While, at first glance, the idea of traveling with children can be a daunting one, it can be a life-changing experience, for kids, teenagers, and adults alike. Planning family vacations with little ones (or sometimes with older children and teenagers) is not without its challenges, and this is why it’s important to iron out any potential future problems by planning ahead and making the most crucial decision in the most informed way possible; choosing the destination. Choosing the right family-friendly destination for your trip will ensure that your kids (and you) are safe and entertained throughout the entire trip, that you experience a range of activities suitable to their age range, that there are plenty of opportunities for relaxation, not too much boring travel time, and that the trip will be unforgettable for you all, for all the right reasons. To help you with your decision, here are our top ten destinations for vacations with kids…
1. Italy: for pizza, gelato, and gladiators
For families traveling for the first time together, or for families with younger children, Italy is a great choice since it won’t be too much of a culture shock for those not used to traveling. However, Italy is a good choice for almost any traveler and has something to offer anyone and everyone. Children will love seeing the history here, which can be found around every corner, in the old buildings, tradition or even archeological sites and ruins. In Italy, your kids’ imaginations can run wild as they imagine the Roman soldiers and Gladiators on a tour of the Colosseum in Rome, the people of Pompeii, the grandeur of the many palaces scattered all over the country.
Visit the beautiful beaches of Italy’s coasts, such as the colorful Amalfi Coast, but be warned that these can become busy with tourists in the peak summer season. Wander the streets of the old quarters of Rome or Naples, discovering hidden gems and local spots.
If there’s one thing kids are sure to love about Italy, it’s the food. Try family favourites, such as traditional pizza in Naples, Spaghetti Bolognese in Bologna, Carbonara in Rome or Cannoli in Sicily.
If you decide to visit during the winter, you can travel the mountains to go skiing or snowboarding in an idyllic setting that you will never forget. In summer, these same mountains are the site of a huge range of activities for thrill-seeking and sporty families with older kids, such as mountain biking or hiking.
2. Iceland: to 'Journey to the center of the Earth'
Known as one of Europe (and the world’s) safest destinations, Iceland is the ideal destination for younger children. The incredible natural beauty here is also a huge attraction for nature loving and outdoorsy families. The entire country is encircled by a ring road, with easy-to-navigate roads leading to every spot you might want to visit, making a self-drive tour of Iceland very convenient. Self-drive tours are especially perfect for family travelers since they allow you to travel at your own pace and take into account the last minute whims of your children! Kids will love seeing the Golden Circle and its dramatic water holes which spout water and never fail to amuse young children. Waterfalls and hot springs can also be found around the country, with the famous Blue Lagoon being the most famous site. A visit here is always popular with parents, since children can play in the warm waters whilst parents relax and enjoy the therapeutic properties of the water.
One you have been rejuvenated by the waters of the Blue Lagoon, head out to the coast and take an unforgettable boat trip to see the whales that live just off the coast here. You can also see some of Iceland’s most beloved animals; the native puffins who sit in large number on the rocks. As if that wasn’t enough, animal lovers can also go horse riding with the country's Icelandic horses, who are ideal for first time riders, since they are small but very strong and sturdy. Dog sledding and seal watching are also on offer for families who can’t get enough of the animals here.
Adventurous families can go on a glacier walk or hike to discover the ice caves, whose sparkling ceilings will make the whole family feel as though they’ve entered a fairy tale or alien world.
3. Galapagos Islands: to follow in Darwin's footsteps
For nature and animal-loving families The Galapagos Islands are a natural choice, and a fantastic one. Nowhere else can you see such a range of wildlife up close, in its natural habitat and surrounded by incredible scenery such as dramatic rock formations and blue waters.
Begin your adventure On land, where you can see the famous Galapagos Tortoises and marine iguanas and watch the Galapagos fur seals and penguins as they relax in the sun between dips. This amazing place has become synonymous with biodiversity, due to its isolation and the fact that animals here had no apex predators to threaten their evolution. Made famous by Charles Darwin, this place’s lack of predators also has an added bonus; the animals here are not afraid of humans, meaning you and your kids will be able to get a proper look!
As if that wasn’t enough, heading out to sea yields a treasure trove of amazing wildlife. Take an unforgettable boat trip to sea the whales that spend their time just offshore, a sight which you and your children will never forget. For slightly older children, why stop there? Dive beneath the waves on a snorkeling or scuba-diving trip and swim with dolphins, seals, turtles and many more species just waiting to be spotted. The Galapagos Islands have long been hailed as the ultimate pilgrimage for any nature loving travelers and the many family-friendly options mean that this nature can be enjoyed by anyone, not matter their age.
4. Norway: for ultimate lovers of the Great Outdoors
For families wanting a flexible trip with total freedom to travel at their own pace and leisure, Norway is the perfect destination. Take a self-drive trip to enjoy all of the perks of traveling at your own pace, something which is certainly great for families with younger children. Norway’s sites are easy to drive to and the roads are fantastic, meaning that you’ll easily be able to get from one incredible spot to another without worrying about timings. The roads are split into 18 National Tourism routes, making Norway the ultimate family destination for self-drive convenience. Visit Oslo and wander its quirky streets, discovering interesting shops and museums, such as the Norsk Folkemuseum, where children can enjoy a range of interactive experiences such as tradition bread-making or folk dancing. Head on to one of Norway’s many theme parks, which is sure to entertain the children (and possibly the adults too!). Norway is also widely considered to be a natural paradise with breathtaking waterfalls and fjords that make for stunning stop offs on your trip. Pack up a picnic and enjoy the panoramic views of the fjords, or even go for a dip if you’re visiting during the summer months.
Norway is home to so many unique sights and experiences that it should be on every family’s bucket list. If you want to explore the fjords and pretend to be Viking warriors, see the Northern Lights or watch killer whales playing off shore, then this is the place for you.
5. Morocco: to experience an entirely different culture
Morocco’s warm climate throughout the year, means that this is a great choice for families looking for an easy sunny getaway full of adventure and culture. This destination is particularly great for those families looking for the fun of a city break, without the stress of city sightseeing. Marrakech is laid back, even in the narrower streets of the old quarter, where you can find small, traditional shops selling nik naks, delicious food and traditional products. The main square is a fascinating part of the city too, where you can find snake charmers, market stalls selling dried fruit and nuts and an abundance of tradition.
For those looking to get away from the city, your options are limitless. Visit the Draa valley to see Ouarzazate’s famous kasbah and go on a camel-back expedition through the dunes. Kids will love the somewhat bumpy camel ride as well as meeting the camels themselves who are very used to tourists and incredibly friendly.
To make the most of the warm weather, the Atlantic coast is also a must-see. Visit the beautiful beaches of Agadir or Essaouira with ramparts for children to explore and surfing or kite-surfing beaches for sporty families.
6. Costa Rica: for nature and wildlife lovers
Costa Rica is not only a stunning country with a rich history and a warm, welcoming culture, it is also an extremely varied country in terms of activities and experiences on offer here. This combination is the golden ratio of family travel, making it a perfect destination for any family and any type of trip.
Adventurous families will find plenty of amusement here, whether its exploring the thick jungles, sprawling national parks or smoking volcanoes. Explore the canopies in a treetop tour of the cloud forest, getting the chance to see some of Costa Rica’s most beloved native animals in their natural habitats. If this is close enough for you, you can even head to one of Costa Rica’s wildlife sanctuaries where you’ll have the opportunity to see rescued and abandoned animals as they’re nursed back to health before being released.
After all that excitement you may want to take a day or two to relax. Never fear, Costa Rica’s beautiful beaches are just the place. Relax under the shade of a palm tree or wander along white sandy beaches, enjoying the relaxed Caribbean atmosphere. If, by some miracle, your kids still have enough energy, you can try your hand at surfing or go snorkeling and see the underwater world that lies hidden just off the beach or ride along the beach on horseback and feel the refreshing sea-breeze as you take in your surroundings.
In short, Costa Rica is sure to be a hit with the whole family. Our only advice; work out in advance what you want to see and do, since this beautiful country can spoil you for choice and you will want to make sure you don’t miss out on anything during your time here.
7. Sri Lanka: for elephants, tea plantations, and beaches
Sri Lanka’s contrast between its bustling towns and cities and serene beaches and countryside provides an excellent option for families who are looking to get a real feel for their destination, its atmosphere, culture and people during their trip. Fly into Colombo and taste delicious local food, washed down with a cup of traditional tea before heading off to see the plantations where this ancient and prized commodity is grown, picked and prepared. Children will love the train ride through the sprawling tea plantations, and adults can marvel as the specialists get to work, picking only the tea leaves that are the right color, size and maturity for each blend.
After tasting all the teas on offer, you can visit the beach and relax, surf, explore or watch sea turtles as they nest in the white sand. For those families who love wildlife, you can also visit one of Sri Lanka’s elephant sanctuaries where you can see rescued elephants and their calves as well as helping the keepers to make toys for the elephants to play with and even helping to bathe these amazing animals.
The national parks and roaming hills and mountains of Sri Lanka also provide the perfect opportunity for sporty families, wanting to walk or hike. Famous sites such as Adam’s Peak provide options suitable for younger legs, such as a tuk tuk ride followed by a short, non-challenging walk to the summit, meaning that children of all ages can get involved.
8. Thailand: for the true meaning of 'island paradise'
Thailand’s incredible climate and abundance of beaches has made it a popular destination for party goers from all over the world. However, few people give it the credit it deserves when it comes to family travel.
Thailand’s many wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, historical sites and its welcoming culture have earned it a place on our list of the top ten family destinations around the world. If you’re after a relaxing family get-away by the beach then head to Ko Chang, where shallow waters are perfect for young swimmers getting the hang of the water.
Chiang Mai’s many cultural sites and range of fun activities, such as zip-lines and interactive temple visits make it a great destination for families wanting to introduce their children to the Thai culture in a fun and interesting setting. Take a cooking class as a family, learning about Thai cuisine, which is great for even the fussiest of eaters and has such a huge range of dishes, ingredients and flavors that everyone always loves learning how to recreate them at home.
Phuket is the perfect choice for older children, with fun-filled activities around every corner, including surf schools that specialize in teaching kids who want to give this sport a try. Take your family to visit a night market, which are spread all over the country to buy some great souvenirs or try tasty street food, or even visit a floating market.
Thailand has so many destinations that families will love and wherever you go, you will appreciate the incredible welcoming locals and family values that the Thai culture upholds.
9. France: for castles, vineyards, and 'La vie en rose'
France may be revered all over the world for its wine, cuisine and high culture but it is the perfect destination for family trips of all kinds and with children of all ages. Older children will thoroughly enjoy the range of thrilling activities that can be found all over France, such as skiing or snowboarding in The Alps, canoeing, mountain biking, quad biking and so much more. You name it!
For culture and history, head to the famous capital where you can see the Eiffel Tower, museums, catacombs and art galleries before picnicking in a park overlooking the Louvre. Disneyland Paris is also located just a short train ride away and is a hit with children from all over the world.
For families looking to steer clear of the city, Normandy in the North or the countryside of the South of France are both fantastic options, with Normandy boasting incredible greenery and rolling hills perfect for all sorts of activities. A visit to the staggering castles of the Loire Valley is also a must! The lavender-lined South is home to a warmer climate and beaches to match, making it a great place to catch some sun whilst still enjoying all the great things that this country has to offer.
10. Belize: to take a trip thousands of years back in time
Much like Costa Rica, Belize is quite possibly Central America’s best option for child-friendly travel, and the perfect place to make unforgettable memories together. Visit the Mayan ruins to get a sense of an ancient culture and feel like explorers as you wander through the temples and structures, where children can roam freely, climbing and playing, making it a fun alternative to traditional museums.
Head to the coast to go fishing, sailing, snorkeling or simply to relax in the idyllic beaches. Try the traditional seafood dishes here and even learn how to prepare them yourselves. Belize’s coasts and rivers are also dotted with caves, just waiting to be explored by curious families wanting a real sense of adventure. Go on a trip where you can canoe through caves such as Barton Creek Cave or for the thrill-seekers who aren’t afraid of the dark, go cave tubing at the Nohoch Che'en Caves.
Belize’s thick jungle also makes it the perfect habitat for a whole range of animals, meaning this beautiful destination is any animal lover’s dream. Visit a wildlife sanctuary to get up close to the animals, or go on a jungle trek or tour to spot the animals in their natural habitats (with the help of a guide), an incredible rewarding experience.
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