5 Back-to-school Breakaways

From European glamping to exploring the wild islands of Maine, here are five last-chance escapes to squeeze in before summer’s end.

By Kara Silva


Before life becomes consumed by the carpool carousel, homework inquisition and extracurricular activity shuffle, it might be worth squeezing in one last extended weekend away with the kids. No time to plan? No worries! These five last-chance summer adventures will surely make the highlight reel when asked, “How did you spend your summer vacation?”

1. Upscale camping in Europe

It’s nature meets culture mixed with resort-style amenities at a fraction of the cost. Pitchup.com, the Airbnb of glamping, has culled campgrounds and RV Parks all over Europe (and beyond), with accommodations ranging from tent and RV campsites to rentable caravans, tipis, yurts and more.

Camping Italia 90 is located directly on the swanky Lake Como in Italy, and boasts on-site kite and wind-surfing lessons from the local school, an artisan gelato parlor next door, a restaurant-bar with a view and free bike rentals.

If Spain sounds more satisfying to your summer whimsy, an hour outside of the bustling Barcelona sits Camping Enmar. The camping resort is situated near the sandy beaches of Costa Brava. By day, take a dip in the palm-tree spotted pool or, for the more adventure-inclined, explore the nearby  15,000 hectares of unspoiled natural beauty and prehistory in the Montnegre i el Corredor Natural Park – once a settlement of Neolithic tribes. Fancy a more unique accommodation?

At The Private Hill in Malton, England, glampers can stay in a luxury geodesic dome with a private balcony overlooking the stunning English countryside. Enjoy sustenance (wine, cheeses and cured meats) at the onsite café and bar or feel refreshed after a yoga class on the hill. 

2. River ramble through the West

Enjoy the thrill and solitude of paddling churning rapids through unspoiled landscapes, before warming up by an open fire while sharing stories under a starry sky. The nomadic element of the overnight rafting adventure gives families an opportunity to unplug and reconnect. Class 2 trips are suitable for children as young as 4 years old.

Through tour operator RaftCalifornia.com, the Northern California Klamath River two-day trip takes families on Class 2 and 3 whitewater rapids, boasts riverside camping on a large sandy beach, abundant wildlife viewing, salmon fishing and a hike to Ukonom Falls. For a 3-5 day trip, head to the Southwest’s Green River – designated one of North America’s most beautiful river canyons – where Class 3 rapids roll through Utah and Colorado.

Tour operator Oars.com offers the Green River (through the Gates of Lodore) trip, which meanders through the heart of Dinosaur National Monument, where Prehistoric fossils and ancient Puebloan ruins enrich the beauty of the red rock scenery.

3. Exploring the magic of Maine’s wild islands

The Maine Island Trail is a 375-mile recreational water trail that connects more than 200 public and private wild islands and mainland sites that are open for day-time exploration or overnight camping. Established by a community of small boaters in the 1980s, the trail runs the entire coast of Maine and stretches from the New Hampshire border to Canada.

Paddling the entire trail would take roughly two to three months, so it’s wise to stick to one of its 10 sections. There is no official route, so extensive planning is necessary for those seeking a self-guided tour, but plenty of professional outfitters offer guided kayak expeditions, which are usually better suited for older children due to lengthy paddling stretches.

Considered one of the best kayak camping destinations along the trail in Southern Maine, the Jewel Island two-day expedition requires less than a full-day paddle (8 to 10 miles) along the open ocean. It leaves from Portland Harbor and includes island-hopping and sunset-viewing of Casco Bay from an Oceanside campsite. Various trip lengths, vessels and destinations are available, including a customizable option.

For an up-to-date Maine Island Trail guide and full access to the mobile app, families interested in visiting the islands should become a Maine Island Trail Association member ($65 for a family), at mita.org.

4. Ride the railways through the Last Frontier

The perfect end to summer just might be experiencing the end to an Alaskan summer. The Alaska Railroad’s main line meanders through nearly 500 miles of wild and wonderful landscapes and connects communities in the Southcentral and Interior regions of the state. Offering five routes, the Alaskan Railroad just might be the perfect option for multi-generational groups seeking the rugged topography of the Last Frontier.

Named one of the Top 10 train rides in North America by National Geographic Traveler, the Coastal Classic Train offers summer daily departures from Anchorage, and heads through the Chugach Mountains to Seward, where families can embark on a day-cruise to Kenai Fjords National Park for glacier-viewing and whale watching in Resurrection Bay.

For families looking to stray from the path, the Glacier Discovery Train takes passengers to the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop, which is only accessible by rail. Upon arrival, visitors will de-board deep within the Chugach National Forest, where backcountry hiking, kayaking and rafting beckon.

5. End-of-summer vibes in the Catskills

Only a few hours north of New York City is a world of cool. Whether you’re walking in the footsteps of music legends at the famous Woodstock outdoor music venue, chasing cascading waterfalls, cycling through the countryside, soaring through treetops on the largest zip line in the U.S. or paddling rapids on a rafting adventure, a trip to the Catskills is the perfect end-of-summer outdoor retreat.

After all of that hiking, biking and paddling, allow bodies to heal while feeding the mind by taking in the local arts scene. Writers, poets and musicians have long-been attracted to these parts, and – today – the area is experiencing a revival. Before heading home, let the kiddos soak up what little bit of summer is left at the brand new Kartrite Resort and Indoor Waterpark in Monticello. The luxurious lodge houses the state’s biggest indoor waterpark with more than 10 slides and water adventures, as well as other activities, such as laser tag, mini-bowling, rock-climbing, a ropes course and full calendar of kid-friendly fun, from movie nights to arts and crafts. Adding to the excitement? LEGOLAND New York is set to open nearby in 2020 (!)



Kara Silva – August 2019

ROAM Contributor   

During her decade-long career in journalism, Kara has given a voice to the voiceless, brought attention to important issues, and – most notably – mastered the art of traveling on a journalist’s salary! Writer by day, reader by night and lover of the great outdoors, Kara lives in a picturesque river town in the Chicago ’burbs with her Brazilian husband, 8-month-old daughter, obese cat and delinquent Siberian husky.  


© ROAM Family Travel 2019 – All rights reserved


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