From your baby’s first steps to your child’s high school graduation, there are thousands of milestones for parents to celebrate. And while often those celebrations are simple and understated, sometimes the milestones are so big that they call for something above and beyond.
In my family, we celebrate the big ones with family vacations. Traveling creates its own memories, and traveling as a form of celebration can tie those memories to the most important milestones in your children’s lives. Here are a few ideas for celebrating the big family milestones when the usual gifts or parties simply won’t do.
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1. Graduating from grade school
Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Graduating from elementary school is a big deal for kids and a major milestone before those moody tween and teen years. Celebrate with a vacation that will capture their childlike imagination and satisfy a whole range of ages and interests within your family.
With a giant outdoor water park, all swim-up oceanfront suites and Nickelodeon-themed entertainment and decor around every corner, Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts Riviera Maya, just 30 minutes from Cancun, is a can’t-miss Mexico all-inclusive resort to celebrate a family milestone.
The resort is close to swimming holes, shopping areas and famous archeological sites, but with so much to do and eat on-site – including the 6-acre Aqua Nick water park and its two lazy rivers, the Nickelodeon Place entertainment hub, character meet-and-greets, a variety of sit-down and a la carte dining options and an enormous beachfront swimming pool – there’s almost no reason to leave the resort.
2. Moving up from middle school
Disney cruises are always a fun family vacation idea, but celebrating your tween’s graduation from middle school is an especially good reason to book a voyage. And Disney Cruise Line’s newest ship, Disney Wish, might just be the perfect vacation at sea for families with kids on the cusp of those high school years.
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For starters, the sheer scale of onboard entertainment options for tweens (and their parents) is off the charts. From action-packed Marvel-themed and Frozen-themed dinner theater experiences to an upscale Star Wars lounge (open to kids during the daytime hours) to multiple pools, live shows and a fully enclosed sports court with an elaborate Incredibles-themed inflatable obstacle course, the tween-friendly entertainment options on Disney Wish are virtually endless. Kids ages 11 to 14 even have a dedicated space of their own on Disney Wish, a tweens-only club called Edge, whose design was inspired by a New York City loft.
Disney Wish is currently sailing three- and four-night Caribbean cruises from Port Canaveral, Florida. Most include a stop at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, another tween-friendly destination where there’s no shortage of opportunities for new middle school grads to enjoy the sand and surf, with or without their parents.
3. High school graduation
National Geographic Signature Expeditions
Let’s just be honest: Vacationing with teenagers isn’t always easy. As parents, we’re not as cool as we used to be in their eyes, and often they’d rather be somewhere – anywhere – other than hanging out with their family. But if your graduating teen has a curious mind and a taste for adventure, consider celebrating their milestone with a guided tour from National Geographic Expeditions.
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Leaning into its core values of exploration, science, education and storytelling, National Geographic Expeditions offers guided tours on all seven continents, and many of them are geared toward families. High-end National Geographic Signature Land trips are led by subject matter experts and offer special access to field researchers and sites of interest. The more budget-friendly National Geographic Journeys uses local guides and feature more built-in free time at some of the world’s most spectacular natural wonders, archaeological sites and wildlife-rich destinations.
4. Family reunions and multigenerational gatherings
C Lazy U Ranch, Colorado
The best family reunion destinations bring multiple generations together in a single space that has something for everyone to enjoy. That’s no easy task, but luxury guest ranch C Lazy U Ranch has been doing it since 1918. Whether you’re reconnecting with cousins or bringing siblings, parents and grandparents together for the multigenerational vacation of a lifetime, there’s no shortage of things to do as you celebrate a family reunion.
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Combining rustic dude ranch charm with all-inclusive amenities and year-round programming for kids and teens, C Lazy U Ranch provides a perfect backdrop for families to reconnect over gourmet meals served up after a day of hiking, biking, skiing, archery, trap shooting, horseback riding, fly-fishing or simply some relaxing time in the spa tent.
It’s a year-round destination, and each of the four seasons offers its own special activities. But every night throughout the year ends with a gourmet dinner, s’mores by the campfire and a good night’s sleep in the ranch’s on-site cabins that can accommodate anywhere from two to 11 people.
5. When there’s a baby on the way
The Post Ranch Inn, California
The months leading up to the birth of a child are a special time full of joy, anticipation and (let’s face it) a bit of anxiety. Babymoon vacations are a romantic way to celebrate this relationship milestone while allowing couples to enjoy each other’s company before parenthood makes those opportunities for romance a lot harder to come by.
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Big Sur’s ultra-luxurious Post Ranch Inn is a one-of-a-kind lodging experience that’s perfect for a romantic babymoon getaway. Designed to blend into its coastal redwood surroundings, Post Ranch Inn lets you choose from a variety of secluded guest houses with ocean or mountain views, outdoor decks and walk-in showers or oversized soaking tubs, all nestled into the cliffside overlooking the Pacific ocean.
Activities at this adults-only inn include gentle hikes, farm-to-table dining experiences with stunning views, and late-night stargazing. And with no televisions or alarm clocks to distract you, this is a romantic California getaway where you can immerse yourself in rest and relaxation before your little bundle of joy arrives.
5 big family vacations you can take to celebrate life’s milestones originally appeared on FamilyVacationist.com.
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FamilyVacationist.com covers family vacation ideas; family vacation spots; all-inclusive family resorts; and must-have travel accessories for families of all shapes, sizes and orientations. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.