Our girls are currently ages 13 & 16. We started visiting the national parks when our youngest was 8 and capable of doing longer day hikes. By far my favorite family vacation was to Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks, Wyoming. We've been for two weeks in June two years in a row. I'm totally in awe of the natural beauty there!
I'm not sure where the girls would rank their favorite family vacation. One girl loves big cities, art museums & cultural diversity and another is an outdoorsy, animal lover who doesn't feel comfortable in big cities. So we try to get a mix in there with our travel.
Other notable destinations:
Ages 3-12: any major city with zoo, hands-on museums, aquarium, amusement and/or swim park. Visited Indianapolis, Chicago, Orlando, San Diego, Long Beach, San Francisco.
Ages 8-16: national parks, amazing outdoor experiences. Visited Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Badlands, Zion, Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Acadia, Shenandoah, Great Smoky Mountains, hopefully Glacier NP this August.
Ages 10-16: historical, cultural and international travel. Visited Washington, D.C., Colonial Williamsburg, Monticello, Biltmore, Montreal, Quebec City, will be in London & Paris this June.
No matter the age: relaxed time spent together, exploring, hiking, biking, beach-combing, eating locally, visiting with extended family. Mackinac Island, Florida Keys.
Cost savings: Using hotel points earned through business travel for free nights, companion travel tickets from rewards credit cards, combine work & pleasure trips, grocery shop & fix simple meals on the go, limit souvenir buying, use combination passes to local attractions or buy family memberships that have reciprocity or discounts. Most important of all budget & save in other ways elsewhere so a vacation splurge isn't guilt or debt producing.
The kids are growing up too fast!!!! I dread the day when we don't vacation together due to different schedules, other interests or our health.