With so many different ages and tastes to cater to, traveling as a family can often be as frustrating as it is fun, but it’s a sure-fire way to create unforgettable memories, whether sharing a magic moment or bonding over a travel disaster. To make sure your family vacation goes to plan, choosing your destination is key, but where you go depends on the kind of holiday you want to have.
To help you out, here’s a list of 10 of the world’s best destination for families, so whether you’re planning your first trip with kids in tow, have hard-to-impress teenagers to keep entertained or want a back-to-nature adventure for all ages, there’s no reason not to venture overseas!
For a City Break: Barcelona, Spain
With its mind-bending architecture, beautiful beaches and ample options for day trips, Barcelona offers something for everyone. Kids of all ages will be awed by Gaudi’s modernist masterpieces like La Sagrada Familia and Park Guell, while La Boqueria Market is full of delicious fruit and candy, and Segway and e-bike tours make a fun way to take in the sights. For even more family fun, opt for a sailing trip, watch a football game at Camp Nou, spend a day at the PortAventura theme park or Costa Caribe Aquatic Park, or head to the Costa Brava coast to try water sports like kite surfing, jet skiing and windsurfing.
For Thrill-Seekers: Costa Rica
With its tropical wildlife, lush forests and mist-capped volcanoes, Costa Rica is a gigantic open-air playground for kids, and there are enough activities to keep even the most adventurous families busy. Plan a jam-packed itinerary including ziplining through a cloud forest, spotting turtles in Tortuguero, hiking around Arenal Volcano and white-water rafting on the Pacuare River. Still got energy to spare? Take a horseback ride on the beach, try water tubing or stand up paddleboarding, learn to surf on Tamarindo Beach or venture off-road on an ATV tour.
For a Cultural Experience: Marrakech, Morocco
Don’t be put off visiting more daring destinations like Morocco with kids – while you might find traveling with toddlers more difficult, for older kids or teenagers, it’s an opportunity to experience a completely different culture. Get them involved by teaching them how to haggle for souvenirs in the souks, watch the snake charmers and belly dancers in Jamaa el Fna, and sample delicious local tagines. For the ultimate African adventure, take a hike in the Atlas Mountains, ride a camel and spend a night at the Berber Cultural Center, where kids can try milking a goat, making mint tea or baking bread with a local family.
For an Exotic Getaway: Thailand
Thailand might not seem like the obvious destination for families, but it’s a great-value choice for an exotic getaway, and Thai hospitality will ensure your little ones are welcomed with open arms. Head to the beaches of Phuket, Ko Samui or Ko Lanta with younger kids, where there are ample opportunities for swimming and snorkeling, or take teenagers to Chiang Mai where they can trek to the hill tribe villages, ride an elephant through the jungle or try white-water rafting.
For Nature Lovers: Hawaii
If your kind of family getaway involves hiking in the hills, strolling along white sands and marveling over wildlife, Hawaii checks every box. Oahu, Maui and Kauai are all teeming with kid-friendly resorts, and there are great deals to be found, especially in low season. Give the kids a geography lesson as you admire the startling landscapes of Volcanoes National Park, enjoy stargazing at the Mauna Kea Observatory, tour a coffee plantation or get up close to sea turtles and dolphins in their natural environment. There’s plenty for adrenaline junkies too, including ziplining, quad biking, downhill mountain-biking and even shark diving.
For a Long-Haul Holiday: Singapore
Singapore might be a long flight from the United States and Europe, but the island city-state is a hit with all ages. Admire the illuminations in Marina Bay, tuck into Chinese food in Chinatown and take in the views from the Singapore Flyer, the world’s largest observation wheel, then soar over Sentosa Island on the Skyride. Alternatively, spend a day at Universal Studios, cool off at the Wild Wild Wet waterpark, enjoy a picnic in the Gardens by the Bay or get up close to nocturnal wildlife at the Night Safari.
For Nonstop Entertainment: California, United States
It might not be the most unique destination, but Disneyland still tops just about every kid’s vacation wish list, so it would be rude not to include it! Don’t spend all your time at Walt Disney’s fantasyland though – theme parks like Legoland, Universal Studios Hollywood and Six Flags Magic Mountain are also nearby, so you can count on nonstop entertainment as long as you’re in town. If you’re traveling with teenagers, base yourself in Los Angeles and they can also snap a selfie on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, ride a Segway along Venice Beach or maybe spot celebrities on a movie stars home tour.
For a Far-Flung Beach Holiday: Bali, Indonesia
A sun-soaked paradise fringed by swaying palms, white-sand beaches and fairy tale temples, Bali is heaven on earth for families who don’t mind the extra air miles. For the best value, look out for all-inclusive tours or family package deals at hotels, and make the most of the myriad activities on offer. Ride an elephant at Bali Zoo, try unique water sports like seawalking or skyboarding, cycle around the rice terraces on a bike tour or immerse yourself in local culture as you experience Balinese dancing, food and handicrafts.
For a Festive Christmas Vacation: Lapland, Finland
If you’re heading to Europe for the holidays, you’ve likely got skiing in the Alps or shopping at Germany’s Christmas markets on your wish list, but the most magical Christmas destination is Lapland in north Finland. It’s a real-life winter wonderland, where you can ride on a reindeer sleigh, go husky sledding, try ice fishing or take a snowshoeing hike. The little ones will of course want to visit the official Santa Claus Village, while teenagers will enjoy boasting about spending a night in an ice hotel, cruising on an icebreaker or hunting for the Northern Lights on a midnight snowmobile safari.
For the Ultimate Road Trip: Iceland
Forget boring road trips with kids squabbling in the backseat and bouts of carsickness – in Iceland, there’s so much to see that all eyes will be glued to the road. Hire a car and drive the famous Golden Circle, stopping to marvel at thundering waterfalls, hissing geysers and bubbling mud pools, or head further afield on the Ring Road and admire black-sand beaches, vast glaciers and ominous volcanoes. There’s plenty to do along the way too – try glacier hiking or ice climbing, go horseback riding, take a whale-watching cruise from Reykjavik or venture north to tour Iceland’s Game of Thrones filming locations.