Our unforgettable and fun family summer vacations

Our 2016 Summer Vacation: Fun, Crazy, Unforgettable

In Travel inspiration, What we have been up to by JurgaThis post may contain affiliate links, which means that we may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. More info: Disclosure.

On the 30th of June school was out and we were both wondering how in the world we would keep the kids busy for 62 days. Tomorrow, on the 1st of September, we will be driving the kids to school wondering where the time went.

I have to admit that I have very mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I’m glad that the kids will be back to school tomorrow and I will finally be able to get something done without getting interrupted every half a minute. On the other hand, I cannot believe the long-awaited summer vacation is over.

Vacation full of unforgettable experiences, amazing places, and so many great memories. I’ll probably need the whole winter to write about even a small part of what we’ve seen and done, but for now – here is a short overview and 29 pictures of some of the fun, crazy and unforgettable things we did this summer.

Switzerland, France, Yellowstone, Arches National Park, Rocky Mountains, the Netherlands… these are just a couple of places we visited with kids this summer. I look at the thousands of pictures on my computer and cannot believe they are all from the last two months… I wonder if I will ever get our family albums up-to-date…

Looking for some travel inspiration in the U.S. or Europe? This post should give you plenty of ideas for your next trips. 

 

Most Beautiful Roads

People often say that it’s all about the journey, not the destination. So here are some pictures of those amazing journeys in between the – just as amazing – destinations.

We drove some of the world’s most beautiful roads this summer! From the highest continuous paved road in the United States – Trail Ridge Road which reaches an elevation of 12,183 feet to the longest causeway in the Netherlands crossing 32 km over the sea…

Arches Scenic Drive, USA

We never expected Arches National Park to be so scenic. It exceeded all our expectations!

This National Park isn’t that big, but it has so much to offer! The good thing is that you can see so much just by taking short stops along the main scenic drive. Yes, there are some amazing hikes in Arches, but even if you don’t hike, you’ll be able to experience the most incredible sceneries!

LEARN MORE: Arches Scenic Drive

Here you can find more inspiration for the best things to do in Arches National Park and also the best things to do in Canyonlands National Park, just nearby.

Scenic road at Arches National Park
Arches National Park, USA
Beautiful road at the Arches National Park Window Section
Arches National Park, USA
 

Grand Teton National Park, USA

I have to admit that I expected more of Grand Teton National Park, but you wouldn’t tell it when driving this beautiful road.

From everything we saw and did in Grand Teton, simply driving the scenic road through the park, was the highlight. The scenery is stunning!

READ ALSO: One Day in Grand Teton National Park

Scenic Road in Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park, USA
 

Scenic Highway 128 in Utah, USA

I read about this road by coincidence when preparing for our visit to the Moab area (close to Arches and Canyonlands).

It was described as ‘Utah’s best-kept secret’. The pictures don’t do it justice – it’s definitely one of the most beautiful roads, ever!

READ ALSO: Moab Itinerary

Scenic highway 128 through Castle Valley in Utah
Scenic Hwy 128 in Utah, USA
 

Afsluitdijk, Netherlands

Afsluitdijk in the Netherlands is a 32km – long causeway over the sea. It’s literally a highway in the seas.

Driving here is very impressive, maybe even more so because of the stormy weather we had that day… Nevertheless, I’d love to redo this on a sunny day.

Afsluitdijk 32km road across the sea in the Netherlands
Afsluitdijk 32 km causeway across the sea, Netherlands
 

Furka Pass, Switzerland

There are many beautiful roads in Switzerland, but you won’t find them driving the highways… The mountain passes are the most spectacular, of course. So if you’re visiting Switzerland in the summer, make sure to drive a few mountain passes. It’s a not to be missed experience!

Probably the most famous mountain passes in Switzerland are the three passes very close to each other Furka Pass, Susten Pass, and Grimsel Pass.

Furka pass in Switzerland
Furka Pass, Switzerland
 

Unbelievable Places

We visited some incredibly beautiful places this summer. Charming little towns, stunning landscapes, erupting geysers and the most unbelievable nature creations… All this and so much more – check it out!

Yellowstone National Park, USA

I’d need a couple of hundred pictures to even try to describe the amazing diversity and beauty of America’s oldest National Park. Grand Prismatic Spring, Old Faithful Geyser, Mammoth Hot Springs, or Yellowstone Canyon – these are just a few of the incredible natural wonders you’ll find in Yellowstone.

We loved Yellowstone so much that we have written lots of guides to help you plan a memorable visit of your own. Take a look at a few featured articles below or go straight to our Yellowstone Travel Guide for a complete overview!

Grand Prismatic Spring - Yellowstone NP, USA
Grand Prismatic Spring -Yellowstone NP, USA
Family trip to Yellowstone NP - Castle Geyser
Castle Geyser – Yellowstone NP, USA
Geyser errupting at Biscuit Basin in Yellowstone NP
Biscuit Geyser Basin in Yellowstone, USA
 

Maroon Bells, USA

If there is one place that was absolutely worth getting out of bed for early in the morning, then it’s the Maroon Bells near Aspen, Colorado.

These are the most-photographed mountains in the United States. And when you see the unbelievable reflections early in the morning, you understand why!

LEARN MORE: Maroon Bells

Maroon Bells reflections. Aspen Colorado
Maroon Bells, USA
 

Colmar, France

I cannot believe that we passed Colmar so many times on our way to Switzerland without ever taking the time to visit. This town is so picturesque that it’s hard to believe it’s even real. But it sure is! One of the most beautiful towns in France.

Petit Venise Colmar France
Petit Venise in the fairytale-like town of Colmar, France
 

Giethoorn, Netherlands

Giethoorn has to be the most beautiful village in the Netherlands! There are no streets here, only the canals. Instead of walking or driving around, you have to take a boat to explore this fairytale village.

Just don’t be like us and if you can avoid it, don’t go when it rains. See further.

READ ALSO: Best Day Trips from Amsterdam

Giethoorn, the Netherlands
Giethoorn is also called the Venice of the Netherlands
 

Ice Grotto, Switzerland

If you ever want to walk in a real ice tunnel, you can do so in Switzerland. Last winter we visited the Ice Grotto at Mount Titlis. This summer – the one at the earlier-mentioned Furka Pass.

We have a short video of the walk on our Facebook page – check it out!

Ice cave at Furka Pass in Switzerland
Walking in a tunnel under the glacier in Switzerland
 

Alkmaar, Netherlands

One of the most fascinating things we did this summer was visiting the world’s most famous cheese market, Alkmaar Cheese Market.

LEARN MORE: Alkmaar Cheese Market

Alkmaar cheese market in the Netherlands
Alkmaar cheese market, Netherlands
 

Dinant, Belgium

If you like fairytale-like little towns, you’ll love the charming little town Dinant in the French-speaking part of Belgium.

LEARN MORE: Dinant, Belgium

City of Dinant in Belgium
Beautiful town of Dinant, Belgium
 

Amazing Hikes

Often we had to walk far, really far to get to the most beautiful places. So we hiked a lot. By the end of the summer, the kids were doing full-day 12-16km (7-10 miles) walks in the mountains as if it was a walk in the park.

Here are some of our favorite hikes from this summer:

Oeschinen Lake, Switzerland

This has to be the most beautiful hike. Ever. We have hiked here years ago, then again this summer, and it had that same WOW effect on us again.

Even as I’m updating this article years later, this hike is still our favorite in the whole world. Furthermore, it remains one of Switzerland’s best-kept secrets.

LEARN MORE: Oeschinen Lake Hike

Kids hiking at Oeschinensee Kandersteg Switzerland
Our favourite hike ever – Oeschinensee, Switzerland
 

Delicate Arch Trail, USA

If you do just one hike at the Arches National Park, make it this one! Not only does it bring you to the foot of the most beautiful of all the natural arches in the park, but the scenery along the hike is well worth the effort as well!

LEARN MORE: Hiking to Delicate Arch with Kids

Hiking to the Delicate Arch with kids
Hiking to the Delicate Arch, USA
 

Crater Lake Hike at the Maroon Bells, USA

If you are ever in Colorado, don’t miss the Maroon Bells near Aspen and don’t miss the hike to the nearby Crater Lake.

The Crater Lake is a hidden treasure at the end of this walk!

LEARN MORE: Maroon Bells & Crater Lake Trail

Maroon Bells Crater Lake hike with kids
Hiking to the Crater Lake at Maroon Bells. Colorado, USA
 

Uncle Tom’s Hike Yellowstone

With more than 300 steps, this hike is not for everyone. For us, this was the most beautiful hike in the Yellowstone National Park!

READ ALSO: Best Things To Do in Yellowstone With Kids

Uncle Tom's Trail Yellowstone Canyon with kids
Hiking Uncle Tom’s Trail with more than 300 steps. Yellowstone Canyon, USA
 

Four Lakes Hike in Engelberg, Switzerland

This is an extremely beautiful hike in Central Switzerland. You start at Trübsee in Engelberg, follow a series of cable cars and hiking trails, and pass stunning lakes and Alpine pastures that truly make you feel like you’re walking inside a postcard.

LEARN MORE: Four Lakes Hike in Engelberg

Hiking the Four Lakes Trail in Switzerland with kids
Four Lakes hike
 

Crazy Stuff We Did This Summer

Now that I think of it, we didn’t even get to one single theme park this summer. But we (and the kids) had plenty of fun!

Fighting with knights, rafting and swimming in the Colorado River, climbing the rocks, swimming in the warm geyser-fed river in Yellowstone, riding a toboggan in the Swiss mountains, touching a bone of a long-extinct dinosaur…

But the craziest of it all was taking a little boat for a ride in the pouring rain in Giethoorn, in the Netherlands. Amazing place, but don’t ever go on a little boat in such bad weather… I don’t think we will ever forget this experience! My mom was with us and I am afraid that she will never join us on a trip again. Sorry, mom!

Boat ride in the rain in Giethoorn, Netherlands

Do you know that the name Giethoorn comes from ‘gieten‘, which translates into English as ‘to pour‘. No wonder it was pouring the whole day!

And since the best way to explore this village is by boat, we went for a boat ride in the pouring rain. Trying to drive a boat on these narrow canals was really tough, but the rain on top of it all just made it a truly hilarious experience.

Riding a boat in the rain in Giethoorn Netherlands
The craziest thing we did this summer – boat ride in the pouring rain. Giethoorn, Netherlands.
 

Picture time at Double Arch, USA

Have you ever seen Asian tourists take pictures? They jump and they do all kinds of crazy things – these people must have the most amazing photo albums!

Our kids were watching others ‘pose’ for pictures and decided that they could do it just as well.

Getting a sharp picture of three jumping kids at low light in the evening was not meant to be, but we had so much fun trying!

Jumping for a picture at the Double O Arch in Arches NP, USA
Jumping for a picture at the Double Arch in Arches NP, USA
 

Rafting on the Colorado River, USA

Rafting was not in our plans, but what do you do when it’s over 43°C (110°F) for days in a row… It was too hot even on the raft, so we all went swimming in the river. Even the kids joined in!

LEARN MORE: Rafting in Moab

Rafting and swimming in the Colorado river, USA
Rafting and swimming in the Colorado river, USA
 

Dinosaur National Monument, USA

We never really cared much for dinosaurs before we visited this amazing place. Dinosaur National Monument is an impressive place, a site where they found so many dinosaur fossils. Just take a look at the picture of my son at one of the ‘tiny’ dinosaur bones!

Kids are all into dinosaurs right now! We even have (toy) dinosaur eggs sitting in the water waiting to hatch.

Touch a dinosaur bone at Dinosaur National Monument, Utah
Touching hundreds of millions years old dinosaur bone. Dinosaur NM, USA
 

Boiling River, Yellowstone NP, USA

Don’t be mislead by the picture below. Boiling River is a real mountain river with a very strong current. And the water is cold. But there is a place where it gets mixed with the water from the nearby geysers, and it’s like sitting in a hot tub. Swimming here is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

LEARN MORE: Boiling River, Yellowstone

Swimming in the Boiling River in Yellowstone
Swimming in the Boiling River, Yellowstone NP, USA
 

Toboggan in Kandersteg, Switzerland

When the kids heard about the toboggan run in the mountains, they were so excited that they didn’t even complain during the 5-6 hour hike we did that day. As long as they could go tobogganing afterward!

I have to admit that I was just as excited as they were. Sledding down the mountain was so exhilarating.

Until now, we’ve never done anything like this before. But now that we got the taste of it, we go tobogganing everywhere where it’s available. And it’s getting more and more popular in various mountain destinations in Europe.

Toboggan ride in Kandersteg Switzerland
Toboggan ride in the Swiss Alps
 

Snow in the summer, Rocky Mountains, USA

It’s always surreal when you can play in the snow on a hot summer day. On top of the Trail Ridge Road in the Rocky Mountain National Park, we found some snow in the middle of the summer. Kids loved it!

READ ALSO: Rocky Mountain National Park Itinerary

Kids playing in the snow in summer - Trail Ridge Road Rocky Mountains
Playing in the snow on a hot summer day
 

Fighting with knights, Belgium

Sometimes I envy our kids – everywhere we go, they can do so many things that are ‘for kids only’, things we never ever tried.

Like fighting with knights with real swards which they could hardly lift… Oh well, at least we could join them on the toboggan.

Kids fighting with knight swards
Fighting with knights, Belgium
 

So, this is a small part of our summer vacation. Hope you enjoyed reading this post! If this inspired you to plan a trip of your own, check our American road trip itinerary for some ideas and practical tips.

Read also:

If you enjoyed reading this, bookmark and share this post. Are you on Pinterest? Pin this image!

Travel inspiration for a fun, crazy, unforgettable family summer vacation. 29 amazing pictures and short stories - check it out!
 

Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your travel experience with us.

    1. Author

      Hope you found some travel inspiration for your trips?!
      Happy travels!

  2. Thank you Jurga for the wonderful blogs, so helpful when trying to plan a holiday.
    I loved the Italian Riviera blog as we are planning on travelling in September or October this year.
    We are travelling from Australia (we love to drive & have had some fantastic driving holidays)& ? flying into Venice at this stage, staying for a couple of days, then to Verona (somewhere hiring a car) & then driving to the Dolomites, Innsbruck & into Switzerland, down to Italian Riviera via Trento
    Many forums have said train it, in Switzerland but hubby likes to drive. Can we do it easily driving, know we need vingette & lots of tolls?
    Any suggestions?
    Looking at visiting Chur, Zurich, Basel, Lucerne, maybe a train trip from a town we stay in for a day trip.
    Where was the toboggan ride the family did in the alps?

    1. Author

      Hi Sue, glad you found lots of inspiration for your trip. We are actually just back from that area (Northern Italy/ Austria) and had a great time. I would never advise to travel there by train – having a car gives you so much more flexibility in terms of itinerary and unexpected finds along the way. Just make sure to ask that you are allowed to drive in Switzerland when you rent a car in Italy (I don’t expect problems, but better check because it’s outside the EU). And try to spend some time in the beautiful nature in Switzerland and Austria and Italy – there is so much more to see than just the towns.
      If you are looking for a nice train trip, try Bernina Express from Chur or Jungfraujoch in Central Switzerland from Lauterbrunnen.
      As for the tolls, in Italy there are many toll roads, you just take a ticket every time when you enter such a road and when you leave you insert a ticket and can pay the amount shown by credit card (or cash). In Austria you have to buy a sticker that is valid for a certain number of days and it allows you to drive on the highways during that period. There are stickers for various durations, so pick the one that covers your time there. You can buy them at the petrol stations near the Austrian border. In addition, there are some other roads where you have to pay extra toll, but we didn’t come across any of those. In Switzerland there is also a toll you have to pay and you just buy a sticker at the border (people who check the cars and passports also sell these toll stickers). It costs 40 CHF and is valid the whole year. I’m not sure they take credit cards, it’s best to pay cash in Swiss Frank. They take Euro as well, but charge you much more that way…
      The toboggan ride we did in Switzerland was at Oeschinensee in Kandersteg, but the one we did in Tyrol (Austria) this year was so much more fun – it’s much much longer. You can find practical info in this post: Tyrol with kids. And no, it’s not just for kids 😉 In the same area you can also find the Highline 179 suspension bridge – also very much worth a visit.
      I could give you tips to fill a couple of months – there are so many beautiful places in that region you are planning to visit. It’d be tough to make an itinerary because you always have to choose where to visit and what to skip…
      Have a wonderful trip!

  3. Man, your kids will have some stories to tell when they get back to school! Such beautiful experiences they will have to remember for the rest of their lives. You pictures also pay as a remind for me to get my butt to Switzerland soon. It is far to beautiful for me not to set foot there.

    1. Author

      Switzerland is definitely worth a trip, Bianca. There’s so much to see and do!

  4. Amazing pictures, shows what a wonderful time you and family had. Great to see how the summer holidays had been utilised so well. Pictures of yellowstone are making me remember America oh so well.

    1. Author

      Thank you so much, Fee. Yellowstone is one of a kind, isn’t it?

  5. How amazing!!! And to think all I ever did on my summer vacations was run around my backyard and then whine to my mom how bored I was! hahaha..I am so inspired by everything you packed into your family’s summer vacation. I hope to do something similar someday when I have a family of my own!

    1. Author

      Why do you think we pack so much in our vacations?! It’s more of a survival strategy 😉 There is nothing worse than a bored child, let alone three of them…

  6. Colmar looks gorgeous! You’ve had quite a variety of trips in contrasting landscapes 🙂

    1. Author

      Yes, indeed, Daniela – this summer was very varied destination-wise. Keeps the kids interested 😉

  7. Wow looks like a great trip. I’m a teacher and all I can say is well done for giving your kids such an interesting summer with lots to talk about when they get back to school! Amazing photos as well!

    1. Author

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, Cliodhna! Appreciate it!

  8. WOW, what an amazing summer!! Stunning pictures too, I really want to go to Arches and Grand Teton – they lok spectacular. Your kids will remember this summer for life!

    1. Author

      Thank you so much, Aparna. You’ll love Arches – no doubt. But if you can, go there in spring or in autumn – the heat is just not bearable in summer! We were lucky with some storm clouds that covered the sun, otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to do any hiking at all with temperatures of over 100°F all the time. As for Grand Teton, it’s nice, but if you’ve seen Swiss mountains or Banff or Jasper in Canada, then it’s a bit disappointing. If it’s your first mountain destination, you’ll love it – it’s always about what you compare it to I suppose.

  9. Wow! How did you manage to fit all that I to 1 Summer.? My kids are all grown up now but I remember the challenges of keeping them entertained over the summer break.

    1. Author

      We live in Europe, so the only really ‘big’ trip was the one to the U.S. All the rest wasn’t even planned in advance and just happened spontaneously. We’re just 2-8 hours drive away from all of the places in Europe that I mentioned here. Sometimes you just have to make the time for it.

  10. Wow you have been to some amazing places. Your children are so lucky and are going to have some great stories to tell their friends.. I can’t believe you managed to fit all these places in. Your photos have made me want to go to each of these places.

    1. Author

      Thanks, Kathy. I don’t know if the kids will remember much after a while, but they do now and they tell me about the things they liked the most, etc. It’s great, because a few years ago they didn’t even remember what we did a week or two before. 😉 It’s more about the experiences at the moment itself rather than long-term memories at this age I suppose.

  11. I cannot believe you fitted all this into 2 months! I felt sure I was seeing photos from your archives over these last 2 months on social media, but no, you did soooo much. I love your photos Jurga-they tell a story.
    Looking forward to the posts to come. Especially the Utah ones-that’s somewhere that has got my interest lately.

    1. Author

      Thank you so much, Alex. I really appreciate your comment about the pictures – it’s the biggest compliment you could give!

  12. I bet your kids will never forget this summer! We didn’t pack as much as you did into ours, but we did visit the Azores and the New England states and made plenty of great memories. You are the second person to talk about how gorgeous Colmar is. It is definitely going on my bucket list!

    1. Author

      Glad you found some inspiration in this post, Katelyn! If you make it Colmar, plan at least a couple of days in the area – Strasbourg is nice as well and the whole Alsace region is just amazing! There are so many more beautiful towns that are worth visiting in the area – you’ll love it!

  13. You have some great photographs here, looks like s great summer break!

  14. Wow, it looks like you had a most amazing summer holiday! You have taken some great photos too. I love the look of Yellowstone National Park and Arches National Park, but you have been to some pretty cool places in Europe too. Lucky children 🙂

    1. Author

      Thanks, Amanda. As I said, we’re from Europe so most of this is pretty close to home. Nevertheless, I’m glad we finally took the time to get to some long-ignored places and to revisit some old favourites.

  15. i think its so great, when families do roadtrips together. and i will defietely try a few of the road you sugested for my next roadtrip (wthout any kids, but who nows what might happen in a few years 😉 )

    1. Author

      Thanks, Lucine. And good luck with your travels and the future plans 😉

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