How to plan a big family beach getaway

Making the most of your trip to the coast

The numbers are in, and they’re no surprise. Expedia’s annual Flip Flop Report confirms what we all know in our hearts. Taking a beach vacation is a universal pastime and it’s especially popular among travelers planning—or daydreaming about—their ideal family getaways. In fact, when asked to rate destination characteristics from “not important at all” to “very important,” more people listed family-friendly activities and amenities as “very important” than any other criteria. Maybe because soaking up some vitamin D and playing in waves are two activities everyone from Baby Kiesha to Great Uncle Dan can agree on.

What’s more, the Flip Flop Report (FFR) reveals that the average American traveler starts planning their getaway 40 days before heading for the waterfront! Well, whether you’re taking a quick weekend family getaway or a more extended stay, check out this family-friendly and crowd-pleasing travel advice and start gathering everyone and your cousin Sam for an unforgettable seaside excursion—especially cousin Sam.

Via Top: Flickr/Miles Gehm; Bottom Left: Flickr/jcookfisher; Bottom Right: Flickr/Łukasz Lech

1. Safety First

According to the FFR, safety is the foundation of fun family getaways. In beach destinations, this includes water safety and the overall vibes of the city. In America’s most-visited coastal states—Florida, California, and Hawaii—there are lots of safe stretches of sand. As you plan, be aware of stingray, jellyfish, and shark migration seasons and safety instructions near the coastline of your choice. You can still travel during those times, with a keen eye on the water.


There are loads of awesome things to do in Honolulu for the whole family, and splashing around Ala Moana Regional Park is one of our favorites. Located between historic downtown and wondrous Waikiki, this beach is calm, clean, and has a lifeguard on duty. Got your heart set on the Golden State? Check out Coronado, Mission Beach, and La Jolla Shores in San Diego. These beaches are safe for all ages—no party crowd problems here—and lifeguards are prompt and prepared to deal with anything from choppy tides to stingrays. Be respectful of the sea lions!

2. The More the Merrier

From transportation to activities and dining out, booking and reserving travel for a party of more than one can be difficult and expensive, especially in an unfamiliar city. Before you set any details in stone, check the destination of your choice for attractions with family rates and restaurants that serve large parties and multi-generational menus.

Luckily for your crew, beaches are spacious and generally free—no reservations required. Fill your getaway with other equally easy options, like walking trails, nature reserves, historical sites, and trendy town squares. When it comes to planning getaways for families, foresight is a super power.

3. Democracy Rules

You likely don’t have the time or energy to do everything that each family member has on their “must list.” That’s OK! There’s always next time. But, to make sure everyone gets to do at least something they will enjoy, make planning a conversation and curate a variety of cool options so that no one feels unheard—even the kiddos. Setting aside time for breaking into pairs for some activities also helps to take the pressure off creating the perfect, please-everyone vacation.

4. Exploring Solo

Every once in a while, you need a break from the hive mind. Even your family’s extroverts will agree that they don’t want to tackle the whole itinerary as a big group. Scheduling some solo or small-group exploring into your trip is easy in many of the best beach towns. Find an attraction or area in the city where there are lots of varied things to do and comfortable places to stop and recharge. Before you disperse, make sure everyone knows who is with whom, and pick a time and location to meet after these adventures.


Balboa Park is an awesome option, as it’s home to many of San Diego’s top attractions, including several museums, unique cafes, the San Diego Zoo, and plenty of peaceful greenspaces. The kids and teens will enjoy a trip to the hands-on Fleet Science Center while the adults among you might prefer to shop at the art studios in Spanish Village or stop for drinks at Panama 66 near the Sculpture Garden.


Looking for things to do in Miami? The Wynwood district is an artsy break from the beach scene. It’s home to colorful murals, live entertainment, and food truck fare at the Wynwood Yard—you’ll find a little something for everyone.

5. Enriching Eats & DIY Dining

Part of getting to know a new place is sampling local flavors in a popular restaurant. Make dinner a cultural event with music, dancing, and fire at a traditional Hawaiian luau. Hale Koa Hotel in Honolulu is famous for hosting luaus that appeal to all ages, and the signature coconut cake is a mouthwatering treat.


Although some venues are literally too small to accommodate a gathering of extended family, beach towns are known for offering awesome al fresco dining options, which tend to have lots of space and don’t mind the kids’ “outdoor voices.” Catering to everyone’s dietary restrictions and food preferences is a headache waiting to happen. Make it easy on yourself and select a hotel suite with a fully-equipped kitchen, so you can make your own meals on your own schedule. This is also great for your budget, so win, win, win!

Where are you planning your next big family getaway?

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Kohleun Adamson

Kohleun is a fan of high tea in Scottish villages and low tide on Coronado Beach, and she can’t get enough of rolling vineyard vistas. These days it’s no easy feat to pull her away from the California coast, but she can be wooed with Moroccan cous cous and ancient palace ruins. As a writer, Kohleun has a passion for sharing the intricate details of a journey well traveled, whether it involves crossing continents or exploring close to home.

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