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Choosing the Best Vacation Destinations with Kids

best vacation destinations with kids

No two families are alike. So, why do so many family vacation packages and tours look the same? At Our Whole Village, we think vacation opportunities should be just as varied and creative as the families who take them! That’s why, today, I’m shining a spotlight on distinct types of family travel. That way, you can find the best fit for your family’s unique interests and needs.

Here are my favorite tips for choosing the best vacation destinations with kids.

Travel by Style

The way people like to travel differs as much as their personalities. For example, some families prefer traveling off-the-beaten-path while others go with an agenda. Many want to cross specific items off their bucket list. Still other families focus on luxury, small group, or multigenerational travel. No matter your family’s unique style, there’s a trip for you.

Sample Destinations:

  • Chile: For off-the-beaten-path adventures, look no further than the Atacama. From flamingo-lined lagoons to the geysers of El Tatio, its landscapes are both stunning and remote.
  • Cambodia: Cross a major item off your family’s travel bucket list on a visit to Angkor Wat, the largest religious complex in the world.
  • The French Countryside: When it comes to luxury travel experiences for the whole family, France has a corner on the market.
  • Brazil: Head into the heart of Bahia with a small group of fellow family travelers for an engaging exploration of Chapada Diamantina National Park and Salvador.

Travel by Style Activities:

  • Stargazing: For off-the-beaten-path explorers, deserts are great places to get away from crowds. Whether it’s Chile’s Atacama or Great Basin National Park in the US, leave the crowds and civilization behind to enjoy stargazing under some of the darkest skies in the world.
  • Historical exploration: Get a head start on your family’s travel bucket list by checking off World Heritage Sites such as Peru’s Machu Picchu or Cambodia’s Angkor Wat while learning more about the history of each area.
  • Luxury getaways: Consider renting one of the many private villas and chateaux dotting the French countryside. Look for ones converted into luxurious, self-catering properties with private pools, acres of gardens and vineyards, and easy access by car or train to sophisticated metropolitan centers like Paris.
  • Small group classes: Small group tours represent a fantastic way to make new friends and enjoy amazing experiences with like-minded families. Consider a capoeira and drums class in Brazil or a graffiti-making workshop in Chili to break the ice and start forming friendships.
Chapada Diamantina
© Lucila De Avila Castilho | Dreamstime.com

Adventure and Active Travel Vacations

Does it feel like your kids are always on the go-go-go? Take advantage of their seemingly endless wells of energy by embarking on fun family getaways filled with action. Adventure and active travel vacations are ideal for families who are already on the move but want to up the ante on vacation. And don’t let the term “adventure travel” turn you off. Instead, tailor your travel adventure to your fitness and comfort levels as well as your children’s ages.

Sample Destinations:

  • Costa Rica: This country’s pristine rain forests are ripe for exploring as a family, and you can relax on the beaches, too.
  • Iceland: Travel to Iceland has exploded in recent years and for good reason. This European destination boasts rugged, breathtaking terrain, awe-inspiring glaciers, and thermal pools perfect for a relaxing soak.
  • Patagonia: The rugged beauty of this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve rivals any destination in the world with its sharp rock pinnacles, massive glaciers, intensely blue lakes, and exotic wildlife.
  • Amazon River Cruise: Experience the full breadth of Amazonia’s ecological biodiversity, participate in abundant kid-friendly adventures, and enjoy Brazil’s renowned hospitality on a comfortable river cruise.

Active Travel Activities:

  • Bike tours and cycling vacations: Choose a half-day excursion or a multi-day adventure.
  • Water sports (like surfing, snorkeling, and scuba diving): Some resorts and outfitters can grant temporary scuba diving licenses so you can explore the waters on your vacation.
  • Ziplining: Your kids will never forget the sound of you screaming in excitement as you fly through the trees!
  • Hiking: Whether it’s the Inca trail or the W trek in Patagonia, hiking represents an excellent way for families to explore new destinations, stay active, and satisfy their thirst for adventure.
ziplining in Costa Rica
© Damian Olivera Bergallo | Dreamstime.com

Culturally-Immersive Vacations

Do you yearn to use your precious vacation time as a family to expand your children’s horizons? Do you long to show them how incredibly diverse people, places, and cultures throughout the world? Then, a culturally-immersive vacation is the perfect fit for your family.

When it comes to vacations to take with kids, exploring new cultures together through hands-on, authentic experiences probably rank high on your list. These culturally-immersive experiences not only reveal the real heart of your destination to you, but they also let you open your heart in return. You can even use your vacation as a chance to give back to the communities you visit!

Sample Destinations:

  • Peru: Machu Picchu is a perennial favorite for travelers young and old looking to explore an epic remnant of history. What’s more, traveling the Sacred Valley feels like stepping back in time.
  • Europe’s capitals: Combine tours in Europe’s most celebrated cultural capitals — like Paris, Berlin, Rome, and Prague — for your family’s version of a European Grand Tour. Many European cities are very welcoming of families.
  • Morocco: From the fragrant spice markets to the colorful, intricate architecture, this country is a feast for the senses.
  • Thailand: Tour temples, explore jungles, and relax on world-class beaches. Thailand has it all! To make your trip truly immersive, consider a homestay with a local Thai family.

Culturally-Immersive Travel Activities:

  • Cooking classes: Not only do these let you experience a destination with all of your senses, but you can get them tailored to your children’s skill level.
  • Guided walking tours: These tours bring history to life right before your eyes, whether it’s the Roman Colosseum, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, or the Acropolis in Greece.
  • Agricultural tours: Whether you’re learning more about viticulture at a winery, checking out the rice paddies, or visiting a banana plantation, you can learn a lot about a culture by better understanding its agriculture.
interesting facts about Angkor Was
© Dmitry Rukhlenko | Dreamstime.com

Slow Travel Vacations

If your family needs a kid-friendly getaway to recharge and reconnect, consider a slow travel vacation. On a slow travel vacation, you’re less concerned about checking off all the boxes than exploring together, on your own terms. Typically, you’ll stay in one central location for the duration of your vacation, rather than packing up and moving to a new destination every couple of days. Relaxing while reconnecting — what could be better?

Sample Destinations:

  • The Tuscan countryside: Book a handsome villa large enough to accommodate your family to while away your vacation in one of the most breathtaking regions on earth.
  • Indonesia: A classic destination for those in search of relaxation and renewal, and an especially good choice if you’re interested in introducing your children to yoga — the country is home to renowned yoga retreats.
  • Caribbean Islands: Few places invite savoring every moment quite like the Caribbean. From Barbados to Jamaica, St. Lucia to Grenada, you’ll enjoy turquoise waters and white sand beaches without end.

Slow Travel Activities:

  • Cooking an authentic meal: There’s nothing like letting local ingredients from the market inspire your next meal as a family.
  • Self-guided walking or car tours: Take time to slowly explore like a local and gain new insight into a destination.
  • Kicking back by the beach or pool: Travel doesn’t have to be a madcap dash from one tourist attraction to the next. Instead, why not perfect the art of relaxation local-style?
multicultural kids
© Our Whole Village

Wildlife Viewing Vacations

Children who learn to respect wildlife from a young age are more than just mini environmental stewards. They’re also more considerate and kinder all around. Help foster these traits by taking your family on a wildlife viewing vacation.

Sample Destinations:

  • Africa: Whether you visit Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, or somewhere else, the African continent offers abundant wildlife viewing opportunities.
  • Baja, Mexico: Located along the Baja California peninsula, Baja offers stunning views of the Sea of Cortez and endless chances for marine wildlife watching.
  • Pantanal, Brazil: Nestled on the edge of the Amazon, the Pantanal region is the largest wetland ecosystem in the world, and it teems with abundant life.
  • Galápagos Islands, Ecuador: Because the islands’ lack of natural predators, local wildlife, including gigantic sea tortoises and playful sea turtles, don’t mind getting up close and personal with visitors, which makes for one-of-a-kind interactions.
  • Patagonia: Located in the southern tip of South America in present-day Chile and Argentina, Patagonia boasts many distinct species of penguins.

Wildlife Viewing Activities:

  • African safari: Reputable outfitters can create an incredible, age-appropriate adventure travel experience for your family, with guided tours to spot some of Africa’s most fascinating — and elusive — creatures.
  • Marine wildlife observation: Whether it’s whale watching, swimming with whale sharks and sea lions, or participating in a turtle conservation project, your family will learn a wealth about our oceans and the animals they support.
  • Bird watching: With a little practice, your kids can learn to identify birds not only by their plumage but also their calls. Ramp up the fun even more by turning family bird-watching into a scavenger hunt for new species.
visiting the rainforest
© Pablo Hidalgo | Dreamstime.com

Travel by Age

Depending on the age of your children, certain travel destinations prove more suitable than others. For example, babies and toddlers require a slower pace with lots of stops along the way. But school-aged kids thrive on constant action, so they appreciate trips planned around exploration and adventure. (As long as it’s at the pace of their shorter legs.) Here are some unforgettable kid-friendly destinations to visit by age 8.

Preteens or tweens have more physical stamina and long for greater independence. They love trips where they can help with the planning. Teens thrive on family vacations to “cool” destinations where there are lots of opportunities for cultural exploration, visiting pop culture touchstones, and social media-worthy photos. Here are some more great places to visit with tweens and with teens.

If you have kids of different ages, you’ll have to do a little negotiating. But a family-friendly travel company can help you find the ideal location and activities to satisfy kids of multiple ages.

Sample Destinations:

  • Babies & Toddlers – London, England: Few places prove better for traveling with babies and toddlers than London. You’ll enjoy plenty of changing facilities and other baby-friendly amenities, and many of the city’s best landmarks are within easy walking distance or accessible via public transportation.
  • Pre-schoolers – Argentina: From streetside tango to Malbec wines and gaucho culture, Argentina’s impressive size is rivaled by its vibrant culture and diverse natural landscapes.
  • Elementary – Brazil: Whether it’s the verdant rainforests of the Amazon or the thundering waterfalls of Iguazú, school-aged kids will love the adventure and excitement of visiting Brazil. Kids will savor learning about ecology and animals on accessible trails perfect for little legs.
  • Middle School – Galápagos Islands: Your middle-schooler will relish learning about the ecosystems and wildlife of the Galápagos Islands, from marine iguanas to blue-footed boobies. The islands boast a stunning diversity of landscapes and offer many exciting places to snorkel, scuba dive, and hike.
  • High School – Japan: Your teen will love exploring Japan’s myriad cultural icons from ninjas to geishas and samurais. The Harajuku district in Shibuya, Tokyo, also proves an ideal location for teens to hang out and take in the fun pop culture scene. And don’t forget about Akihabara’s shops, cafes, and museums, perfect for teens fascinated by anime and manga.

Travel by Age Activities:

  • Mastering the art of baby and toddler-friendly outings: Short trips to theaters, parks, petting zoos, and local farms are all great places for babies and toddlers.
  • Attending a class: Whether it’s a dance class, music class, or a capoeira and drums class, get kids moving for unforgettable memories.
  • Hiking: Whether there’s a waterfall or natural land feature at the end of your trek, an accessible trail is excellent for children of all ages.

Travel with a Purpose

Did you know that for every $100 spent by tourists in developing countries, the local economy only sees about $5? It’s time to change this trend, and you can help. Make a decision today to support travel companies that specialize in transformative family adventures that make the world a better place. Here are some examples of how Our Whole Village is restructuring the tourism dollar model so that local communities benefit:

Sample Destinations:

  • Brazil: Famous for its stunning beaches, pristine rainforests, and delectable barbecue, your family vacation to Brazil can help locals along the Rio Negro find better lives through educational opportunities and the development of artisanal trades.
  • Thailand: From its lush countryside to its ancient ruins and floating markets, Thailand is a land of magic and mystery. Its exotic culture and delicious food will delight you and your family. But you can also feel good about helping endangered species in the region.
  • Baja Mexico: Known for its gorgeous beaches, stunning islands, and ocean waters teeming with life, you and your family will find plenty of opportunities for adventure in Baja. What’s more, you can lend a hand to local conservation efforts.

Travel with a Purpose Activities:

  • Help organizations that benefit local economies: For example, the Almerinda Malaquias Foundation provides local women and youth with training in the creation of sustainable handicrafts.
  • Get involved in conservation efforts: Learn about Asian elephants while caring for baby elephants and their moms at the Patara Elephant Farm in Thailand, lend a hand at a world-renowned sea turtle research and conservation project in Baja Mexico, or volunteer with Quelônios, a turtle conservation project on the Jauaperi River in Brazil.
  • Assist local schools: In Brazil, your tourist dollars can benefit VivAmazonia elementary school where Our Whole Village is involved in numerous assistance projects.
travel trends 2019
© Our Whole Village

Additional Travel Resources

No matter where you choose to go, always keep the principles of green travel in mind. Also known as “sustainable travel” and “eco-friendly travel,” green travel describes the practice of sustainable traveling habits. It means staying conscious of the well-being of the places you visit and opting to use more eco-friendly resources.

That said, there is so much that goes into green travel, from where you sleep to how you travel and the activities you do in a destination. As a result, it can seem daunting to know if you’re being eco-friendly or not. Fortunately, CarRentals has compiled handy tips to help you stay on track. Check out their ultimate guide to green travel below, which puts the principles of green travel together in one spot. Following these golden rules can help you be much more sustainable in your travels while enjoying the beauty of the world, wherever you go.

how to plan a sustainable trip

Get More Tips on Choosing the Best Vacation Destinations with Kids

Of course, you can combine elements of the above vacation types to create the ultimate, customized escape for your family. Many families have diverse interests — if you’re one of them, search for itineraries that have the right mix of adventurous activities, culturally-immersive moments of discovery, and plenty of time for laid-back relaxation.

At Our Whole Village, we create transformational trips for curious families who want to create lasting memories while making a difference. We’re here to help you and your family experience the world, its people, and its cultures. Contact us today to learn more about the unforgettable experiences that we handcraft for adventure-seeking families just like yours.

Ready for more family trip ideas? Check out our series on traveling with kids:

15 Compelling Benefits of a Family Vacation

Research shows that our views of the world and ourselves are shaped by the personal experiences we encounter throughout life. The more experiences we have, the broader our horizons, the stronger our confidence. This is just one of the many benefits of a family vacation. Keep reading to find out more.

Family Travel Tips for a Stress-Free Vacation

From packing the right gear to taking full advantage of your mode of transportation, these family travel tips make traveling with kids a success rather than a stress. Sure, unexpected challenges will still show up along the way. But armed with these tips, you’ll also have plenty of aces in the hole.

How to Enjoy a Family Vacation to the Fullest

Enjoying a family vacation to the max starts with planning for both the expected and unexpected as well as making space for the delightful moments. These tips will help you conquer travel challenges, savor each moment, and then relive the magic well after you’ve returned from your destination.

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