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Family travel is one of the best ways to build memories with your children, no matter your budget. From high-end resorts to lake-side camping, there are endless ways to explore and have adventures together. Traveling together isn’t always easy but taking the time for trips with your children and other family members is a bonding experience like no other.
We’ve rounded up some of our favorite destinations to help you decide where to take your family. Whether you love a hot and sunny stretch of sand where you don’t need to haul your own beach chairs or bustling city streets, here are 15 potential places that will inspire you to start packing for your next holiday. You may want to start getting that luggage or weekend bag ready now.
What to consider when picking a family vacation destination
When deciding where to go on vacation, you can ask yourself (and your family members) the following questions to help you pick a place and plan out as far as possible to save money on flights, hotels, home shares, and experiences.
Where do we want to go?
Talk to everyone in your family, even if you know the parents will get the deciding vote. Having children involved in brainstorming can help them get excited about the trip. Writing down ideas together, searching for locations online, and sharing ideas can be a great way for your kids to feel included.
Overall, your family destination should leave a positive imprint on your kids. “Prioritize a place where the kids will love first and foremost and design the trip around them. The happier and more engaged the kids are in a destination and hotel, the happier the parents will be,” shares Byron Thomas, founder and managing director of Niarra Travel. While some eco-travel tours and trips can be expensive, don’t rule them out, especially if you have older children. “Planning a family adventure around a specific purpose—like education on rewilding efforts—fosters a deeper, up-close relationship to the wild places that need care and protection so that they can flourish for years to come,” says Thomas.
Always consider who you will be traveling with and their abilities. An intergenerational trip with a young child and an older relative may not be the time for mountain treks. A group of teens may not be as excited about a theme park unless it is specific to their interests. Often, resorts are a good choice for many ages because they offer a wide variety of activities and amenities.
When will you go?
When deciding, think about the timing of your vacation. Is it over the summer holiday or winter break, and if so, how will travel times impact the costs, and how crowded will a popular destination be at that time?
Stay flexible about your destination and dates. “Keep an eye out for last-minute travel deals offered by airlines, hotels, and travel agencies,” suggests travel writer Katherine Fleischman. “They often provide discounted rates to fill empty seats or rooms. Signing up for newsletters and following social media accounts of travel companies can help you stay informed about these deals.”
How much can you afford?
Last-minute deals may be more affordable, but often, last-minute travel isn’t easy for families juggling school and work schedules. If you do have flexibility, there are ways to save. Make a budget for how you will get there, where you will stay, and what you plan to spend your money on, like experiences, food, and drinks.
If you are staying at a resort, check the fee amounts and whether all meals and activities are included in your stay. Resorts and some hotels may have hidden add-on fees that inflate the bill. If you are worried about lodging costs, there are other ways to travel besides camping. “Explore options beyond traditional hotels, such as vacation rentals, hostels, or bed and breakfasts,” suggests Fleischman. “These alternatives can often offer competitive prices and unique experiences.”
Paradise Island, Bahamas
Fly into Nassau and cross the vehicular bridge into Paradise (Island) and the kingdom of Atlantis.
Where to stay: Atlantis Resort (consists of five different hotels)
The Cove may be the perfect place if your family wants a quieter, more upscale experience with exclusive swimming pools—you may just end up living in your swimsuits. The well-placed Royal Hotel is just steps away from child-friendly experiences like Dolphin Cay, water slides, and playgrounds.
If you prefer a kitchenette or kitchen, the Reef may be a good choice for families with younger children or larger groups. It’s worth investigating all five offerings to find the best fit for your family. Room rates: Start at $500 a night
What to do:
Pools, the 141-acre Aquadventure waterpark, white sand beaches, marine habitats (swim with stingrays or dolphins), an aquarium, and more are available to guests at the Atlantis.
If the price tag for Atlantis is too high, consider Comfort Suites, Paradise Island, Bahamas. Adjacent to Atlantis, guests here are given an all-access pass to the facilities at the Atlantis Resort, including the Aquaventure waterpark. Also, check out the deals where two kids can stay free in-room with their parents.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
The oldest capital city in the nation, Santa Fe is a cornucopia of art, culture, and stunning southwestern architecture. Adults and kids alike will find plenty of delicious food, art walks, and kid-friendly activities to keep your vacation fun in balance.
Where to stay: The Hilton Santa Fe
Southwestern vibes abound at The Hilton Santa Fe, a former 350-year-old, centrally located hacienda, making it a great home base for exploring all that Santa Fe, New Mexico, has to offer. The parents will enjoy the traditional southwestern design, and kids will have fun splashing in the courtyard pool—just a five-minute walk to pedestrian-friendly Santa Fe Plaza and the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. Rooms start at $294 as of August 2023.
What to do:
This is a city where good walking shoes are a must. After you explore downtown, take your kids to Meow Wolf, an interactive multimedia art installation where the whole family can explore and play in 20,000 square feet of hands-on activities and surprises.
Head outside the city to enjoy all of its outdoor fun. Ski Santa Fe is located 16 miles from downtown and has 83 trails and an annual average of 225 inches of snowfall. If your family loves to hike, the Santa Fe National Forest is home to 1.6 million acres of mesas, mountains, and valleys to explore.
If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll love a visit to Señor Murphy (Santa Fe’s beloved candy maker since 1971) candy in the airport or visit the sweet shop in town (next to La Fonda) to taste chocolates made with chiles and pinon nuts, and other confections.
Considered the “gathering place” of Hawaii, the island of O’ahu, its third-largest, is home to everything you could want in a vacation, from eco-tours, swimming with dolphins, exploring historic sites like Pearl Harbor and crater hikes like Diamond Head.
Fly into the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (check out Hawaiian Airlines) into Honolulu. If you are not staying in Waikiki Beach, rent a car to explore the island.
Note: The horrific wildfires in August 2023 that engulfed the island of Maui did not directly impact O’ahu. However, it is important to acknowledge that all of Hawaii suffered and is in mourning from the disaster that claimed cultural landmarks, homes, and lives.
Where to stay: Turtle Bay Resort, Oahu, Hawaii
This award-winning North Shore resort combines outdoor adventures with Hawaiian culture and is laid back and upscale - so it will appeal to a wide range of families. There are adult and kid-friendly swimming pools with waterslides, acres, acres of natural landscapes, and five miles of beachfront to explore. Dining options include restaurants serving local fare —much of it grown on its onsite farm. The hotel offers packages for families, from rooms and dining to activities like ukulele lessons and lei-making. Room prices start at $769 (varies)
What to do:
All the activities and outdoor splendor at Turtle Bay could keep you and your family busy the whole time. But if you can get them out of the pool to explore, there are endless options. Older kids may appreciate a hike up Diamond Head crater. Check out tours via Viator that range from snorkeling with sea turtles to spending a day at Kualoa Ranch, a private nature reserve home and working cattle ranch. Over 70 films and television shows have been filmed on location at Kualoa, including Jurassic Park and Jumanji. Take advantage of eco-tours of 4,000 acres of land and film landmarks.
Before you climb the Diamond Carter trail, make a pit stop. Across from the trailhead tunnel entrance is the KCC Farmers Market. On Saturdays at 7:30 a.m., stock up on treats like guava jellies or coconut water (in a coconut) for your trip and souvenirs, like local spices, to bring home.
Folly Beach, South Carolina
If you need a laid-back break with the family, this barrier island has a pristine coastline and southern charm.
Where to stay: Tides Folly Beach Hotel
You can enjoy the beach or oceanfront views from your room at Tides.. Modern, clean, and affordable, Tides offers families opportunities to sit poolside in its oceanfront heated pool, stay active with surf lessons, book a private fishing charter, and enjoy the Lowcountry’s backwaters.
What to do:
If you stay at Tides, you’ll benefit from its beachfront and all the hotel’s amenities and activities, but take a stroll down Center Street (the main drag) for souvenir shopping and casual bites. Shell hunting and dolphin watching can be done from the shore, and don’t forget to walk out 1000-foot Folly Beach Pier at sunset or sunrise (if your kids get up at dawn).
Ask at the front desk of your hotels for a tide chart. Then, hit up the beach at low tide to collect starfish and whelk shells with your kids.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios, Orlando Florida
A new reboot of the Harry Potter films is in the works, so now is the time to brush up on all things Harry Potter, from flying Hippogriffs to butterbeer at Honeydukes.
Where to stay: DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel at the Entrance to Universal Orlando, Florida. Staying offsite but nearby is a great way to save money when visiting Hogwarts. Buy your fast pass to the parks, and dip in the pool when you return.
What to do:
There are two wizarding worlds (Hogsmead and Diagon Alley) to explore at Universal, and you will need tickets for both. Just walking around the replicas of their favorite Harry Potter haunts, preferably in school robes, may be enough fun for younger children.
There are theme-based rides, like Flight of the Hippogriff, the park’s “family friendly” roller coaster and your kids will love seeing the sites as you travel between the two parks riding on the Hogwarts Express.
Shop for jelly slugs in Honeydukes, eat a meal at the Leaky Cauldron, and try not to spend too much money on a wand at Ollivanders shop. If you (or your kids) tire of magic, Universal Studios has superheroes, dinosaurs, and plenty of other kid-thrilling rides and attractions.
If you plan to shell out for a magic wand, buy it when you get to the park. You will receive a map of all the sites where you can use your interactive wand to perform magic. If you buy your souvenir (wand) on the last day of your trip, you will miss the opportunity to enjoy it.
Also, you can save on tickets by booking through CityPass, an authorized ticket seller for Universal Studios and all Orlando-area theme parks.
San Diego, California
Soak up California sunshine in San Diego, where families can dig in the sand and jump in the surf at the family-friendly waterfront like Mission Beach, Coronado Central Beach, or La Jolla Shores.
Where to stay: Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa
Kid-friendly but with adult amenities, the Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa offers water access, three pools, and views of downtown San Diego. Its 500-square-foot rooms are spacious enough to spread out, and kids will love taking the hotel ferry to and from San Diego’s attractions.
What to do:
Besides surf and sand, the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Air and Space Museum, Coronado Park, and Sea World are just a few ways to spend your vacation days.
Everyone should wear quick-dry clothing to Sea World; even if you are not going into the water, you will likely, at some point, get wet. Quick-dry clothes (and even a small, foldable quick-dry camp towel) can ensure you and your kids are not miserable for the rest of the day.
Florida Keys, Florida
Drive across Florida’s 7-mile Bridge with stunning views of the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico that connects the Florida Keys (125 miles of 800 islands, with only 30 of them populated by residents) to the mainland.
The Keys (where you can easily visit) comprise five main geographic areas - Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, The Lower Keys, and Key West. Because they are closely linked, you can stay on one and still visit the others.
Where to stay: Bakers Key Resort, Key Largo
With 15 acres of private waterfront, two swimming pools, bike rentals, and a dedicated hammock on the grounds, there is plenty to keep everyone busy or relaxed. You can rent standard rooms or premium waterfront suites. The resort’s amenities do not include kitchenettes, but with so many great options for food in the Keys (including casual and upscale dining onsite), you may not mind.
What to do:
Stay onsite and enjoy resort activities like the private beach, pools, clear kayak rentals, and more. The Dolphins Plus Marine Mammal Responder Center has programs that allow you to see and swim with dolphins. The Turtle Hospital in Marathon Key is a must, as is a visit to Key West’s Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum—the adults should appreciate the tour, and kids will love the approximately 60 six-toed cats that live on the grounds. (If you have college-age kids or can snag a few hours of grown-up time, the Ernest Hemingway Food and Walking Tour will take you on a two-hour excursion to see where the famed author loved to eat, drink, and write.) Dry Tortugas National Park is a must-see for kids who like history; plus, you can enjoy the beach there as well.
Bring water shoes. The Keys have sand beaches, but also ones with small rocks and sharp shells—I found that many free beaches were rocky, and the resort ones were not! The national park trails can also get marshy and wet, so having a pair for everyone on hand is advisable.
Los Angeles, California
The sprawling City of Angels will likely appeal across age groups. The trick here is to narrow your must-do list because there is much to see and do.
Where to stay: The Beverly Hilton
Your tweens, teens, and adult family members will likely be familiar with this 90210 zip code. This iconic hotel opened in 1955 and underwent a $35 million renovation in 2020—a perfect mix of classic Hollywood and 21st century comfort. It is the perfect launchpad for your holiday. There are three choices for rooms, from a high-rise overlooking the city to colorful poolside cabana rooms. Families will likely appreciate an onsite restaurant and comfortable daybeds surrounding the swimming pool.
What to do:
Hit the Hollywood Walk of Fame to find your favorite stars, then do a different kind of stargazing at the landmark Griffith Observatory. If your kids love film, anyone under 17 can go free to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
Search for souvenirs and treasures at The Grove, and if you don't fear heights, the Ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Pier is a classic experience. Grab an In-and-Out burger, then check out the La Brea Tar Pits. Step inside of your favorite video games at Universal Studios’s Super Nintendo World, then explore the other theme park areas and prepare to be astonished at Ripley’s Believe or Not Hollywood style.
Suppose you want to explore all that Los Angeles budget for a rental car. While mass transit is available, it may be hard to maneuver with kids, and reaching some destinations may be impossible to visit without one. If you want to see a lot of the iconic Hollywood sights (like Grauman’s Chinese Theater and the Hollywood sign) in a couple hours while also learning the fascinating history behind them—and getting your steps in—book a walking tour, like the Hollywood History Tour.
Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Seven miles off the coast of Cape Cod is the island of Martha’s Vineyard. With six distinct towns (Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven, Chilmark, Aquinnah, and West Tisbury) and swaths of shoreline, ponds, inlets, maritime forests, and farmlands, your family will have plenty to explore. It is a 45-minute ferry ride from Woods Hole to the island, and you can choose to bring your car or leave it behind. (Getting around the island can be done via the Martha’s Vineyard bus system, but having a car or a set of sturdy bikes) is the best way to explore.)
Where to stay:
There are various hotels, cottages, and resorts on the island, but we recommend a week-long stay in a home. VRBO lists homestay rentals to accommodate large-and-small groups all across the island. If you want to stay at a hotel, try Summercamp in Oak Bluffs. It is in the middle of town and within walking distance of Inkwell Beach. Rooms have a beachy, fun vibe, and you can spend your evenings on the porch watching boats in the harbor.
For families that don’t mind staying further out of town, Winnetu Oceanside Resort is popular with families. With a pool, private beach access, children’s programs, a playground, an on-site restaurant, plus a shuttle service to take you around the island, this is a good option for families with younger children who want to leave the planning to someone else.
What to do:
Take the kids to swim at Joseph Sylvia State Beach, conveniently between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown. Referred to as “Bend in the Road,” this public access beach has gentle waves and shallow entry points—go hunt for shells and sea glass along the two miles of shoreline. Sign up for a boat tour from the iconic Black Dog Wharf (pick up a t-shirt and a great fish sandwich at its namesake restaurant) in Vineyard Haven, where kids can learn to fish or be swashbucklers at the Pirate Adventures sailing adventure around Oak Bluffs Harbor.
Spend a Saturday (or Wednesday in the summertime) at the farmers market and take your wares for a picnic at Menemsha Beach, where the sunsets are spectacular. There are five historic lighthouses on the island to explore. If you go to the one in Edgartown, you can enjoy water views, and then it is a five-minute walk to get ice cream. Climb the red cliffs in Aquinnah and learn more about the Wampanoag tribe living on the island. Before you board the ferry home, ride the historic Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs and grab a delicious Back Door donut.
The library in Edgartown has a comfortable children’s room with books, art materials, chess sets for older children, and free programming for kids. It is a relaxing (and free) way to spend a rainy afternoon or some downtime if you need a quiet spot or a clean bathroom. If you go, leave a donation at the front desk.
Glamping and camping, locations throughout the United States and Puerto Rico
Where to stay:
Sign up for tent camping and glamping with Tentrr, and you don’t have to worry about where you sleep or setting it all up. Choose from over 1,000 diverse campsites in 44 states and Puerto Rico.
What to do:
Select your location and browse campsites for rent. (For example, you can also settle in the State Forests of Utah or camp along the bayou in backcountry Louisiana and everything in between: this is an all-access pass to nature. Activities include fishing, lake and river swimming, kayaking, hiking, and more, depending on your chosen destination.
Scout locations carefully. Some tent set-ups on private and public lands are nicer than others, and the natural amenities will vary widely depending on the state and site.
Jump across the pond to the extremely kid-friendly city of London that will especially appeal to your tweens and teens.
Where to stay: Hilton London Hyde Park
If you want to stay within walking distance of tourist attractions, parks, and metro stations, do it in Edwardian style in this historic hotel. The roomy Hilton provides easy access to 350 acres of Hyde Park to escape from the bustle of the city. Room rate: Call or check online for current pricing.
What to do:
If you stay at the Hyde Park Hilton, you can take the nearby Queensway station underground tube, and in 20 minutes, you can see Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar Square. Take a stroll, explore Kensington Garden (to the west of Hyde Park), and take the younger kids to visit the Peter Pan statue and the Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Playground. Take your Potterheads to Warner Bros. Studio Tour London (where you can browse in Diagon Alley), your ogre-obsessives on an adventure with Shrek, and your mystery fans to the Sherlock Holmes Museum and Tours. Can’t decide? The London Eye is a crowd-pleaser.
Worth noting: London is a wonderful city for wandering, so pack a simple fold-up stroller if you have young children who need to rest or can’t handle long walks.
Research family-friendly pubs in London so you can have a pint after the kids have had their playtime. Try The Florence in the city and The Owl, slightly outside of the city in Essex; both offer a children’s garden or playground to entertain the kids while you drink your pint.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
If you want to skip the crowds in Denver and your budget doesn’t include Vail or Aspen, Colorado Springs is a great alternative for your wallet while enjoying what Colorado offers.
Where to stay: Holiday Inn Express & Suites Colorado Springs Central
Check into this family-friendly Holiday Inn within walking distance to downtown, but the hotel also offers a shuttle service. Amenities include an indoor swimming pool, hot tub (for grownups), and complimentary breakfast. Rooms start at $186 a night at the time of publication. Ask to stay on the west side for views of Pikes Peak.
What to do:
Don’t miss a trip to geological wonder, the Garden of the Gods, and walk, hike, bike, ride, or climb these stunning red-sandstone formations. Jeep, Segway, and trolley tours are also available if you feel like getting off your feet. The Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Research Center should appeal to all your little paleontologists. Nearby Manitou Springs is home to the block-long Penny Arcade full of games, treats, rides, and fun, and afterward, take a visit to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings that date back over 800 years.
If your timing is right, take the family to see bull and bronco riders at the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo. And, of course, even your youngest snowboarders and skiers will appreciate the nearby slopes of Breckenridge outside of Colorado Springs.
If you plan to picnic at the Garden of the Gods (and we think you should), note that all the areas are uncovered, unlike some parks, so watch the weather before you go.
Aruba, Caribbean Sea
Grab everyone’s passport and head to family-friendly Aruba to unwind.
Where to stay: Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino
Park yourself (and your kid) under the palm trees and enjoy acres of fun here. Kids will enjoy the hotel’s two large swimming pools, and parents will love that these pools are zero-entry, which can be safer for little ones. Rooms are spacious enough to share beachy Caribbean vibes that should appeal to kids of all ages, and you can try all five restaurants on the grounds.
The resort also offers ample children’s activities like ping-pong, giant lawn games, and other fun daily from 12-3:30. Book 24 hours in advance for specialized activities right at your cabana so you can unwind with cocktails while your kids are having fun. Rooms start at $325 a night at the time of publication.
What to do:
You can ask the onsite concierge (a tour company onsite) to help decide the best tour for your family, from sunset cruises, sailing, off-road hikes and excursions, snorkeling, and more. There is a spa, plus, and, as the name suggests, a not-for-kids casino if parents want a night off (ask the concierge about potential childcare programs). Older teens may want to check out the resort’s onsite dive school, the PADI Dive Center. Venture offsite to Aruba’s sprawling national park and explore rugged desert terrains, limestone caves, and natural pools.
It can be tempting to buy everything directly from the resort, but children’s choices for snacks may be limited, and purchasing them at the resort will add a lot to your tab. Shop outside the resort (Aruba is extremely safe for tourists) to find great bargains on food and drinks (don’t forget the souvenirs).
If you have scratched the Big Apple off your list (or even haven’t), this city is filled with historical, cultural, and nature-based attractions to keep your family entertained.
Where to stay: Canopy by Hilton Boston Downtown
Canopy (a Hilton hotel) is within walking distance of the New England Aquarium and the Boston Public Market and offers families easy access to Boston’s historic North End. Choose from rooms or suites depending on the size of your party, and families with older kids can enjoy its free bikes so you can scoot while you explore. Room prices start at around $200.
What to do:
Boston is a walking city teeming with history. Walk the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail and see 16 historic sites, including the Paul Revere House, Boston Common, and the Bunker Hill Memorial. Paddle the famous Swan Boats in Boston’s Public Garden if the weather is in your favor, and don’t forget a trip to Boston’s Seaport.
The Boston Museum of Science, Duck Boat Tours, and a trip to Fenway Park are items to add to your itinerary. If you have a teen thinking about college, Boston is home to some 64 colleges and universities, so a campus visit to one or two (Harvard, anyone?) might be a nice addition to your vacation.
In Boston, driving is a bit…stressful. The streets are often poorly marked and major construction projects are common (for example, the Sumner Tunnel will be closed on weekends in the fall and will close again for construction in summer). Thankfully, the T (Boston’s subway system) is affordable and much easier to navigate.
After you visit Boston, head north to Salem. For such a small place, it is packed with family fun, especially in October, when the “Witch City” celebrates with parades, parties, and more all month.
Where to stay: Hampton Inn Salem Boston
Situated in the heart of Salem’s downtown area, the Hampton Inn is an affordable hotel within walking distance of all the sites your kids will want to see, do, and eat. Plus, when the family needs to retreat, you can enjoy its indoor pool and comfortable rooms. Room rates start at $129 at the time of publication.
What to do:
Start at the stone-carved Salem Witch Trials Memorial. If your tween or teen is familiar with this dark period of history or was assigned The Crucible in school, they will recognize many names here. Afterward, walk the town’s center to check out the Salem Witch Museum and the House of the Seven Gables, then stroll through the outdoor Witch City Mall filled with a menagerie of haunts, including the International Monster Museum.
The Ye Olde Pepper Companie, which claims it is America’s oldest candy company, is a haven for sweet treats from the past and present. Eat your candy while walking to the nearby Friendship Salem, a replica of an 18th-century vessel.
Note: The Peabody Essex Museum’s children’s area (and the rest of the museum) is also worth visiting when you tire of all the witch-related activities.
If you want to experience Salem in October, book your experiences and your hotel or homestay at least six months or more in advance. That’s because Salem is a top contender for the best place to celebrate Halloween. If your child doesn’t like crowds, or gets easily frightened by witches and creepy sights, go in the spring or summer. You can experience a little spooky fun (minus some events like parades and trick-or-treating) without wall-to-wall people.
How we selected the best family vacation destination
There are so many places to travel throughout the world, and this list is a starting point for families. When creating this list, I researched the most popular destinations in the U.S. and abroad. I narrowed down our list to include a mix of budgets, activities, geographical areas, and ease of travel for families with kids and relatives at different ages and stages.
I also consulted with travel experts, friends, colleagues, and travel companies, plus searched TikTok and other forms of social media to find out what real families are up to on their journeys. Plus, I read hundreds of reviews about each and every location to make sure our choices aligned with others.
The information presented here is created independently from the TIME editorial staff. To learn more, see our About page.