Fabulous photos of family vacations through the decades



Slide 1 of 38: While we can't jet off on a plane right now, we can take a trip down memory lane. Whether you spent your childhood vacations camping, road-tripping or building sandcastles by the sea, these nostalgic snaps will transport you through the decades. Buckle up and get ready for a ride back in time. 
Slide 2 of 38: This was a decade shaped by the Second World War and, even post-war, most families spent their holiday time close to home. Trailer parks and campsites were top places to escape, with destinations such as the Adirondacks, in New York, proving popular with outdoorsy types. Here a mother serves dinner cooked over a campfire to her family, perhaps after a long day of hiking. 
Slide 3 of 38: In the post-war years, beachside destinations on America's East Coast boomed. Here families, friends and couples relax on Atlantic City's sandy beach, while the hotel-lined boardwalk thrums behind them.
Slide 4 of 38: Farther up the coast, Coney Island – with its theme parks, sandy beach and family-friendly amusements – was another place that thrived towards the end of the decade. Cotton candy is the snack of choice here and, in this nostalgic shot, a child gladly takes a sweet candy cloud from a smiling vendor. 

Slide 5 of 38: Not all destinations had as many bells and whistles, though. Where there weren't rides, puppet shows and cotton candy stands, little beach-goers would make do with a bucket and spade. Here a young brother and sister build a sandcastle on a beach in Florida.
Slide 6 of 38: Across the pond, vacations unfolded in much the same way as they did in the States during the 1940s. This snap shows bathers and beach-baskers on South Sands in Devon at the tail end of the war, not long after the spot had been reopened.
Slide 7 of 38: As the war drew to a close, resort towns such as England's Bognor Regis were flourishing once more. You can barely see the shingle for sunbathers in this photograph taken in 1945. The promenade lining the beach hums with people too.
Slide 8 of 38: The automobile industry boomed in the post-war decades and the great American road trip had its heyday. Many Americans would likely spend at least some of their vacation time on the road, winding up in beachside resorts where they'd while away a week or so. This clan from Tallahassee, Florida are loaded up with beach balls and water donuts, ready for their family escape.
Slide 9 of 38: While some families made a beeline for the coast, others decided to enjoy America's backyard with their cars, trailers and motorhomes. Here the Tetons rise above Jackson Lake in the Grand Teton National Park, established in 1929. A young family look out at the view, picnic in hand, trailer parked up at the water's edge.

Slide 10 of 38: Tourism boomed in the Sunshine State in this post-war decade, with sun-seekers flocking here from all over America. Top destinations included Miami, St Petersburg and St Augustine. This water-skiing family was snapped in Winter Haven's Cypress Gardens, often tipped as Florida's first theme park. Now see Florida's incredible transformation from swampland to vacation paradise.
Slide 11 of 38: In 1955, tourism in the States would change forever, as Walt Disney opened the first Disney park in Anaheim, California. It soon became the yardstick by which all future theme parks would be measured, drawing visitors from all over. A trip to Disneyland was the dream vacation for many families across the country and beyond. Now check out more glorious vintage images of Disney's magical parks.
Slide 12 of 38: However, these decades also represented a torrid period of American history. Racial tensions were rife and America’s shores remained officially segregated right up until the 1960s (with unofficial divides remaining even after the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964). Strands such as Chicken Bone Beach (pictured), an exclusively African-American area of Atlantic City’s shoreline, were formed in the first half of the 20th century. It’s pictured here buzzing with beachgoers circa the 1950s.
Slide 13 of 38: These beaches mostly attracted middle-class African-American families, with celebrities gracing their shores too. This nostalgic snap shows legendary entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. hanging out with friends and fans on Chicken Bone Beach in the Fifties. The beach earned its name from the bones left behind by visitors who picnicked on fried chicken here, and a plaque commemorates the history of the spot today.
Slide 14 of 38: In Britain, vacation camps such as Butlin's, first established in the 1930s in Skegness, on the east coast of England, gained in popularity. Here, pleasure-seeking holidaymakers could expect snug chalets, a swimming pool, family-friendly games in the daytime and nighttime entertainment. In this photo, two women enjoy a buggy ride at the now shuttered Butlin's camp in Clacton.

Slide 15 of 38: The seaside escape remained the ultimate British vacation through the 1950s – think ice cream and fish and chips, pony rides and puppet shows, and the windswept shores of the English coast. In this 1954 photo, families play on the sand in Angmering in West Sussex.
Slide 16 of 38: By the 1960s, Spanish seaside resorts such as Benidorm in Costa Blanca buzzed with people, attracting tourists from Britain and beyond. Package holidays grew in popularity during this decade too. In this Sixties snap, holidaymakers bask on a beach in Tossa de Mar, Costa Brava in northeastern Spain. 
Slide 17 of 38: Back on American shores, Florida remained the destination of choice through the 1960s. New hotels, resorts and amusements continued to spring up near the coast, and the Sunshine State was flooded with people each summer. Here sun-worshippers relax beneath the palms on Miami Beach in southern Florida. 
Slide 18 of 38: Resorts weren't just blossoming in the Sunshine State, though. They were shooting up all over the country, from way out west in California to up north in top vacation states such as New York. Popular spots included Tony Leone's Resort in the mountainous Catskills region – the families here are unperturbed by the clouds as they crowd around the on-site pool. 
Slide 19 of 38: This was also the decade that skiing began to open up to the mass market, and ski resorts popped up across the States. Here skiers gather around buses provided by the Utah Parks Company, ready to ski in the northern mountains of the Beehive State. Find out more about Utah here.
Slide 20 of 38: The northwest of England laid claim to one of Britain's most popular holiday spots in the 1960s. In summer, Blackpool Beach, with its piers and promenade, would play host to throngs of holidaymakers, who rode donkeys, ate ice cream and lazed on the sands. It's still a popular spot today, and in this heartwarming 1960s shot Blackpool Tower is the backdrop for a family puppet show. 
Slide 21 of 38: In the decades leading up to the 1970s, air travel – and therefore vacations abroad – had been reserved for the very wealthiest in society. But the Seventies saw the invention of the Boeing 747, the world's first jumbo jet, leading to cheaper plane tickets. This opened up air travel to America's middle classes and here families enjoy the cabin of this new kind of plane. Discover more about the world's groundbreaking planes that changed the way we travel. 
Slide 22 of 38: Greece became one of Europe's most popular vacation destinations from the 1960s onwards, joining ranks with the likes of Spain and France. It offered the prospect of culture and ancient history for middle-class travelers, who previously may have been unable to afford the airfare here. Some chose to bring their whole family along for the adventure too. In this 1970s photo, international tourists drink in the Parthenon, part of the Acropolis of Athens.
Slide 23 of 38: Cruising also became more affordable and accessible throughout the 1970s. In its Golden Age, cruising had been about extravagant fine dining and tinkling piano music in opulent lounges – but by the Seventies that had been replaced by loud, proud evening entertainment and an altogether more relaxed atmosphere. In this sun-drenched snap from 1971, passengers relax on the deck of the SS Oronsay, an Orient Line cruise ship.
Slide 24 of 38: Another milestone in the history of family vacations came in 1971. It was in this year that Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom (and a handful of accompanying resorts) opened in Florida. The larger-than-life site set the bar for future theme parks, and many family getaways in this decade involved Mickey and the gang. Here, Goofy accompanies a group of delighted kids on the Mad Tea Party Ride at the Magic Kingdom.
Slide 25 of 38: But despite the theme parks, the cruise ships and the call of the Continent, many Americans still vacationed closer to home. Here a young family picnic on a quiet beach on a sun-drenched afternoon in New Jersey.
Slide 26 of 38: America’s windswept Atlantic shores provided plenty of opportunity for adventure. This 1970s snap shows a young family playing with an inflatable raft off the coast of New Jersey. The jazzy swimwear is oh-so-Seventies too.
Slide 27 of 38: By the Eighties, Spain's beaches (and many in southern France too) were thronged with people come the summertime, following a steady uptick in tourism since the 1950s and 1960s. Here families cruise on inflatables in the ocean, or sit elbow-to-elbow on the shores, shading themselves under umbrellas. This snap was taken in Palamós, Costa Brava, Spain in the early Eighties.
Slide 28 of 38: While Brits flocked to sun-soaked European shores, the Caribbean and the West Indies drew in middle-class American tourists who favored destinations such as The Bahamas and St Lucia. Here a group of vacationers pose for the camera as they enjoy an organized boat tour in The Bahamas in the mid-1980s.
Slide 29 of 38: Back on American soil, the shores were busier than ever too. Here, at the tail end of the decade, Coney Island's sandy strand swarms with people. Rubber rings, umbrellas, beach towels and balls add splashes of color to Brooklyn's humming beach, as families enjoy their vacation time. 
Slide 30 of 38: It’s not all about the seaside, though – America’s Great Lakes have long been a vacation spot for beach bums too. In this 1987 snap, sun-seekers splash in Lake Michigan at Chicago’s Margaret T. Burroughs Beach (formerly 31st Beach). Now a diverse city strand, this beach was once segregated and designated for black visitors. And in contrast to the peaceful scenes shown here, a black teenager named Eugene Williams was killed in these waters, when he unknowingly drifted into a “white zone”, triggering the Chicago race riot of 1919. A memorial for Williams is held on the beach each year.
Slide 31 of 38: Theme parks remained a staple fixture of many a family vacation during the Eighties. The Disney parks in both California and Florida thrived and, in 1982, Walt Disney World enjoyed another glittering addition. Epcot, a land dedicated to innovation and the future, gave families another reason to visit the mammoth Sunshine State resort in this decade – here tourists walk before Epcot's famous geodesic dome and fountain. Now see some stunning historic images of theme parks in full swing.
Slide 32 of 38: It wasn't just America's larger-than-life theme parks that were drawing family travelers, either. The Netherlands' Efteling – often tipped as one of Europe's greatest theme parks – drew scores of tourists too. Opened in the Fifties, the park was booming by the Eighties, and this shot shows families wandering through the site, dwarfed by the titanic loops of the Python roller coaster.
Slide 33 of 38: In 1992, Disney came to Europe with the opening of Disneyland Paris (then Euro Disney Resort). Brits and holidaymakers from the Continent flocked to the magical park throughout the decade, and a trip to Euro Disney became the vacation of dreams for the Nineties kid. In this 1997 photo, the park is filled to the brim as colorful celebrations for its fifth birthday are in full swing. Love this? Now discover how air travel has changed in every decade from the 1920s.
Slide 34 of 38: The sinking costs of air travel and the rise of the internet meant people began looking even further afield when planning their holidays. Previously out-of-reach destinations now fell within the grasp of many middle-class families. Here a young family bask on a stunning white-sand beach in Mauritius.
Slide 35 of 38: Still, though, Spain's popularity showed no sign of abating and by the Nineties its shores were jam-packed with vast hotels, timeshare resorts and villas, which drew tourists for fly-and-flop breaks in summer and beyond. This aerial snap from 1993 shows a white-washed holiday resort in the Canaries.
Slide 36 of 38: By the Noughties, cruising was truly a family affair. Most mainstream ships had a packed roster of family entertainment, plus kid-friendly pools and activities. Here cruisers of all ages enjoy the delights of the deck on Carnival Fascination cruise ship, which includes a twirling blue water slide. The lush isle of St Thomas rises from the Caribbean Sea in the background.
Slide 37 of 38: The world continued to shrink in this decade too, with families who were wealthy enough making bucket-list-style trips and exploring all corners of the globe. Here families and couples sunbathe on Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas, Queensland, a jumping-off point for the Great Barrier Reef. Inspired? Check out these incredible places you won't believe are in Australia.
Slide 38 of 38: Even so, for many, still nothing compares to the nostalgia of a seaside escape on home shores, whether that's the windswept coast of Britain, or the powder-white sands of the Sunshine State. Taken in 2000, this throwback snap captures a little girl enjoying an ice cream on Bournemouth beach in southern England. It's the British seaside summed up in a single shot. Want more? See what vacations looked like in every decade since 1900. 

Time travel

While we can’t jet off on a plane right now, we can take a trip down memory lane. Whether you spent your childhood vacations camping, road-tripping or building sandcastles by the sea, these nostalgic snaps will transport you through the decades. Buckle up and get ready for a ride back in time. 

1940s: a family camp out in the forest

This was a decade shaped by the Second World War and, even post-war, most families spent their holiday time close to home. Trailer parks and campsites were top places to escape, with destinations such as the Adirondacks, in New York, proving popular with outdoorsy types. Here a mother serves dinner cooked over a campfire to her family, perhaps after a long day of hiking. 

1940s: sunbathers on the beach in Atlantic City, New Jersey

1940s: a family buys cotton candy at Coney Island, New York City

Farther up the coast, Coney Island – with its theme parks, sandy beach and family-friendly amusements – was another place that thrived towards the end of the decade. Cotton candy is the snack of choice here and, in this nostalgic shot, a child gladly takes a sweet candy cloud from a smiling vendor. 

1940s: children play on a Florida beach in 1943

1940s: beach-goers at South Sands in Devon, England, in 1944

1940s: vacationers on a beach in Bognor Regis, England

1950s: a beach-ready family pack into a car in Florida in 1957

The automobile industry boomed in the post-war decades and the great American road trip had its heyday. Many Americans would likely spend at least some of their vacation time on the road, winding up in beachside resorts where they’d while away a week or so. This clan from Tallahassee, Florida are loaded up with beach balls and water donuts, ready for their family escape.

1950s: a family enjoy the view in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

1950s: a family water-skis at Cypress Gardens, Florida

Tourism boomed in the Sunshine State in this post-war decade, with sun-seekers flocking here from all over America. Top destinations included Miami, St Petersburg and St Augustine. This water-skiing family was snapped in Winter Haven’s Cypress Gardens, often tipped as Florida’s first theme park. Now see Florida’s incredible transformation from swampland to vacation paradise.

1950s: crowds throng before Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, California

In 1955, tourism in the States would change forever, as Walt Disney opened the first Disney park in Anaheim, California. It soon became the yardstick by which all future theme parks would be measured, drawing visitors from all over. A trip to Disneyland was the dream vacation for many families across the country and beyond. Now check out more glorious vintage images of Disney’s magical parks.

1950s: vacationers on Chicken Bone Beach in Atlantic City, New Jersey

1950s: Sammy Davis Jr. and friends bask on Chicken Bone Beach

1950s: holidaymakers ride a buggy at Butlin’s holiday camp, England

In Britain, vacation camps such as Butlin’s, first established in the 1930s in Skegness, on the east coast of England, gained in popularity. Here, pleasure-seeking holidaymakers could expect snug chalets, a swimming pool, family-friendly games in the daytime and nighttime entertainment. In this photo, two women enjoy a buggy ride at the now shuttered Butlin’s camp in Clacton.

1950s: children play on the beach in Angmering, England

1960s: sunbathers on the beach at Tossa de Mar, Costa Brava, Spain

By the 1960s, Spanish seaside resorts such as Benidorm in Costa Blanca buzzed with people, attracting tourists from Britain and beyond. Package holidays grew in popularity during this decade too. In this Sixties snap, holidaymakers bask on a beach in Tossa de Mar, Costa Brava in northeastern Spain. 

1960s: vacationers on a beach in Miami

Back on American shores, Florida remained the destination of choice through the 1960s. New hotels, resorts and amusements continued to spring up near the coast, and the Sunshine State was flooded with people each summer. Here sun-worshippers relax beneath the palms on Miami Beach in southern Florida. 

1960s: families relax around the pool at a resort in the Catskills, New York

Resorts weren’t just blossoming in the Sunshine State, though. They were shooting up all over the country, from way out west in California to up north in top vacation states such as New York. Popular spots included Tony Leone’s Resort in the mountainous Catskills region – the families here are unperturbed by the clouds as they crowd around the on-site pool. 

1960s: skiers gather in the foothills of a mountain in Utah

This was also the decade that skiing began to open up to the mass market, and ski resorts popped up across the States. Here skiers gather around buses provided by the Utah Parks Company, ready to ski in the northern mountains of the Beehive State. Find out more about Utah here.

1960s: families watch a puppet show on Blackpool Beach, England

The northwest of England laid claim to one of Britain’s most popular holiday spots in the 1960s. In summer, Blackpool Beach, with its piers and promenade, would play host to throngs of holidaymakers, who rode donkeys, ate ice cream and lazed on the sands. It’s still a popular spot today, and in this heartwarming 1960s shot Blackpool Tower is the backdrop for a family puppet show. 

1970s: families aboard a Boeing 747

In the decades leading up to the 1970s, air travel – and therefore vacations abroad – had been reserved for the very wealthiest in society. But the Seventies saw the invention of the Boeing 747, the world’s first jumbo jet, leading to cheaper plane tickets. This opened up air travel to America’s middle classes and here families enjoy the cabin of this new kind of plane. Discover more about the world’s groundbreaking planes that changed the way we travel. 

1970s: tourists exploring Athens’ Parthenon, Greece, in 1971

Greece became one of Europe’s most popular vacation destinations from the 1960s onwards, joining ranks with the likes of Spain and France. It offered the prospect of culture and ancient history for middle-class travelers, who previously may have been unable to afford the airfare here. Some chose to bring their whole family along for the adventure too. In this 1970s photo, international tourists drink in the Parthenon, part of the Acropolis of Athens.

1970s: passengers enjoy the sunshine onboard a cruise ship

1970s: children ride with Goofy at Walt Disney World, Florida

Another milestone in the history of family vacations came in 1971. It was in this year that Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom (and a handful of accompanying resorts) opened in Florida. The larger-than-life site set the bar for future theme parks, and many family getaways in this decade involved Mickey and the gang. Here, Goofy accompanies a group of delighted kids on the Mad Tea Party Ride at the Magic Kingdom.

1970s: a young family picnic on a New Jersey beach

1970s: a young family makes a splash in the Atlantic

1980s: a crowded beach in Palamós, Costa Brava, Spain

1980s: a tourist group ride a boat in The Bahamas

1980s: throngs of sun-seekers at Coney Island, New York

Back on American soil, the shores were busier than ever too. Here, at the tail end of the decade, Coney Island’s sandy strand swarms with people. Rubber rings, umbrellas, beach towels and balls add splashes of color to Brooklyn’s humming beach, as families enjoy their vacation time. 

1980s: kids and families play in Lake Michigan, Chicago

It’s not all about the seaside, though – America’s Great Lakes have long been a vacation spot for beach bums too. In this 1987 snap, sun-seekers splash in Lake Michigan at Chicago’s Margaret T. Burroughs Beach (formerly 31st Beach). Now a diverse city strand, this beach was once segregated and designated for black visitors. And in contrast to the peaceful scenes shown here, a black teenager named Eugene Williams was killed in these waters, when he unknowingly drifted into a “white zone”, triggering the Chicago race riot of 1919. A memorial for Williams is held on the beach each year.

1980s: tourists in front of Epcot’s famous dome, Florida

Theme parks remained a staple fixture of many a family vacation during the Eighties. The Disney parks in both California and Florida thrived and, in 1982, Walt Disney World enjoyed another glittering addition. Epcot, a land dedicated to innovation and the future, gave families another reason to visit the mammoth Sunshine State resort in this decade – here tourists walk before Epcot’s famous geodesic dome and fountain. Now see some stunning historic images of theme parks in full swing.

1980s: park-goers at Efteling in the Netherlands

1990s: crowds of holidaymakers at Disneyland Paris, France

In 1992, Disney came to Europe with the opening of Disneyland Paris (then Euro Disney Resort). Brits and holidaymakers from the Continent flocked to the magical park throughout the decade, and a trip to Euro Disney became the vacation of dreams for the Nineties kid. In this 1997 photo, the park is filled to the brim as colorful celebrations for its fifth birthday are in full swing. Love this? Now discover how air travel has changed in every decade from the 1920s.

1990s: a young family on a beach in Mauritius

1990s: a tourist resort in the Canary Islands

Still, though, Spain’s popularity showed no sign of abating and by the Nineties its shores were jam-packed with vast hotels, timeshare resorts and villas, which drew tourists for fly-and-flop breaks in summer and beyond. This aerial snap from 1993 shows a white-washed holiday resort in the Canaries.

2000s: passengers enjoy the deck on a Virgin Islands cruise

2000s: families on Four Mile Beach in Australia

The world continued to shrink in this decade too, with families who were wealthy enough making bucket-list-style trips and exploring all corners of the globe. Here families and couples sunbathe on Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas, Queensland, a jumping-off point for the Great Barrier Reef. Inspired? Check out these incredible places you won’t believe are in Australia.

2000s: a little girl enjoys an ice cream on Bournemouth Beach, England

Even so, for many, still nothing compares to the nostalgia of a seaside escape on home shores, whether that’s the windswept coast of Britain, or the powder-white sands of the Sunshine State. Taken in 2000, this throwback snap captures a little girl enjoying an ice cream on Bournemouth beach in southern England. It’s the British seaside summed up in a single shot. Want more? See what vacations looked like in every decade since 1900. 

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