With just eighteen summer holidays to look forward to as parents, it’s important to think very carefully about where you’re going to spend each one. It may be easy to spend your family vacation in your beach home or at the local amusement park, but it pays to think outside your comfort zone and think about places you absolutely need to visit while the kids are still young.
If you’re looking for that big “Aha!” moment with your kids and want to leave permanent travel marks on their memory, there are vacation spots that are worth considering, both here and abroad. Here are our ten family-friendly vacation ideas you absolutely must consider before your kids grow up.
The Hawaiian Islands
Everyone dreams about a trip to Hawaii. The Hawaiian Islands offer kids of all ages the trip of a lifetime – beautiful beaches with snorkeling off the coast, surfing and boogie boarding, lovely ocean breezes, local culture, sublime sunsets, mountain hikes, horseback riding, luaus and perfect weather. Family excursions include trips to historical and natural sites like Pearl Harbor, hiking Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, swimming in lagoons or embarking on a trip down Maui’s celebrated Road to Hana. Whether you choose Oahu, Maui, Kauai or the Big Island, this is a vacation not soon to be forgotten.
A trip to the Galapagos Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage site 600 miles off the Ecuadorean coast, is ideal for wildlife-loving families. The active volcanoes have a diversity of wildlife that can’t be matched – from sea lions to marine iguanas to penguins. It’s also known as the place that helped to spawn Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, giving its islands mythical status. Kids can swim with sea lions, snorkel with turtles and meet friendly iguanas, providing one memorable experience after another.
Rome is a great place to visit with kids, as is all of Italy. Italians love children and they will often stop to ogle at babies and young children. Rome is also a great starting point if you’re planning to tour Italy. If you’re planning to visit the Vatican, make a reservation or hire a walking tour guide. Also be mindful of the time of year, as the crowds can get very heavy, and climb the Cupola. When you’re done, tour the Colosseum and Forum, the Pantheon, Santa Maria del Popolo, Campo di Fiori, Piazza Navona, and take your kids to see Michelangelo’s Pietà in St. Peter’s and the Trevi Fountain. Let kids run around the city’s open piazzas or in Villa Borghese, and indulge in several scoops of gelato every chance you get.
Walt Disney World
No list of this nature is legitimate without Walt Disney World on it. It’s got the excitement of the rides, characters, fireworks, and magic. Kids truly want nothing else than to visit Orlando’s Disney parks. It’s not the cheapest trip in the world, but there are times of the year to visit that are less crowded and expensive, like between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Spread out the sights over the course of your vacation, setting aside time for the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as well as a few character meet and greets and the water parks. You’ll love the look on your little girl’s face when she meets Elsa from Frozen in person.
San Diego offers a lush, scenic coastline with sandstone cliffs, pristine beaches and sea caves, as well as perfect weather and a plethora of memorable attractions. Families can spend a full day at the San Diego Zoo, one of the best and biggest zoos in the world, observing pandas, polar bears, elephants, and other amazing animals. Lego fans will love a visit to LEGOLAND California’s 50+ rides, shows and attractions. SeaWorld San Diego remains one of San Diego’s biggest tourist draws and is known all over the world over as the home of Shamu, a famous killer whale. At the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, kids can get up close and personal to live animals in habitats that mimic their natural ones, from Africa to Asia. When you have time to spare, the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim is not too far of a drive.