Family travel

8 Great Vacation Ideas for Super-Active Kids

By Erica Patino

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When your child has ADHD, there may be no such thing as a “relaxing” trip. But these family vacation ideas can keep your hyperactive child happily occupied and help everyone else have fun too.

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Kids enyoying a ride at an amusement park
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Theme Parks

Theme parks are full of rides and child-friendly activities, making them one of the top family vacation ideas for kids with ADHD. But be prepared for long lines. It’s a good idea to figure out beforehand which rides or activities your child wants to do most. If possible, try to go to the park on an off-peak day or week or take advantage of services that can shorten the time you spend in line, such as Disney’s FastPass system. You also may want to bring toys or favorite comic books to keep your child entertained while waiting.

Brothers and sisters playing and splashing a resort pool
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All-Inclusive Resorts and Cruises

Kid-friendly resorts and cruises are another family vacation option that can keep your active child entertained. These places often have group activities for kids. When researching possibilities, think about what your child enjoys doing. Make sure there will be activities that match his interests. You can even ask for his input, which may help him engage with the planning process. For example, if your child loves swimming and learning about sea animals, he might be interested in a beach resort that provides snorkeling excursions. Kids with ADHD tend to stay on task better if they enjoy what they’re doing.

Parents and children riding bikes in a national park
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National Parks

If your family enjoys being outdoors, going to a national park can be a great family getaway. It may also be cheaper than many other options. Spending time in nature can be healthy for your child, too—studies link “green time” with milder ADHD symptoms. Look for a park that has a variety of activities such as hiking, fishing or kayaking. Your child might also enjoy collecting things, such as pinecones, or completing some of the park’s Junior Ranger activities. Be sure to bring games and toys for the inevitable downtimes.

Family feeding a giraffe at a zoo
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Zoos and Aquariums

Zoos and aquariums can be entertaining ways to teach your child about the natural world. And they offer a chance for your active child to move around and see lots of different exhibits. Look for places that offer interactive activities like feeding barnyard animals or touching rays and sea stars in shallow “touch tanks” or “touch pools.” As with amusement parks, you might want to find out when things aren’t as busy so your child won’t have to wait in long lines.

Close up of three sisters playing in the sand on a beach with their mother in the background
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Beaches and Lakes

If your family likes warm weather, a beach or lake vacation can be a good choice. At a location like this, your child can stay active by running, swimming or playing beach volleyball. You might look for a place that also offers water sports like waterskiing, rowing or surfing for your child to try with the help of a licensed guide. It’s also good to look for a beach or lake that has a playground or other kid-friendly activities nearby in case your child needs a change of scenery.

A young girl using coni-operated binoculars to view Liberty Island in New York City
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Exploring a City

Help your child burn off energy by exploring an interesting city. Go on long walks in cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco, which have lots of great restaurants, museums and other kid-friendly attractions. Just be aware that you’re likely to encounter long lines at major attractions. You may want to limit the amount of time you spend in really crowded places. And keep in mind that smaller cities can also be a fun break from your usual surroundings!

Brother and sisters sitting on a fence by the animal pens at a ranch
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A Farm or Dude Ranch

A working farm or dude ranch can be a fun place to spend quality family time and keep your child active. Ranches and farms both tend to offer a variety of things to do throughout the day, such as collecting eggs, milking cows, riding horses and swimming. Many dude ranches list on their websites the minimum age for riding on the trail. Look for a ranch or farm with a lot of organized activities to keep your child busy.

Mother and child riding the chair lift up a ski hill
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If your family enjoys cold-weather activities, going to a ski resort can be a great active vacation. Your child can ski or snowboard. Or if he doesn’t want to go downhill, he can try cross-country skiing. Look for a resort with lots of different activities he can try when the novelty of skiing wears off, such as toboggan rides, ice skating or arts and crafts indoors. Whatever vacation you end up choosing, a little preparation can help avoid travel challenges, including sticking to your child’s usual wake time and bedtime. Kids with ADHD do best with a set routine.

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About the Author

Portrait of Erica Patino

Erica Patino

Erica Patino is an online writer and editor who specializes in health and wellness content.

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Reviewed by Molly Algermissen, Ph.D. May 17, 2014 May 17, 2014

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