Family vacations – the best places to travel with kids

For families planning a getaway, finding a destination that pleases everyone isn't always easy. We've done the work for you with this comprehensive round-up of family vacation ideas – here is our guide to the world's best places to travel with kids.
Movie set tours of Lord of the Rings locations are available at Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand. Photo: Barbora Martinakova/Shutterstock
Movie set tours of Lord of the Rings locations are available at Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand. Photo: Barbora Martinakova/Shutterstock

As the new year progresses, it's time for families to start thinking about their next trip away. To help you decide on a destination that’s great for the little ones as well as fun for the grown-ups, we’ve put our heads together and come up with a list of family vacation ideas that offers somewhere for everyone.

1. Florida, USA

When it comes to family holidays, Orlando has earned its position at the top of the list. Most well known for Disney World, which includes Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom, this city in Central Florida is also home to a wealth of other top theme parks. Harry Potter fanatics can visit Hogwarts and Diagon Alley for themselves at Universal Studios, while SeaWorld offers aquatic entertainment for marine life lovers. 

If amusement parks aren’t your ideal family vacation idea, the Sunshine State offers plenty more besides. You can drive on the sand at Daytona Beach, discover astronomical exploration and rocket science at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, and encounter alligators close-up in the subtropical wetlands of Everglades National Park. While up the coast at Tampa Bay, the shoreline promenade and soft sands at dazzling Clearwater Beach are not to be missed.

Space rocket detail at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Photo: Albo/Shutterstock

2. Portugal  

Children are made welcome just about everywhere in Portugal, including hotels, restaurants and bars. So traveling with your kids is a rewarding experience and a wonderful way to meet the locals. In Lisbon, hop on one of the remodeled 1930s trams on route 28 for an atmospheric ride down hills and up steep climbs, through historic neighborhoods and past landmarks such as the ancient cathedral and hilltop castle. View rays and sharks at the waterfront Oceanário de Lisboa, while in the nearby resort of Sintra, the whole family can enjoy exploring dreamlike castles and palaces perched on top of forested hills overlooking the town. Head south to enjoy the Algarve’s gorgeous south-facing, protected beaches along coastline stretching from Sagres to Tavira, as well as family entertainment in the Zoomarine water park in the town of Guia.

Insight Guides can help organize and book tailor-made trips in Portugal for you and your family. Simply get in touch to share your ideas for the trip and local travel experts will create a personalized itinerary especially.

Tram on route 28 in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo: Richie Chan/Shutterstock

3. The Bahamas

Idyllic white-sand beaches aren't the only thing attracting families to the Bahamas. The breathtaking subtropical islands are also known for their coral reefs, forests, and upmarket, kid-friendly resort hotels. The Atlantis Bahamas on Paradise Island north of the capital Nassau is certainly leading the charge here. This luxurious beachside property features numerous pools, a water park, decadent spas, and activities including golf and family yoga on the beach. To get an even more exclusive taste of the Bahamas, it's hard to go wrong with a Disney cruise. On the exclusive Castaway Cay private island, reserved for Disney Cruise Line guests, numerous fun activities are laid on to keep kids entertained, while the grown-ups get to enjoy some well-deserved downtime.

4. Ko Samui, Thailand

A short flight away from Bangkok, the island of Ko Samui in the Gulf of Thailand makes an excellent choice for a family holiday, with plenty of great facilities and entertainment for kids. Many of the island’s scenic bays have been developed, with establishments like the Anantara Bophut Koh Samui Resort blending in along the palm-fringed beach fronts. However, Ko Samui’s raw beauty and laid-back ambience remain intact. There are soft sandy beaches, such as the extensive stretches of Hat Chaweng and Hat Lamai, and activities including jungle treks in Samui’s interior to beauty spots like the Na Mueang waterfalls. Day trips from Ko Samui to the dozens of islands that make up Ang Thong National Marine Park offer the chance to enjoy kayaking expeditions, visit idyllic lagoons, and snorkel in waters teeming with colorful tropical fish.

Browse Insight Guides’ Thailand trip itineraries for family vacation ideas and keep in mind that they can all be tailored to suit your specific needs.

Ang Thong National Marine Park, near Ko Samui, Thailand. Photo: lkunl/Shutterstock

5. Playa del Carmen, Mexico

One of Mexico’s best coastal resorts, Playa del Carmen offers family relaxation on palm-fringed, white-sand stretches lapped by a turquoise sea with dazzling coral reefs. An idyllic destination in which to unwind – soak up the sun on the Riviera Maya's pristine beaches, and take to the waters with older kids for excellent snorkeling. Just to the south, the Xcaret ‘eco-archeological theme park’ has a semi-underground river for swimming, dolphins, a zoo, and live shows. Within easy reach of town, the coastal archaeological site of Tulum where ruined Maya pyramids stand against a backdrop of the shimmering Caribbean is a must-see.

Visit Playa del Carmen as part of Insight Guides' Mexico's Mayan Trail trip, which can be tailored to meet your family's specific requirements.

6. Singapore

Few destinations are as culturally rich as family-friendly Singapore. Between the jaw-dropping beaches of Sentosa, the beauty of the Botanic Gardens, and nature walks through the rainforest at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, there is no shortage of activities to keep children engaged and entertained. The hugely popular Night Safari (a wild nocturnal zoo) offers the opportunity to see lions, leopards and elephants after dark, world-class attractions such as the striking ArtScience Museum house fascinating exhibits for all the family, while the film and TV-themed Universal Studios Singapore amusement park is certainly not to be missed.

7. Cape Town, South Africa

The magnificent outdoors is never far away in Cape Town, making the city a wonderful destination for families. From towering Table Mountain and the stunning rugged landscapes stretching down the Cape Peninsula, to fabulous beaches overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The resident penguin colony at Boulders Beach, south of the city, makes it a favorite with most kids. Visit the Iziko South African Museum for fascinating natural history and science exhibits, and ride the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway to take in the views stretching in all directions from the mountain’s distinctive flat top. 

A two-drive from Cape Town takes you to the Aquila Game Reserve where the whole family will love seeing the Big Five – elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard and rhino – as well as giraffe, wildebeest and zebra. Even closer to the city, the town of Hermanus offers the world’s finest land-based whale watching from its low cliff tops, with practically guaranteed sightings in season, from June to December.

Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: David Ryznar/Shutterstock

8. Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

The incredible wildlife in the Galápagos, much of which is found nowhere else on the planet, bears testament to the islands’ marvel of isolated evolution. Kids won’t believe their luck, while grown-ups will feel like kids again, as they splash in shallow waters with baby sea lions, snorkel near reef sharks, rays and turtles, and view iguanas, seals and bewilderingly abundant birdlife.

Follow in Charles Darwin's footsteps and spot rare species such as giant tortoises and blue-footed boobies as part of Insight Guides’ Galapagos Islands Explored trip

Galápagos marine Iguana. Photo: Tomas Kotouc/Shutterstock

9. Monteverde, Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a spellbinding natural paradise for family travelers who are keen to savor the delights of adventure and eco-tourism. From palm-fringed beaches to steaming volcanoes and verdant rainforest, there are wonderfully diverse landscapes in which to discover the country’s abundant wildlife. Families with older children can experience thrilling outdoor activities such as canopy tours and skywalks in areas including Monteverde, north west of the capital San Jose.

Zip-lining as part of a canopy tour offers visitors the chance to get close-up to wildlife in the forest canopy. Take in panoramic views of lush mountain scenery, and have fun zipping above forested slopes and valleys, while safely harnessed to the cable throughout. Sky Trek offers the highest and longest zip-lines available in the Monteverde region.

Experience the incredible biodiversity of Monteverde with your family as part of Insight Guides Costa Rica: Coast to Coast trip, which can be tailored to meet your specific requirements.

Zip-lining in Costa Rica. Photo: Evocation Images/Shutterstock

10. North Island, New Zealand

The dramatic wilderness scenery of New Zealand’s north island is as diverse as it is awesome – forests, lakes, mountains, fjords, and beaches. Kids and grown-ups will be equally enthralled by the erupting geysers at Rotorua, the countless glow-worms in the subterranean cave systems of Waitomo, and the bubbling pools at Hot Water Beach on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. Rent a motorhome to explore these stunning destinations at your leisure. New Zealand is now synonymous with the Lord of the Rings movies. Young fans will love exploring the film’s locations in the country such as those featured as the shires at Hobbiton in Matamata.

Ready to take a trip with your family?

Insight Guides can help organize and book wonderful trips around the world for you and your family. Simply get in touch to share your ideas for the trip and to let us know when you would like to travel. Local travel experts will then create a personalized itinerary especially, which you can amend until you are happy with every detail before booking.