Tips to plan the perfect Maryland family vacation

Parents and kids alike can agree: there’s nothing like a family vacation to make memories. Whether you’re searching for some down time or want the kids to experience something fun this summer, there is no shortage of activities in Maryland—everything from kid friendly activities, museums and family-friendly restaurants to amusement parks and beautiful beaches.

Close-by is Washington D.C. which is also a city full of history, museums, monuments, and kids—a nearly perfect combination for the ultimate weekend trip. But deciding where to visit can be overwhelming even if you live in the area because there are so many options!

In both states, there are a ton of free and paid things to do for the entire family.  That’s why we’ve made it easy by putting together this list of travel tips to help you plan the ultimate family trip to Maryland.

If you live in Maryland and are looking to load up your calendar with 100 great places to check out in Maryland, look no further!

Do research online

Check out travel blogs or travel websites which list out some of the top family locations in Maryland and Washington, DC. Look out for places that are popular with young kids or toddlers as they will be able to experience new things easily without getting too overwhelmed.

Maps of the location can also come in handy when you are on your trip, especially if you have older children who are able to venture around on their own. Maryland is full of a ton of indoor play areas for your kids, Baltimore National Aquarium, (check out our experience and why you need to take your kids to the National Aquarium too), and the Maryland Science Center. There are also two top zoos, the Maryland Zoo and the National zoo in DC and both are worth checking out.

Also check out Maryland’s official tourism website and Washington DC tourist site to help you get started on ideas for your vacation.

For young kids, Port Discovery is a perfect place to spend a full day playing and learning at the same time. You can spend days just hanging out in Baltimore because of the variety of experiences it provides. The Baltimore Inner Harbor offers a range of experiences for families and your trip is not complete without a visit here. Its also a central location for some of the most popular attractions you can find in Maryland.

When you are done in Baltimore, you can make your way over to the National Harbor where you can also shop around and hop on a boat ride.

Don’t miss: Tips for visiting museums with your kids.

On the east coast side of Maryland, you will find Ocean City Boardwalk which has so many fun experiences ranging from amusement rides, shopping, restaurants, beach and so much for every member of your family.

A top outdoor attraction for families is Six Flags America which is one of the most fun things in Maryland. It has rides for both young kids and adults and if you are a thrill seeker like myself, you will love it.

Get the timing right

This is probably a no-brainer. Take a look at school calendars to ensure that you are not planning your trip during school breaks or important events such as exams. Also check out peak tourist seasons for certain attractions as these tend to be crowded and maybe harder to get through everything.

Some of these places also hold events several times during the year so check their websites to see if you can catch any of them.

Plan out the itinerary in great detail

Decide what each day of the trip will be about and prepare according to that plan. For instance, if a day is going to be spent at Six flags America, ensure that you have enough swimsuits for everyone so you can all play in the water park. Also have some sunscreen, snacks and packed foods.

If the day involves sightseeing around the various Baltimore museums, science centers etc, plan out a route which you can follow by car so that your children will not get too tired from walking.

Don’t miss: Tips for planning a trip to the zoo with a toddler

Talk about the plans with your family members

Talk to your spouse and children about the trip and get a sense of what they want to do. This will enable you to make a detailed plan which ticks everyone’s boxes. You may even want to get ideas of what everyone loves to do in order to touch on something for everyone throughout the trip.

Look for free things to do in Maryland

If you are tired of spending your hard earned money on stuff? No problem, cause Maryland has many free things to do that are fun and educational for your family.

There is the Washington County museum of fine arts, Walters art museum, Baltimore museum of art, US Naval Academy museum.  The Baltimore zoo is paid, but there is also the Salisbury zoo which is free and so is the DC National zoo.

You can also enjoy a day shopping in the historic Ellicott city going through antique shops with unique items. Take a bike or walk along the C & O Canal which begins in DC and ends in Cumberland.

If you are in the mood for a beach, drive down to Ocean City which also has a variety of free activities for families.

Prepare for the unexpected

Life has a habit of throwing curveballs at you, so it is best to be prepared for the unexpected. It is a good idea to pack an extra swimsuit, shirt or pants for everyone in case of any unfortunate accidents or spills which can happen in crowded places.

Forgetting something crucial does not mean that your trip will be ruined – there are many shops in most destinations where you can pick up what you need at affordable prices.

Tailor your trip to suit your children

If you have young children, plan a trip which does not involve too many long journeys. Find activities which are specifically designed for their age group or find attractions with play areas. Check out this amazing list of indoor play areas for your kids while in Maryland.

Allow your kids reinvent the art of play at Port Discovery in Baltimore. They can also catch a dolphin show at the National Aquarium, touch some dinosaurs and some space explorations at the Maryland Science Center.

There is also the Adventure Park USA which is the largest entertainment center for families in Maryland and is perfect for kids and available all year round. Your kids will also love seeing the Penquins at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. Stop over to cool down and build sand castles on Maryland’s beaches, and get their thrill out at Six Flags America.

As you can see Maryland is definitely full of limitless opportunities of fun for your entire family.

Take advantage of any free time

If you have no other pressing commitments, take advantage of the free time that you may have by exploring or having a romantic dinner. You will be able to enjoy each other’s company without being distracted by others if you are alone, which will make for a more relaxing break.

Plan great places to eat

While on vacation, its important to not only plan activities, but also plan out places to eat ahead of time. A mistake myself and my family have made several times is forgetting the closing times of restaurants especially during lunch and then we end up scrambling around for something to eat. Often times you could grab a quick bite at the hotel for breakfast or get some bagels on your way out.

Einstein bagels and  THB Bagels are awesome for quick bites. When it comes to having a full breakfast or brunch, Blue moon café and Miss Shirleys take the award, you do have to get there early as they do not usually take reservations and the lines are long, plan to wait at least 30minutes or more.

A signature meal in Maryland is the steamed blue crab so while you are here, you might as well try to catch a Crab fest!

The inner Harbor Baltimore has a vast variety of places you can eat, ranging from quick bites, to full meals, romantic dinners etc.

Don’t miss: 100 Days of fun kids summer activities

Define your budget

You need to define your budget for your family vacation, then plan your trip around that budget. Before you even start planning, though, make sure that everyone in the family has input on where they want to go and what they want to do on your trip.

Take a moment to sit down, calculate all of your costs and figure out how much money you can spend on your vacation. In order to do this, you’ll need to include items such as hotel fees, airfare or gas if you’re driving somewhere, food expenses and spending money.

Pick your hotel

Pick the right hotel for your family vacation, preferably a family friendly resort. In downtown Baltimore, a few family friendly hotels close to attractions are SpringHill Suites Baltimore Downtown/Inner Harbor, Residence Inn Baltimore Downtown/ Inner Harbor. Close to BWI airport, you have Hyatt Place Baltimore BWI Airport. Check out our post on tips to have a successful hotel stay with kids.

Plan your transportation

If you would not be renting a car or have access to a car, there are some other options of transportation. Inner harbor Baltimore has the The Charm City Circulator, a free downtown bus system to help visitors and residents get around. Buses run about every 15 minutes.

If you have older kids or just want a different experience, you can try the Dockless scooters and bicycles to ride throughout the city for a small fee. There are also the MTA bus, subway and Light rail services.

Whatever mode of transportation you choose, here are some road trip car games for kids to enjoy.

Pick your flights

Purchase the tickets to your destination. If you are flying to your destination, purchase the flight tickets in advance. If you are going overland, purchase the tickets for the bus, train or a boat in advance. Have a tight travel budget? consider taking a local transportation to your destination and use public transportation.

Taking a flight? you can come to Maryland through the Baltimore- Washington Internation airport (BWI) or from Washington, DC through Reagan airport (DCA) and Dulles International airport (IAD).

Things to pack in your car for your trip

Whether you’re going on a road trip in Maryland, to the beach or even in your backyard, here’s what you should pack in the car for your family vacation with kids:

1. Toys and activities  to keep everyone busy;

2. Snacks and drinks;

3. Sunglasses and hats for everyone;

4. Blankets to sit on;

5. Camera to capture all the memories;

6. First-aid kit for all possible emergencies that might happen during the trip;

7. Sunscreen and insect repellent, especially if you’ll be outdoors for a while;

8. Wipes, tissues and hand sanitizer for quick cleanups.

Planning a family vacation on a budget

It seems like everywhere you look there is an article about how to travel on a budget, but what if you want to make your next family vacation as cheap as possible?

    These five tips will help ensure that your family has the budget for fun during their next trip.

Check out off season rates

Many hotels and other travel destinations have lower rates during the off-season.   Make sure you check out what your desired destination offers before planning a trip during peak season, where prices are generally higher.

Look for family friendly hotel discounts

Many hotels offer discounted rates to families who will be staying with children.   If there are no kids in the group, call and see if there is a surcharge.   If you plan to stay for multiple nights, ask about monthly rates or other discounts that may be available.

Pack snacks

Food and drinks at airports and on the plane can cost an arm and a leg.   Pack your own snacks and water bottles before heading out on your trip.

Go all inclusive

In an effort to save money, many people turn to room service or order from restaurants as they explore their destination.   This can be very expensive as you are not taking advantage of discounts offered to hotel guests for on-site restaurants.   Before going on vacation try to find a hotel that has all inclusive rates as this will include breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as any snacks you may want throughout the day.

There you have it, I hope you find this post super helpful when next you are planning a family vacation to Maryland. Be sure to refer to this post, comment and share with friends!

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