset, you are guaranteed to see horses and bison. The road also meanders through several prairie dog towns, so be on the lookout for the park’s most adorable residents. Kid-friendly hikes include the climb up Buck Hill and the Painted Canyon Nature Trail. In Medora, you won’t want to miss the nightly performance of the Medora Musical, which pays tribute to the legacy of Teddy Roosevelt and his love affair with the North Dakota Badlands.
— Tara Schatz, Backroad Ramblers
Hilton Head, South Carolina
When you and your family are looking to unplug and unwind, head to Sea Pines Resort, located on South Carolina’s luxurious Hilton Head Island. Relax among 5,000 acres of lush, natural environment, and soak in that infamous low country vibe. Featuring white sandy beaches, miles of bike trails, tons of family-friendly restaurants, and quaint little seaside villages — it’s the ultimate family playground. You’ll never want to leave this coastal gem.
Where to Stay in Hilton Head
Sea Pines offers so many wonderful places to stay, but our personal favorite is Marriott’s Heritage Club. Centrally located in Harbour Town Village, it allows family access to many great amenities, restaurants, and activities without having to ever get in your car for the rest of your stay. The property is made up of luxurious two-bedroom villas that include spacious sleeping accommodations, a full kitchen, a separate living and dining room space, and immaculate bathrooms. The beach just steps away, but if you are in need of fewer sandy adventures, you can cool off in the gorgeous pool on site.View Hotel
Tech-free time: Immerse Yourself In Nature
One of the best things about taking a family vacation is spending time together. At Sea Pines, you can immerse your family in a variety of nature-fueled activities, but our favorite place to visit is the Sea Pines Forest Preserve. This protected wildlife area is great for outdoor exploration and activities. You can explore a secluded forest on the boardwalk of the Vanishing Swamp, take a guided boat tour on one of the preserve’s many lakes to see a variety of wildlife, picnic alongside the gorgeous wildflower field, horseback ride, or even fish. Not to mention you might even spot an alligator or two.
— Jen Giambalvo & Carrie Beth Posener, The Magnolia Mamas
Pack the kids (don’t forget their bathing suits!) and hop in the car for an incredible weekend getaway to the Pocono Mountains. These mountains offer limitless activities for getting back to nature and spending quality time with the family. As you climb along the winding, forest-lined roads, nestled in between various ski resorts and other tourist attractions, the trees give way to the sprawling Great Wolf Lodge in Scotrun, PA.
Great Wolf Lodge is the ultimate family destination. The resort provides ample entertainment and activities and the focus is most definitely on family fun. Several restaurants are located right on site (including Starbucks) so there is something to satisfy everyone’s hunger.
Where to Stay in the Poconos
If you’re looking for an opportunity to wean the kids off their screens, Great Wolf Lodge is just the answer. Kids can participate in various activities offered daily in the resort’s lobby area, like storytime, pajama parties, seasonal crafts and more. Enjoy some glow-in-the-dark mini golf and then a game of bowling.View Hotel
Tech-free time: Stay Active and Entertained
No matter what the weather is like outside, the enormous indoor waterpark (Great Wolf’s crowning amenity) is always a balmy 84 degrees. Kids and adults alike will have a blast on the many water slides located inside the waterpark. There’s a lazy river and an elevated playspace with water sprayers and buckets. A tidal pool creates waves that are fun to jump into and the little kid area provides shallow water and water slides that are not as intense as the bigger ones. This is the perfect spot for your preschooler to jump and splash. Great Wolf Lodge is a wonderful family destination that will keep your kids active and entertained.
— Devon W, Mama Cheaps
Amelia Island, Florida
A barrier island located in the northeast corner of Florida, Amelia Island is a charming town with 13 miles of pristine beaches to enjoy. Where pirates once roamed you’ll discover a charming village now sporting boutique shops and incredible restaurants, like Timoti’s. A trolley ride is a must for a quick history lesson and a glimpse at the beautiful Pippi Longstocking house. Kayaking through Loftin Creek will provide thrills as will exploring Boneyard Beach, an off-the-tourist-trek favorite where you’ll discover huge tree skeletons that’ll look fantastic on your Instagram gallery.
Where to Stay on Amelia Island
Kids are more than welcome at The Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island. In fact, the Ritz Kids program at this resort is one of the best around, offering children ages 5-12 hands-on activities on water, land, and environmental responsibility and culture. In addition, children of all ages can enjoy story time, feeding exotic fish in their new tank, or hunting for fossilized shark teeth with staff. Add a pirate tuck-in to your bedtime routine or even request a Pirate-themed tent with porthole window as part of an indoor pirate campout experience.View Hotel
Tech-free Time: Fort Clinch for Exploring and Shark Tooth Hunting
Head to Fort Clinch for an afternoon of exploration overlooking the Florida coastline. Kids will love running through the former military fort which was vital to the United States for over 200 years. You just might get to see a military reenactment in progress. Next, head down a pathway just outside the Fort Clinch walls. Here you’ll find a long stretch of beach, popular with shark tooth hunters. TIP: Look for a distinct gum line and know that real shark teeth will not break if bent.
— Debra Muccio, Finding Debra
Paso Robles, California
Break free from your winter rut this spring and envelop the family in quintessential Americana in Paso Robles, California. Located midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, this family-friendly destination boasts a backdrop of oak tree-dotted hills, picturesque vineyards lush with sprawling vines and fruit, and one of the best historic downtowns on California’s Central Coast. Spanish for “Pass of the Oaks,” Paso Robles is known for its sunny climate, its wine, and its small-town tranquility.
Where to Stay in Paso Robles, California
The Paso Robles Inn, with its iconic red brick tower and mineral spring baths, offers family-friendly perks such as complimentary Pack ‘n Plays (request those prior to check-in), a year-round heated pool, and roomy suites for the whole family. Nestled in the heart of downtown, the hotel is walkable to shops boasting local threads, art, and housewares as well as activities for the kids.View Hotel
Tech-free time: Hit the Merry-Go-Round
Take a downtown stroll. Start in the hotel’s gardens to feed the meandering koi with free cups of fish food from the front desk. Then swap out some weekend reads at the Little Free Library stand out front. Across the street, you’ll find City Park’s shiny new merry-go-round and four-seater seesaw. One block northwest, crawl through a giant oak tree and take the wheel of an antique fire truck at the Paso Robles Children’s Museum. End your afternoon at SLO Sweets, 840 11th St., with scrumptious squares of chocolate.
–– Tonya Strickland, Two In Tow
*All photos courtesy of trivago unless otherwise noted. Feature image courtesy of Benjamin Manley, Unsplash