Planning the best family vacations requires careful preparation over the long-term. You should research, plan, and book these once-in-a-lifetime experiences years in advance. Why? Because an extended timeline lets you design an epic getaway, and it also means more time for vacation anticipation.
With that in mind, here are eight stellar bucket-list family vacation ideas to fuel your imagination, help you expand your horizons, and get you dreaming of the years to come.
An East African Safari
For many families, an East African safari represents the ultimate bucket-list vacation. Nothing compares to the exhilaration of scoping out magnificent wildlife in their native habitat. You’ll be awe-struck by the vast openness of Africa’s plains in places like Kenya and Tanzania as you take in glorious views of antelopes, giraffes, wildebeests, zebras, lions, and more.
But why stop at a traditional safari? A wealth of bucket-list-worthy activities await you and your family. Imagine floating above the lush plains of the world-famous Masai Mara during a hot air balloon safari. Flights typically depart at sunrise, which means you’ll have a bird’s eye view of the African bush as it awakens. Or head out on a snorkeling adventure off Kenya’s paradisiacal Lamu Island, exploration of Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater, or a spice tour of Zanzibar.
An Idyllic French Sojourn
Are you dreaming about a picturesque European getaway? There’s no more popular tourist destination than France. It features some of the world’s most iconic architecture, historic sites, and natural beauty in continental Europe. And the food is beyond this world! But there are also exciting bucket-list experiences your family should consider.
Why not head out on a road trip along the French Riviera, where you’ll savor gorgeous beaches, enjoy delectable French country cuisine, and discover quaint medieval towns? Or take a tour of Monet’s famed garden in Giverny, where he found both solace and inspiration. Other families may wish to combine a cycling tour of Burgundy with visits to some of the region’s top wineries.
Exotic Experiences in Japan
When it comes to a bucket-list family trip to Japan, you’ve got an endless array of activities to choose from. These include everything from digging into a bowl of ramen at the Shinyokohama Ramen Museum to window-shopping in Harajuku, the birthplace of Japanese street fashion. But the adventures don’t stop there!
Hop on Japan’s rail network to ride the famed Shinkansen bullet train, experiencing the pastoral Japanese countryside at top speed. Or devour delectable sashimi and sushi at the Tsukiji Fish Market. A winter vacation to Japan also comes with unique pleasures, like downhill skiing in Niseko or watching the Macaque Snow Monkeys of Jigokudani National Park chilling out in steaming hot springs.
Go Wild in Brazil
Whether you’re looking for vibrant culture, delicious cuisine, fascinating historical sites, or lush landscapes where wildlife abounds, Brazil has you covered. When you take the time to plan a bucket-list trip to the largest country in South America, you’ll have an endless list of adventures from which to choose. For example, nothing beats bird watching in the Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland habitat.
Savor the raw, sublime beauty of Iguazu Falls, the most powerful and widest waterfall range in the world. At Porto de Galinhas, located in Pernambuco, explore natural pools near the edge of the beach. These crystal-clear pools contain schools of vibrant fish that you and your kids can count from the shore. Or explore one of the largest river archipelagos in the world on a family river cruise adventure through the Amazon rainforest.
Diverse Destinations in Peru
Machu Picchu represents an essential bucket-list item for many families interested in visiting Peru. But many travelers don’t have much in the way of plans beyond the Sacred Valley and the Inca Trail. Of course, there’s much more to this stunning nation than its most famous archaeological site.
The “Land of the Incas” is also renowned for incredible destinations such as Huacachina, a dreamy desert oasis. Huacachina is a hub for exploring other indigenous cultures and the clues they left behind, including the Nazca lines. In Iquitos, known as the gateway to the Amazon rainforest, depart on a river cruise into the heart of this iconic jungle. Or head to Máncora, Peru’s best beach town, to learn more about the nation’s rich surfing history.
Authentic Adventures in Colombia
From charming towns like Jardin and Barichara with impossibly colorful neighborhoods to lush Coffee Triangle plantations, Colombia is a vibrant, fascinating destination. Medellin, known as “the City of the Eternal Spring,” offers a gorgeous climate year-round, and you’ll be impressed by the sophistication and culture of this bustling metropolis.
In Tayrona National Park, explore the mesmerizing beaches of the Caribbean Coast near Santa Marta. Or spend time discovering off-the-beaten-path shops and cafes in sunny Cartagena, a popular oceanfront destination. In the Old City, check out centuries-old Spanish Colonial architecture and colorful facades punctuated by window boxes overflowing with vibrant blossoms.
Island Hopping Ecuador’s Galápagos
Planning a one-of-a-kind vacation to the Galapagos Islands will leave you with unforgettable memories. After all, where else on the planet can you scope out hulking giant tortoises, see colonies of wizened marine iguanas, or interact with curious sea lions? There are so many wonderful ways to explore these incredible islands.
Sail the waters off the island chain in search of pods of killer whales, dolphins, and whales. On the island of Isabela, discover history at the Wall of Tears. This 82-foot-tall stone wall bears silent witness to the mid-20th-century prisoners who once served time in a penal colony here. Or kick back at the San Cristobal harbor with its welcoming pastel-colored cafes and stunning verandas, where you can sip robust Ecuadorian brews.
Answering the “Call of the Wild” in Alaska
Few family vacations pack in more bold, boot-worthy adventures than Alaska. Crammed with towering mountain ranges, mighty glaciers, breathtaking fjords, and lush forests, you’ll fall in love with. Observe wildlife on the Admiralty, Baranof, and Chichagof Islands in the northern part of the Alexander Archipelago. These islands are home to the densest populations of coastal brown bears in the world.
For an exhilarating expedition, go sea kayaking to a tidewater glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park. You’ll visit 1,000-year-old glaciers and see plenty of wildlife along the way, from sea otters to harbor seals and humpback whales. Ride a Gold Rush-era train to the Yukon where you can answer your own “Call of the Wild.” Built in 1898, this narrow-gauge railroad links Skagway to Whitehorse, making its way across spectacular wooden bridges and mountain passes.
Bucket-List Family Vacation Ideas
The destinations and bucket-list family vacation ideas above barely scratch the surface when it comes to exploring this big, beautiful world. Each family is unique and has different interests and travel personalities.
Has your family ever made a family travel bucket list? It’s a wonderful way to get the older kids engaged and narrow down places to visit while the kids are still home. Here’s a template we use to jot down our final favorites.
I have ours hanging in our pantry. It’s a fun way to keep dreaming of travel, and it always sparks conversations around the destinations we hope to visit. Once you have your family’s list, I can help you prioritize based on ages and special interests.
Just schedule your free travel planning call here: