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Last-Minute Summer Vacation Ideas

Want to make every minute of summer count with one final getaway? With the right inspiration and a little planning, a last-minute summer vacation is totally do-able! Here are some ideas to help you get your season-ending travel arrangements moving in the right direction.  

Shop Wisely

Beware of one snag that can unravel your last-minute travel plans — finding a great deal on one component of your trip but at the cost of paying full-price for another. What good is a cheap flight if you can't find an affordable hotel? Luckily, sites like lastminute.com and Travelzoo.com can help you take a detour around this problem. They specialize in collecting special offers and packages from airlines, hotels and car-rental companies, then vet them and make recommendations based on criteria you specify. Whether you're only three days out from your departure date or you're looking to stay a country club-style resort, sites like these are full of plenty of great vacation ideas.

Houseboats 

Rent a houseboat for a super-relaxed, fun-packed vacation. Because you'll be staying on the water, you and your family can enjoy ready access to activities like swimming, fishing, water-sports (water-skiing, wakeboarding, etc.) and more. You can also return to land in a flash if you like, whether for a picnic on the beach or to explore tide pools and coves. Some of the larger lakes in the country also feature houseboat rental options, meaning you don't have to travel all the way to the coast for a memorable vacation. Browse the Houseboating.org website for destinations, special deals and other options. 

Ranch And Ride Adventures 

Who wouldn't want to be a cowboy, at least for one weekend? Earn your spurs with a genuine Western dude ranch experience. First, hit the trail at the Dude Ranchers Association website. Their directory of ranches can be sorted by state (or province... Canada is home to cowboys, too!) and available activities. Want to actually wrangle some real-life cattle? Looking to finally saddle up and learn to ride? Want to chow down on some honest-to-goodness chuckwagon grub? Or would you prefer to work on your backswing while taking in the wide open spaces of the American West? Staying at a working ranch can be an unforgettable adventure for your entire family.

Road Trips 

When it comes to classic American family vacations, nothing compares to a road trip. Sure, “Are we there yet?” will probably be uttered more than once, but road trips are where lifelong memories are made — the ones that families relive over the years as they tell cherished stories about taking a wrong turn, staying the night in places that are truly off the beaten track and stopping to see if those roadside attractions are worthy of the hype. Check out the Family Travel Forum's Top 10 Family Road Trips USA and get your road maps (or GPS) ready.

Cruises 

Cruise ships depart from ports all over the country. Plus, they’re a good bet for families with kids of all ages, with organized activities for both preschoolers to preteens and independent fun for teens. Landing a short-notice cruise is easier and more cost-effective than you might expect. Start shopping about a month before the cruises you're interested in set sail. Many cruise lines offer special deals to make sure they have a full house — ship, that is. Rooms may be available for as little as about $100 a night if you time your reservations just right. Check out Cruises.jetblue.com or Cruisedirect.com for the latest rates.

Train Travel

Amtrak offers significant discounts to young travelers in late summer. Among their back-to-school specials are 50 percent off regular ticket prices for children as young as two and as old as 12. Student passengers between the ages of 13 and 25 can ride for 15 percent off the price of a regular ticket if they book their travel at least three days in advance. Most long-distance trains are actually guided tours as well. You'll be accompanied by a volunteer guide who can tell you more about points of interest and answer questions about the historic and culturally significant places you'll be passing through — such as one of more than 50 National Parks. No matter where you travel by train, the ride is sure to provide great sightseeing. In fact, "Country Living" magazine just named Amtrak's Seattle-to-Los Angeles Coast Starlight route "the most beautiful train ride in America." So what are you waiting for? Let's roll!

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