Growing up, my parents took us camping nearly every year. While I have some pretty fond memories of our mountain camping trips, I also had grown quite bored of them. Every year was the same thing. Mountains and waterfalls all kind of looked the same after 16 years of camping. Plus, we usually spent a few nights hiding in the tent hoping the summer rains wouldn’t flood our tent.
Of course, we always did some fun activities like gold and gem mining. Occasionally the parents would even surprise us with a day trip to Six Flags or some other theme park nearby.
Our summer mountain vacations were our tradition. It was our week (or two) to connect as a family. No TV or video games. And, of course, 4 in a tent meant we all had to get along.
I even remember spending most nights playing games or roasting marshmallows. What else could you do when the sun was setting and you had one measly battery operated camp light? Exactly … family bonding was about it, at the time.
Fast forward to now. I have my own two kids who have only known theme park vacations. My daughter is nearly 6 and has come to expect some pretty expensive vacations. The toddler is much more mobile and is starting to require more leg-stretching. So, I thought a summer mountain vacation would be perfect for everyone.
Unfortunately, my husband and I also began to have reservations about taking the family to the mountains. Both kids require their own rooms to sleep. Frankly, mom and dad like our own space too. We’re all kind of spoiled that way, so camping wasn’t going to work, especially for a first family mountain vacation.
The tot gets fussy in the car for long drives. And, it takes at least a 6 hour drive from our home in Florida to get anywhere close to mountains.
We almost nixed our summer mountain vacation planning. But, I really wanted my kids to have more down to earth expectations of family vacations. And, I thought it would be good for all of us to learn to travel longer distances than a 2 hour drive to Disney World.
So, what is it we decided to do?
Here are my steps for summer mountain vacation planning for families with small children:
First Summer Mountain Vacation Planning for Families with Small Children
*Disclaimer: Affiliate and referral links are included in this post. No other form of compensation was received.
Travel and vacations aren’t exactly easy for families with young children. And, you probably already know that once you’re a parent, a vacation is no longer really considered a vacation. It’s all for the kids. But, there are ways you can plan your first summer mountain vacation so that everyone gets some enjoyment out of it.
Decide On A Location
Make travel time as short as possible if this is your first summer mountain vacation as a family with small children. In our case, I chose an approximately 6 hour drive to get close to mountains in Georgia vs 7 – 8 hours to North Carolina.
The less you have to drive, the more time you’ll have to get settled in to your rental. A huge perk is spending less time in the car with a bored and screaming toddler.
Do a map search of nearby cities or towns and do a quick view to see if there are any waterfalls and national parks showing on the map. Type in the park or waterfall name to see how far your rental destination will be. This will help determine time you’ll need to account for day trips.
Deciding on Accommodations
Appropriate accommodations were an important factor for us. Since my husband had never been on a mountain vacation, he didn’t know what to expect in any capacity. And, because our children won’t sleep if there’s someone in the room with them, giving them their own rooms was important. Tent or Camper camping wasn’t feasible.
Instead, I chose to book a rental home/cabin through Airbnb (this is a referral link! I’ve been really happy with this service and believe you will be, too). This way, I could find a home/cabin with enough rooms for everyone in our travel party.
Of course, take into account everyone’s sleeping arrangement needs. If youre children are co-sleeping or they don’t mind being in the same room, you may consider a smaller cabin, camper, or tent camping!
Learn About Nearby Activities and Attractions
Do a little research to find out what activities are nearby. My husband needed to know there were more traditional/touristy attractions in case “the kids” got bored.
By doing your searches before you book a rental, you’ll have a better idea of where you’re going to want to rent.
In our case, my closest options were North Georgia, North Carolina, or South Carolina. Thankfully, the pro that my dad is, after all the years taking us camping in the mountains, was able to help me start the research. When we decided to stick to North Georgia, dad linked me to 120+ ways to have fun in the North Georgia Mountains.
From that post, I narrowed down more closely where I wanted to end up. I decided on being in between Dahlonega and Helen, GA. So, I then began to dig deeper and researching the top things to do in each of those towns by using Trip Advisor. When you click on things to do, you type in the town or city you might visit. I started with things to do in Helen, GA because I knew it was more touristy. Then, I checked out things to do near Dahlonega, GA.
Decide on the Activities You Want to Do
Make sure to mix it up for everyone. Plan a few completely different activities to entertain everyone in your family and still have them try at least one new activity. For waterfall and hiking activities, plan 2 or 3 and space them at least a day apart.
After all your hard earned planning, don’t forget to take some time to consider what to pack for the mountains if you’re heading off with young children.