Whether your family enjoys the tradition of returning to a beloved destination year after year or you seek out a new adventure every summer break, family travel is often among our most vibrant and cherished memories. There’s something special about dedicating this time to disconnecting from the hurried routines and responsibilities of daily life and sharing an experience as a family.
When it comes to family fun, Lancaster County is full of unique experiences for travelers of all ages. From an unforgettable ride with the beloved Thomas the Tank Engine™ at Strasburg Rail Road to the lighthearted thrills found at Dutch Wonderland or the intrigue of discovering a new way of life along the backroads of Amish Country, Lancaster County is an exciting fusion of tradition and the unexpected.
When you’re ready to plan your next trip, try these tips to help create a stress-free family vacation that everyone will enjoy!
Family Travel Tips for Visiting Lancaster County
Set an Itinerary
Ask your children what they’ve enjoyed most about past trips or find out what interests them if this will be their first time traveling. Engage older children to conduct their own research and share their findings. For younger children, use photos of attractions available at your selected destination and see which ideas spark the most excitement. Incorporate activities that are connected to the family traditions you enjoy at home such as challenging each other to a round of mini golf or enjoying an after-dinner ice cream cone. Make a list that includes one to two special activities each day. Be sure to leave time to relax so the children do not feel over-scheduled.
Book a Family Friendly Hotel
Squeezing into a queen bed with a four-year-old is no fun for anyone! Choosing a hotel with family-friendly accommodations is undoubtedly one of the essentials to an enjoyable family trip. Ensure the room will provide enough space for the entire family to sleep and room for lounging. Consider your daily routine when browsing options. Do your kiddos need a bathtub, or would they be just fine in a shower? Will you need a microwave or refrigerator in the room?
At Fulton Steamboat Inn we’ve designed our King with Bunk and Trundle Bed Room, especially for families. This special suite can sleep two adults and three kiddos with room to spare. Plus, an in-room refrigerator and microwave are ideal for preparing snacks or bottles and everyone will enjoy the whimsical nautical theme.
Smart Packing for the Family
No one wants to lug around a heavy suitcase overpacked with items that won’t be used. But under-packing can also be a dilemma for families on the go. Ask each child to bring a favorite toy and a quiet activity. Be sure to bring any comfort items your children can’t go without such as a blankie or a favorite stuffed animal. If you are traveling with little ones in diapers, consider ordering supplies to be shipped to your location from a service like Amazon or scoping out nearby shopping in advance. Pack a soft bin that can be used to corral toys and souvenirs collected over the trip. This will keep your space tidy and help to prevent lost items. Consider bringing along a collapsible mesh laundry hamper to help keep worn clothing off the floor. Create a travel first aid kit with adult and baby pain medicine, bandages, and any prescriptions your family requires. Don’t forget chargers for electronic devices and confirm passwords for streaming services.
Go Light on Gear
Babies and younger kids need a lot of stuff and toting everything around can be a hassle. Many hotels will help to make this easier by offering a crib or pack-and-play with your stay and many rental car services will provide a car seat or booster seat for a small fee. Does your toddler need a full training potty or could an insert over the standard toilet work? Would swapping your daily stroller for a smaller foldable version make travel easier? Baby carriers and slings are also helpful options to consider. You know your children best. If you think the change might be disruptive, don’t risk it. But if you think your little ones are up for it, it could save you a lot of heavy lifting.
Create a Homebase
Proximity is everything when it comes to family travel. Choose a hotel with a centralized location that will cut down on drive time between attractions and provide easy access to return for an afternoon nap or showers before dinner. Onsite amenities can provide a respite from the hustle of travel and sweeten your trip with built-in bonuses.
At Fulton Steamboat Inn, families often enjoy our pirate ship-themed playground, walking trails, and duck pond. Gather around our outdoor fire pits to end the evening or try your luck in our game room. Our indoor pool is perfect for enjoying some family fun. And our on-site restaurant, Huckleberry’s, offers delicious options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner including a complimentary Jr. First Mate’s ice cream sundae after dinner.
Buy Tickets Ahead of Time
Weekends, school breaks, and the summer months are often the busiest travel times in Lancaster County. This means there are bound to be lines or limited availability for the most popular attractions. Plan ahead and purchase tickets and dining reservations in advance. Check out each attraction online to confirm policies on cancellations, weather, and other guidelines. Stay mindful of cultural etiquette when visiting Amish sites including safety tips when sharing the road with Amish buggies.
Bring Snacks (and More Snacks)
Is there anything worse than a hangry toddler…or spouse? Pack snacks. And when those are gone, get more. Opt for non-perishable options that can withstand the heat and are well-established favorites among your family. Lancaster County is known for made-from-scratch PA Dutch recipes that can often entice even the pickiest eaters but having a safe backup is sure to come in handy more than once. Many attractions in Lancaster County provide space for picnicking where your family can take a moment to fuel up with a snack and water. Save room to try an Amish-made soft pretzel or whoopie pie! They are sure to become a family favorite!
How to Sleep Well on Vacation
Have you ever felt exhausted after a vacation? Travel is an exciting experience and it’s only natural to expand the lines of daily routines, but an overtired toddler – or teen – is sure to put a damper on the day’s activities. Plan for rest time during your trip. If your little ones regularly nap, consider building in an afternoon break to allow everyone to rest each day. If your itinerary includes a late night, make time for a slow morning the next day. If you’ll be traveling for more than a weekend, plan a flex day halfway through the trip. If your crew is tired use this time to relax by the hotel pool or enjoy some leisurely shopping at our nearby outlet malls. If you find that your gang still has the gusto, you can use this flex day to plan an extra activity.
To ensure Guests at the Fulton Steamboat Inn get a good night’s sleep, our rooms offer a few added sleep amenities. To create a good sleep experience our guest rooms offer a luxury line of Serta Pillow Top Mattresses, soft cotton-blend sheets and pillowcases, as well as a variety of pillows from firm to fluffy. Want a more serene environment? Our Bluetooth radio/alarm clock allows easy connection to your favorite spa app. We also ask Guests to observe quiet time on all floors after 10 PM.
Slow Down and Have Fun
Travel provides an unmatched opportunity to unwind and try new experiences with our families. Embrace the unexpected. Say “yes” to a few of your kiddos’ wild requests and watch as they grow giddy with excitement. Take a cue from our Amish neighbors and unplug from email and devices. Talk to each other and really listen. Slow down and enjoy these special moments together. Because there is one thing that all parents know, childhood goes by fast, and these moments become more fleeting as our children grow. Take time now to make the memories your family will cherish for a lifetime.
Book a Family-Friendly Hotel in Lancaster County
Whether you are planning a weekend getaway or a weeklong vacation, plan your trip with us aboard the Fulton Steamboat Inn. Our convenient location is just minutes from Dutch Wonderland, Strasburg Rail Road, renowned outlet shopping, and the Amish countryside. Your family will enjoy our fun steamboat ambiance and all the added bonuses included within your stay. From our on-site playground, outdoor firepits, duck pond, indoor pool, fitness center, and game room there’s sure to be something to please every family member – from toddlers to teens. Ask about our free movie rentals when you need a few moments to relax and don’t forget about our free Jr. First Mates ice cream sundae for children under 12 when your family joins us for dinner at our on-site restaurant, Huckleberry’s.
Ready to plan your trip? Contact us to get started!