While, at first glance, the idea of travelling with children can be a daunting one, it can be a life-changing experience, for kids, teenagers, and adults alike. Planning a family holiday with little ones (or sometimes with older children and teenagers) is not without its challenges, and this is why it’s important to iron out any potential future problems by planning ahead and making the most crucial decision in the most informed way possible; choosing the destination. Choosing the right family holiday destination for your trip will ensure that your kids (and you) are safe and entertained throughout the entire trip, that you experience a range of activities suitable to their age range, that there are plenty of opportunities for relaxation, not too much boring travel time, and that the trip will be unforgettable for you all, for all the right reasons. To help you work out where to go, here are our top ten kid-friendly destinations for your next family holidays...
1. Costa Rica: for nature and wildlife lovers
Costa Rica is not only a stunning country with a rich history and a warm, welcoming culture, it is also an extremely varied country in terms of activities and experiences on offer here. This combination is the golden ratio of family travel, making it a perfect destination for any family and any type of trip.
Adventurous families will find plenty of amusement here, whether its exploring the thick jungles, sprawling national parks or smoking volcanoes. Explore the canopies in a treetop tour of the cloud forest, getting the chance to see some of Costa Rica’s most beloved native animals in their natural habitats. If this is close enough for you, you can even head to one of Costa Rica’s wildlife sanctuaries where you’ll have the opportunity to see rescued and abandoned animals as they’re nursed back to health before being released.
After all that excitement you may want to take a day or two to relax. Never fear, Costa Rica’s beautiful beaches are just the place. Relax under the shade of a palm tree or wander along white sandy beaches, enjoying the relaxed Caribbean atmosphere. If, by some miracle, your kids still have enough energy, you can try your hand at surfing or go snorkelling and see the tropical underwater world just beyond the shore, or ride along the beach on horseback and feel the refreshing sea-breeze as you take in your surroundings.
In short, Costa Rica is sure to be a hit with the whole family. Our only advice; work out in advance what you want to see and do, since this beautiful country can spoil you for choice and you will want to make sure you don’t miss out on anything during your time here.
2. Mexico: for history buffs and little explorers
Wherever you decide to go in Mexico; city or countryside, historical site or seaside (or all over!) you won’t be sorry for choosing to come here. Delicious food is just one of the reasons why Mexico has made it onto our list of the top ten family destinations around the world. Fascinating history and breathtaking scenery that is jam-packed with fun family-friendly activities also contribute to making this country a great choice for your family getaway.
Visit Tulum, where you’ll find the perfect combination of idyllic beaches and amazing ruins and archaeological sites from the ancient Mayan culture that once ruled here. After a delicious breakfast under the trees, you can spend the morning exploring the temples and structures ar Tulum, where children can climb, run and play to their heart's’ content. Once they’re worn out, return to the beach for a lunch looking out over the turquoise waters and an afternoon of relaxation or exploration of the town that lies just a short bike ride away.
Isla Mujeres, Cancun and Puerto Vallarta are also popular family destinations, since they too offer an eclectic mix of local charm, culture and fun activities in the sea and sun. Head to Mazatlan for a crowd-free destination, packed full of charm and the perfect choice for families who love to discover hidden gems and feel as though they are immersed in local culture.
3. Galapagos Islands: to follow in Darwin's footsteps
For nature and animal-loving families The Galapagos Islands are a natural choice, and a fantastic one. Nowhere else can you see such a range of wildlife up close, in its natural habitat and surrounded by incredible scenery such as dramatic rock formations and turquoise blue waters.
Begin your adventure on land, where you can see the famous Galapagos Tortoises and marine iguanas and watch the Galapagos fur seals and penguins as they relax in the sun between dips. This amazing place has become synonymous with biodiversity, due to its isolation and the fact that animals here had no apex predators to threaten their evolution. Made famous by Charles Darwin, this place’s lack of predators also has an added bonus; the animals here are not afraid of humans, meaning you and your kids will be able to get a proper look!
As if that wasn’t enough, heading out to sea yields a treasure trove of amazing wildlife. Take an unforgettable boat trip to see the whales that spend their time just offshore, a sight which you and your children will never forget. For slightly older children, why stop there? Dive beneath the waves on a snorkelling or scuba-diving trip and swim with dolphins, seals, turtles and many more species just waiting to be spotted. The Galapagos Islands have long been hailed as the ultimate pilgrimage for any nature loving travellers and the many family-friendly options mean that this nature can be enjoyed by anyone, not matter their age.
4. Sri Lanka: for elephants, tea plantations, and beaches
Sri Lanka’s contrast between its bustling towns and cities and serene beaches and countryside provides an excellent option for families who are looking to get a real feel for their destination, its atmosphere, culture and people during their trip. Fly into Colombo and taste delicious local food, washed down with a cup of traditional tea before heading off to see the plantations where Sri Lanka’s most ancient and prized commodity is grown, picked and prepared. Children will love the traditional train ride through the sprawling tea fields, and adults can marvel as the specialists get to work, picking only the tea leaves that are the right colour, size and maturity for each blend. After tasting all the teas on offer, you can visit the beach and relax, surf, explore or watch sea turtles as they nest in the white sand. You can also visit one of Sri Lanka’s elephant sanctuaries where you can see rescued elephants and their calves as well as helping the keepers to make toys for the elephants to play with and even helping to bathe these amazing animals.
The national parks and roaming hills and mountains of Sri Lanka provide the perfect opportunity for sporty families, wanting to walk or hike and famous sites such as Adam’s Peak provide options suitable for younger legs, such as a tuk tuk ride followed by a short, non-challenging walk to the summit.
5. Cambodia: for a trip thousands of years back in time
Of all of the countries in Southeast Asia, Cambodia is arguably the best adapted for family travellers and has a huge range of interesting and exciting tours that give children and families a sense of big adventure without any of the stress or danger that this can sometimes involve. Explore historical sites, such as the ancient city of Angkor Wat and feel as though you’ve travelled back in time together on a treasure hunt through the site, exploring carved murals, crumbling temples and twisted trees. You can even take a zip line ride over the site, seeing it from a thrilling perspective and looking out for the gibbons that live up in the trees here. For local immersion, visit a night market or even a floating fishing village, built entirely on the water.
Get from place to place on quad bike, travelling through forests and on dirt tracks or, for younger children, take a ride in an ox cart and watch as the scenery unfolds around you. For a souvenir that will last a lifetime, take a cooking class with the whole family and learn to make traditional Cambodian dishes that you can recreate at home to remind you of your time here.
6. Norway: for ultimate lovers of the Great Outdoors
For families wanting a flexible trip with total freedom to travel at their own pace and leisure, Norway is the perfect destination. Take a self-drive trip to enjoy all of the perks of travelling at your own pace, something which is certainly great for families with younger children. Norway’s sites are easy to drive to and the roads are fantastic, meaning that you’ll easily be able to get from one incredible spot to another without worrying about timings. The roads are split into 18 National Tourism routes, making Norway the ultimate family destination for self-drive convenience. Visit Oslo and wander its quirky streets, discovering interesting shops and museums, such as the Norsk Folkemuseum, where children can enjoy a range of interactive experiences such as tradition bread-making or folk dancing. Head on to one of Norway’s many theme parks, which is sure to entertain the children (and possibly the adults too!) Norway is also widely considered to be a natural paradise with breathtaking waterfalls and fjords that make for stunning stop offs on your trip. Pack up a picnic and enjoy the panoramic views of the fjords, or even go for a dip if you’re visiting during the summer months.
Norway is home to so many unique sights and experiences that it should be on every family’s bucket list. If you want to explore the fjords and pretend to be Viking warriors, see The Northern Lights or watch killer whales playing off shore, then this is the place for you.
7. Morocco: to experience an entirely different culture
Morocco’s warm climate throughout the year and its proximity to Europe (often with cheap flights) means that this is a great choice for families looking for an easy sunny getaway full of adventure and culture. This destination is particularly great for those families looking for the fun of a city break, without the stress of city sightseeing. Marrakech is laid back, even in the narrower streets of the old quarter, where you can find small, traditional shops selling nik naks, delicious food and traditional products. The main square is a fascinating part of the city too, where you can find snake charmers, market stalls selling dried fruit and nuts and an abundance of tradition.
For those looking to get away from the city, your options are limitless. Visit the Draa valley to see Ouarzazate’s famous kasbah and go on a camel-back expedition through the dunes. Kids will love the somewhat bumpy camel ride as well as meeting the camels themselves who are very used to tourists and incredibly friendly.
To make the most of the warm weather, the Atlantic coast is also a must-see. Visit the beautiful beaches of Agadir or Essaouira with ramparts for children to explore and surfing or kite-surfing beaches for sporty families.
8. USA: to turn into film stars and cowboys
Pretending to be cowboys in the impressive orange landscape of the USA’s Wild West is any child’s dream and on a horseback ride through the Grand Canyon you’ll feel as though you’ve entered a Hollywood film set from one of the great westerns. The sheer vastness of The United States means that you’ll be spoilt for choice for fascinating places to visit, activities and family fun. Visit New York for an incomparable city experience of The Big Apple, where you can get a sense of the huge range of cultures that live here and why this city is so often called ‘The Melting Pot’. Washington D.C. is a must-see city for families interested in culture and history. Here you will find The White House and The Smithsonian which has a variety of fun interactive exhibitions and activities for children and adults alike, and is jam packed with interesting American history.
The United States also boasts a huge number of National Parks, meaning wherever you go, you’re sure to be near an area of incredible natural beauty. Visit Monument Valley and learn about Native American culture, soaking up all the beauty of this bizarre landscape that may seem alien to European visitors. Head to California or Florida to enjoy the theme parks, beaches and glamourous attractions that are scattered around these two states.
The United States have so many incredible places to visit, meaning that whatever type of trip you’re after, you won’t be disappointed by your choice. We recommend planning a little in advance where you would like to go and what you would like to see since the country is so huge, it can be hard to be so spontaneous here. We also recommend renting a car or hiring a driver since attractions can be spaced further apart than in many other countries.
9. Peru: to play Indiana Jones for the day
Not only is Peru a stunning country with endless family-friendly day trips, activities and destinations, it also offers an experience of a totally unique culture which is sure to amaze and excite everyone.
Machu Picchu is Peru’s most famous site and is well worth a visit to those feeling up to the trek, however, littler legs will still have the opportunity to visit some of the countries smaller archaeological sites which will be less busy and offer the same insight into the ancient culture of the Incas that once ruled here. You’ll find plenty of delicious local food to sample, as well as some more acquired tastes, such as traditional guinea pig meat.
Take a horseback trek into the jungle to spot local animals and feel like the Spanish explorers that landed here so many years ago. Children will especially love meeting the llamas that live in Peru. Thrill-seekers will enjoy a zip line in the stunning Sacred Valley, where you will fly high over the canopy and get an unbeatable view of this paradise. River rafting near Cusco is also a popular family activity and this can even be ramped up to a thrilling white water rafting experience along the Urubamba River.
10. Thailand: for the true meaning of 'island paradise'
Thailand’s incredible climate and abundance of beaches has made it a popular destination for party goers from all over the world. However, few people give it the credit it deserves when it comes to family travel.
Thailand’s many wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, historical sites and its welcoming culture have earned it a place on our list of the top ten family destinations around the world. If you’re after a relaxing family get-away by the beach then head to Ko Chang, where shallow waters are perfect for young swimmers getting the hang of the water.
Chiang Mai’s many cultural sites and range of fun activities, such as zip-lines and interactive temple visits make it a great destination for families wanting to introduce their children to the Thai culture in a fun and interesting setting. Take a cooking class as a family, learning about Thai cuisine, which is great for even the fussiest of eaters and has such a huge range of dishes, ingredients and flavours that everyone always loves learning how to recreate them at home.
Phuket is the perfect choice for older children, with fun-filled activities around every corner, including surf schools that specialise in teaching kids who want to give this sport a try. Take your family to visit a night market, which are spread all over the country to buy some great souvenirs or try tasty street food, or even visit a floating market.
Thailand has so many destinations that families will love and wherever you go, you will appreciate the incredible welcoming locals and family values that the Thai culture upholds.