When I was seven or eight, the water park was my sanctuary. The big slides, the tube rides, the overpriced junk food — all of it. But as I grew older, my perceptions did too. I began to see the soggy tissues on the ground, the number of parents who told their children to "just go in the pool" and the number of times I had to swipe my card for snacks.
But don't get me wrong, the rides are still fun. It's just that the rest of it isn't. So if you're like me and don't want to get a staph infection anytime soon, here's a list of five destinations to take your kids that'll make you happy too.
If your kid is adamant on being in the water, why not try something nature actually intended? Pack some sunscreen and hit a beach town for a fun weekend with kids of all ages. Try an AirBnB if hotels aren't in your budget and bring a TON of snacks — maybe some beer for the adults, too.
Try to find a beach with a boardwalk or an amusement park. When your children are bored with the ocean or when it gets too dark to go in, the boardwalk is a perfect place to explore — and tucker them out for non-fussy bedtime.
Disney is the last place you want to be in the summer. Between the sweaty bodies, crying babies and 100 degree temperature, it'd be a nightmare rather than a vacation. Try something like Six Flags or Boomers! or even the local fair that's traveling through your town.
A helpful tip is to go on a day where it rains in the morning, but clears up in the afternoon. Sure, you'll deal with a light mist when you first get there, but by late morning, the sun will be out and there'll be virtually no lines.
New York City (or any major city)
Places like NYC, LA or Boston are so commonly visited that they must have something that captures interest. Take your kids to Rockefeller Center, the Bronx Zoo or Coney Island in NYC. Times Square alone has the M&M store, Madame Tussauds and numerous cartoon characters to take pictures with.
In LA, be sure to visit the Santa Monica Pier, the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Hollywood sign. Boston has less attractions, but main points include the Children's Museum, the New England Aquarium and really anything historical.
For less obvious cities, try Saint Paul, New Orleans and Portland.
Themed road trip
Load the kids up in the car — or RV — for a trip across the country! Road trips were always fun for me as a kid from singing along to CD's, looking out the window and eating snacks in the car. There doesn't have to be a set destination — it may even be a loop. The main point is to have your whole family in cozy quarters and having fun.
Make your road trip themed for that extra "oomph." Make your rest stops different national parks or landmarks. It may seem cheesy and your kids might take a little while to get into it but it'll make one hell of a photo album.
Okay, so cruises probably have pools and hot tubs in them which we were trying to avoid, but not all of them have to be noisy Carnival joyrides on route to Miami. Try instead some unique destinations like Alaska, Russia or Canada's Inside Passage. Instead of just going to casino night and binging at the buffet, you can actually gain some worldly experience while culturing your kids.
I personally prefer some of the more unique vacations on this list because it'll make you and your children a bit more open minded and liberal with your experiences. Trying new things is an important skill to teach young kids that perhaps some adults haven't even learned yet.