Spring Break Ideas – Introduction
I receive a lot of emails asking for ideas for family spring break trips. Some emails give me enough to work with, but many don’t. For those shorter emails, I respond with several questions to help them in narrowing down destination options:
- Where do you live?
- How much time do you have? Are you willing to take a couple extra days off school?
- Do you want to travel internationally or stay in the US?
- Do you prefer resorts or boutique hotels?
- Are your kids hoping for a beach? Do they want a pool?
- Do you enjoy cruises?
- How active do you want to be? Would you rather relax, or hike and kayak?
- Where have you been before that you loved?
- Where don’t you want to go?
Before I list some ideas below, think through those questions. Your spring break destination should be a reflection of you and your kids and your interests.
Our Spring Breaks
For 12 years or so our kids were in the same school, with a one-week break in February and a one-week break in April. We still have one child at that school, but our two older kids now only have a two-week break in March. We’ve never selected a destination based on February vs March vs April, so I’m consolidating all of our trips below. We’ve also been willing, up until sixth grade or so, to take the kids out of school 1-5 days extra to go somewhere fun for spring break. That isn’t necessary if you have two weeks, but it is if you only have one week. Note: all schools should have two-week breaks!
Spring Break 2023
We took three spring break trips this year. In February we flew around the world (literally) to spend a week in Thailand. In March I took my two teens on a Disney Cruise in the Caribbean with a stop at Universal Orlando first. It wasn’t my first choice, and Universal was crowded, but my daughter had fun with other teens on the ship, and it had been too long since were at Universal. In April we spent a week in Florence and Venice. All are now included below.
Spring Break in Hawaii, Florida or Mexico
The default spring break destinations for families tend to be Hawaii, Mexico, Florida and California – so we’ve always tried to go elsewhere. We don’t want to fight crowds (it’s the worst possible time to visit theme parks) and we don’t want to pay peak-season prices for flights and hotels. With literally the entire world to work with, we think about alternative destinations.
Having said that, we just (mid-March 2023) finished up a few days at Universal Orlando. As expected, it was crowded, which took away from the magic and fun a little. With Express Passes our average wait times for rides were 5-10 minutes. Without Express Passes the lines for the better rides averaged around 50 minutes. The Volcano Bay water park was better – actually less crowded than I’ve seen it before.
Spring Break Ideas for Families Based on Our Travels
It takes a while to travel to Morocco from California, so we extended spring break by two days, flying out on the Friday before the start of break and coming back on Monday. The kids missed absolutely nothing at school those two days. We loved this trip! We spent several nights in Marrakech and then drove to the Sahara Desert for a night, with stops at midway points in both directions. The weather’s great in the spring and there weren’t many other tourists. If Morocco’s on your list, seriously think about it for spring break. The only negative is the jet lag.
Blog post: One Week in Morocco with Kids
Chile is an amazing destination for spring break! There’s no other country where you have spectacular mountains (Patagonia), a lake district, a huge desert (the Atacama) and a Polynesian island (Easter Island). And because it’s south of the US, there’s virtually no jet lag. Spring in the US means fall in Chile, which still works well. We did one trip to Patagonia, Santiago and the Atacama Desert, and another just to Easter Island. Combine them based on your family’s interests.
We usually spend at least a month every summer in Europe, so we’ve never headed to Europe for spring break before. But we love Florence, so this year (2023) we flew over in mid-April for a week. And we took along one of our kids’ friends for the first time. She had never been to Italy before, so we planned a two-day excursion to Venice in the middle of the week so that she could see another city. The trip worked well. Airfares to Europe in April weren’t bad, things weren’t crowded (other than Easter Sunday and Monday), and the weather was decent. Spring is a great time to visit before all of the summer tourists arrive, and the two 13-year-olds were barely affected by jet lag.
The Broadmoor (Colorado)
If you want to stay in the US, and are looking for an amazing resort, The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs is perfect. We love visiting in the summer, but spring break is a lot less expensive, and all you’re really giving up is the outdoor pool and the paddle boating. Otherwise the hotel is wonderful, with bowling, a movie theater, all sorts of outdoor adventures (go tomahawk throwing and shooting, explore Seven Falls, head to the top of Pikes Peak on the COG Railway, do falconry, go hiking and lots more), and excellent restaurants. It’s our favorite resort in North America.
The other good thing about visiting in the spring is that it’s easy to do a day trip to go skiing. Breckenridge and Keystone are only two hours away, and the snow’s usually great in March.
Blog post: Taking Back our Social Life at the Broadmoor (about a summer trip)
Ecuador and The Galapagos
The Galapagos Islands are on almost every family’s travel wish list. It’s a perfect spring break destination! Like Chile, Ecuador is south of the US so there’s no jet lag. We flew into Quito, saw the city, headed to the Galapagos for four nights, and then finished with two nights at the amazing Mashpi Lodge in the cloud forest. Our kids may have missed one day of school, but we managed to pack A LOT into one week, and it never felt rushed. One of our favorite trips ever.
This year (2023) I took my 15-year-old and 17-year-old on a Disney cruise in the Caribbean. We’re not huge Disney fans, and the Disney Fantasy was crowded, with 3,800 passengers, but overall it was a good trip. It’s definitely worthwhile thinking about a spring break cruise with your family, on the west coast or in the Caribbean. The weather should be nice, you get to unpack once and see several destinations, and kids (and teens) usually have fun on the ships.
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
I mentioned above that we try to avoid Mexico. That’s based on experience. We did one spring break trip to an all-inclusive resort near Playa del Carmen and hated it. Then we went back a few years later, staying at Rosewood Mayakoba for a week, and loved the hotel but still didn’t love Playa del Carmen. So our third trip we went to San Miguel de Allende instead and loved it – exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site, eating all the food and diving into the culture. We’d go back in a heartbeat. So much more enjoyable than the beach areas, and not crowded in April.
This was maybe our craziest spring break trip, but it worked out great, so it’s proof that there’s virtually nowhere in the world that’s off limits for a one-week trip. In February 2023 we flew around the world, west to east, to spend a week at Six Senses Yao Noi in Thailand. We island hopped, ate a lot of amazing Thai food, met up with friends, kayaked, paddle boarded, got massages and relaxed in warm temperatures – far warmer than California at the time. Details are in the post below. Take your kids to Thailand!
I’ve written before that I think Costa Rica is over-hyped. It’s a great destination, with animals, beaches, cloud forests and excellent food, but it seems like everyone has been going there and neglecting neighbors like Panama, Brazil, Nicaragua and Colombia – all amazing destinations. Anyway, we’re no exception. We’ve traveled to Costa Rica twice the past few years, once in July for a wedding and once in February for a school break. For the February trip, we flew into Liberia and went straight to Punta Islita, basing out of there for the week. It was a great trip – some culture, some adventure, some animals, and a lot of beach-centered relaxation. Go to Costa Rica! It’s great. But if you feel like prices are higher than you were expecting, look at less-touristed nearby countries instead.
Bora Bora is easy from Los Angeles – an overnight flight to Tahiti and then a short connecting flight. You can leave Friday night (after school) to really maximize your spring break. It’s an expensive destination, but it’s iconic, and worth traveling to at least once. The Four Seasons Bora Bora was very nice, and very kid-friendly considering it’s a honeymoon destination for most people.
Alternatives would be anywhere else in the South Pacific! Fiji especially is super-easy from LA. We just haven’t taken the kids for spring break yet.
Blog post: Bora Bora with Kids
An African Safari
One of our most ambitious spring breaks was a two-week safari in Tanzania and Kenya. We flew into Arusha and out of Nairobi, visited five national parks, and spent a night at the amazing Giraffe Manor at the end. In February the animals are having babies and the wildebeest are in Tanzania, and the animal viewing was amazing. We saw very little rain – the heaviest rains start in March.
The trip gave the kids a very good feel for African safaris and the Maasai culture, but there were A LOT of game drives. We could have cut short the safari portion and headed to the beach in Mombasa or Zanzibar at the end and it would have been even better. I talk about the highlights and mistakes in my blog post below, but we proved that Africa can work well for spring break. Take your kids out of school for a few days for a once-in-a-lifetime trip!
And a note: before this or other major trips, make sure you have a family travel insurance policy in place. We had a very expensive incident and now won’t travel without travel insurance.
Traveling to the Caribbean from California is a pain – it’s easier and faster to fly to the South Pacific. As a result we never think about Caribbean destinations. One year we decided to make it work. We found a non-red-eye option and flew from LA to Montego Bay, Jamaica, in one day. It was a good trip, and the kids still talk about it. They loved the beach and activities at Round Hill Resort. We, the parents, would have wanted more Jamaican culture, but the trip was about the kids so we simply made it a trip about relaxation.
If you’re on the east coast, you have a completely different reality. You can get to the Caribbean easily, so go!
Blog post: Jamaica with Kids
New York City
And last but not least, we love New York. We’ve traveled to the city at least a dozen times the past 10 years, including several times for spring break. In any given week there we’ll probably go to four Broadway shows, eat really well (some of our favorite Italian and Indian restaurants are there), and walk a lot – at least one time every trip from Wall Street all the way up to Central Park.
And NYC doesn’t have to be a stand-alone trip. Given the flights from there to virtually anywhere, it’s easy to combine a few days in New York with a few days in the Caribbean, for example.
Blog posts: None really. I have a post from one of our pre-Christmas trips, but I’ve never written about most of our favorite things there. I need to work on that.
Spring Break Ideas – Your Turn
What are your favorite spring break destinations for families? And have you gone anywhere truly unique for spring break?