Do you want to plan a trip that the whole family will enjoy, even the teenagers? Let’s face it, the easiest way to make any family vacation successful is to keep the kids happy! To get an idea of what kind of vacation a kid would most enjoy I ask a group of experts aka my kids.
Noah, Eden, and Jonah have been traveling with me their entire lives. So far the three of them have been to at least 22 countries, 4 continents, and almost every state in the United States. Needless to say when I ask them what the best family vacations were, they had more than a few opinions!
They quickly fired off an assortment of places we have been. It was interesting to hear what they picked, some of them I knew, but other ones were a complete surprise. After some serious conversation with them, we’ve narrowed it down to 15!
Top 15 Family Vacations You will Never Forget!
Singapore is in all of our top ten picks. My oldest, Noah considers Singapore to be a utopia because of the cleanliness and orderliness. Oddly enough, we were only in Singapore two days, making it one of the shortest stays we have done anywhere. It only took one day for us to fall in love with this city. We recommend walking around Marina Bay where the architecture is insane and definitely visit some parts of the Marina Bay Gardens. I can assure you that your kids have never seen anything else like this! The kids favorite hotel here is the Fairmont Singapore. For more ideas on what to do and where to find the best milkshake see my article: Singapore Travel Guide.
Cancun has so much going on, and don’t worry, it’s safe. We spent a week there and basically had a non-stop adventure! The entire area is set up well to accommodate any kind of family and literally any type of budget. Families will appreciate luxurious, all-inclusive resorts with kid’s clubs and teen clubs. While the kids are off doing their own thing parents can head to a spa or the bar. There isn’t a bad beach anywhere in the area, so plan to spend at least two full days beach bumming. While you are there, be sure to see Mayan Ruins, swim in a cenote, eat lots of Mexican food, and go ATVing.
Thailand is absolutely incredible and I wasn’t surprised it landed in my kids top three places. You can basically go anywhere in Thailand and have an interesting experience. I recommend visiting at least these three places when you go: Phuket, Bangkok, and Chiang Mai. Although they each have some similarities they are completely different experiences.
Phuket is one of Thailand’s islands and it’s extremely kid friendly. My kids thought taking a Thai cooking class was cool and they loved going to the beaches and interacting with elephants and tigers. To find the elephants on the beach check out my post: Swimming with Elephants in Thailand. And for more help planning your trip to Phuket see my article: 5 Day Phuket Itinerary with Kids.
Bangkok is massive so there are loads and activities. The kids loved biking through the city despite the heavy traffic and they were thrilled when we stumbled across monstrous milkshakes. To read more about taking Bangkok to kids, check out my article: Two Days in Bangkok with Kids.
Chiang Mai is an easy city to get around and it has tons to see and do. The city has an incredible night market where you and your kids could shop for hours. Here you will find interesting things to purchase like leather journals, bracelets, and tuk tuks made out of soda cans. There is an elephant sanctuary where families can care for elephants and of course the food is outstanding! I recommend staying at the Shangri-la and taking a food and city tour by bike. Learn more about visiting Chiang Mai with kids in my article: 4 Things to do in Chiang Mai with kids.
4. New York City
New York City is currently Noah’s #1 and in Eden’s top 3 and in my top 15. The kids love the many dessert experiences here like Serendipity, Buns Bar, and Black Tap. All three places have outrageous over the top desserts. They all enjoy hanging out in Central Park and Bryant Park, both parks have lots of free activities. At Bryant Park kids can play kubb, while parents grab a drink at the little outdoor bar there. In Central Park there are multiple playgrounds.
Visiting the 9/11 memorial is a must and if the kids are 10 or older tour the museum. Kids enjoy touring the Statue of Liberty, but not necessarily Ellis Island. If you do go to Ellis Island look for your family’s name on the wall. If you want to do a bus tour I recommend The Ride, especially if your kids are teens or tweens. I think going to a Broadway show is a must, but this is expensive and not worth it if your kids hate musicals or might possibly sleep through it. Good plays for kids are Wicked, Lion King, and Phantom of the Opera.
Remember the further out you can plan a trip to New York the cheaper the trip will be. Here are 15 Ways to save money in NYC.
5. Oahu, Hawaii
Hawaii is another place that all three kids agree on and Oahu is their top island followed by Kauai. On Oahu their favorite thing to do is sit at the pool or sit on the beach.
The kids recommend hanging out at the beach on North Shore to check out the waves and do some shopping. While you are up there have shrimp from Giovani’s Shrimp truck and get shaved ice at Matsumoto Shave Ice. If you feel like getting active rent a paddle board at Sea N Surf and paddle up the Anahulu River and look for sea turtles. The last time we went we saw five huge sea turtles.
Also fun in Oahu is parasailing in Waikiki and hiking to the top of Diamond Head. When you get done hiking Diamond Head stop by Shimazu Shave Ice for a massive shaved ice.
For more help planning your family’s Oahu vacation read our Oahu Travel Guide.
I highly recommend staying at Disney’s Aulani if possible.
Orlando would probably make any kid’s list. With it being home to Disney World, Sea World, Discovery Cove, and Universal Studios a family could spend a month and do something different every single day. Universal Orlando is a must once each kid is tall enough to ride all the roller coasters and the new water park, Volcano Bay is fantastic. Besides the theme parks there are all sorts of other fun things to do like swamp tours through alligator infested waters, knight tournaments at Medieval Times, and within a short drive lots of beaches.
London also made it high on the list of the kids favorite places. We visited during Thanksgiving a few years ago and everything we did was awesome. There is so much to see and do that you can easily spend a week or two here and never run out of activities. Some of their favorite things were seeing the play Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, eating at Borough Market, and doing the Tower of London tour. Both boys least favorite thing to do is the bus tours. I personally appreciated how many free things there were to do in London. For more London ideas and tips, see my article: London with Kids.
8. Negril, Jamaica
Negril, Jamaica is Jonah’s #1 pick, and if I was his age, I think this would possibly be my #1 too. We recommend staying at Beaches Negril. This is an all-inclusive resort geared specifically for families. Highlights of staying here include:
- Sesame Street parade and BBQ party where families can dance with the characters, DJs lead dances, flame throwers perform and more.
- Ice Cream Machine – The kids loved the ice cream machine which they visited a minimum of three times a day. (Don’t judge me, it’s vacation!)
- Snuba – Even kids can snuba at Beaches Negril and they do not have to have any experience to do this. The instructors are fabulous and it’s an activity the kids will never forget.
- Multiple pools, a lazy river, water playground, and hot tubs.
- Miniature golf
- Video game lounge
- Kid’s club
9. Vail, Colorado
Vail, Colorado is another destination that is enjoyable year round. During the summer the kids enjoy biking around town, riding horses around the mountain, and visiting the Epic Discovery adventure park set up on the mountain. In the winter the skiing is excellent. My kids have skied since they were little and appreciate the extensive skiing found in Vail. If you do not ski, this is a great place to learn. For more info, check out our Vail Travel Guide.
10. Silvies Valley Ranch
Visiting a dude ranch is a completely unique vacation. You can have an experience as a family that just can’t be had unless you are on a working ranch. Here you can shoot guns, interact with baby goats, hit the spa, experience gourmet dining, participate in a cattle round up and much more. They even have four golf courses on the ranch. Golf lovers will flip out over the reversible golf course that’s right I said reversible! With a little bit of everything you family is sure to have an incredible time. To get a feel of the overall ranch read about our Silvies Valley Ranch Experience.
Greece is an epic experience, because lets face it, there’s no other place on earth like it. It basically doesn’t matter what part of the country you visit, you will never have a bad meal, you will experience history and culture like never before. I can state this as fact because we’ve traveled all over Greece and it’s all been wonderful.
Chances are high that one way or another a Greek vacation is going to take you through Athens at some point. Plan to spend at least a day here so you can visit the Acropolis before heading out to the islands. At night during the sunset dine at Savvas, their rooftop overlooks the Acropolis. Hotels can be difficult to get for a family, you may want to stay in an Airbnb.
A one of kind city and gorgeous beaches await you in Mykonos. Teens and parents alike will love Mykonos City full of white washed buildings. Also, if you can get a sitter or if your kids are old enough to stay at the hotel alone plan to go out. Mykonos has one of the best nightlife experiences in the world.
- For way more advice, check out my post: Mykonos with Kids
Here you will have the opportunity to see things you’ve never see before like the Red Beach. Perissa, the black beach is also worth visiting if you’ve never seen one before. There are two towns built into the sides of the island, both of which are worth spending time in, Fira and Oia. In Oia you will see one of the greatest sunsets in the world.
- For more things to do and where to stay check out my post: Santorini on a Budget.
Thessaloniki is from biblical times and many of their historical sights have withstood the test of time. (Okay, I know what you are thinking. Yes, all of Greece is from biblical times.) They basically have ruins or a gorgeous church around every corner. The food scene is excellent here. For a list of things to see and do check out my post: Thessaloniki on a Budget.
Can’t afford to splurge on the islands? Head here instead. Here you will be greeted with that famous aqua water and glorious beaches. Go shopping in Pefkochori and grab lunch at Agora Beach Bar. I highly recommend staying at Alexander the Great Beach Resort in this area.
If you can get yourself to Australia, do it! Australia is just as fabulous as everyone says it is. There are so many varied experiences to be had throughout the country. Try to plan a minimum of 9 days in the country. More than two weeks would be better.
If swimming the Great Barrier Reef is on your bucket list, then this should be your first stop. Whitehaven Beach should also be on your bucket list. It’s one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
If you’ve got a family of foodies, Melbourne is sure to delight. They have the most over the top, whimsical food creations you’ve likely ever seen. In between beautiful meals stop by the Brighton Beach Bathing Boxes and the graffiti alleys. The alleys in Melbourne are really cool.
Great Ocean Road
One of the top road trips in the world is driving the Great Ocean Road. Along the way you can stop at dozens of scenic overlooks and take in the magnificent rock formations like Loch Ard Gorge and the 12 Apostles. You can enjoy one of the many nice beaches where kids can swim and play in the sand. Plus, there are animal encounters. Pull over to look for koalas in the trees and feed the birds at Kafe Koala. Be sure to stop at the Great Ocean Road Wildlife Park, where you will can hand feed kangaroos.
We are originally from Texas so it was no surprise that Texas made the list. The kids have been all over Texas and they recommend eating lots of Tex-Mex food and visiting the following cities: Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, and Corpus Christi.
San Antonio has a ton of stuff for families to do. Here you will find a massive zoo, Fiesta Texas theme park, the famous San Antonio River Walk, and just outside of town is Schlitterbahn the #1 water park in the world. When visiting plan at least one full day at Schlitterbahn, half a day at the river walk, and float the Comel river. Our favorite restaurants in San Antonio currently are: Ocho, Toro Kitchen + Bar, and Rita’s on the River.
In San Antonio I recommend staying at Hotel Emma.
Plan your entire trip with our San Antonio Travel Guide.
The Dallas, Fort Worth area is packed with stuff to do for families. Over in Fort Worth will love the rodeo at the stockyards. Be sure to go when they have bull riding. Also found in the stockyards is a fun maze and Texas themed shopping. Plus, they do a daily cattle drive. Our favorite restaurants in Dallas include Meso Maya for dinner and El Jordan Cafe for breakfast. Just north of Dallas is Addison, TX which is jammed packed with great restaurants.
Honduras is easily one of our top vacations, according to me. Unfortunately the kids remember very little of the trip. I recommend going to Roatan and Copan. These two places are no where near each other and two extremely different experiences. What they do have in common is affordability!
Roatan is one of the Bay Islands and along the 2nd best barrier reef in the world. The reef is near the shoreline making it extremely easy for kids to snorkel. Jonah was 4 when we visited and he was able to snorkel. Also fun here is zip lining and paddle boarding.
Copan is a Honduran city that borders Guatemala. Here you can go horseback riding up a mountain, go zip lining on one of the longest zip lines in the world, and visit an incredible hot springs.
15. Panama City Beach
Another family favorite in Florida is Panama City Beach. The beach has soft, powdery, white sand. It isn’t as big as many of the beach towns, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to do. Go mini golfing and go-carting, spend the day at the beach, or shop around at Pier Park. Spend one day bopping around Scenic 30A, where you will find tiny beach towns like Seaside or Rosemary. Renting some bicycles is a perfect way to explore this area. Another interesting spot worth venturing out to is Sandestin’s Baytowne Wharf. Here, families can indulge in boutique shopping, zip lining, ropes courses, an arcade, and unique eateries.
Use our Panama City Beach travel guide to plan your entire vacation.
So, there you have it, the best of the best family travel locations. There are hundreds of other places that could have made the list, but didn’t. These were ones that just barely missed making our list: Las Vegas, Bavarian Alps in Germany, Paris, and house boating on Lake Shuswap in British Columbia. Like Honduras my kids do not even remember house boating up in Canada, but if they did (well not Jonah, he had yet to be born), I am sure it would have made it on to the list.
Where are your kids favorite places to go for a vacation? Where are your favorite places to take your kids on vacation? We are always taking recommendations and planning our next family vacations. Yes, plural. Why take just one vacation? I think you should take as many as possible, big trips, weekend getaways, family reunions, you name it. These are all opportunities to have fun, spend time together and make the most memories possible. And don’t delay. Noah’s a high school senior and he’s about to move on with his life. (Oregon State University #Bragging) And y’all, I straight up ran out of time with him. You will run out of time, so make today count.