Family vacations don’t have to stop once the kids head off to college. We’ve found several family vacation destinations that appeal to young adults and college students, fueling their interests in theater and the arts, world languages, volunteering, sports, and, yes, even Disney. These are the best family vacations with college students.
1. New York, New York
Have college-age kids who love theater and/or are pursuing it in college? New York City’s Great White Way is the perfect family vacation destination for them, with several new shows teens will love. (Tip: NYC Broadway Week takes place in late January, with 2-for-1 tickets to many shows.) Of course, there are plenty of other ways to get in the theatrical spirit in New York City. Grab a bite to eat at Ellen’s Stardust Diner, a classic diner with a singing waitstaff; take a walking tour of the theater district; browse the Drama Book Shop for scripts and sheet music; and in the summertime, head to Shakespeare in the Park.
Recommended Hotel: Millennium Times Square New York
2. London, England
College students today grew up with the Harry Potter books and movies. If you’re looking to immerse your family in the Wizarding World, consider a trip to London. What better place is there to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child than in his West End home? Around the corner from the Palace Theatre, families can find the House of MinaLima (graphic designers to the Wizarding World), as well as a robust shopping scene. Need a bite to eat between Parts 1 & 2 of the Harry Potter play? London’s Chinatown is just a few blocks away. To complete the Harry Potter experience in London, be sure to head to the Warner Bros. The Making of Harry Potter – Studio Tour just outside the city and of course, take time for a photo at Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station.
Recommended Hotel: The Z Hotel Soho
3. Adventures by Disney Danube River Cruise
Perhaps your college kids are more interested in the humanities, history and language? A Danube River Cruise is a perfect way to experience Europe—stopping at eight cities in four different countries while floating from Germany to Hungary (or vice versa). Adventures by Disney arranges special experiences at each port to tell the stories of each city and town, bringing European history and culture to life. Activities include climbing through the treetops, 50 feet about the Bavarian forest floor; sliding into a salt mine beneath the Austrian Alps; hiking to castle ruins that were once home to England’s King Richard the Lionheart in the 1100’s, or exploring world-famous Christmas markets during the holiday season. In addition, there are plenty of gourmet meals both on and off the AmaWaterways ship (Adventures by Disney’s partner).
4. Quebec City, Canada
If a trip overseas isn’t in the budget this year, Canada can also offer immersion in French culture, language, and cuisine. Head to Quebec City to experience its 400 years of history in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Quebec—still the only fortified city in North America outside of Mexico. Established in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain, Quebec City served as the base for French explorers, trappers, and traders until its defeat by the British in 1759. Because at least 95 percent of the population speaks French in Quebec City, the region exudes European charm, and allows your college students to practice their French and sample the French cuisine.
Recommended Hotel: Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac
5. Tulum, Mexico
If you have a college student who’s studying anthropology and archeology in college, Tulum, Mexico, should be your next family vacation. This area features the well-preserved ruins of the Mayan port that date back to 564 AD, and is one of the only remaining Mayan walled cities that sits adjacent to the water. A 45-minute drive from Tulum is also the Mayan pyramid of Coba. Families can enjoy the beach, cenotes, and eco parks, learn the history of the Maya, and practice Spanish language skills as well. Of course, the other advantage of a Tulum vacation is relaxing on the beach and shopping in the trendy downtown area.
Recommended Hotel: Ahau Tulum
6. Dublin, Ireland
Established in 1592, Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, is a popular study abroad destination for American college students. The “long library room” at Trinity College is a must-see spot for book lovers, and is home to the 9th Century Book of Kells, the 15th Century Brian Boru harp national symbol of Ireland, and a copy of 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic. If your students are studying for the semester at Trinity College, be sure to bring the rest of the family to visit. In addition to Trinity College, many of Dublin’s sights are walkable and include St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublinia, Christ Church Cathedral, and the Dublin Castle. The Temple Bar quarter is full of pubs, restaurants, and nightlife, just across from the iconic, 200-year-old, cast-iron Ha’Penny Pedestrian Bridge over the River Liffey.
Recommended Hotel: The Merrion Hotel
7. Kruger National Park, South Africa
If a safari in South Africa has always been on your family’s bucket list, now is the time to go. College-age children are old enough to appreciate this vacation, and can also handle the long flight. Highlights include South Africa’s Kruger National Park, which has large numbers of the “Big 5”–Cape Buffalo, African Elephant, leopard, lion and rhino. Jabulani Safari, located near Kruger National Park in South Africa’s Kapama Game Reserve, is another bucket list destination, with a herd of elephants that date back to the rescue of an abandoned four-month old elephant in 1997.
Recommended Hotel: Jabulani Safari
8. The Rose Bowl – Pasadena, California
Sports is a very large part of many students’ college experience, and, if they go to a Big Ten or Pac-12 university, football doesn’t get any bigger than the “Granddaddy of Them All,” the Rose Bowl. The annual New Year’s Day Tournament of Roses Parade and Rose Bowl football game is a world-wide event viewed by millions every year. The Rose Parade features 40 flower-covered floats, multiple marching bands, and a number of equestrian units that march 5,5 miles down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, California. After the parade, the floats can be viewed up close at the Showcase of Floats. The day is capped by the Rose Bowl Game in the historic Rose Bowl Stadium.
Recommended Hotel: The Langham Huntington
9. Disney World – Orlando, FL
Nothing allows college-age kids to relax after a stressful semester more than a visit to “The Happiest Place on Earth.” There are plenty of entertaining options for college-age students, as well as those spending a semester and longer working in the Disney College Program. There’s always something new to explore at Disney World, and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is sure to be a hit with your college-age kids. Resist the First Order, fly the Millennium Falcon, and soak up the atmosphere in Oga’s Cantina, the local hangout where DJ Rex spins some outer-worldly music.
Recommended Hotel: Disney’s Riviera Resort
10. Give Kids The World – Kissimmee, FL
Today’s college students are highly engaged in their community and want to give back. Universities have many partners and offer all sorts of service-learning trips from hurricane relief to environmental conservation and more. One example of a service-oriented vacation is volunteering at Give Kids The World Village in Kissimmee, Florida (just outside of Disney World). This whimsical vacation resort is where children with life-threatening illnesses stay with their families when they have a wish to visit Central Florida. The Village is always in need of volunteers, and shifts include serving meals, scooping ice cream, providing evening entertainment, and more.
Recommended Hotel: Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center
11. Disney Cruise Line
If your family has enjoyed Disney theme park vacations, maybe it’s time to try Disney Cruise Line. Check out an itinerary beyond Florida, the Bahamas, and Caribbean, such as Mediterranean, Northern European, or Alaska cruises. Disney Cruise Line trips are really two vacations in one. First, families can enjoy all the the entertainment, shows, storytelling and exceptional service of Disney. Second, immerse your family in new cultures and countries during all the ports of your cruise itinerary. The added benefit of cruising with college students is that they can now enjoy the adult areas on the ship, including the Quiet Cove pool, Senses Spa, and adults-only restaurants such as Remy and Palo.
Dave Parfitt lives in Rochester, New York, with his wife and two daughters. A runner with a PhD in neuroscience, he lived in numerous Northeastern and Midwestern U.S. cities before taking a college job in the Finger Lakes. He’s traveled worldwide, but a Walt Disney World trip with two budding princesses is the trip that elicited the family travel wanderlust. He shares his vacation tips and tricks on AdventuresbyDaddy.com.