When I’m considering any sort of travel with my toddler, my criteria for the flight are 1) it must be nonstop, 2) it must not be longer than 3.5 hours, and 3) it must not be crazy expensive. If I can’t find flights that fit those criteria, we’re probably staying home.

Luckily, the selection of nonstop flights out of Austin keeps expanding, opening up a lot of options for parents who have to travel and “vacation” with children in tow. Here are some of the best destinations with nonstop flights (and affordable airfare!) out of Austin that would make for a great family vacation. 


Flight time: 2 hours and 15 minutes

The city of Denver has tons of activities for kidsa zoo, nature centers, botanic gardens, parks, a children’s museum, and more. Just a short drive from the city are Breckenridge and Winter Park, two great ski resorts for families. Colorado Springs, home to the Garden of the Gods natural landmark, is only a 1 hour, 15 minute drive and a great family vacation spot in the summer.


Garden of the Gods natural landmark in Colorado Springs


San Diego

Flight time: 2 hours and 45 minutes

There are a lot of nonstop flights from Austin to various cities in California, but San Diego is my pick for the best family vacation spot. There’s the San Diego Zoo (the most visited zoo in the U.S.), which includes the hugely popular Safari Park; Legoland California Resort; SeaWorld; and more than 70 miles of beaches.

Minneapolis/St. Paul

Flight time: 2 hours and 45 minutes

I’m a little biased because I’m originally from St. Paul, but the Twin Cities have SO much fun stuff for kids. And it’s a great place to escape the summer heat in Austin. (Average summer temps are in the mid-80’s, so it’s not freezing, as some mistakenly believe.) There’s an outstanding Science Museum, plus a children’s museum, two zoos (including the free Como Park Zoo with its gorgeous conservatory), charming shopping (like my personal favorite, the Red Balloon Bookshop), and beautiful parks (don’t miss Minnehaha Falls). The Mall of America alone has the Nickelodeon Universe amusement, SEA LIFE aquarium, and the Crayola Experience. And don’t forget the 10,000 lakes, many of which are urban, so you can hit the beach, sail, and paddle board right in the city.

Nickelodeon Universe in the Mall of America in Minneapolis


Flight time: 2 hours and 15 minutes

Atlanta has many family-friendly attractions, including the zoo (with giant pandas!), the Fernback Science Center, Fernback Museum of Natural History, and the Atlanta Botanical Garden. I’d also love to visit The World of Coca-Cola, where there’s a tasting room with every flavor of Coke ever made. Just 30 minutes outside the city is Stone Mountain Park, and even further out you can visit Amicalola Falls State Park and Cloudland Canyon for stunning views and waterfalls.

Atlanta Botanical Garden

Washington, D.C.

Flight time: 3 hours and 20 minutes

Again, I’m a little biased because I lived in the Washington, D.C. area for 15 years, but I love all the history there and think it’s a must-see city. The sightseeing opportunities are vast, but a good place to start is the free Smithsonian museums: kids will especially enjoy the National Museum of Natural History, National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of American History (see Dorothy’s ruby slippers!), and the National Museum of the American Indian. The National Building Museum, International Spy Museum and the Newseum are also super interactive. The National Zoo with its giant pandas is popular, and of course the monuments on the National Mall. Just outside the city you can visit Mount Vernon, George Washington’s historic home.


Flight time: 2 hours and 35 minutes

If you want a tropical beach vacation with kids, you don’t have go to all the way to the Caribbean or Hawaii. Cancun is only 2 and a half hours away, and despite its party reputation, there are tons of family resorts to choose from that offer activities for kids of all ages. Playa del Carmen is only an hour from the airport and also has many family-friendly resorts. If you venture outside the resort, you could swim with the dolphins at the Dolphin Discovery Center, or take a day trip to Tulum to see the well-preserved Mayan ruins there.


Flight time: 2 hours and 20 minutes

It’s not the best choice for a summer vacation, but at any other time Phoenix gives you a lot of options for a unique family vacation. Drive 2 hours north to beautiful Sedona, where you can explore the red rocks on a Pink Jeep tour, visit the Out of Africa wildlife park, or slip down a nature-made water slide at Slide Rock State Park. We stayed at Enchantment Resort in Sedona for our babymoon and it is a magical place; they have a great camp for kids, too. Or drive south to Tucson (1 hour and 45 minutes from Phoenix) to visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and Saguaro National Park, or go back to the Wild Wild West at Old Tucson Studios.

Enchantment Resort in Sedona


Flight time: 3 hours and 20 minutes

I had no idea you could fly nonstop to Toronto in under 3.5 hours, but it’s definitely on my radar now as a potential family destination! You can spend a day exploring Centre Island (with a petting zoo, beach, splash pad, and children’s garden), a day visiting Niagara Falls, and a day checking out the attractions downtown, like Ripley’s Aquarium and the CN Tower.


Flight time: 2 hours and 10 minutes

The downtown area may be too much of a party zone for kiddos, but if you look beyond that, Nashville has a lot to offer for families. The Gaylord Opryland Resort is one of the best for kids, with an indoor river you can take a boat ride on, many restaurants and shops, three pools, and a water park. Outside of the resort you can visit the Country Music Hall of Fame, check out the Adventure Science Center, hike at a nearby state park or the Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, float down the Harpeth River, or even drive a couple hours to Mammoth Cave National Park.

New Orleans

Flight time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

New Orleans is another city with a party reputation that makes a surprisingly fun family vacation spot. You can grab a beignet at Cafe du Monde, go on a river cruise, take a horse and carriage ride around the French Quarter, go behind the scenes of Mardi Gras at Mardi Gras World, visit the Audubon Zoo and the Cool Zoo (a mini water park inside the zoo), or come face to face with alligators on a swamp tour. You don’t need to have a Hurricane on Bourbon Street to have fun! (But you should still probably have at least one.)

Check out the complete list of nonstop flights out of Austin.



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