50 Best Family Vacation Ideas on a Budget for 2024

From all-inclusives in the Caribbean to quick getaways in the U.S., there's something for every traveler in your group.

family running and splashing into sea together with body boards

It's not lost on us that travel, like everything else, is getting more expensive, so we focused many of our picks on properties that provide great value. When we feature splurgy spots, rest assured they're worth every penny.

Whether you're looking to chill out at an all-inclusive resort , get active in the great outdoors , check out new attractions at a theme park, hit the beach or cozy up at ski resort , there's a destination or experience here to match every vacation vibe and party size. After all, bringing the grandparents comes with so many benefits, not the least of which is babysitting so you can score some much-needed time for an interruption-free dinner, spa treatment or romantic walk on the beach.

Use this guide to help narrow down your options, and then check out the Good Housekeeping Institute 's tried-and-tested list of essential travel gear and accessories to get ready for your trip. You can also consult our guides on how to choose a family-vacation hotel as well as how to keep all ages entertained . Since the early bird gets the best deal, shore up your spring break and summer vacation plans now.

Mexico and the Caribbean

a slide with a shell that says"mexico and the caribbean"

Spend your days rolling in the waves, relaxing by the pool or enjoying quiet time (thanks to some superior kids' clubs) at these island resorts.

Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Riviera Maya, Mexico

nickelodeon hotels resorts riviera maya, mexico

With massive waterparks, daily slimings and Nickelodeon characters galore, the kids have it made at the all-inclusive Nickelodeon Hotels & Resort Riviera Maya, a Good Housekeeping 2024 Family Travel Award Winner. But grown-ups aren’t left out of the fun. Tequila tastings, spa treatments and romantic dinners can be on your agenda thanks to the supervised club for kids ages 4 to 12. And while you probably wouldn’t be booking a SpongeBob-themed room if you didn’t have the kids in tow, the decor is as mod and classy as it can be. All the accommodations are suites that sleep up to five and have two bathrooms. Suites have direct access to a pool from the balcony. (Yes, even on the top floor!)

RELATED: Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana Is the Best Place to Travel With a Baby and a Sibling

Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas

view of atlantis hotel in the bahamas, good housekeeping's pick for best family vacation destinations

Winner of a 2024 Family Travel Award, Atlantis is a top choice for families of all ages looking for a mix of relaxation and adventure. Its adrenaline-pumping waterpark features high-speed slides, including a one-of-a-kind tube slide down a Mayan pyramid. Animal encounters, like getting up close to a dolphin, are thrilling in a different way. But on the other side of the massive resort, the beaches are super chill. The gentle water is just perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. Supervised clubs for kids, tweens and teens truly wow, so adults can enjoy the casino and a meal at one of the resort's fine-dining restaurants.


Club Med Michès Playa Esmeralda, Dominican Republic

the sunset at club med michès playa esmeralda, a good housekeeping pick for best family vacation destinations

Movies under the stars, trapeze lessons, windsurfing — with cool activities like these, kids will never want to leave this newish resort in the lush, away-from-it-all part of the island. Supervised clubs for babies through teens keep the good times rolling while you’re at the adults-only Zen pool or doing treetop yoga. (Yes, that’s a thing.) Solar panels, recycling, plastic-free water bottles and other sustainable initiatives are part of the eco-minded resort culture.

Beaches Negril Resort & Spa, Negril, Jamaica

a sparsely attended white sand beach at beaches negril, a good housekeeping pick for best family vacation destinations

While this all-inclusive resort and 2024 Family Travel Award-winner caters to all ages, toddlers and preschoolers will be star-struck. Sesame Street characters entertain them with story times, dance parties and even puppet-making! That’s on top of the mini water slides, splash areas and a playground that makes little ones squeal with glee and wears them out, so they’ll hit the sack early.

Private childcare and supervised kids’ clubs (for babies through teens, including those with special needs) are an option when you want a spa treatment, a quiet dinner or just to read a book on the resort's idyllic 7-Mile Beach. All the rooms and suites got a glow-up in 2020, plus there are new villas with butler service (sign us up!)

RELATED: 20 Best Caribbean Resorts for Families to Visit

Fairmont Mayakoba, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

an aerial view of the beach at fairmont mayakoba, a good housekeeping pick for best family resort

When it comes to baby and kid gear, this luxury resort has you covered. Need a bottle warmer? They got it. How about a step stool for a toddler to reach the sink? Yours for the asking. With these worries aside, you can concentrate on the beauty of the surroundings (the resort is surrounded by a lush mangrove forest) and incredible bucket-list activities, like kids’ carnivals and night kayaking. All the rooms have received a glow-up and there's a sleek new beach club to boot.

Rock House Resort, Turks & Caicos

the infinity pool at the rock house resort, a good housekeeping pick for best family vacation destinations

Your family may never leave the water at this Mediterranean-inspired oasis , which opened in May 2022. In addition to a full kitchen and roomy living room, many of the villa-style accommodations feature a spacious private pool. (Yes way!) And if your crew ever tires of it, fun awaits at the resort’s oceanfront infinity pool and stretch of white sand beach, which is exclusively for resort guests. Just note that while a cliffside setting makes the resort incredibly picturesque, it’s impossible to navigate with a stroller — so bring the tweens, teens and even grandparents if they don’t have trouble climbing stairs.

Embassy Suites by Hilton Aruba Resort

embassy suites by hilton aruba resort

A brand that's popular with families because it offers separate sleeping spaces for kids and adults, Embassy Suites recently opened a location in Aruba. (Pinch us now.) The 330-suite hotel boasts a kids' pool and playground and is just steps away from the iconic Eagle Beach. A breakfast buffet (with made-to-order items) is included in the price, which is already a value. Rooms also feature a kitchenette, so you can stash drinks and snacks and save your budget for the island's many incredible water activities.

New England Cozy

a slide that says new england cozy with a whale tail

Lakes, lighthouses and hiking trails make New England a great place to visit in almost any season.

Quisisana Resort, Lovell, ME

two friends frolic in a lake at the quisisana resort, a good housekeeping pick for family vacation destinations

Kids will get a digital detox at this all-inclusive lakefront resort , but they’ll be too busy playing to miss their devices. Without TV or a Wi-Fi signal in the comfortable, air-conditioned rooms and cabins, they’ll be fully immersed in the slew of included activities — from paddle boating to tennis to sandcastle-building. They might even learn to kayak or catch their first fish.

At night, music fills the resort. Broadway-style shows, held in a new outdoor theater, entertain all generations. There’s something about the fresh air and a choice of lollipops that keeps most kids from getting too wiggly, and the caliber of the performances is at least on par with good community theater.

The three included daily meals — with menu items like lobster rolls and Maine blueberry pie — will leave your crew’s bellies happy and full. And if you do need Wi-Fi occasionally, you can pop in the main lobby for a signal. Shh: The kids will be fine without it.

Hidden Pond, Kennebunkport, ME

campfire at hidden pond in maine, good housekeeping's pick for best family vacation destinations

Open from May to October, this nature-focused retreat provides a refuge from city life. Yoga sessions in the garden, a shed filled with arts and crafts supplies for kids, guided nature walks and outdoor art classes are easy-going yet exciting at the same time. Cottages with fireplaces foster togetherness, and complimentary breakfast arrives at your door every morning so there's no need to rush out for coffee.

Smugglers' Notch Resort, Jeffersonville, VT

a family goes biking through green hills at smuggler's notch, a good housekeeping pick for best family vacation destinations

Nestled in the Green Mountains, this resort is just as fun in the summer months as it is during prime ski season. Besides eight heated pools (some with waterslides!), the action-packed lineup of family activities has plenty to do whether you’re traveling with a toddler, teen or both. Sing-a-longs, magic shows and scavenger hunts keep little ones entertained while older kids will welcome the chance to take a guided hike, design and launch a water rocket or play glow-in-the-dark volleyball. A GH 2024 Family Travel Awards winner, condos at this property accommodate up to five bedrooms, making it possible for extended family and friends to stay together.

Ocean Edge Resort and Golf Club, Brewster, MA

the boardwalk to the beach bar at the ocean's edge resort  golf club, a good housekeeping pick for best family vacation destinations

Beach, pool, eat, repeat — that’s how your crew will spend laid-back days at this Cape Cod gem . The private beach has gentle surf and at low tide, kids can spy little sea creatures in the tide pools. When the tide changes, head to the heated outdoor or indoor pools. Outdoor movies are the perfect wind-down to bedtime. And if you can pry the kids out of the water, activities like scavenger hunts, curated by the resort’s new director of fun (for real!) await. Just make sure to stay in the “mansion” section of the resort because that’s the part with private beach access.

Sebasco Harbor Resort, Phippsburg, ME

the kids' club at the sebasco harbor resort, a good housekeeping pick for best family vacation destination

Kids will never forget sleeping in a lighthouse next to the ocean. The resort’s 1945 lighthouse contains recently renovated guest rooms with amazing views, sea breezes and conveniences like a fridge and microwave. The lighthouse rooms are also near the resort’s iconic oceanfront saltwater pool, which recently got a makeover. A vintage bowling alley, weekly pirate cruise and old-school kids’ club add to the New England charm.

Bluebird Cady Hill Lodge, Stowe, VT

bluebird cady hill lodge

A fantastic value, this new '70s-inspired cozy lodge is perfect for families who want to explore Vermont's Green Mountains. The scenic trails of Cady Hill Forest are just steps away and downtown Stowe is about a 10-minute walk. Two- and three-bedroom cottages at Bluebird Cady Hill Lodge have plenty of space for families and a kitchen to boot. A game room, fire pits for s'mores roasting and a pool make hanging at the lodge a nice respite in between nature activities.

California Dreamin'

a slide that says california dreamin' with a picture of a palm tree

Choose your Cali adventure: You can find bustling cityscapes, tranquil trails, stunning beaches and even a fairytale castle.

Los Angeles, CA

morning scenery of griffith observatory and downtown la los angeles is good housekeeping pick for best family vacation destinations

Tweens and teens won’t roll their eyes if you suggest a vacay in L.A. — where, trust us, they’ll ask you to eat at In-N-Out-Burger (look cool and say you already had it on the list). Some more must-dos: Visit the Griffith Observatory for the out-of-this-world exhibits and a stellar view of the Hollywood sign, and if you're an outdoorsy family you can hike down from the observatory to the Hollywood Walk of Fame and famous TCL Chinese Theaters .

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures , where anyone 17 and under gets in free, is conveniently located near the classic La Brea Tar Pits and the cool LACMA ( Los Angeles County Museum of Art). Some outdoor shopping at The Grove L.A. and a beach day in Santa Monica with a spin on the iconic wheel at the Santa Monica Pier will get you more well-deserved parent cred. Or, you can take a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood , where, for now, you can find the only Super Nintendo World open in the United States. Stay at The Garland in North Hollywood, a Good Housekeeping 2024 Family Travel Awards winner. It has a swanky trolley that transports guests to and from Universal, as well as other kid perks like dive-in movies and a retro-chic family suite with bunk beds.

San Diego, CA

an overhead shot of the loews coronado bay over the water in san diego, a good housekeeping pick for best family vacation destination

Can’t decide between heading to the beach or exploring a big city? San Diego has the best of both worlds, with near-perfect weather to boot. Make your home base a beach resort like the Kona Kai San Diego Resort & Spa , San Diego Mission Bay Resort or, if you're bringing a big group, Shore House at Del, a Good Housekeeping 2024 Family Travel Award winner. Intersperse oceanside fun with short drives to the city’s famous zoo and museums in Balboa Park. Plan to spend at least a half day at Liberty Station , a cultural attraction that has many places to eat and shop. New stores and restaurants are open at Seaport Village , which has a classic carousel for kids to ride.

RELATED: The Best Things to Do in San Diego With the Whole Family

Monterey, CA

guests wearing face coverings and enjoying the kelp forest exhibit at the monterey bay aquarium monterey is a good housekeeping pick for best family vacation destination

The number one reason to book a vacation in this coastal town: the aquarium. Yes, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is that good. It levels up the typical touch tank experience by letting little kids crawl through tunnels surrounded by tropical fish displays and use squirt toys to learn how animals stand up to big waves. There’s even a padded zone with eye-level exhibits for toddlers! And the whole family will be wowed by the aquarium’s newish exhibition, "Into the Deep: Exploring Our Undiscovered Ocean." Some of the creatures in the 21 live exhibit areas are newly discovered and haven’t even been named yet. Mind blown! Stay at the hotel next door, InterContinental The Clement Monterey .

Disneyland Resort and California Adventure, Anaheim, CA

the ferris wheel at disneyland california adventure disneyland is a good housekeeping pick for best family vacation destinations

If you're looking for a Disney trip with young kids, Disneyland may have the edge over an Orlando vacay. Here are some reasons why: You can get on more rides without as much walking in California, so that means fewer tired and cranky kids. Summer weather is also usually better in Anaheim than in hot-and-humid Florida. And rides like Radiator Springs Racers, which looks like it’s right out of the movie Cars , are Cali-exclusive. The new Villas at Disneyland Hotel offer options that sleep up to 12 guests plus the decor is whimsical.

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The Family Vacation Guide

The Family Vacation Guide

family trip idea

18 Family Vacation Ideas for 2023 That the Kids Will Love

posted by James Brockbank on February 22, 2022 // last updated on January 13, 2023

Are you looking for family vacation ideas to inspire your next trip with the kids?

We’ve rounded up 18 ideas that the whole family are guaranteed to love, whatever you and the kids are into and wherever you fancy heading in the USA .

Top Tips for Planning the Ultimate Family Getaway

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Make your future family vacation less stressful by reading through our tips on the most commonly faced problems. Learn how to choose the perfect family vacation spots for traveling with children, how to sustain a long airplane flight, and how to find the best guesthouse or resort deal. Traveling with children can be a lot of fun if everyone involved has a good time doing it. 

Begin by thinking about what your family likes to do, and then decide on a few of the best vacation ideas for you. Sand beaches with gentle waves are popular with younger children who can play in the sand and catch waves to build sandcastles. Many pre-teens and teens are drawn to resorts with various activities, including water slides, teen spa treatments, and kids’ clubs with video games. 

As each family is unique, finding the ideal location will necessitate some forethought. Lastly, searching for last-minute hotel deals and vacation packages can save families a significant amount of money on their vacation. Before your departure, make sure to book all of your favorite activities, particularly during peak holiday seasons.  

Identify the perfect family vacation ideas focused on everyone’s interests. Whether you’re flying to the Caribbean , Europe, or staying at a local resort, your family’s age and ability to travel by car or plane will play a role in your decision. Budget, the length of your vacation, and the type of destination you and your family find most exciting and fun all play a role in choosing the best kid’s vacations. 

All-day long, babies and children will be content crawling around on a sandy beach with a bucket of seawater. In general, everyone enjoys spending time by the water, whether a lake or an ocean, as long as they have something to do. You can find even more family-friendly getaway suggestions in the following sections.  

The Best Ideas for Family Vacations

Following are some of the best destinations to enjoy vacations with the family that everyone will enjoy.  

family trip idea

Orange County’s most populous city is in Irvine, California , where an urban lifestyle and preserved natural areas coexist harmoniously. The FBI has designated it as “America’s Safest Big City” since 2005, making it an ideal destination for families searching for long weekend getaways. 

Visitors can enjoy a wide range of cuisines, shopping, and outdoor recreation, including hiking and bicycling, in the area. In addition, it is only a 30-minute drive from popular tourist destinations, including Disneyland Park and Knott’s Berry Farm, making it a great vacation spot. Other attractions include the San Joaquin Wildlife Refuge, the Orange County Safari, and the Irvine County Park.  

family trip idea

Franklin is a legendary town going back to 1799. This tiny village joins a big city venue that provides many unique attractions. The city offers Victorian and antebellum heritage, many museums, and a lively city center with outstanding shopping, world-class eating, spectacular entertainment, and cultural events. 

Remarkable Civil War structures are Franklin’s most considerable appeal, including Carter House, Lotz House, and Cranton — an 1864 historic residence and war site – all must-see attractions. Various tour choices encompass ghost and vampire excursions, gastronomy tours, and cultural and archeological tours. 

Hiking, cycling, & zip lining, hot air balloon excursions, mystery room experiences, and various agricultural destinations contribute to the city’s entertaining activities.  

family trip idea

Small town charm meets big-city sophistication in Ann Arbor, where a wide range of tourist spots make it an ideal place to visit for a long weekend with the whole family. The Nichols Arboretum, a woodland garden with a peony orchard and multiple boardwalks, the Creature Conservancy, and the Matthaei Botanic Garden are just a few of the city’s science-focused attractions. 

Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum (a children’s museum), the University of Michigan Natural history Museum (showcasing dinosaur bones), and the Ann Arbor Zoo are just some of the museums that families can enjoy. Domino’s Farms has a Nickels Arcade, a Petting Farm, and a Scavenger Hunt.  

family trip idea

Located on the coast of North Carolina , Wilmington is a charming seaside town with a river walk that circles the Cape Fear River or a bustling riverfront. This historic town is also a beautiful place to visit, thanks to the State Register Historic District encompassing more than 230 blocks of moss-draped oak trees. Some of the attractions include beautiful cruises, horse-drawn carriage rides, & guided tours. 

Even if you’re not interested in the nightlife, you can still find boutique boutiques, fine dining establishments, and Broadway shows in the riverside district of New York. Family-friendly attractions like waterparks, aquariums, and historical buildings like WWII battleships are great options.  

family trip idea

Fayetteville, Arkansas, is a great place to spend a long weekend because of its proximity to nature, cultural attractions, and local breweries. Among the many attractions are the Locomotion Fun-Filled Park and Fast Lane Amusement. 

One-stop-shops offer a wide variety of entertainment, such as arcade activities, go-karts, and mini-golf. Local artists teach a wide range of different classes at an inexpensive cost at the Communities Creative Center, and dramatic religious events like the Great Passion Play are not to be missed. The Cosmic Cavern is a rare hidden gem with stunning rock structures and two underground waterways that should not be missed.  

family trip idea

An old-world charm town like Galena in Illinois is ideal for families looking to reminisce about simpler times. With its rolling hills and magnificent views of the Galena River, this natural haven is a popular destination for beautiful drives through history. 

The most popular activities for youngsters include walking, trolley, wacky ghost tours, and scenic river cruises. When the parents want a night out without the kids, there are numerous art museums, boutique shops, ancient stores, wineries, and spectacular live entertainment shows. It’s a great idea to take the whole family zip lining with Big Hollow Canopy Tours and visit Lenmar Gardens, Dittmar Farmhouse, and Ehrler Ranch.  

family trip idea

If you’re looking for a town that caters to families, artists, and adventurers, you’ll want to check out Grand Marais. Outdoor adventures and tourism abound in the area, located among Lake Superior & the Sawtooth Mountains. Families will have a blast on the many miles of trails for biking and hiking. 

They can also go kayaking, canoeing, or horseback riding— Minnesota’s oldest art colony, with numerous galleries, museums, and shops. The Grand Portage State Forest, Judge C. R. Magney Recreation Area, and even the Grand Marais Lighthouse are its most prominent natural features. The most popular activities for youngsters include mini-golf, game centers, Segway excursions, and fishing charters.  

family trip idea

At the base of Mount Spores, Carbondale, Colorado , is a town that sits on a broad plain where the Roaring River & Crystal rivers meet and confluence. Penny Hot Springs and a beautiful mountain setting await guests in the middle of the Mountain Range in this lovely retreat. 

Families wishing to disconnect will find much to do in and around Carbondale, including hiking, bicycling, kayak, cross-country skiing, snowmobile, and snowshoeing, to name just a few activities. Skateboarding or gold-medal fly-fishing are also popular pastimes in the area. In addition to the Power Art Center and the Carbondale Public Artists Commission, these are some of Carbondale’s most popular cultural attractions.  

family trip idea

Families seeking a long weekend getaway will find much to do in San Antonio, the seventh populous metropolitan area in the United States. A wide range of natural, historical, cultural, scenic, and modern attractions ensures that everyone in your family will find something to enjoy. 

The Alamo Missions in San Antonio, Texas , a famed fort and historical museum, and the historic San Antonio RiverWalk, which features numerous restaurants, hotels, and stores along the river, are a few of the top choices. Children will enjoy SeaWorld San Antonio, San Antonio Safari, Aquarium, and Six Flags Fiesta Texas.  

family trip idea

As the southwest corner of the U. S., Key West is recognized for its beachfront, watersports, historic landmarks, and vibrant nightlife. It’s the perfect vacation spot for families with young children, as it offers something for everyone. 

The most excellent method for families to see the area’s incredible architecture, gardens, and courtyards is the foot. Eco-Discovery Center, Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarter, Vandenberg Wreck, Key West Cemetery (for its wacky headstones), and Dry Tortugas National Park are among the most popular attractions in the area. Tourists should not miss the Ernest Hemingway House & his favorite eatery, Sloppy Joe’s Bar.  

family trip idea

Naples, a city in southwest Florida on the Gulf of Mexico, is well-known for its modern age culture, upscale shopping, and top-notch dining. At the same time, though, it’s among the most budget-friendly family vacation spots, appealing to both beach bums and outdoor adventurers. 

Attractions for children include the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, the NGALA Wildlife Preserve, and Sun-N-Fun, a six-acre waterpark. Many tours are available for families, including an eco-boat journey to the isolated Manatee Hideout for six people. Art galleries, boutiques, and waterfront eateries are all within walking distance in the historic downtown district.  

family trip idea

The city of Chattanooga is situated on the Tennessee River in the Southeastern Tennessee Mountains. Known as one of the most beautiful cities in the country, it doesn’t take long for visitors to fall in love with it. Recreational adventures, world-class food outlets, and spectacular attractions await families in the area. 

It’s one of the most economical places to spend a few days away from the city. Rock City, a route through ancient rocky outcrops and meadows, and Ruby Falls, a 145-foot-high subterranean cascade, are two of the area’s most popular attractions. Several museums, state parks, archeological sites, and art museums await curious visitors. In addition to the Chattanooga Zoos at Warner Park, the city’s best family-friendly attractions include Lake Winnipesaukee Theme Parks and Coolidge Park.  

family trip idea

Dallas is the ninth-largest metropolitan area in the American States, home to the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, and among the most diversified cities in America. This city’s numerous sights and activities are incredible for a long vacation with the family. 

The Dallas Arboretum & Botanic Garden, the Dallas International Aquarium, and the Dallas Safari are just a few of the city’s cultural, artistic, and historical attractions. The Perot Museums of Science and Nature, Pioneers Plaza, and the Frontier of Flight Museum are just a few of the kid-friendly attractions in Dallas. Other interests in the vicinity include national parks and historic plazas that tourists can explore.  

Does Dallas spark your interest? You might find our list of the best family hotels in Dallas handy when planning your vacation.

family trip idea

All of the red rock formations that protrude from the desert floor of Sedona’s Red Rock Country are multi-colored, producing a spectacular mood that changes with the changing light. 1.8 million acres of the forested area around this sacred area make it the ideal location for a relaxing vacation away from family. 

Activities such as bicycling, hiking, and bouncing jeep rides are every day here. Around 40 galleries, numerous spas, wineries, and vortex energy centers may be found in the vicinity. Among the must-see attractions in this region of Arizona are Montezuma Castle National Park and Tuzigoot National Monument, and the Dead Horse Ranch State Park.  

family trip idea

There are hundreds of miles of magnificent coastline, beaches, and distinctive neighborhoods in San Diego, making it an excellent place for families. The LEGOLAND theme park, the nearby San Diego Zoo, and the historical beachfront Belmont Park in Balboa Park are just a few of the many family-friendly attractions in the area. 

Ground to Sea Seal excursions, Macarthur military ship visits, and historical Old Town tours all take place in the area, which offers a wide range of recreational options for all ages. Neighborhoods like Little Italy and Point Loma have distinct attractions like the Sunset Cliffs and Petco Park. Downtown and Mission Beach also have attractions like the Pacific Beach Pier and Pacific Beach 

family trip idea

Walt Disney World is the most well-known attraction in Orlando, Florida, and it is easy to see why. Even though this city is the “happiest place on Earth” because of Cinderella’s castle, there is much more to do and see here. It appeals to a wide range of interests, including foodies, luxury shoppers, adventure seekers, and everyone in between. 

The Coca-Cola Orlando Eye, a 400-foot glass capsule, offers breathtaking city vistas. The Daytona 500 is a popular annual family event. Madame Tussauds Orlando, the Great Escape Room, and the Exotic Animal Adventure are just a few examples of the city’s unique attractions.

family trip idea

As a Gulf of Mexico island, Sanibel Island is known for its opulent resorts, gorgeous sunsets, and lighthouses. There are various beaches where shelling is commonplace, making it a popular alternative for families with young children. Swimming, snorkeling, sailing, and fishing are all popular pastimes in this area. 

San Carlos Bay-Bunche Beach Nature reserve, J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Reserve, and Lighthouse Beach Park are some of the area’s most popular attractions. The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, the Sanibel Heritage Museum and Village, the Pine Island Sound Aquatic Conservancy, and the Everglades are a few more must-sees in Fort Myers and the surrounding area.  

family trip idea

When it comes to bucking stereotypes, Louisville is the place to be. The only one of its kind, the Urban Bourbon Experience comprises a city-wide trail lined with artisan cocktail establishments, award-winning micro-distilleries, and displays, all of which contribute to the experience’s uniqueness. 

A variety of family-friendly activities, like the Louisville Slugger Museum & Foundry, the Churchill Downs, and the Muhammad Ali Center, can be found in this city that’s known for its horse racing. Children’s activities and attractions include Go Ape Zip Line & Treetop Adventure, Jefferson Memorial Forest, and Derby Dinner Playhouse. 

You can plan a vacation with a baby or even a young child during September and otherwise early May because they do not go to school, enabling you to save money by booking a room at a lower rate. Spring break and summer vacation are the best times to get away with your kids if they are in school. 

In the summer, many beaches are overcrowded, but cities tend to be less crowded, making them ideal for family vacations. Smithsonian museums in Washington DC are a great place for teenagers interested in learning about the history of the United States.  

To keep costs down, look for a vacation spot that will appeal to all your family members and isn’t too far away. Cities and family vacations mostly on East & West Coasts, the Midwest, the South, and the Upper Midwest. Spend less than $100 per night in a national park cabin, campground, or online cheap vacation rentals if you’re on a limited budget. 

You can save a lot of money by cooking some of one’s food if you have access to a kitchen. Choosing a destination that offers a variety of free activities, such as hiking a scenic trail, an outdoor swimming pool, games, or a children’s club, is the most cost-effective option.  

Visit Maine’s scenic coast, a Vermont family resort, a New Hampshire Road trip, a Cape Cod beach vacation, and other family-friendly destinations during the summer. 

Family-friendly restaurants and outdoor theater performances are a great way to spend time with your kids while visiting New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia. Plan a winter vacation to a New England hill station like Stowe, Killington, or Sugarbush to teach your children how to ski, cross-country ski, or snowboard.  

Visit the beautiful coastal towns of California, have a blast at Disneyland, see the sights of Hollywood, and unwind for a few days at a full-service spa resort. Mammoth, Badger Pass, and Snowmass are some of the West Coast’s best family-friendly ski resorts. 

San Diego is a famous tourist destination for families with young children, with amusement parks and beaches, the New Children’s Museum, the Maritime Museum, and the city’s zoo to keep them entertained.  

family trip idea

In the $5,000 to $10,000 price range, you have the freedom to be as picky about your family vacation as you want to (although that will not include a business class plane ticket). For a villa in Fiji, the nightly rate can reach $900 for a palace in a five-star resort, with prices starting at $350. Families looking for a luxurious beach vacation should look no further than Barbados, Paradise Island, and Maui. 

Look for all-inclusive prices at Sandals resorts in Jamaica and Turks & Caicos, where kids of all ages can enjoy a wide range of exciting activities to save money. Much different room and suite arrangements are available for families, giving them the option to find the right balance between price and functionality. Consider family-friendly activities such as golf, spas, and fine dining when planning your luxury family vacation. 

Club Med’s Ixtapa luxury hotel in Mexico has a Baby Med plan that incorporates a cot, bottle warmers, and sanitary products in the room if you’re traveling with a young child.  

Remember that toddlers possess limited attention spans, are easily worn out, and require simple, entertaining activities like dumping water or transporting beans to keep them occupied. To keep them entertained for an extended flight, you will have to put in considerable effort, but it is possible. There is a good chance that they will want to share a hotel room with you, but they may not enjoy the food at the resort. 

As long as they’re not exhausted or hungry, having a lot of exciting things to recognize and do would be exciting. To make the most of your long weekend, choose an easy-to-reach destination that doesn’t require flying or dealing with jet lag. Longer trips can take advantage of great beaches where your child can run around freely, play in the water, and generally have a great time.  

If you consider talking to kids about many activities kids are involved in is truly astounding. A chef at the hotel might be willing to teach a 12-year-old how to cook with farm-fresh flavorings in a food festival. A local zoo’s polar bear exhibit may appeal to a 5-year-old-desire to observe a polar bear in action. 

A trip to Legoland may be the ultimate dream vacation for a 3-year-old fascinated by building various machines out of blocks and Legos. Fun memories are made on holidays that include a dash of adventure. Safari West in California is a great place to see a wide variety of animals in their natural habitat. 

Take a trip on the Disney Fiction, a big super ship with a lot to do and comfy staterooms with an additional half bath. Kids can experience horse riding and learn about the workings of a dude ranch at the Vista Verde Ranch in Colorado. Chile’s Lake Villarrica is a gorgeous lakeside retreat with a volcano view. 

You can go horse riding and tour a zoo while visiting the Pikes Peak area of Colorado. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly family vacation, Yellowstone, as well as Jackson Hole, are great options.  

family trip idea

Disney Cruises are so popular with children. Onboard each of Disney’s four ships is a theatre and a cinema where children can watch their favorite Disney films. Pools with water activities and other attractions are available. 

An acrylic tube covering four decks of the Dream and Fiction ships and over the edge of the boat provides passengers with a view of the ocean from the water. While your children participate in the children’s program, you can relax in the spa by yourself. There are several age groups for children: infants, 3 to 4, 5 to 7, 8 to 9, and 10 to 12. 

There is a private club for teens with couches, games, and a soda bar. You can find even more family-friendly getaway suggestions in the following sections.  

Don’t forget to look for discounts and special offers, particularly if you intend to pursue a last-minute trip with children. Resort discounts are becoming more common, even during peak season, so don’t be ashamed to call the accommodation or resort immediately and ask for a mutually beneficial arrangement before booking. 

Discounts on hotel rooms, credits for dining and activities, and free shuttle service to and through the air terminal are all possibilities. You can stay updated on the children while still having some personal space on vacation by booking connecting rooms at most hotels. To get a great deal on a weekend stay in a major city like New York or Chicago, look for a hotel that offers a discount on vacations when there are no international tourists. 

Summer is the best time to find all-inclusive vacation packages and low prices in the Caribbean.

More about our TFVG Author

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James Brockbank

A seasoned traveller, Dad, and avid sports tourist, James foundered The Family Vacation Guide to share his expert vacation experiences- especially when it comes to being a travelling family man.

Featured in Travel articles such as Travel + Leisure, TripSavvy and SFGate, you know you're reading some of the best vacation tips online.

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52 Best Family Vacation Ideas that are Fun for All Ages (2024)

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What are the Best Family Vacation Ideas?

When it comes to traveling as a family, the destination can be a huge hold up in the planning process.

Use this list of family vacation ideas to jump start your brainstorming and point you in the right planning direction. Some places we’ve been to ourselves, others are on our own bucket list. 

Once you have an idea of what kind of vacation you want for your family, you can narrow down where you want to go. 

From there it’s a simple step to start booking the trip and requesting those vacation days.

Happy adventures!

USA National Park Vacations

National Parks have always been a great family friendly destination. They are now more popular than ever before as families add more outdoor vacations to their calendars.

There are way more National Park options than this modest list, but it gets you started with a good variety.

family trip idea

1. Saguaro National Park

Walking into Saguaro National park is like walking into a Dr. Suess book.

The saguaro cactus is so tall and can have various forms that is surreal walking by them.

Plus there are simple trails that offer great views. Saguaro National Park is near Tucson Arizona which has zoos, museums, shopping, and food. About 2 hours away you’ll find even more family friendly vacation fun in Phoenix, Arizona.

2. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is home to stunning waterfalls, granite cliffs, beautiful valleys, and giant sequoia trees.

With so much to do and see, Yosemite is one of the most visited National Parks in California.

There are different hotels, lodges, and campsites within the park, or you can find lodging nearby.

3. Sequoia National Park

If you are impressed by Yosemite’s Sequoia Trees, then head to Sequoia National Park to check out the largest tree in the world, General Sherman. While you’re there peek inside Thorps Log, a cabin made from a fallen Sequoia log.

With cute little marmots and a chance of seeing bears, this Sequoia National Park should be on your list.

Not far away is Kings Canyon National Park, great for a 2-parks-for-one family vacation.

4. Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Watch the bats fly out of the main cave at dusk. It is a site that you have to experience if you love animals.

During the day, tour the many caverns and be awestruck by the stalactites and stalagmites in this National Park.

If you’re looking for accessible caves, Carlsbad Caverns is one of the best preserved cave systems in the world.

5. Glacier National Park

The “Crown of the Continent, ” Glacier National Park is full of glacial lakes, mountain peaks, and valley meadows. 

Located in Montana about 6-7 hours from Yellowstone, Glacier National Park preserves 1 million acres of land.

6. Yellowstone National Park

The first National Park in the United States, Yellowstone is a must for your family vacation.

I remember seeing bison and geysers on a trip with my family as a kid, and can not wait to take my own girls to visit. Just be aware that Old Faithful doesn’t always erupt on schedule…even so, Yellowstone is worth the trip.

7. Everglades National Park

Switching gears to a completely different ecosystem, Everglades National Park in Florida is home to various wetland habitats.

Take a guided tour by tram, air boat, canoe, or kayak to take in the amazing biodiversity.

Look for alligators, crocodiles, the Florida panther, and even manatees among many other species. 

You can either camp in the park, or find lodging nearby.

8. Denali National Park

With Mount McKinley being the highest peak in North America, Denali is home to many amazing wildlife and landscapes.

The big animals you may find include bears, moose, and caribou. You can also see Dall’s sheep and may catch a glimpse of some wolves or the golden eagle.

9. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Who wouldn’t want to explore 2 active volcanoes? With an historic 33-room Volcano House or plenty of lodging close by, you will be rewarded with amazing views.

Take a tour, drive, or hike through the park. You may even catch a glimpse of lava depending on if the volcanoes are currently active.

10. Zion National Park

Zion National Park is amazing. With sandstone cliffs, rivers, and slot canyons there are trails for all ages and abilities.

Canyon Overlook Trail is an easy 1 mile hike that leads to a rewarding view (hence the name), and the Riverside Walk is a flat 2.2 mile walk leading to the entrance of the famous & more difficult Narrows slot canyon hike through the river.

With only one lodge actually located in the Zion National Park Canyon, Ponderosa Ranch is an amazing resort nearby with cabins, a pool, mini-golf, and horseback riding.

11. Joshua Tree National Park

No overnight hotels or lodges in this National Park, but you can camp within Joshua Tree or stay at a nearby location.

Drive into the park to see Joshua trees, Skull Rock, the Cholla Cactus Garden, and so many other desert wonders.

Just 3-4 hours from San Diego, or 2 hours from Las Angeles, it makes for a great weekend destination.

Worldwide National Park Vacations

The US isn’t the only country with amazing National Parks.

We had the amazing experience of visiting Banff National Park in Canada, and have since added many more worldwide national park destinations to our wish list of family vacations.

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12. Banff National Park

Canada’s first National Park, Banff is located in the Canadian Rocky Mountain Range. 

There is so much to do and see in Banff and in Canmore, a small town right next to Banff National Park .

Plan your hike according to the season you prefer to experience, but I definitely recommend going in winter or early spring to catch frozen waterfalls, see snowy mountains while in the natural hot springs, and catch a sled dog ride.

13. Jasper National Park

Nearby Banff is Jasper National Park which is the largest National Park in the Canadian Rockies.

Hard to drive between the two during winter, Jasper offers a less crowded landscape full of amazing natural beauty and wildlife.

14. Wapusk National Park

Located in Churchill, Canada, Wapusk National Park is known as the polar bear capital of the world.

Definitely on my personal top 5 bucket list locations, Wapusk can offer polar bear tundra excursions, kayaking with belugas, and a chance to see the northern lights. 

It may be a little difficult to get to if planning yourself, or expensive if going through a package deal, but well worth the planning efforts.

15. Serengeti National Park

This is the place to be if you’re looking to spot your typical safari animals. 

Elephants, giraffes, zebras, gazelles…this national park in Tanzania offers a great experience for seeing African plains wildlife.

Book a tour to get the most out of your trip.

16. Ranthambore National Park

Take a trip over to Rajasthan, India for a chance to see tigers and ancient ruins.

This national park also boasts hundreds of species of birds and a chance to also see elephants, leopards, and sloth bears.

Be sure to check which zone you want to tour. It seems there’s a better chance to see wildlife on a jeep tour versus a walking tour.

17. Khao Sok National Park

If you go to Thailand, you can not skip over visiting Khao Sok National Park.

It is the oldest rainforest in the world, so you can imagine the amazing nature and wildlife you will find. Asian elephants, sun bears, various species of monkeys and birds…plus you can stay in a floating resort, riverside cottage, or even a luxury lodge.

There are tours available to help make the most of your family vacation, plus so much to do and see and eat.

18. Galapagos National Park

Perhaps most famous for Darwin’s Origin of Species and the giant Galapagos Tortoise, the Galapagos National Park is a group of islands known for a large variety of wildlife. 

Book a cruise or stay in a hotel, just know that the Galapagos is a sensitive habitat so some areas may have more strict regulations than others (such as requiring a certified guide).

19. Thingvellir National Park

Wanting to go to Iceland? Put Thingvellir on your list. This national park has volcanic activity and rests on 2 tectonic plates: North America and Europe.

It is one of 3 main stops on Iceland’s Golden Circle Tour also including Gullfoss Waterfall and the Geysir Geothermal Area.

20. Kakadu National Park

One of the largest national parks in Australia, Kakadu preserves Aboriginal culture and offers a wide variety of wildlife and tropical ecosystems.

See giant termite mounds, wallabies, and crocodiles. 

There are lots of accomodation options in the park and surrounding areas.

21. Torres del Paine National Park

Torres del Paine in Patagonia is known as a “hikers paradise.” Located in the southern Andes Mountains of Chile, there are so many gorgeous landscapes to discover.

Plus you can go camping or stay in more modern hotels & comfort accommodations.

With blue glacial lakes, mountains, and valleys, Torres del Paine is a natural work of art you do not want to miss enjoying with your family.

Southern California Camping Vacations

If camping in a National Park interests you, then camping may be a great way to go for a vacation choice.

With so many kid friendly locations and camping gear available, it just makes sense to add a tent or RV adventure to your list.

Prepare with our list of camping activities for kids that don’t require packing extra stuff.

Of course there are hundreds and hundreds of campsites in the US, but here are some of our top camping experiences so far in southern California.

family trip idea

22. Catalina Island

Catalina Island is a small island located just off the coast of southern California. With the Trans Catalina Trail, it attracts many backpackers ready and willing to hike from campsite to campsite for 38.5 miles.

What people don’t know is that you don’t have to hike the 38 miles to enjoy camping on the island.

Pick from Hermit Gulch campground by Avalon and enjoy the shopping and restaurants in town, or stay at Two Harbors Campground on the less touristy port (which has 1 shop and 1 restaurant if you really don’t want to go off the grid).

They are both great introductions to family backpacking vacations.

23. Thornhill Broome Campground in Point Mugu State Park

If you want to go beach camping with your kids , camp here. 

Take your tent or rent and RV and set up camp right on the beach. There are also sites across the street, but I recommend getting a site on the beach itself if you can.

There is nothing like falling asleep to the sound of the waves, waking up and seeing the ocean literally right there outside your tent window.

24. Crystal Cove State Park

If you’re looking for another beach campsite that gives you a great view of the ocean from the seaside bluff, then definitely check out Crystal Cove State Park.

You can drive right up to your campsite for traditional car camping at Crystal Cove Campground, or expand your backpacking experiences with a 3 mile hike to Lower Moro Campground.

Just be sure to bring some kind of shade tent.

25. Green Valley Campground

This family friendly campsite has plenty of shade from oak trees and a creek nearby where you can swim.

The water gets busy in the summer with people visiting just for the day to cool off, so time your visit to the swimming holes before mid-day. Be sure to pack swim floaties for your toddler as an extra precaution.

26. Oak Grove Campground

This campsite is quiet and you can hear the owls in the oak trees every night.

It was so relaxing and the campsite had plenty of room for kids to run around. If you take a walk around the campgrounds, you’ll come across a stage perfect for an impromptu performance.

27. Boulder Basin

If you’re looking for boulders to climb, going to Boulder Basin in San Bernardino National Forest is a must.

There are all shapes and sizes of boulders. We even had a medium sized flat boulder, perfect for the girls to climb. This area is often frequented by rock climbers.

Plus, catching the sunrise from the Black Mountain Lookout Tower hike is absolutely amazing.

Zoo & Aquarium Vacations

Zoos and Aquariums are a popular family friendly destination with over 700 million people visiting zoos every year.

These are our top picks at some zoos in the United States. Most people plan for about 4 hours at a zoo, so keep that in mind when building your family vacation itinerary.

That being said, if you want to see every animal, demonstration, and attraction plus eat and shop, then plan to be at the park the entire day.

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28. San Diego Zoo

It isn’t the World Famous San Diego Zoo for nothing, although being a native San Diegan I may be a bit biased.

Located adjacent to downtown San Diego, it is the first zoo to adopt an open-air, natural exhibit (as opposed to bars and cages).

It has 100 acres and over 650 species, and recently upgraded their children’s zoo area to be completely interactive. Your kids might never want to leave the splash pad playground, but you’ll definitely want the family to check out the polar bears and tigers and elephants and- everything!

I grew up going to this zoo, and enjoy the animals and atmosphere every time we go.

29. San Diego Safari Park

Owned by the same company as the San Diego Zoo, the Safari Park earns its own place on this list.

It’s sprawled out over 1,800 acres, but don’t worry. Not all of that property is available for guests to walk. You can look out over their savanna from view points or take the tram to see giraffes, rhinos, and other plains animals all mixed together in this natural-style habitat.

It’s 35 miles from the San Diego Zoo, so plan for 2 separate days if you want to see both in the same vacation.

Plus you can add on an amazing opportunity to sleepover at the Safari Park .

30. SeaWorld

SeaWorld has 3 locations: San Diego, San Antonio, and Orlando.

This is the perfect mix of zoo and theme park as SeaWorld prides themselves on their stellar animal care and their fast coasters.

Don’t worry, they also have rides for the little ones. Kids can also meet Sesame Street characters and everyone can enjoy seasonal festivities year-round. Our favorite is the Spooktacular at Halloween time and meeting Santa in December.

Don’t forget to add on an interactive experience like meeting Beluga Whales up close.

31. Aquarium of the Pacific

Southern California’s largest aquarium, Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach is amazing. With over 100 indoor and outdoor exhibits and 12,000 animals, it is definitely a fun place for your family to explore.

Plus, they host cultural festivals and art shows. In fact, their newest expansion includes an art gallery and an immersive theater.

32. Georgia Aquarium 

As the biggest aquarium in the United States, the Georgia Aquarium is the only aquarium to have whale sharks and manta rays.

As if that wasn’t enough to make you want to visit, they also have beluga whales and dolphins among 500 other species of animals.

33. Bronx Zoo

One of the biggest city zoos, the Bronx Zoo is a great addition to your family vacation. 

It has over 700 species of animals, and guests ages 3 and up can climb over a system of rope bridges for a really fun view of the park.

34. Monterey Bay Aquarium 

You might recognize this one from “Finding Dory.”

Seals, sea otters, whales, and dolphins often pass through Monterey Bay. This makes their Ocean Viewing decks a very unique part of their 2-story aquarium.

35. North Carolina Zoo

Sitting on over 500 acres, the North Carolina Zoo is the largest natural habitat zoo. 

They even have a Zoo Trekker program where guests can complete quests or activities to collect stamps and earn a souvenir pin.

36. Moscow Zoo

The oldest zoo in Europe, Moscow Zoo combined their old infrastructure with new buildings.

The entrance is now a beautiful fairy tail rock castle, and their children’s zoo features animals from common fairy tales.

37. Beijing Zoo

One of the oldest and largest zoos in China, the Beijing zoo is where you can see pandas.

The San Diego Zoo worked with China on a panda conservation program, but once that was completed the pandas went back home.

This zoo also has over 450 species of land animals and over 500 species of marine animals.

38. Melbourne Zoo

Melbourne Zoo is another world leader in animal conservation. 

It is Australia’s oldest zoo and hosts great habitats where you can see lions, elephants, sea animals, gorillas, and (of course) animals from the Australian bush.

Don’t forget their “Growing Wild” interactive play area where kids can climb around and see some more amazing animals.

Fairs & Theme Park Vacations

Looking for something a bit less outdoorsy? More along the lines of rides and yummy food?

Theme Parks make for amazing family vacations, as do local fairs and amusement parks.

Disney is our number one choice (and included below), but don’t pass over these other great ideas too.

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39. Disneyland

Grab your Loungefly backpack and let’s head off to Disneyland! You just can’t beat the nostalgia, in depth world of family centered fun Walt Disney created.

Stay at one of the Disneyland Resort Hotels, such as the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, for a splurge you won’t regret or at a nearby Goodneighbor Hotel for some great deals.

Check out our full list of over 50 tips, hacks, & info on how to make Disneyland and California Adventure the best family vacation ever. 

Plan about 2-5 days to fully enjoy everything both parks have to offer.

40. Legoland

Completely different experience than Disneyland, Legoland is also an amazing vacation destination. 

There is a mix of theme park and local fair atmosphere to Legoland that just works.

Choose one of 8 locations worldwide and stay in a Legoland resort hotel, eat the apple fries, and have fun on interactive rides.

Definitely a lot to do at Legoland with toddlers, so don’t count them out of the theme park fun.

41. Universal Studios

Looking for some non-Disney theme park fun? Head over to Universal Studios in California, Florida, Japan, Beijing, or Singapore. 

Florida has the Volcano Bay Water Park, and both Florida and California host the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

You can also find rides themed for Jurassic Park, Despicable Me, and more!

Super Nintendo World is currently in Japan and is expected to arrive to California in 2023.

42. Walt Disney World

Think Disneyland but bigger. Much bigger. You’ll need time to explore all of what Walt Disney World has to offer.

The Magic Kingdom is Florida’s version of Disneyland Park in California, but they also have Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow). 

Not to mention there are 2 different water parks and Disney Springs for shopping and restaurants. Don’t worry, there are great deals on Walt Disney World vacation packages and helpful travel planners at Get Away Today to make your planning super easy.

43. Knotts Berry Farm

With many more thrill rides for the older kids, Knotts Berry Farm is a great choice for a Southern California family vacation.

Don’t worry, their Camp Snoopy area has great rides for toddlers and younger kids too. 

If you like berries, do not miss their Boysenberry Food & Wine Festival . This theme park can easily be tackled in one day for your vacation itinerary.

44. 6 Flags

6 Flags has a lot of locations in the US and worldwide, so you have tons of options if including this theme park into your family travel itinerary.

Check out 6 flags in various cities of California, Texas, Missouri, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, and New York.

Worldwide, you can find 6 Flags theme parks in Mexico, Canada, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and China.

I often thought 6 Flags was only for older kids, but they do have some Looney Toon themed rides for toddlers and little kids with no height requirements.

45. MN State Fair

Let a state fair or city fair be your inspiration here, but if you do want to travel, then check out the Minnesota State Fair.

We actually saw Sweet Martha’s Cookies highlighted on a documentary show (I think it was about best fair foods or best cookies…), so naturally it was one of the first things we bought at the Minnesota State Fair.

Even with all of the foods, rides, and performances it is worth the trip for that bucket of cookies alone.

46. Santa Monica Pier

If you’re looking for an amusement park on a pier on the west coast of the US, then Santa Monica Pier is your one and only choice. And what a great choice it is! This amusement park also boasts the only solar powered ferris wheel.

Santa Monica Pier offers typical rides, food, and carnival games. Plus you can walk down to the beach, check out local shops and restaurants, or even visit the Getty Museum nearby.

47. Renaissance Fair

There are many Renaissance Fairs, but one of the first to be created is the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Irwindale, California.

Step into an English market in the 1580s. Whether you dress up in costume yourself or not, you can enjoy a variety of food, games such as archery and fencing, and shop for unique handmade crafts and trinkets.

Don’t miss out on comedian shows or the Queens Jousting tournament.

All Inclusive Resort & Resort Vacations

Resorts are a very typical of most family vacations. Sitting poolside with a drink, enjoying hotel amenities, checking out local tourist attractions…what’s not to love?

These resorts check all the boxes, and most on this list are all inclusive. This means that the accommodations, food, and entertainment are are included with your payment.

Those listed that are not all inclusive still over great package deals or have fun activities and events that are included.

family trip idea

48. Great Wolf Lodge

An indoor water park resort with 19 locations across the United States, Great Wolf Lodge has all inclusive packages available or more a-la-cart options.

With tons of kids activities, dining options, and shopping, this resort makes a great family vacation destination- no matter what state you choose.

49. Club Med

With over 70 locations worldwide, Club Med is a frontrunner in truly all-inclusive family vacations where kids under 4 stay for free.

Enjoy a family trip to the Caribbean, North America, South America, Asia, Africa, the Mediterranean, and even in Europe.

The room, food, and activities are all under one cost. This includes lift tickets for their all new ski resort in Canada. 

50. Beaches

Located in Turks & Caicos and Jamaica, this resort includes lodging, food, drinks, activities, entertainment, gratuities and taxes.

Even SCUBA diving is included for those PADI certified.

It is known as a pricier destination, but if you take full advantage of everything included it could quickly be worth the price.

51. Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts

Fancy a getaway with your kids to Mexico or the Dominican Republic?

Defined as “where luxury meets lol” this all-inclusive slime filled beach vacation has family fun written all over it.

Meet your favorite Nickelodeon characters, enjoy entertainments and activities, splash around at their water playground, and let the kids (ages 4-12) have fun at Club Nick.

52. Atlantis

Not really all-inclusive, but this made the list because it is such an awesome resort. 

You can swim with dolphins, shop, eat, enjoy the beach or pools (or both!). There are also amazing, fast water slides in a water park that covers 141 acres.

Right across from the Bahamas capital city, Nassau, you can also be a tourist in an amazing place. Be sure to head over to the Twin Brothers Restaurant for Conch Fritters.

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Travel Blogger

Family Travel Folio was created in 2019 by Katie to help and inspire parents to travel with their kids from Camping to Disneyland and everything in between.

Katie is a Disney obsessed bookworm who loves to explore with her husband and their 2 girls. You can find her learning fun facts about animals or eating sour candy while planning another fun adventure.

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51 Best Family Vacation Ideas for 2024

By: Author Elizabeth Ciobanu

Posted on Published: 07/19/2023  - Last updated: 07/20/2023

Do you have your sights set on a dream family vacation for 2024? Are you already exploring your options and seeking to book early to lock in a great rate? This guide is for you!

family trip idea

We’ve put together an exhaustive list of family vacation ideas, whether you and the little ones are into theme parks, national parks, water parks, cruises, all-inclusive resorts, group trips, or staycations.

Let’s get started.

Water Park and Theme Park Vacations

Few things put a megawatt smile on the kids’ faces faster than telling them you’re taking them on a theme park vacation. 

Well, except for maybe a water park vacation. 

These classic destinations offer all the amenities you and the family need for one memorable trip.

1. Walt Disney World – Orlando, Florida

No list of theme park vacations is complete without mentioning Walt Disney World. 

Unlike most parks, which you and the kiddos can complete in a day or several, you can easily spend a week or two in Disney World and still have things left to see.

» MORE: Which Disney Park Has the Most Rides?

Ping-pong with the family between four parks, each worth spending at least a day. 

Your choices are the Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and the Magic Kingdom. Disney is for the kid in all of us, even you, Mom and Dad!

As an added bonus, Walt Disney World has several water parks on its grounds, so it combines theme and water parks in one vacation. Visit Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach.

» MORE: What Can I Bring to Disney World?

2. Chula Vista Resort – Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Wisconsin Dells has some of the best water parks in the country, with Chula Vista Resort a family fave.

The water parks span more than 200,000 acres, so if you have very young kids who can’t do more than bob around in the water and teens looking for a thrill, everyone is happy. 

The water parks are indoors and outdoors, so even a rainy day can’t detract from your itinerary!

Parents can treat themselves to a top-10 chophouse for fine dining, play at an 18-hole golf course, or indulge in a five-star spa. The resort also offers ziplining, a 4D cinema, and an arcade.

3. LEGOLAND California – Carlsbad, California

LEGOLAND is one of the most popular Golden Coast parks, and for good reason! It includes an aquarium, theme park, and water park for beating the Cali heat. 

The innovative ride styles are like stepping onto real Lego cars or circling around a true-to-life Lego dinosaur.

After splashing around in the water park all day, you and the family can retire to a room at the Lego Hotel with family vacation packages available. 

Plan a trip to the SEA LIFE Aquarium before you go, as the kids can pet, feed, and play with animals.

4. Crown Reef Beach Resort & Waterpark – Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Although spending all your time in Myrtle Beach on the shore is tempting, take a different kind of vacation in 2024. 

The Crown Reef Beach Resort & Waterpark offers stunning oceanside rooms, a water park built into the hotel (that’s right!), and the largest lazy river in Myrtle Beach.

The water park is open year-round and offers 600 feet of thrilling, twisting water slides. You’ll also find pools aplenty, a four-story sundeck, and a pool bar for the parents.

» MORE: Road Trip from Chicago to Myrtle Beach, SC

You’re also not far from golfing, go-karting, sailing, museums (WonderWorks is a great science museum for the kids), aquariums, or the Myrtle Beach boardwalk.

5. Universal Orlando Resort – Orlando, Florida

A stay at Universal Orlando Resort is a dream come true for any child. It’s a huge change of pace from Disney but likelier to appeal to your kids as they grow up. 

The park has rides and attractions for franchises like Harry Potter, Minions, and Jurassic Park .

» MORE: How Far Is Disney World from Universal Studios?

Don’t miss a visit to Volcano Bay, Orlando’s resort water park with an aqua coaster, tube slides, rentable family cabanas, and so much more. 

CityWalk is its own built-in boardwalk with dining, shopping, and entertainment.

6. Kalahari Resorts & Conventions – Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Another Wisconsin Dells water park to add to your travel plans in 2024 is Kalahari Resorts & Conventions. 

You and the children can explore more than 125,000 feet of splashes and thrills. The resort has indoor and outdoor water parks and amusement rides at Tom Foolery’s.

Booking here is about as cost-effective as it gets. Your stay at the resort includes free admission to the water park, Timbavati Wildlife Park, and Tommy Bartlett Exploratory.

The resort also offers fine and family dining options, a salon, meeting spaces, an arcade, shopping, and golfing.

7. Dollywood – Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Get away to the Smokies at Dollywood, the esteemed theme park in Pigeon Forge and TripAdvisor’s top-ranked US theme park. 

Dollywood offers more than 50 rides and events, top-notch dining, and entertainment.

Cool down at Dollywood’s Splash Country with plunging slides, rushing rapids, and a children’s splash area. It’s the perfect place to plan an inclusive vacation. 

Dollywood offers resort or cabin lounging and even has dinner shows.

8. Great Wolf Lodge – Scotrun, Pennsylvania

Great Wolf Lodge offers play unlike any other in the heart of the Pocono Mountains. 

No matter how snowy and cold it may be outside, you and the family can splash and play, as this resort’s water park is indoors.

The family-friendly attractions on the resort grounds include a ropes course, bowling, mining, mini golf, and an arcade. 

Stay at a suite or villa and enjoy dining for all tastes and budgets, including plenty of kid-friendly fare.

9. Disneyland Park – Anaheim, California

Why visit Disneyland over Disney World? It was the Walt Disney Company’s first park with design involvement from Walt Disney himself. 

Plus, it’s a nice change of pace if you and the young ones have already visited Orlando.

Disneyland Park is the home of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the Star Wars -themed part of the park with authentic cuisine, décor, and merch. The attractions here will make any young Jedi smile!

» MORE: What Rides Can Babies Ride at Disneyland?

Disney California Adventure Park offers Pixar Pier, Cars Land, Avengers Campus, Grizzly Peak, Buena Vista Street, Pacific Wharf, Paradise Gardens Park, and Hollywood Land, so there’s plenty to explore as a family.

Camping and National Park Vacations

Does turning off your phone and stepping away from emails sound like something you desperately need? 

Are you interested in getting the kids to step away from social media and games, even if only for a weekend?

The following camping destinations in national parks across the country are the perfect places to take a vacay.

10. Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is the first US national park and one of the most beloved in the country. 

Based primarily in Wyoming (but also located in Idaho and Montana), Yellowstone is about 3,500 square miles, which is 2,221,766 acres.

Beloved for Old Faithful, the cone-shaped geyser that’s stood since 1870, the park has many other memorable sights to work into your travel plans. 

They include Mammoth Hot Springs, Thumb Geyser, Yellowstone Lake, Grand Prismatic Spring, Hayden Valley, and many more.

You can rough it if it suits you and the family, or stay at a beautiful, rustic lodge such as the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, Lake Lodge Cabins, Grant Village Lodge, and Roosevelt Lodge. 

You’ll wake up to a breathtaking view each morning!

11. Zion National Park

Utah’s Zion National Park is a wonder to behold. Its sandstones are red, pink, and cream and must be seen to be believed. 

The unbridled wilderness is an excellent backdrop for river trips, rock climbing, day hikes, canyoneering, and backpacking.

Drive or walk through the park and sleep under the stars at one of three campgrounds. Zion has bicycling trails, almost 300 bird species, ranger-led tours, and seasonal horseback riding to make your family vacation one for the record books.

12. Yosemite National Park

Spread across almost 1,200 square miles, Yosemite National Park offers unparalleled views, including waterfalls and larger-than-life Sequoia trees. 

Enroll your kids in a ranger program or explore the open wilderness as a family on foot, horse, or bike.

Sleep in a tent, and you can see stars go by, or stay in nearby Yosemite Village and treat yourself and the kids to shops, dining, and lodging.

The area is home to the Ansel Adams Gallery and the Yosemite Museum. 

13. Grand Canyon National Park

Have you ever taken the kids to the Grand Canyon? This is an experience the entire family can appreciate, whether you have little ones, tweens, or teens. 

This Arizona attraction is a part of Grand Canyon National Park, which features over 250 miles of the flowing Colorado River.

The red rock that’s visible throughout is a testament to the dance of time and erosion. Some of the sand dates back millions of years, and with the area also being a native ancestral homeland, every step you take is full of history.

» MORE: Can You Drive the Grand Canyon?

A tour of the Grand Canyon with your kids will foster a healthy appreciation of nature and different tribes. 

The South Rim is an excellent spot for biking and hiking, and the North Rim is less crowded if you want a more isolated experience.  

14. Rocky Mountain National Park

Northern Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park features an assortment of wilderness, from tundras to forests and mountains.

The 265,807-acre park is one of my favorite places to take my family, as there are so many kid-friendly places around if you know where to look.

» MORE: Best Places to Take Your Kids in Rocky Mountain National Park

I personally recommend Dream Lake Trail (about 12 miles away from Estes Park), Coyote Valley Trail, Lily Ridge Trail, and Alpine Ridge Trail if you’re looking for some kid-appropriate hiking spots.

This park is also exceptional for wildlife viewing, fishing, or sledding in the winter.

15. Grand Teton National Park

The majesty of Wyoming is awaiting at Grand Teton National Park. This 310,000-acre park is a sought-after destination for families. 

The Teton Range, an astonishing 40 miles, is one of the most astounding sights at the park, and you can park-hop between here and Yellowstone since they’re close.

You’re also within the vicinity of Jackson Hole, a favorite family destination for kids. The area has museums, whitewater rafting, rodeos, hot springs, rock climbing, and smaller parks to explore in an afternoon.

» MORE: Things to Do in Jackson Hole with Kids

If you choose to kick back and spend time in nature at Grand Teton, you won’t be lost for activities. You can go biking, fishing, climbing, wildlife viewing, or take a scenic drive.

Family Cruise Vacations

Vacation planning sure is tough, isn’t it? Why not let a cruise line take care of all the transportation? You can just pack your bags and get ready for a boatload of fun!

16. Disney Cruise Line

Take the adventure of a lifetime on a Disney Cruise Line. 

You and the family can visit Europe, Canada, Alaska, the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Panama Canal, Hawaii, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, the South Pacific, Pacific Coast, or the Caribbean.

» MORE: 11 Best Adults-Only All-Inclusive Caribbean Resorts for Couples

So what’s included with your cruise? Only everything you could ever want, including fine dining, meet and greets with Disney characters, youth clubs, night clubs for adults, musicals, fireworks shows, pools, private islands, and large rooms designed for families.

17. Carnival Cruise Line

See the world on a Carnival Cruise Line and give the family the vacation they deserve in 2024. 

The destinations overlap with many of the options Disney Cruise Lines offer, but Carnival has unique destination options such as New England, Greenland, Tasmania, New Guinea, and the Great Barrier Reef.

The entire family can spend their vacation their way on a Carnival Cruise Line, with a Cloud 9 spa for relaxing, Family Feud Live for fostering the spirit of healthy competition, the SkyRide, the WaterWorks water slides, and an adult-only retreat.

18. Royal Caribbean Cruise Line

Where do you want to go? Royal Caribbean Cruise Line can help you get there with affordable cruises the world over, including the Arabian Gulf, Asia, and Latin America. 

Royal Caribbean always runs deals, so taking a cruise can be cost-effective.

The Icon of the Seas is arriving in 2024, just in time for your family vacation. It includes Category 6, an onsite water park with six slides that break records for height. 

Surfside is a mini neighborhood with a kid-friendly aquapark, and the ship also features seven pools.

19. Norwegian Cruise Line

With hundreds of cruise vacations available, the Norwegian Cruise Line has something for your family. 

Known for its European, Alaskan, Caribbean, and Bermudan cruises, Norwegian also offers cruises to many of the other locales above, including weekend cruises!

The family-friendly entertainment is nonstop. You and the kids can go bowling, ride water slides, play mini golf, and enjoy kid-centric meals. 

Norwegian even has youth programs for kids six months, 3 to 12 years, 13 to 17 years, and late night if you want to hit up the spa or see a Broadway show alone.  

All-Inclusive Family Resorts and Vacations in the US

An all-inclusive resort makes planning your family vacation cost-savvier than ever. You’ll find plenty of these resorts scattered around the US. Here are some of my favorites. 

20. Lago Mar Beach Resort & Club – Fort Lauderdale, Florida

How about a stay at the Number 1 family hotel in the US as rated by U.S. News & World Report , TripAdvisor, and Veranda? That can only be the Largo Mar Beach Resort & Club.

This Fort Lauderdale vacation destination has a private beach, pools, sports, a playground, and a concierge to introduce you to local sightseeing, live entertainment, flamingo gardens, watersports, and museums.

The club is conveniently located near the Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District, home of the Broward Center for Performing Arts and the Museum for Art-Fort Lauderdale.

» MORE: 21 Best Family Vacation Spots in the US

21. Mohonk Mountain House – New Paltz, New York

Beach resorts are plentiful, but what about a Victorian castle resort? 

Mohonk Mountain House and its 40,000 acres of forest are a National Historic Landmark with a quaint farm-to-table vibe. 

The activities are included as part of your rate and are quite interesting!

You and the young ones can go horseback riding, learn to play tennis, swim in the indoor heated pool, take a tour to learn about the area’s history, go fishing or kayaking, lounge on the private beach, or let kids and teens join in the family program while you play a round of golf.

Stay at the Grove Lodge with its Victorian architecture, warm wood accents, earthen colors, and rich Hudson Valley history.

Your stay includes evening entertainment, indoor pool and wellness class access, and three meals per day.

22. Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Lake Buena Vista, Florida

How about a slice of life in the French Quarter in Florida? 

Disney’s Port Orleans Resort delivers an authentic experience of life on the bayou – Alligator Bayou, to be exact! 

The cottages here and the gorgeous mansions that overlook Magnolia Bend set up the atmosphere for one festive vacation.

The resort even has its own French Quarter serving French and New Orleans cuisine, such as beignets, jambalaya, and gumbo.

A three-acre pool with a waterslide is sure to make the kids happy, while a food court serves meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for fast accommodations on the go.

» MORE: How Far Is Daytona Beach from Disney?

23. Woodloch Resort – Hawley, Pennsylvania

USA Today voted Woodloch Resort its top family resort in the US in 2019, 2021, and 2022. 

This Pocono Mountains resort has a legacy of more than 60 years and offers all the entertainment you need to make your 2024 family vacation your best yet.

The resort amenities are designed for kids, with go-karting, a climbing wall, pools, an indoor adventure playground, bumper cars and boats, outdoor disc golf, mini golf, and sports courts.

As if that wasn’t great enough, Woodloch also offers escape rooms, game rooms, arcades, art classes, and live entertainment like comedy shows and magic shows.

24. C Lazy U Ranch – Granby, Colorado

Take a dude ranch vacation in 2024 at the C Lazy U, a Colorado ranch that’s received awards from USA Today , Travel + Leisure , Wine Spectator , and Conde Nast Traveler. 

The rustic setting will inspire the whole family to get outside and go fishing, horseback riding, cycling, or ziplining.

There’s a hatchet room for older kids, a game room for the little ones, and beehive tours the entire family can enjoy. 

C Lazy U Ranch is even better in the winter, as you can spend the time snow tubing, horseback riding through the snow, cross-country skiing, or taking a sleigh ride.

» MORE: Colorado vs. New Mexico: Which Vacation Is Better?

25. Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort – Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort is the perfect backdrop for your Florida summer getaway. 

The flagship resort offers stunning Atlantic Ocean views, which look especially great on the outdoor pool terrace.

The rooms boast balconies, rain showers, and full kitchenettes or kitchens, so you and your family can sit down to homemade meals while listening to the crashing of the ocean waves in the background.

26. Vista Verde Guest Ranch – Clark, Colorado

Another great ranch to vacation in is Vista Verde Guest Ranch in Clark.

This inclusive luxury resort features AAA Four Diamond amenities that make your vacation out of the ordinary. 

The top-notch kids’ program is for children six and up, and the resort is as exciting to visit in the summer as it is in the winter.

The programs are different for kids, tweens, and teens, so you won’t have to worry about your older kids being bored or your younger kids struggling to keep up with bigger children. 

The winter kids’ program includes snowshoeing, horseback riding, and tubing.

» MORE: 15 Kid-Friendly Hotels and Resorts in the US That Cater to Families

27. Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa – San Diego, California

Beachfront luxury awaits the family at the Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa. 

This San Diego family vacation destination will keep everyone busy with a spa, watersports, Mission Bay beaches, beach bonfires, Bahia Belle sternwheeler boat cruises, and bird encounters.

The family rooms are at least 430 square feet with several bedrooms, a private patio or balcony, a dining area, and your own kitchenette. 

The views offer glimpses of downtown San Diego or Mission Bay for a tranquil start to each day.

» MORE: How Long Is Summer Break in California?

28. Tyler Place Family Resort – Swanton, Vermont

A top-rated all-inclusive family resort, Tyler Place in Swanton doesn’t just shuffle off the kids into a program. It gets everyone involved with the activities offered on the resort grounds, no matter the season you visit.

Canoe or kayak on the lake, play mini golf, go fishing, explore the nearby nature on a bike, or get competitive during family field days. 

The suites and cottages are an idyllic place to rest your head after the perfect family fun day.

29. Blackberry Farm – Walland, Tennessee

Blackberry Farm crafts luxury vacation experiences in Tennessee. 

Kids will get the treat of a lifetime with the resort’s Family Adventure Series, which takes them through Hesse Creek and paths around the farm. The young ones will see creatures from salamanders to black bears.

More so, they’ll learn useful life skills like navigation, compass travel, and direction-finding. They’ll also learn how to commandeer a boat, gather chicken eggs, and more.

30. Four Seasons Resort Hualalai – Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

No list of US-based family vacations would be complete without a Hawaiian destination. 

The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai will serve as the backdrop of unforgettable experiences that will make your 2024 trip one the entire family will talk about for years.

Take a private charter boat (you must reserve it ahead of time for a separate expense), learn standup paddle boarding as a family, or partake in the hotel’s incredible marine program. 

The gorgeous accommodations offer ocean views, and some afford ocean access.

» MORE: What to Wear on a Plane to Hawaii

31. Sandpiper Bay Resort – Port St. Lucie, Florida

It’s time to play at the Sandpiper Bay Resort. 

This all-inclusive, family-centric Florida vacation spot has a pool and spa, an 18-hole golf course (and mini golf if the young kids aren’t ready for the real deal), watersports like paddleboarding and sailing, and ping-pong, soccer, and other sports.

Do you want to explore the spa kids-free for a while?

The Baby Club is for infants between four and 23 months old, the Petit Club is for kids 2 to 3, the Mini Club is for children between 4 and 10 years old, and Latitude 27 is suited for kids 11 to 17 years.  

All-Inclusive Family Resorts and Vacations in the Caribbean and Mexico

You don’t have to take an all-inclusive family vacation exclusively on American soil. 

Mexico and the Caribbean have some of the best spots for kids and adults in the whole world. Check out this list before you begin booking your 2024 getaway.

32. Franklyn D. Resort & Spa – Runaway Bay, Jamaica

A 2020 and 2021 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice recipient, the Franklin D. Resort & Spa will be your kids’ new favorite vacation destination. 

The Yellow Bird Kids’ Club is open daily and includes daytime and nighttime beach games, beach picnics, tie-dye lessons, and gaming consoles.

The resort also features Big Blue, a 100-foot water slide. 

Oh, and if Mom and Dad want some time to themselves to explore Jamaica, the resort offers an onsite nanny to watch the kids.

33. Beaches Turks & Caicos – Turks & Caicos

Beaches Turks & Caicos might be one of the most cost-effective all-inclusive vacations on this list, as it’s several resorts in one. 

Pick among the Italian Village, Caribbean & Seaside Villages, French Village, or Key West Village and play at the others.

The festive party atmosphere is perfect for kids, who will also have a blast at the Pirates Island Waterpark, playing table tennis, scuba diving, competing in the Xbox Play Lounge, or visiting with Sesame Street characters.

The kids can ride a train through the resort and play at the Royal Port Arcade. There’s an unlimited number of kids’ activities.

34. Club Med Punta Cana – Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Club Med is among the most esteemed names in vacation getaways, and the Punta Cana location proves why. 

The resort provides views of Hispaniola unlike any other, and with childcare available from four months and up, now is the perfect time to go if you’ve put off a vacation due to your growing family.

Oh, did I mention that kids six and under stay free? That will make planning for your vacation easier and more affordable. 

The resort offers baking workshops, pancake parties, and snacks to further foster a family-friendly environment.

35. Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa – St. Lucia

Envelope yourself in the beauty of St. Lucia at the Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa, an 85-acre resort. 

The Splash Wing is a family-friendly spot to be, including bright and sunny accommodations, water slides, a lazy river, and a paintball facility.

The Kidz Klub features indoor playrooms with air conditioning, a play pirate ship, and a water feature. You can get away for an afternoon tour, spa visit, or kitesurfing.

36. Beaches Negril – Negril, Jamaica

If you like what you read about the Beaches resort, but you’re visiting Jamaica instead of Turks and Caicos, don’t miss Beaches Negril. 

This family-friendly destination received accolades from U.S News , TripAdvisor, and the Travvy Awards.

Sink your teeth into ten restaurants on the resort and enjoy the same amenities and kid-friendly activities Beaches resorts are known for. 

The Kids Camp features infant, toddler, child, tween, and teen programs and private daycare.

37. Moon Palace Cancun – Cancun, Mexico

Moon Palace Cancun will charm kids and adults. 

The Dreamery is just for children, featuring a Candy Girl who hands out sweets, a Bounce Zone (for kids 4 through 12), a playroom, water features, and cookie-making as a family.

Mascots wander around for photo ops or hugs, kids can tee off at mini golf, and fairytale makeovers are available for girls between 4 and 12. 

These once-in-a-lifetime experiences will have your kids begging to go back.

38. Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana – Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

You’ll spend plenty of time together as a family at the Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana all-inclusive resort. 

The Canopolis Water Park features five slides and water cannons so the kids can splash and play all day. Save some energy for the beach bashes, parties, and live entertainment galore.

The Lost City of Anac Pac Kids & Teen Club for kids 13 through 17 includes supervised activities and games so moms and dads can relax at a private cabana or receive a spa or beauty treatment.

39. Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts – Mexico

Does it get any better than a vacation at a Nickelodeon Resort? Not if you’re a kid, it doesn’t! 

This five-star resort (also located across the Caribbean) has activities, rides, and entertainment themed after all the kids’ favorite Nick characters, from Spongebob to the Ninja Turtles.

Character meet and greets, a water park called Aqua Nick, and games at Nickelodeon Place craft an awesome experience for the little ones. 

Just be aware you might get slimed, but it’s all part of the experience.

40. Bay Gardens Beach Resort & Spa – St. Lucia

Another treasure in St. Lucia is Bay Gardens Beach Resort & Spa, which combines refreshment, relaxation, and adventure. 

Explore the nearby 44-acre Pigeon Island, do some light browsing at the Baywalk Shopping Mall, or shop at the Castries open-air market.

Rent some watersports equipment and play together as a family or let the kids enjoy the Coral Kidz Club with beach games, table tennis, nature walks, arts and crafts, and crab hunts. The club is for children four to 12 years old.

41. Royalton Bavaro Resort & Spa – Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

All-ages entertainment has never looked so good as at the Royalton Bavaro Resort & Spa. 

This all-inclusive Autograph Collection casino and resort has plenty of child-friendly entertainment, from a FlowRider surf simulator to a lazy river (that’s 1,200 feet!) to a Kids’ Club.

Led by the resort mascot Turbo the Turtle, kids of all ages will be entertained all day by activities like video games, ping-pong, beach volleyball, and billiards. There are even cooking and dance classes for teens.

Guided Family and Group Tour Vacations

Are you traveling in a large group with extended family and thinking a guided tour would make for a more enjoyable vacation? 

Here are some must-see destinations and guided tour options.

I’ve always wanted to go to Italy, as my husband visited once for a destination wedding, and I never stopped longing for the experience.

If Italy is a bucket-list destination for your family, a guided tour could be the perfect way to group everyone together and go.

You can take food, beach, and museum tours, or see whatever side of Italy you want. You can’t go wrong no matter what kind of tour you choose.

Have you ever wanted to sample the street food of Japan or ride one of its ultra-fast bullet trains? 

Maybe you want to go from Osaka to Tokyo and back again or take a 10-day guided tour to see all the hotspots this country has to offer.

A guided tour to Japan will be a chance of a lifetime. Japan has beaches, amusement parks, and festivals, so you can bet the kids will love it. 

They’ll also have a great opportunity to soak in a new culture.

» MORE: How Long Is Summer Break in Japan?

Don’t just dream of seeing the Eiffel Tower – make it happen! 

France guided tours will take you to see the tower and every other landmark this gorgeous European country is known for. You can take guided day tours or overnight tours.

Some tours are multiregional so you might experience several European countries in one vacation. What could be better?

Take a much-deserved group getaway to India to see the Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Amber Palace, Gateway of India Mumbai, and every coveted sight in this country. Tours last 5 to 11 days, so you won’t miss a thing.

Road Trip Vacations and Staycations

Maybe you want 2024 to be the year you and the family keep it local. Why not hop in the car and take a road trip?

Alternatively, you can stay ultra-local by taking a staycation in your own home state.

Here’s a collection of vacation ideas for making these local trips just as fun as venturing abroad, if not more so.

46. Have a museum day

Ask the kids to pick a museum they’ve always wanted to see. It can be an art, science, or history museum as long as everyone agrees. 

Then book some tickets and spend the day there taking in the exhibits, eating lunch together as a family, and maybe treating the kids to something at the gift shop.

What if you’ve visited all the museums in your area? Venture further into your state or an adjoining state. 

Taking a mini road trip to the museum will build up the excitement and make the kids eager for this family fun day.

You can even plan to visit several museums for an extended mini-vacation. It will surely be cheaper than booking airfare and hotels.

47. Tour a new part of your state

Most states across America are massive. You might know your own backyard well, but what about 50 miles north or 100 miles south? 

What’s to the east and west of your humble hometown?

Pack up the car and take the kids to a new part of the state. It’s fine if you’ve visited before, just as long as the kids haven’t. 

However, it’s even more exciting if no one has been there, as it will feel new for everyone.

Research the area in advance before you go, planning family-friendly activities like arcades, amusement parks, water parks, toy stores, museums, paintball, zoos, and the like. 

Don’t tell the kids what’s on the itinerary, as the goal is to surprise them.

The whole day will be filled with novelty and smiles, and you’ll have a deeper appreciation for your state.

48. Camp in your backyard

Keeping it local this spring or summer doesn’t have to be boring. Rather than take the kids to a campsite, have them camp in your backyard.

Erect a tent in the yard and build a firepit (if it’s legal where you live). Ask the kids to grab blankets, pillows, fireworks, and bug repellant. 

When the sun goes down, light the fire and help them make hot dogs on a spit and roast marshmallows.

You and the kids can tell ghost stories around the fire, play flashlight games, and look up at the stars while listening to the crickets and outdoor ambiance.

The best part about camping in your backyard is that if the kids get scared or don’t like roughing it, they’re only steps away from their nice, warm beds.

If they like it, you should take them camping for real for your next family vacation.

49. Build your own water park

Water parks are a blast, but there are some downsides, at least from a parent’s perspective. 

The parks are expensive and crowded, and you always worry about how clean the water is.

Alleviate all those concerns and treat your kids to a fun afternoon by creating your own custom water park in your yard.

You only need some tarps, splash pads, pool noodles, and sprinklers. Fill up balloons with water, blow up a few cheap inflatables, and let the kids ride and slide all afternoon.

This idea might be so popular that don’t be surprised if some neighbor kids come over interested in using the water features.

At the end of the day, everyone can dry off and go inside; no sitting in the car on the ride back all wet.  

50. Watch movies on a projector  

Movie nights are great bonding opportunities, but you always watch yours inside on the couch or at the theater, right? 

Try something new by purchasing a projector, bringing speakers outside, and broadcasting a movie outdoors.

Pop popcorn, grab snacks, and toss a few beanbag chairs on the back lawn. Turn the movie on, lie back, and enjoy this unique, fun moment with your kids.

You might make projector movie nights a regular part of your family activities, not just for your staycation.

51. Become a beach bum

If the kids deserve a vacation, but money is tight, don’t necessarily stay at a beach resort. You can take day trips to the beach instead. 

Plan these trips for a random weekday if you can swing the time off work.

That will make the trip feel more special for you and the kids. You can also enjoy a far less crowded beach.

Once you find a beach that you and the kids love, plan return visits all season long. You might consider purchasing seasonal beach badges to save on your trips.

The Best Family Vacation Ideas: Types of Trips For Families

Posted on Published: 10/12/2023

Family vacations are important for your family, but it can always be a challenge to decide when and where to go. Budget is obviously a major consideration, and as kids get older, time becomes more and more limited. So, you’ll want to make sure that you maximize your time by going to the best place possible. If you are looking for family vacation ideas, this post is a good place to start.

When my family is considering which destinations to travel to, we consider a variety of things. I have a family travel bucket list that I work from and using factors like budget, weather, and time available, we determine where to go. If you are building up your list, you may need some family travel inspiration.

This list of types of trips that every family should take can definitely help. Keep in mind that these don’t need to be big vacations. You can staycation to your nearest city for the day, visit a local theme park as part of a road trip, or head over to your nearest National Park for a quick trip.

Of course, if you prefer to do the same type of vacation each time, that is totally fine too. This is just a list to help you develop family vacation ideas for your bucket list.

Considering a trip to Europe? Here are some tips for how to plan a trip to Europe that is great for the entire family.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. A click-through/purchase from one of these links may result in a commission paid to us. Note that we may have traveled to some of these destinations at no cost but all opinions are my own.

Zipline over mountains

Family Cruise

It’s no surprise that I love cruising, because it’s a great way to see multiple destinations, and can be very relaxing. If you haven’t cruised before, consider a short family cruise, like the 3-day Disney Dream trip we took as our first family cruise.

You can also combine a short cruise with another type of trip, such as a theme park vacation or a city vacation. With activities already organized for you, and meals all prearranged, cruising truly does feel like a vacation from responsibilities.

When looking at various cruise itineraries, you’ll have lots of options. Look at the amenities on the ship, as well as the ports of call that you’ll be visiting. While you may associate cruising with warm weather, remember that there are cooler weather Disney cruises, like Alaska, Canada, or Northern Europe.

We’ve loved our cruises on the Disney Cruise Line. I’ve been on all five ships, and while the Disney Fantasy is my favorite, I’ve enjoyed sailing on all of them. 

Family Resorts

There are so many family-friendly resorts offering water parks, outdoor pools, fun activities, beach access, kids’ clubs, and so much more. For some great quality time with your family, you may consider staying at a family-friendly resort where you can spend much of your time. All inclusive resorts are a great option, but there are other great options as well.

One of the best family vacation spots, in my opinion, is Beaches Turks and Caicos . This all inclusive resort in Providenciales Turks and Caicos is the perfect place for a family vacation. It’s a popular destination, so be sure to book your stay well in advance.

Theme Park Family Vacation

Theme park trips are so fun for families, especially for those with younger children. My kids now love rides, but when they were younger, they really liked seeing characters. Seeing the magic of a theme park through a child’s young eyes is a beautiful part of parenting.

There are loads of theme parks in the United States, from huge parks like Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Studios to smaller regional theme parks like Story Land in New Hampshire. You can definitely find one that will fit into your budget and family plans. Amusement parks are also a great option.

If you have older kids, you may find that they also love theme parks. Instead of being interested in characters, however, they may prefer the thrill rides. My kids absolutely love the thrill rides at Busch Gardens , for instance.

You don’t have to plan an entire theme park vacation, however. There are lots of family vacation destinations where you can just incorporate a day or two at a theme park or amusement park, and then spend the rest of the time doing something else.

Considering a Walt Disney World vacation but overwhelmed by planning? We have lots of tips for families visiting Walt Disney World , check them out here.

The Ride NYC view of cabs and cars

City Vacation Ideas

Cities are filled with delicious restaurants, beautiful parks, historic sites, outdoor activities, and world-class museums, making them great places to visit with kids. We like to visit New York City at least once every few years, and the kids love seeing shows and exploring everything there is to see. There are also so many fun restaurants in New York City for the whole family to enjoy and even if it rains, there’s so much to do .

Our proximity to NYC makes that pretty easy, but New York isn’t the only big city worth visiting with kids. Before planning your big city trip, make sure that the kids are the right age for everything that you want to do since some museums aren’t the most kid-friendly.

Other domestic cities and popular destinations you may want to consider include the following:

  • Seattle, Washington
  • Washington DC
  • Nashville, TN
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Orlando, FL
  • San Francisco, CA
  • San Diego, CA

National Park

We haven’t traveled to a National Park yet with our kids, but it’s definitely on our list. National Parks offer so much, from relaxing atmospheres to nature education. If you can’t make it to a National Park, state parks are another great option.

Families that enjoy camping may especially consider visiting a National Park, including Yellowstone National Park, Sequoia , Grand Canyon National Park, Zion , and Glacier National Park. You could even do a Yosemite day trip rather than stay there. Pinnacles National Park is another option.

For inspiration, here’s a list of ideas from TripAdvisor .

Family Vacation Road Trip

Most of us have some great memories of road-tripping with our families. While road trips aren’t always easy, they are such a great way to take a reasonably-priced family vacation. They also help promote family bonding.

Road trips can be a great way to take a more flexible vacation because you won’t need to worry about purchasing flights for a specific time. While you may want to book your hotels, those often have a more flexible cancellation period.

Ski Vacation

I’m not a fan of the cold, but I’ve loved our family ski vacations. They are a great way to enjoy an outdoor activity as a family.

Family ski resorts offer many different family-friendly activities, but you can also consider a day trip to the mountain. If your kids (or you) haven’t skied before, definitely consider ski school or private lessons. My kids have loved their time in ski school and didn’t want to leave.

Like theme park vacations, you may also incorporate skiing into a longer family vacation. You won’t necessarily need to ski every day. See this ski packing list if you are planning a trip.

Boardwalk path leading to beach surrounded by sea grass

Beach Vacation

I love the beach, and so our family has experienced many beach vacations . You can also combine your beach vacation with a Caribbean cruise. I prefer visiting a beach resort, which makes things convenient because you can go back to the room whenever you need to.

As much as I love beautiful beaches, I do like to visit a place that has other family attractions in addition to just a nice beach. Even something as simple as mini-golf courses, boat tours, or botanical gardens can be a nice break from spending the whole family trip on the beach.

Isola Bella in Lake Maggiore view from hotel balcony

Guided Tour Family Vacation

Another relaxing vacation idea is a guided, group tour. We’ve been on several Adventures by Disney family vacations, and have loved every one. I enjoyed the relaxing vacation with absolutely no planning responsibilities, while my kids had a great time meeting other kids.

Read more about Adventures by Disney and see links to all of our posts.

Adventure Vacations

When your kids are older, you may consider going on a family adventure vacation . Things like zip lining, horseback riding, and whitewater rafting can easily be incorporated into your regular vacation, or you can choose to take an adventure-filled vacation.

Water Parks

My kids love visiting water parks. Because we live in New England, we don’t have as many opportunities to visit outdoor water parks as we’d like. Luckily, there are some indoor water parks in the area – and we have lots of great places to visit that have water parks.

One of our favorite things to do is to visit a family resort with a water park on the property. These can include water slides, wave pools, raft rides, lazy rivers, and so much more. Of course, this type of vacation can be combined with any other type of trip, since you won’t want to spend a whole week just at the water park.

What types of trips have you taken? Anything that I missed?

Family vacation ideas with the types of trips all families should take, including cruise vacations and National Park vacations. Great inspiration for building your bucket list.

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15 fun summer family vacation ideas at home and abroad

family trip idea

My family loves to keep a list of summer family vacation ideas to inspire us for future trips. Over the last few years, we’ve been fortunate enough to visit more than 40 countries and hundreds of cities around the world.

Over time, we’ve learned what each family member looks for in a vacation, which has helped us plan more enjoyable trips. So, whether you’re looking to plan a relaxing, thrilling, culturally rich, or educational summer family vacation ideas, here are my top recommendations based on trips that my own family has loved.

Woman with son looking at clothes and souvenirs on sell in the colorful cabins on a beach, Long Bay, Antigua, Caribbean, West Indies

15 of the best summer family vacation ideas

This list includes a mix of family-friendly US destinations and a few international must-visit places that are all easy enough to reach from a major airport.

1. Martha’s Vineyard, MA

Wildflowers joyfully bloom in the yard of a quaint seaside cottage, adding a burst of vibrant colours and a touch of natural beauty to the coastal setting.

When I first visited Martha’s Vineyard with my family, I was nervous that my kids might run out of things to do. I couldn’t have been more wrong. By the end of our summer vacation there, they didn’t want to leave. This charming island is about an hour from Boston and offers a slower, carefree pace of life, with plenty of beaches, towns, and restaurants to choose from. My family caught dozens of fish on a half-day guided fishing boat trip, ate delicious New England lobster rolls, admired the view from the iconic “Jaws bridge”, and strolled through the historic streets of Edgartown . If you’re looking to plan a trip away from a big city, Martha’s Vineyard is a no-brainer.

2. New York, NY

A mother smiling while rowing a boat in a lake, and her daughter at the back enjoying the view.

The Big Apple is one of the best family vacation spots and has something for everyone. You can watch world-class performances while taking in a Broadway show, or admire the iconic New York City skyline from an observation deck (my top pick is SUMMIT One). You can set up a family picnic in Central Park, or get a dose of culture by visiting a world-class museum or art gallery. There’s also a great zoo and aquarium , which my kids love, as well as the Statue of Liberty. When we visited, each family member got to pick one activity, and at the end of our vacation, everyone left happy and satisfied. The list of things to do may feel a little overwhelming, but a visit to NYC is always worthwhile.

3. Santa Rosa Beach, FL

High angle view from wooden pavilion gazebo by beach at Gulf of Mexico at Seaside, Florida by new urbanism rental house home architecture with people walking on ocean sea coast

Santa Rosa Beach is situated on the Gulf Coast of the Florida panhandle and is home to a beautiful stretch of idyllic beaches and charming towns across Highway 30A. Instead of the hustle and bustle of Miami , this area features calmer vibes, where you can rent bikes and golf carts to hop around the multiple towns. Seaside is a must-visit for its grassy central space and food trucks based out of Airstream trailers, while Rosemary Beach takes inspiration from European villages for its charming aesthetic. But don’t stress about deciding which towns along the 30A to go for, because all of them have access to the crystal clear aqua hues of its Gulf water, one of the main draws in this beautiful area.

4. Las Vegas, NV

A woman fearlessly embraces the challenge of rock climbing as she ascends a towering cliff.

Mainly known for its adult-oriented activities, Las Vegas has been steadily increasing its family-friendly offerings over recent years. This makes it a particularly good destination for multi-generational family vacations. Many Vegas hotels now have kid-friendly activities, like the Big Apple Coaster at New York New York, or the Tournament of Kings at Excalibur . There are also dozens of live shows to catch, but if you’re looking for something a little different, check out the Omega Mart, an immersive experience produced by the creative and surreal minds at Meow Wolf . End each day with a stroll along Las Vegas Boulevard as the hundreds of neon displays on the Strip light up the desert sky.

5. Washington, D.C.

The Washington Monument and the Capitol Building may be seen in the backdrop as people meander around the Tidal Basin.

In the summer months, Washington, D.C. offers a perfect blend of historic outdoor monuments and a seemingly endless supply of museums to pique your kids’ interest. My children loved the International Spy Museum, which offered several immersive experiences, and they even got to play out an interactive storyline where they assumed undercover roles and completed a spy mission. After a full day exploring the city, you can take a load off in a variety of restaurants along The Wharf – we particularly enjoyed the burgers at Lucky Buns . If you’re lucky, you might even be able to spot the President flying back to the White House on the Marine One helicopter from there.

6. Asheville, NC

Aerial view of north American city at sunset on a summer day

If you’re bored of visiting the beach every summer, why not opt for some picturesque hills instead? Asheville is a wonderful city to explore and serves as a great starting point for the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway drive towards the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The downtown area is very walkable and is home to several microbreweries, many of which have kid-friendly activities like lawn games, board games and play structures. You can also explore the historic Biltmore Estate and wander its lush gardens. Families with younger children will enjoy the WNC Nature Center , which is home to more than 60 species native to the region.

7. San Diego, CA

Four individuals run on the shore towards the sea.

I grew up in San Diego and love to return in the summer not only for its great weather but also for the varied selection of family-friendly activities. To start, theme parks like SeaWorld , Belmont Park , LEGOLAND , and Sesame Place are perfect for thrill-seekers of all ages. If you want to incorporate some learning activities into your vacation, head to Balboa Park and choose from 18 different museums (my favorite is the Fleet Science Center ). If all that exploration has left you hungry, don’t miss what I consider to be the best tacos in the world at Tacos El Gordo .

8. San Antonio, TX

A vibrant and colourful passenger boat gracefully cruises beneath a charming bridge, while the lively riverwalk bustles with outdoor dining options, where a crowd of people enjoy the ambiance, all set against a breathtaking canopy of trees.

San Antonio is a fantastic city to visit for those looking for a more budget-friendly family vacation, and despite being a big city it still has plenty of small-town charm. From taking a stroll along the famous River Walk to browsing the largest Mexican market outside of Mexico, Market Square , San Antonio has an almost limitless number of sightseeing activities to enjoy. The city is also home to one of our kids’ favorite museums, the DoSeum . The DoSeum is filled with interactive exhibits that will ignite your kids’ imagination while providing plenty of learning opportunities to keep their minds sharp.

9. Chicago, IL

Aerial view of boats on a river surrounded by modern and towering skyscrapers.

I was pleasantly surprised by the range of family-friendly activities that Chicago has to offer. If you go, you’ll want to start off at the Navy Pier , which hosts the Chicago Childrens’ Museum , as well as various amusement rides like the Wave Swinger and the Centennial Wheel . My family also really enjoyed taking a riverboat architecture tour, where we learned about Chicago’s rich architectural history and how the city has led the way in many urban planning and design efforts across the last few centuries. Millennium Park also offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy, from gazing at the Cloud Gate (informally known as “the bean”) to catching a live music show at Jay Pritzker Pavilion .

10. Colorado Springs, CO

A happy little girl peeking out from a cave in a mountain and looking outside.

2024 is an Olympic year, so there’s no better time to visit Olympic City, USA. Colorado Springs should be near the top of the list for family summer vacation ideas on a budget. Start your trip at the US Olympic Museum , where the whole family can be inspired by stories of Team USA’s sporting triumphs on the global stage. For those who love exploring unchartered territory, the Cave of the Winds provides hourly tours of its deep caverns along with thrill rides which include the Terror-dactyl, which drops and swings you from the side of a gorge into a canyon below and back.

11. Honolulu, HI

Three teenagers lying on paddbleboards at sunset in the sea water

There’s a certain magic to Hawaii that’s hard to explain, but you can definitely feel it when you’re there. The island of Oahu is a fantastic destination for a fun family vacation. One of my kids’ fondest memories from our previous trip there was when they visited the Dole Pineapple Plantation , where they got to explore a pineapple garden maze and learn about how the fruit is cultivated while riding the Pineapple Express train tour. When you’re not busy frolicking on Waikiki Beach , you can also experience traditional Hawaiian cuisine at Germaine’s Luau , or learn more about the Pacific islands at the Children’s Discovery Center .

12. Reykjavik, Iceland

A man with a kid on his shoulders standing next to a young girl on a hilltop overlooking a glacier.

For outdoor adventure enthusiasts, Icelan d is a paradise packed with breathtaking glaciers, majestic waterfalls, rejuvenating hot springs, and idyllic vistas throughout the country. Simply put, it is one of my most recommended family vacation ideas within 6 hours of many major US airports. In the summer months, you can expect around 20 hours of sunlight and moderately warm to cool temperatures, making it the best time of the year to visit. However, due to the length of some hikes or age restrictions for certain activities (like hiking on a glacier), an Iceland vacation is more suitable for families with older children or teenagers.

13. Playa del Carmen, Mexico

A green sea turtle is swimming in the turquoise waters near a white sand beach with lush green surroundings.

Mexico is a fantastic destination for fun family vacations, and Playa del Carmen (close to Cancun ) stands out for its rich Mayan cultural heritage, delicious cuisine, and outdoor adventure parks like Xcaret . In one week, you can come face to face with varied marine life at some of North America’s best snorkeling locations, zip line for over a minute above the trees, and tour one of the Seven Wonders of the World (the Mayan city of Chichen Itza ). If you’re looking for a more relaxing vacation, you can’t go wrong with an all-inclusive resort like the Iberostar Paraiso Lindo , where you can lounge on the beach while the kids are entertained at their excellent kids’ club.

14. Paris, France

A happy mother with her son on her back in the park near the Eiffel Tower.

If your family is intent on flying to Europe for the summer , Paris is a great destination to choose. Aside from visiting classic tourist attractions like the Louvre , Eiffel Tower , and Arc de Triomphe , the family will uncover unexpected adventures while wandering around the historic streets or people-watching from an outdoor cafe. The Palace of Versailles is also great for making unforgettable memories, as you discover thousands of artworks and admire the opulent gardens and grounds. Finally, if the family misses a taste of home, Disneyland Paris provides hours of entertainment and thrilling rides with Mickey and his friends.

15. La Fortuna, Costa Rica

A woman standing on a rock with her hands above her head, with views of a volcano in the distance.

When it comes to tropical countries, Costa Rica is hard to beat. In particular, La Fortuna is known for its proximity to the Arenal volcano, which provides a beautiful backdrop for the adventures found nearby. If you’re planning a visit, I recommend staying at one of my favorite hotels in the world, The Springs Resort . This resort runs the Club Rio Adventure Center, where the whole family can go kayaking, tubing, and horseback riding. Afterward, relax in one of the many hot springs on the resort, which are maintained at different temperature levels. Ultimately, La Fortuna is a great place to come and create unforgettable memories for the whole family.

More summer family vacation ideas

There are too many kid-friendly destinations to choose from when it comes to planning a fantastic summer family vacation. However, one tip that works well for our family is to involve each family member in the planning process.

That way, you’ll get a good understanding of what matters most to each of them. While there may have to be compromises made, at least it reduces the possibility of certain family members feeling surprised or underwhelmed by a particular destination.

If you’d like more summer travel inspiration , here are some other places that are great to visit in June , July , and August .

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Italy Family Vacations

Spain family vacations, japan family vacations, australia family vacations, a grand california family road trip.

  • By Dana Rebmann
  • June 24, 2020

California offers a nearly infinite variety of fun for traveling families, from beaches and mountains to amusements parks and national parks. It’s the picking and choosing what to do and what not to do that gets hard. If you’re looking for your family’s best shot at doing it all, buckle up and think about hitting the highway for a Grand California Family Road Trip. We’ve outlined a family-friendly route that covers the highlights from San Francisco to San Diego . If you’re short on time, condense your trip to focus on Los Angeles and San Francisco only. Whatever you manage to see and do, one thing is certain: California with kids is sure to please!

Guide to a Grand California Family Road Trip

The phrase “family road trip” evokes a variety of reactions, ranging from freewheeling fun to outright fear. Loading the kids in the car and taking off is certainly easier and cheaper than schlepping from one airport to the next in the wee hours of the morning, all the while hoping the flight remains on time. But loading the kids in the car also means, well, the kids are in the car. Truth be told, family togetherness bliss only lasts so long. So when its time to plan a trip to California, be sure to do your research.

A successful road trip is a road trip that’s fun! The memories make you smile when it comes up in conversation, and the trip you’d do all over again if you could. But the best thing is that it’s really easily done. Good destinations are the foundation of the trip, with a balance of set activities and free time to do whatever you may or may not stumble upon along the way. Get one successful family road trip under your belt and more will follow — it doesn’t matter if the kids are five or 15.

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Adventure Behind the Wheel: Guide to 9 Nights on the Road

If you’ve never planned a family road trip, pulling together your first adventure behind the wheel can feel a little overwhelming; this is especially true in California with kids , where there’s often a good reason to stop the car every few miles and take in the view from the side of the road. We’ve put together the Grand California Family Road Trip. Short enough to fit into the school calendar’s definition of spring break, yet long enough to see what makes California such a great family destination.

Our itinerary plans for nine nights on the road. You could just print it out and go, but the best part about this road trip is the flexibility it offers for families to make it their own. It doesn’t matter whether you head up or down the coast, you won’t miss a memory. Family trips in California are flexible because there are so many options depending on ages and interests.

In each of these destinations, we’ve highlighted must-see and do activities, plus tried and tested gems with kids that are more off-path.

San Francisco: 2 Nights

What to do: You could spend two months in San Francisco with kids and do something new every day, but since you only have two nights to call it home, you need to use your time wisely. There is no denying Fisherman’s Wharf is touristy, but it’s something almost all first-time visitors to San Francisco want to see. Using it as a starting location, you can also cross off many of the city’s other must-dos, like Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge along with a cable car ride. Celebrate a perfect road trip day with ice cream at the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop.

Golden Gate Park sees 13 million visitors each year. It’s the third-most-visited park in the United States, and it’s easy to understand why. With options like the California Academy of Sciences, the de Young Museum, the Conservatory of Flowers and the Koret Children’s Quarter and Golden Gate Park Carousel, you can’t go wrong.

If you have the luxury of a few extra days in your road trip itinerary, San Francisco is a great launching point for exploring Yosemite or Lake Tahoe .

Must See and Do

  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Golden Gate Park
  • Cable Car Ride

Gems to Add

  • California Academy of Sciences
  • de Young Museum
  • Conservatory of Flowers
  • Koret Children’s Quarter and Golden Gate Park Carousel
  • Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop

Monterey Peninsula: 1 Night

California’s Highway 1 offers some of the most stunning stretches of coastline you’ll ever see. While there are a number of vistas where you can look but not touch, the Monterey Peninsula offers plenty of beaches where families can get out of the car and play in the sand. Lovers Point Park and Beach is only about a mile from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

If your kids are wiggly and just need to be outside, the Dennis the Menace Playground may be a good fit. Created in 1956 with the help of the comic strip creator Hank Ketcham, it has slides, climbing walls, tunnels and even a real locomotive for kids to climb on. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve nearby may be one of the best state parks you’ll ever visit. There are numerous trails offering views of the coast; the stroller-friendly Carmelo Meadow Trail can be done in less than 10 minutes.

With a walking labyrinth, an alphabet garden and a cut-your-own herb garden, organic grower Earthbound Farm runs a one-of-a-kind farm stand in Carmel Valley. The organic frozen yogurt is pretty darn tasty too!

  • Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • Dennis the Menace Park
  • Earthbound Farm
  • Lovers Point Park and Beach
  • Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Santa Barbara: 2 Nights

As you travel from Monterey to Santa Barbara , consider quick stops at Big Sur , Hearst Castle or San Luis Obispo. Although you could easily fill an entire trip along this stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway, press on toward Santa Barbara this time around.

On paper, your time in Santa Barbara with kids  looks deceptively long, but chances are you’ll arrive later in the evening and pull out of town in the morning, so you’ve really only got one full day to play here. Don’t underestimate the power of State Street. Shopping (especially if you’ve got tween and/or teenage girls) and tasty extras like ice cream take time.

Speed up your trip to California’s oldest working wharf by jumping on Santa Barbara’s Downtown Shuttle. The open-air, trolley-like electric vehicle runs every 15 to 30 minutes and drops you directly in front of Stearns Wharf. Walk the wharf and maybe check out the Ty Warner Sea Center or hit the beach and the water. A kayaking trip out of Santa Barbara Harbor to what’s affectionately known as Sea Lion Buoy is a great activity for school-age kids and up.

  • State Street
  • Stearns Wharf
  • Santa Barbara’s Downtown Shuttle
  • Ty Warner Sea Center
  • Kayaking Santa Barbara Harbor

Los Angeles Area: 2 Nights

Time for a celebration: You’ve made it from San Francisco to Los Angeles!

If seeing Disney tops your list during your visit to the  Los Angeles area with kids , dedicate your stay in town to just that. It takes time to do Disneyland right. Even if you sneak in and out of town without meeting the mouse known ’round the world, you can still get your amusement ride fix and snap photos of some California icons.

Get your feet sandy on Santa Monica Beach and walk to the food- and ride-loaded Santa Monica Pier. There are plenty of places to catch sight of the Hollywood Sign, including on the drive to Hollywood Boulevard. It’s a touristy spot, and different than most first-timers expect, but it’s one of those locations that is hard for folks to go home without seeing. But the newest star to call Hollywood home can claim real stars as former neighbors: Space Shuttle Endeavour is a must-visit at the California Science Center.

  • Disneyland & California Adventure
  • Santa Monica Beach and Pier
  • Hollywood Sign and Hollywood Boulevard
  • Amusement rides on Santa Monica Pier
  • Space Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center

San Diego: 2 Nights

After traveling down the California coast, San Diego is your last stop, and relaxing on the shore may be just what your family needs. The beach at Coronado Island offers a great tidepool and there are lifeguards on duty. Take time to recharge, then head to Balboa Park. Along with being home to a whopping 15 museums, the nation’s largest urban cultural park is also home to the city’s wilder side, the San Diego Zoo. If you are in need of gifts to take home for family and friends, Seaport Village is a fun place to do some shopping and is a safe spot to give teens freedom to wander a bit.

TIP: If you have less than a week, consider combining the Los Angeles and San Diego portion of this itinerary and focus your time on southern California.

  • San Diego Zoo
  • Balboa Park
  • Coronado Island
  • Seaport Village
  • Kids’ surf lessons at Menehune Surf School

Relevant Links:

Browse our best vacation ideas and accommodations for California with kids

5 best museums in San Francisco for kids

How to make the most of a San Francisco CityPASS with kids

72 hours in Los Angeles with kids

10 fun things to do in San Diego with kids

A perfect Northern California road trip itinerary

Best kid-friendly wineries in Northern California Wine Country

Start a Discussion

Could this trip work backwards? If you started in San Diego and ended in San Francisco? Also, we are thinking of adding San Luis Obispo so would that go before or after Santa Barbara?

Hi Munira, you absolutely can do the reverse! San Luis Obispo is north of Santa Barbara, so you could stop en route to San Francisco as you drive north. Happy travels!

Hi I am planning a trip for my daughter and I, she will be 15. I grew up in northern California and have some spots I know I want to show her and do with her. I love the suggestions in this article, they are a great jumping off point. I want to make sure our trip has several great hikes, maybe surfing lessons, bike rides, and possibly kayaking. I’d like to start in the redwoods and end in SoCal

Hi April, we’d be happy to help with your trip plans! One of our expert Family Travel Advisors will reach out in email. Happy travels!

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Hi Kristi We are are a family of four including two kids, 8 and 5. We travel in mid July from out of the US and want to spend 8 days in California including Disneyland San Francisco , Grand Canyon, San Diego, others? We can arrive in San Francisco airport and leave from Lax . Would you be able to provide recommendations as far as a road trip that includes a good mix of activities . One concern I have is whether we could rent a car in one city and return it on another ? Thank you!

Hi Harvey, Thank you for using Ciao Bambino! One of our Family Vacation Advisors specializing in California will reach out to you on email to see if we can help with your road trip. Thanks! -Amie

Hello, Our family of four are planning to travel California in the beginning of April. I am desperate to find some help with planning. Would you please help me out? Thank you!!

Hi HeeSun, absolutely, we can help. One of our Family Travel Advisors specializing in California will reach out in email. Happy planning!

We are planning a trip in May for our family. Two adults and 3 boys ages 11,10 and 6 would love someone to contact me Thanks!

Hi Jill, thanks for using Ciao Bambino! One of our Family Travel Advisors who specializes in California will reach out in email to tell you about our service and how we can help. Happy planning.

This is an awesome comprehensive list of California destinations…great roundup! I would emphasize Yosemite National Park. There’s really nothing like it anywhere else in the world.

We’re a family of 5, 2 adults and children aged 13, 11 and 1. We’re planning a road trip from San Fran to San Diego in early July over 18-19 days. This route looks perfect but we’d like to take a more leisurely pace. Can you please help?

Hi Siobhan, absolutely, we can custom-design an itinerary for your family’s preferences. One of our Family Travel Advisors specializing in California will reach out in email. Happy travels!

Hi There, We are a family of 5 with three kids planning a trip to LA in Mar (23rd) next year. Kids ages are Boy 12, girl 7 and boy 2. We would like to cover the theme parks, san fran, grand canyon, Yosemite and any beaches. Can you please advice where to stay if we are on a budget and a plan. Leaving on the 16th Apr

Hi Gayani – Thanks for using Ciao Bambino! Happy to hear that one of our advisors has been in touch already. Enjoy the planning!

HI! we are a family of 4 , (kids aged 11 and 9) , travelling from Italy, we are planning a trip to Califormia this summer 3 -4 weeks in august starting from LA , we would then like to do the national parks, San Francisco and the Grand Canyon. Can you suggest an itinerary?

Hi Francesca, thanks for using Ciao Bambino! A Family Vacation Advisor specializing in California will reach out in email to talk about how we can help. Happy travels!

Please have someone contact me.

Hi Lisa, we’ll be glad to have a Family Travel Advisor specializing in California reach out in email. Thanks for using our site!

Hello! In which place on the Highway 1 would you spend more time on a future trip?

Hi Bruno! All the stops along the way are very different, but the Central Coast near Cambria is a wonderful part of the state for families who want to settle into one spot for a week. If you’d like help planning your full road trip, let us know and one of our Family Travel Advisors will reach out in email. Thanks!

Hello! I am trying to plan this for my Moms 60th birthday. I am a family of 2 adults and 3 children (3,6,12) from NJ and my brother, his wife and three kids, (7,8,2) from Hawaii are looking to meet my Mom and sister (22) could you have Kristi contact me please Id love to see if something like this could work for all of us. Thank you!

Hi Aimee – Thanks for using Ciao Bambino! We’ll have one of our Family Travel Advisors specializing in California reach out in email. Happy planning!

Hi there. We are a family of 4 (1 tween girl and one teen girl? We are looking to come to CA the first week of July for 9 nights and 8 days. We have to stay in Hollywood or Santa Monica for at least 3 nights as my brother lives there. We would like to see beaches, surfers, maybe whales, and other tourist places. What would you suggest. We are coming from Atlanta and have not booked flights yet so we can fly into one area and sly out of another. We want some beach time but not everyday. I would love to go to a winery but the kids would hate it. Would love to hear your suggestions,

Thank you for your travel request. A Family Travel Advisor will contact you shortly.

A great place to stay for the weekend in Newport is the Newport Dunes. There is RV slots if you are traveling with one or beach cottages to rent if not. So much fun there, we go multiple times a year.

Planning a California trip in June. Can a travel agent reach out to me. Unsure of things to do. We are coming for a graduation but plan on staying extra days to see California

Hi Sinobia, absolutely! One of our Family Travel Advisors specializing in California will reach out in email. Happy planning!

We’re a family of four (14 yr.girl & 9 yr.boy). We booked a 10 days California trip March 5 to 15 from Toronto to LA. Booked hotel in Fairmont Santa Monica for our first night, the rest still on planning stage were to stay. The kids looking forward to have fun at Universal Studio and Disneyland. My husband and I, bucket list is to see San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge(booked Fairmont San Francisco, check in March 8 and check out March 10) and if possible if we still have time to go a Tour bus trip to Las Vegas and Grand Canyon/Hoover Dam. We’re planning to ride the sightseeing tour bus in Hollywood and San Francisco. Checking on taking bus from LA to San Francisco or driving (insurance/cost). Any suggestions and advise would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Lisa

Hi Lisa, It sounds like you have a great start planned. I’ll have one of our Family Vacation Advisors specializing in California to reach out to you in email to set up time to chat about how we can help with the itinerary. Happy Planning! Best, -Amie

Interested in a trip similar to this in mid June. 2 adults and one child age 17. We have 5-6 nights. Any suggestions would be great

Hi Kate, Thank you for using Ciao Bambino! One of our Family Vacation Advisors specializing in California will follow up in email regarding next steps to use our service. Happy Planning!

Hi, we are a family of five planning to do a CA roadtrip in April 8-18 with our kids who are 7, 6 and 18 months. How is the weather then? What would you suggest? We’d like to do some of Highway 1. and then up from San Fran to Portland. Please advise.

Hi Corinne – Sounds wonderful! I’ll have one of our Family Travel Advisors reach out to you in email to see how we can help. Thanks!

We are a family of five coming to California in April for 8-10 days, kids 8-12. I would like to do San Fran to Carlsbad, but my husband thinks it’s too much time into the car. Suggestions?

Hi Maria! Our California expert will be happy to advise you – I’ll have her reach out. Thanks!

Hi, Thinking about planning a summer trip to Cali with 2 adults/2 kids(7,12). We live in FL so the beaches, and Disney are nice, but we do have them here. We love San Fran area so we can start there. What is North of San Fran,anything to see? or should we head south instead?? How far is Yosemite/Lake Tahoe? What is there for kids in Carmel and Santa Barbara? Thanks

Hi Jennifer! Please excuse the delay – your comment didn’t show up in our feed immediately. Our California expert will reach out to you about your trip plans. Thank you!

Hello, we are planning a trip to California probably sometime in May. I could use some help with this process. Any additional information or suggestions are welcome! Thank you!

Hi Haley, Wonderful! Our Family Vacation Advisor specializing in California will follow up with you in email shortly. Happy New Year! Best, -Amie

Hi! We are planning a California trip in march. Just me hubs and our lil man age 2. Could you please email me an itinerary please. Thanks!

Hi Liyana – Everything we do is customized per family taking into the consideration of the ages of the kids. I’ll have one of our Family Travel Advisors who specializes in California reach out to you in email. Thanks! -Amie

Hi, We are a family of 6, we have 4 children aged 10-5 and would love to do a 10/14 day trip in California in May/June 2017. Could give us some ideas on price and anything you would recommend? Thanks, Joanne

Hi Joanne – I’ll have one of our Advisors specializing in this itinerary email you. Thanks! -Amie

Im planning the ultimate 50th birthday trip for myself and my BFF. She’s from England and Im a Texan but California Coast is my destination choice! Now to find the things both of us will enjoy- that sand castle school is on the list for sure! Im excited!

Hi! We are planning a road tripping Southern California in August. I know it’s hot but we only have this window of time. We either will fly into San Diego airport or John Waybe and drive towards the other. Will 4-5nights be enough time? We’d love at least 2 nights in San Diego and may see the Zoo, balboa park and lots of resting and relaxing. Also legoland, San Clemente, Laguna beach and Newport Beach. We love beaches, good food, coffees, parks etc! Two kids 8 and 6. Any advice of timing and what to definitely see?? Thanks so much!!

Hi Jane – In addition to the articles on the website, we run a full family-focused vacation planning service. I’ll have our Advisor specializing in California reach out to you in email. Thanks! -Amie

Hi, We’re planning an 8 day trip San Francisco-LA. We’ll be travelling two adults and two kids (ages 7 and 12). However, we want to spend at least 2 nights in Napa Valley. How would you modify your proposed itinerary? Thanks, Aida

Hi Aida – We provide a service where we do custom itineraries for families traveling through California. I’ll have our Family Travel Advisor specializing in this itinerary reach out to you! -Amie

Hi Jo- I’ve just sent you an email. The whale watching is fantastic around Monterey with blue whales and humpbacks common during summer. Not to mention the otters and sea lions – you’ve chosen a fun trip. Thanks, -kristi

Hi. Great info! We are a family of 2 adults, 4 children aged 5-11 from Denmark. We are doing the Cali road trip in July, but would like to add a whale watching trip around Monterey Bay, among other things. Any suggestions, or would you put me in touch with one of your experts. Also, we are having trouble picking hotels/resorts…. Thanks. Jo

Hi Jo, Our Family Travel Advisor for California will reach out soon in email to help. Best, -Amie

Hi this is a fantastic read as we are doing this trip in Aug/Sep- we want to stop for 5 nights in SoCal, do you think that’s too long in Santa Barbara? We want beach, kids stuff, relax, restaurants, coffee! Also do you think Yosemite in August is worth 2 nights in an RV or will we roast?! Do you guys have advice on RV parks for that stretch of coast, if so it would be great to speak to someone? Kiri

Hi Kiri- I’m Ciao Bambino’s California road trip expert. 5 nights in Santa Barbara is not too long as there are fun day trips nearby. Yosemite is always worth a stop! It’s hot during the day and cool at night. I’m not an expert on RV Parks but if you need assistance with routing and activities that is something I can help you with. Feel free to reach out at [email protected] Thanks, -kristi

Could you please put me in touch with an advisor to assist with planning a California coast trip for our family?

Hi Shani, I’ve sent this to our California Family Vacation Advisor Kristi. She will be in touch shortly! -Amie

Hi, Could you please have Kristi contact me regarding a CA coast trip? I spoke with her last year, and we had to postpone our trip, but would like to go ahead and plan now.

Hi Shani – Glad to hear that you’re ready to move forward with your plans again! I’ll pass along your request to Kristi. Happy planning!

Hello, I am in the UK and looking to book a holiday in January. Our girls are 3 and 4. What would you recommend for a road trip given the weather?

Hi Becky – We can help! One of our Family Vactation Advisors will reach out to you in email. Thanks! -Amie

We are a family of 6. Kids age 12-19 and 2 adults. We want to go to Cali and west coast in August. We have 8 days. What do suggest??

Hi Jill – I’ll have one of our Family Vacation Advisors who specializes in California reach out in email. Thanks! -Amie

Hi, we are planning a trip to California with a 19 month old in September, planning to fly into either LA or San Diego( 6 hours) then either work our way north or south along big sur but also depending on where we fly into. Any recommendations on that and where we should go?

Hi Cara – Our in house travel agency specializing in crafting a California Road Trip for families. I’ll have one of our Advisor reach out in email. Happy Planning! Best, -Amie

We are planning a similar trip for August with kids in the same range. Would love to hear any suggestions as well.

Hi Amy – Thanks for reaching out to us! I’ll have a Family Travel Advisor specializing in California get in touch via email to talk about how we can help with your plans.

Hi we’re planning on a California trip in May this year. We have a 3 and a 1 year old. We want to see the obvious sights in California. Disney, Hollywood Blvd etc. and spend abit of time on a nice beach somewhere. Can anyone recommend family places to stay and where to start. Planning on spending a week to 10 days Thank you

Hi Anna – I’ll have our Family Travel Advisor who is a California specialist reach out to you. Thanks! -Amie

This itinerary looks great. Would it be appropriate for a family trip in early-mid November?

Hi Janine. California is a year round destination for travel. In November, the locals won’t be sunbathing at the beaches but they will be surfing and boogie boarding with wet suits so there is still beach activity. I specialize in California road trip planning and will reach out in case you need additional help planning your family vacation. Thanks! -kristi

Hi cyclops- Feel free to leave your email or email us at [email protected] if we can help you plan your trip. Thanks, -kristi

Hi – That’s a great start to your road trip, especially the Monterey Peninsula which offers beautiful drives , beaches and wildlife viewing opportunities hiking, kayaking or even on a pontoon boat. Depending on your interests and the ages of the kids there are other less touristy areas along the coast that you might like as well. I specialize in California road trip planning for Ciao Bambino and will reach out in case you would like help planning your trip. Thanks, Kristi Marcelle

We are a family of 8 (6 adults and two small children) and are planning a road trip during the Christmas week (Dec 19-27). We will be starting from San Francisco. Can you give us some ideas of places to visit during that time? We are thinking of Monterey, Carlsbad/San Diego and Santa Barbara. Any other spots that will be good during that time especially with Christmas? Any places to avoid? We don’t need to see San Francisco and Los Angeles, Disney, Universal Studios.

Approximately how long are the drives in the above itinerary.

Hi Matt, Each stop is more or less 2-3 hours from one another. Thanks! -Amie

Hi Anne, the weather is usually fine in March, always a bit chillier in Northern California than Southern California which hovers in the 70s midday. In SoCal, it’s flip flop weather all year round though in March the locals aren’t sunbathing and swimming in the ocean though they are surfing and boogie boarding with wetsuits. If you’d like any help planning your trip, we offer full itinerary planning with hotel booking and activities recommendations. California is my specialty so let us know if we can help. -kristi

Thanks for the great article. I am from deep south, so like warm weather, so I am planning a September trip (also like less crowds). San Francisco (2 nights) to Monterrey (1 night) to Santa Barbara (1 night) to San Diego (2 nights) is our plan. We can’t decide whether to skip LA or do 1 night. We won’t have kids with us but our real question is whether September would change anything in your recommendations or thoughts?

I wanted to see if the weather over early March is good for this trip with kids along the coastline of California or if it is cold still

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  • Last Updated On
  • October 17, 2023

25 Fun Things to Do with Kids in The Bay Area: Best Attractions for Families!

Emily Appelbaum

Planning to see the Golden Gate?

How about a visit to Silicon Valley?

Either way, the Bay Area has it all.

Moreover, it is known for having some of the best tech industries and other significant innovations in the past.

But being in the third largest state in the country, it has more than you think of.

I have visited the place more than once and seen and done some of the most fun things to do with kids in the bay area.

But this metropolitan region is vast, and so are the countless fun things to do here.

Choosing your first destination and the following will take some time.

That’s the same problem I had the first time we went there.

So as a parent that loves rating and giving reviews to the places I have been to, let me help you out.

I listed the best attractions and ranked them based on age compatibility, educational value, fun factor, and affordability.

Check out my thorough review and tips below for the best ideas for your next family trip to the Bay Area.

Fun Things To Do With Kids In The Bay Area Compared 

There’s always something cool and fun to do in the Bay Area. 

And here’s my quick reference guide that will help you immensely.

Editor’s Choice

alcatraz island

Alcatraz Island

For years, the island has been a top spot for tourists.

  • Age Compatibility: Young Children (6-9 years old)
  • Educational Value: 4/5
  • Fun Factor: 4/5
  • Accessibility: 4/5
  • Affordability: 3/5

#2nd Best Choice

california academy of science

California Academy of Science

This place is an exhibit-packed museum you and your family shouldn’t miss.

  • Fun Factor: 4.5/5
  • Accessibility: 5/5
  • Affordability: 4/5

#3rd Best Choice



An attraction that the curious and inquisitive tots will love is the Exploratorium, with over 650 exhibits covering art, science and human perception!

  • Age Compatibility: Preschoolers (4-5 years old)
  • Educational Value: 5/5

Here are fun activities in the Bay Area with kids.

1. Alcatraz Island (Editor’s Choice)

Alcatraz Island

PIER 33 San Francisco, CA 94133 (855) 964-2282 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Ratings Criteria

  • A cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge 
  • Audio presentation while on a self-guided tour
  • A bit pricey

Why You’ve Got to Go

You may have heard already of Alcatraz.

It’s pretty famous that there’s even a movie named after it.

Are you keen on seeing the place?

With this tour, you’ll see Alcatraz Island and explore the place more.

Take a ferry to Alcatraz Island and get inside the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary.

Tour inside while listening to the audio commentary about infamous inmates, including Al Capone.

You’ll also see the sea lions in Pier 39 or pass San Francisco’s principal landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco

2. California Academy of Science

California Academy of Science

55 Music Concourse Dr San Francisco, CA 94118 (415) 379-8000 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

  • Many things and animals to see
  • Amazing exhibits
  • Limited interactive activities

Have you ever been to an aquarium, planetarium, and rainforest at the same time?

If not, it’s your chance to visit the California Academy of Science.

It’s the only one in the world, so you better grab the opportunity.

Meet nearly 600 animal residents and join animal feeding programs.

You can visit Mars in their planetarium.

A virtual safari will let you feel like you’re in Africa for a while.

You can also see amphibians, reptiles, and more in their living rainforest.

Get yourself ready for so many things to see in this museum.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: The Fairmont Heritage Place Ghirardelli Square

Related: Best Restaurants in the Bay Area

3. Exploratorium


Pier 15, The Embarcadero San Francisco, CA 94111 (415) 528-4444 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

  • Interactive learning experience
  • Diverse range of exhibits
  • Crowded at peak times

Tykes will learn how to build their own electric circuits and bridges, get an inside look at gadgets such as clocks and pinball machines, and learn all about optical illusions, among other fascinating processes.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Palace Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, San Francisco

4. Aquarium of the Bay

Aquarium of the Bay

PIER 39 Embarcadero & Beach St San Francisco, CA 94133 (415) 623-5300 Visit Websit e Social Media Open in Google Maps

Make the most of your vacation in the Bay Area by visiting the Aquarium of the Bay.

It has exhibit areas that house thousands of sea creatures.

It has a walk-through glass tunnel where you’ll see and marvel at the beauty of the ocean.

You’ll be mesmerized by the beauty of jellies once you enter the place.

You can then walk through their 300-foot acrylic tunnels, where you can see schooling anchovies and sharks.

And their exhibit highlights some of the most colorful animals of San Francisco, like the bright orange Garibaldi.

There is more to see here for the whole family.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Hilton San Francisco Airport Bayfront

Related: Restaurants: San Francisco

Related: Things to Do in San Francisco with Kids

5. California’s Great America, Santa Clara

California’s Great America, Santa Clara

4701 Great America Parkway Santa Clara, CA 95054 (408) 988-1776 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

This 112-acre amusement park is easily one of the most fun places in the south bay, with its fun rides, shows and dining options.

Apart from amusement-park essentials such as roller coasters, the park hosts special shows and events including musicals and themed performances, many of them season-based.

Check out the South Bay Shores Waterpark to cool off!

Ages 3 and up

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Hilton Santa Clara

Related: Best Restaurants in Santa Clara

Related: Fun Things to Do with Kids in California

6. Andy’s Orchard, Morgan Hill

Andy’s Orchard, Morgan Hill

1615 Half Road Morgan Hill, CA 95037 (408) 782-7600 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

The 80-acre farm, owned by the Mariani family, was established in 1931 and is renowned for its variety of fresh fruit produce.

Guests are allowed to pick and taste peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots and cherries, including very rare varieties, only at specified times annually.

Stock up on all the fruit you can at this scenic farm before you leave!

Recommended Hotel Nearby: La Quinta by Wyndham Morgan Hill-San Jose South

Related: Best Things to Do in The Bay Area

7. Sutro Baths, San Francisco

Sutro Baths, San Francisco

1004 Point Lobos Avenue San Francisco, CA 94121 (415) 426-5240 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Formerly one of the largest privately-owned complexes of saltwater swimming pools, the Sutro Baths, now only crumbling walls and rusting iron, is great for exploration and ocean views.

Tour the many saltwater pools either on your own or on a free guided tour.

There’s also a beach, the spot of many shipwrecks, accessible via a tunnel.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Hotel Kabuki, a Joie de Vivre Hotel

Related: Best Beaches in The San Francisco Bay Area

8. Gilroy Garlic Festival, Gilroy

Gilroy Garlic Festival, Gilroy

5975 Rossi Lane Suite 200 Gilroy, CA 95020 (408) 842-1625 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

A super-fun food festival that takes place on the last weekend of July every year, the Gilroy Garlic Festival is one of the country’s most popular summer food fests, with a history going back to 1978.

Apart from all the mouth-watering food (kid-friendly options too!), you’ll also find fun games, rides and activities for all ages, cooking contests and live entertainment.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Best Western Plus Forest Park Inn

Related: Family Weekend Getaways in Northern California

9. Lake Merritt, Oakland

Lake Merritt, Oakland

Lakeside Park Oakland, CA 94612 (510) 238-7275 Visit Website Open in Google Maps

Visiting Lake Merritt is one of the most fun things to do in the East Bay; this saltwater tidal lagoon in the city’s heart is the country’s oldest wildlife refuge (150 years old) with plenty to do, even if you’re traveling with a baby.

The 3-mile shoreline offers plenty of spots to picnic and observe local wildlife; events and activities are hosted regularly.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Oakland Marriott City Center

10. The San Mateo Japanese Garden, San Mateo

The San Mateo Japanese Garden, San Mateo

50 East, Fifth Avenue San Mateo, CA 94401 (650) 522-7434 Visit Website Open in Google Maps

This Japanese garden is one of the star attractions on the peninsula, designed by renowned architect Nagao Sakurai, and is a great spot for inexpensive family entertainment.

Visit during spring/summer to feed the koi and catch cherry blossoms in full bloom.

There’s also a mini-train that’ll delight the tots, tennis courts and many picnic areas.

Related: Best Restaurants in San Mateo

11. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco, CA 94129 (415) 921-5858 Open in Google Maps

For a range of family activities in the Bay Area, head to the Golden Gate Park, with its lovely Japanese Tea Garden, the Conservatory of Flowers and the de Young Museum.

In addition to the above, pedal-boat ride on Stow Lake, check out the wildlife, or race the tykes to the top of Strawberry Hill.

Make friends with the resident bison, too!

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Rio Vista Inn & Suites Santa Cruz

12. Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose, San Jose

Children’s Discovery Museum Of San Jose, San Jose

180 Woz Way San Jose, CA 95110 (408) 298-5437 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

This 52,000-square-foot museum opened its doors in 1990 and has served as a discovery and learning center for tots, ever since.

The Bill’s Backyard outdoor area is sure to be a hit with the younger kids, especially if they love physical activity, while the older ones will enjoy the interactive exhibits in various categories, ranging from art to mammoths to theater.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: The Fairmont San Jose

Related: Fun Things to Do in San Jose with Kids

13. Sam’s Chowder House, Half Moon Bay

Sam’s Chowder House, Half Moon Bay

4210 CA-1 Half Moon Bay, CA 94019 (650) 712-0245 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Having topped a ton of ‘best seafood’ polls in the state, Sam’s Chowder House is known for its lip smacking sustainable, fresh seafood that’ll introduce your taste buds to the original New England palette.

Try the array of seafood in this oceanfront restaurant, from clam chowder to lobster rolls to fried calamari to fresh oysters and the popular favorite fish and chips.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Oceano Hotel and Spa Half Moon Bay Harbor

Related: Things to Do Near San Francisco

Related: Things to Do in Half Moon Bay with Kids

14. Ride a Cable Car, San Francisco

Ride a Cable Car, San Francisco

San Francisco, CA (415) 701-2311 Visit Website Open in Google Maps

As iconic as visiting the Golden Gate Bridge is riding one of San Francisco’s many historic cable cars up and down the city’s steep streets!

3 lines operate in the city—2 between Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf and 1 on California Street, all great ways to explore the city at almost no cost!

The free cable car museum also offers interesting exhibits.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Taj Campton Place

15. Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Santa Cruz

400 Beach Street Santa Cruz, CA 95060 (831) 423-5590 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Located on a mile-long sandy stretch on Beach Street, the Santa Cruz Boardwalk is one of San Francisco’s most fun places that are kid-friendly, from the thrilling to the chilling to the tot friendly.

Get all your adrenaline rushes at the park’s most popular ride, the Big Dipper.

Also, try the family-friendly ‘Bulgy the Whale’ that even the toddlers will enjoy.

Related: Things to Do in Santa Cruz with Kids

16. Victory Point Cafe, Berkeley

Victory Point Cafe, Berkeley

1797-A, Shattuck Avenue Berkeley, CA 94709 (510) 982-6325 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Little else screams ‘family friendly’ like board games and food—there are tons of both at Victory Point Cafe, Bay Area’s first board game cafe!

Pay a nominal fee and enjoy hundreds of board games for as long as you want.

The cafe also serves up some pretty delicious craft beer and locally-roasted coffee, as well as kiddie-favorites such as pizzas and sandwiches.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: The Claremont Club & Spa, A Fairmont Hotel

Related: Restaurants in Berkeley, CA

Related: Things to Do in Berkeley with Kids

17. Limitless Escape Games, Livermore

Limitless Escape Games, Livermore

51 Wright Brothers Avenue Suite C Livermore, CA 94551 (925) 215-1238 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

For thrills of a different kind, head to Limitless Escape Games, among the best Bay Area kids’ activities, for immersive escape room puzzles that the whole family can attempt to crack.

Choose from 4 uniquely-themed rooms and work together to discover clues and solve puzzles.

Bring the entire brood and play, if you number 10, or join other families.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Hampton Inn Livermore

18. Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco

Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco

3601 Lyon Street San Francisco, CA 94123 (415) 376-1704 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Originally constructed for the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915, this monument is one of the few survivors from the time.

Apart from the beautiful Greco-Roman monument itself, enjoy the beauty of the manicured lawns and the lagoon.

Exploring the 20 acres will take you half an hour and is free of cost, when events aren’t taking place in the massive exhibition center.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Fairmont San Francisco

19. Golfland, Milpitas

Golfland, Milpitas

1199 Jacklin Road Milpitas, CA 95035 (408) 263-6855 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Enjoy 3 challenging miniature golf courses, a massive video-game arcade, rounds of laser tag and a laser maze at this fun amusement park.

The aforementioned features apart, Golfland features a bumper car arena and water slides to cool off.

To refuel, head to the parlor, serving up an array of kiddie favorites—the delicious homemade pizza and super-thick shakes are a must try!

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Crowne Plaza San Jose-Silicon Valley

20. Ardenwood Farm, Fremont

Ardenwood Farm, Fremont

34600 Ardenwood Boulevard Fremont, CA 94555 (510) 544-2797 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

This Regional Historic Landmark is a working farm that still grows the produce using farming techniques from the previous century.

Step back into the early 1900s as guides take you through the Patterson House and Victorian Garden.

Board the heritage train, visit the animal farm and the Haunted Railroad, and grab a bite at the Farmyard Cafe.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Larkspur Landing Milpitas-An All-Suite Hotel

Related: Restaurants in Fremont

21. Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey

Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey

886 Cannery Row Monterey, CA 93940 (831) 648-4800 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

From jellies to penguins to sea otters and sharks, over 200 exhibits and 80,000 plants and animals that call the Monterey Bay Aquarium home.

The first museum to have a living kelp forest, the array of exhibits is sure to enthrall tots, from watching marine mammals swim about in humongous tanks that imitate their natural habitats to watching them being fed.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

Related: Restaurants in Monterey

Related: Things to Do in Monterey with Kids

22. Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito

Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito

557 McReynolds Road Sausalito, CA 94965 (415) 339-3900 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

This children’s museum, right at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, is the country’s only museum situated inside a National Park, featuring an impressive array of age-specific activities from 6 months to 60 years!

There are 6 different sections—Bay Hall, Discovery Hall, Art Studios, Lookout Cove, Fab Lab and Tot Spot; all sections feature tons of hands-on activities combining fun and learning.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Casa Madrona Hotel and Spa

23. Filoli, Woodside

Filoli, Woodside

86 Cañada Road Woodside, CA 94062 (650) 364-8300 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

A beautiful historic 654-acre estate situated on the Santa Cruz’s eastern slopes, the Filoli Historic House and Garden is a beautiful must-see.

Immaculately-maintained grounds, blooming flowers and modern art exhibits make Filoli a lovely spot to visit.

You’ll also find an estate trail, a nature preserve and even shopping and dining options onsite.

Summer is an excellent time to visit Filoli.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco

24. Hike Misson Peak, Fremont

Hike Misson Peak, Fremont

680 Stanford Avenue Fremont, CA 94539 (510) 544-3246 Visit Website Open in Google Maps

Hike Mike Mission Peak is “the” spot to head to for gorgeous views of Fremont’s bay and expansive valley.

Nature lovers and fitness enthusiasts will love the steep 6.2-mile hiking trail at Hike Mission Peak, especially with the 360-degree views waiting on top.

Go on a clear day and you may even be able to see the Sierra Nevada!

25. Alameda Island, Alameda

Alameda Island, Alameda

San Francisco Bay, CA (510) 747-7400 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

This unique island city in the San Francisco Bay Area is a charming spot, known for its lovely residential areas, boutique-shopping opportunities and superb restaurants serving up a range of different cuisine.

Visit attractions such as the Crab Cove Center and USS Hornet Museum to delve into the city’s rich maritime history, whereas sunny Robert W. Crown Beach is great for picnics and swimming.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham-Oakland/Alameda

Related: Things to Do in Northern California with Kids

Activity Guide 

Comparing attractions: which one is right for you.

When comparing must-visit attractions in the Bay Area, consider some bases like education value, entertainment, and interactive activities available.

Just like in life, no two destinations are the same. 

Each one has its own special charm. 

Alcatraz Island? 

It’s like stepping back in time through an educational thrill ride. 

California Academy of Science is a triple treat with an aquarium, planetarium, and rainforest all in one. 

Exploratorium is an interactive wonderland, perfect for curious little minds, while Aquarium of the Bay brings the magic of the ocean right to you. 

It’s all about what makes your family’s heart sing. 

So, whether you’re history buffs, science lovers, or marine life enthusiasts, a perfect Bay Area adventure awaits you.

How I Picked The Activities

I’ve personally experienced these Bay Area gems, chatted up locals, engaged experts, and poured over countless online reviews. 

This holistic blend of personal insights and collective wisdom helped shape this activity list.

It’s a labor of love to guide your family’s next adventure.

Our Rating Method 

I rate these activities based on the following criteria: 

  • Age Compatibility: I use this criterion to assess the ideal age range for each attraction. Is this activity suitable for toddlers, preschoolers, or young children? Will teenagers and tweens enjoy this attraction? I ask myself these questions whenever I assess age compatibility. 
  • Educational Value: This is used to evaluate the educational benefits that the activity offers. Does the activity provide learning opportunities to children? Does it teach them lessons in science and history? I ask myself these important questions when rating the activity’s educational value. 
  • Fun Factor: This measures the level of excitement, engagement, and enjoyment that the activity offers. Is it engaging and enjoyable for kids? Will it create memorable and positive experiences for families? These questions are important whenever I rate the activity’s fun factor. 
  • Accessibility: This measures how accessible the activity is for families. Is it wheelchair accessible? Is it easily accessible by public transportation? Does it have ample parking space? I consider these factors when evaluating the accessibility of every activity. 
  • Affordability: This assesses the value of money provided by the activity. Are the admission fees reasonable? Does it offer deals or discounts for families? I use these questions to evaluate the affordability of every attraction.  

Frequently Asked Questions

What is fun for a 2-year-old in the bay area.

Some fun activities for 2-year-olds in the Bay Area include visiting children’s museums, interactive exhibits and play areas, and toddler-friendly playgrounds.

Are There Any Kid-Friendly Museums Or Science Centers In The Bay Area?

Yes, the Bay Area has several kid-friendly museums and science centers, including The Exploratorium and the California Academy of Science in San Francisco.

fun things to do with kids in the bay area travel photo

Looking for fun things to do with kids in the bay area is breezy.

My family’s visit to the mentioned attractions showed my kids different marine animals.

At the same time, they learned about them and saw the magnificent ocean view.

But of course, every attraction has its limitations and downsides.

In PIER 39, kids only see sea lions and some other attractions.

Some of the stores and restaurants there are also pricey.

Meanwhile, the Marine Mammal Center is small in space, and you cannot see many mammals daily.

On the other hand, Monterey Bay Aquarium sometimes gets crowded, making kids less enjoy the place.

Luckily, many other open spaces and more relaxing places can be an alternative to these three attractions, including the Golden Gate Bridge.

The sea breeze and scenery are astounding.

And we took many Instagram-worthy photos there.

So regardless of the downsides of each attraction, they are all worth visiting.

But what’s our top pick? 

While each attraction has its unique charm, Alcatraz Island shines brightest. 

This historic and iconic spot offers an educational yet thrilling experience, appealing to kids and adults. 

The blend of history, mystery, and stunning views makes it a crowning jewel in the Bay Area’s treasure trove of attractions. 

Your family’s Bay Area adventure won’t be complete without it.

25 Fun Things to Do with Kids in The Bay Area: Best Attractions for Families!

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25 Family Trip Ideas the Whole Family Will Love

Written by  Shutterfly Community Last Updated: Dec 11, 2018

Traveling is an incredible way to bond as a family and experience new places and activities. By taking a family vacation, you’ll be able to relax, explore and enjoy quality time together. For inspiration on fun places to go with kids, check out our 25 family trip ideas. We offer suggestions on where to go, what to do and how to make the most of your time. From outdoor adventures to historical sightseeing, there’s something here for every personality.

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1. Camp at a State Park

family of four camping in the fall

Spending time together in the great outdoors allows you to experience unique happenings: stunning landscapes, active wildlife and unpredictable weather. Build nightly campfires (with s’mores, of course!), go swimming, explore trails and stargaze at night.

2. Take a Multi-Destination Road Trip

kids in the back of a car on a roadtrip

Who says a trip has to be just one location? Consider planning a road trip with several stops built in. For example, you could travel from Boston to Acadia National Park in Maine, seeing Portland and Augusta along the way. Or, you could journey to West Virginia for white water rafting, but make a pitstop at Mammoth Caves in Kentucky. Create a map with the places you’ll go as a fun way to see the country and experience plenty of new things all in one trip.

3. Hike a Mountain Trail or River

two kids getting piggy back rides on a hike

Stretch your legs to see the summit of a mountain or a serene river bend. Choose a local route or go somewhere further away to capture nature’s beauty. Want ideas of fun places to go with kids? Opt for a National or State Park that offers kid-friendly educational activities and explorations.

4. Visit Legendary Museums

girl sitting on her dads shoulders while walking in a city

Whether you’re heading to New York City or Washington, D.C., there are plenty of fascinating museums for the whole family in every city. From the Guggenheim to the National Air and Space Museum, there’s plenty to learn and explore together.

5. Attend a Fair or Festival

young girl blowing bubbles with her parents

Pick your destination based on a fun event you’d like to experience as a family. Find an art, music or food festival that’s family-friendly. Try searching for festivals based on the season. For summer vacation ideas, search for outdoor festivals like tulip celebrations or sand castle contests. In the winter, an indoor event themed around the holidays can be just as fun.

6. Go Canoeing

kid and his dad canoeing

Take a ride down a flowing river in a family-sized canoe. Everyone can pitch in and take turns with the oars. Pack snacks and lunch for a relaxing, unforgettable day.

7. Head to an Island

mom and son on a boat ride

Set off on an exciting journey in a ferry. Whether it’s to Mackinac Island in Michigan or Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles, a boat will bring you to a whole new world. Spend time on the beach, investigate island life and soak in the exclusive experience.

8. Play at a Water Park

girl playing at a water park

Bursting with entertainment for everyone, water parks provide huge waves of fun. From slippery slides to lazy rivers, the family can kick back, relax and enjoy the sunshine. Pack your lunches ahead of time to save on cost.

9. Ride Horses or Donkeys

kids riding miniature horses

Whether it’s on the beach or in the mountains, horseback riding is an easy way to explore a new location. Plan a day trip with horses or consider a donkey in a gorgeous spot like the Grand Canyon. Being with animals is exciting for kids and gives their legs a rest from walking.

10. Take a Cruise

boy on a boat wearing a rain coat

Cruise ships are often family-friendly and provide kid-oriented activities. Ranging from 4 to 12 days (or more), a cruise will bring you to remote places and cultural havens. Most cruises also offer excursions, like snorkeling or sightseeing on bicycles.

11. Volunteer to Help Those in Need

kids recycling

Family vacation ideas don’t have to be all about leisure. Consider adding a volunteer component to your trip, like building houses or working a shift at a food bank. You’ll make special connections to people in the area and feel good about your time together.

12. Rent a Cabin or Cottage

family hiking in the woods by a log cabin

Plan a true getaway near the beach or in the wilderness. A cabin or cottage is accessible for those who enjoy the outdoors but prefer not to camp. You can even invite extended family and friends to join you for some relaxation.

13. Spend Time at a Historical Site

family vacation visiting ruins

Places rich with history make for interesting, life-changing vacations. Consider these destinations: Boston, Philadelphia, the Alamo and Washington, D.C. Your family will learn about significant people with the chance to see beautiful architecture and important monuments.

14. Tour a Destination by Bike

kid riding a bike with his dad

Get some fresh air and exercise as you explore a new city or countryside. Many cities and tourist destinations have bike rentals if you’re unable to bring your own. Make sure to stay road-safe with helmets and be careful when crossing streets. Stop along the way for beautiful photos and action shots .

15. Visit Friends or Relatives

kids hugging

Have old neighbors that moved away? Or a fun aunt who lives across the country? Consider making their location your vacation destination. If you’re making it a road trip, plan for stops along the way for sightseeing. Remember, the best family vacations focus on the journey.

16. Explore a National Park

little girl looking through binoculars

National Parks are full of treasures: wildlife, geysers, waterfalls, mountains and lakes. You’ll get to see some of the most stunning backdrops in the country, all while learning about the importance of protecting precious national lands.

17. See a Favorite Sports Team

family watching a sports game

Have a love for the Arizona Diamondbacks or the San Francisco 49ers? Design your trip with the sports schedule in mind. Purchase your tickets in advance, then choose other activities you’d like to experience in the area.

18. Have Fun at an Amusement Park

mom and dad holding hands with son at an amusement park

Head to an amusement park for the rides, mascots, carnival games and cotton candy. With activities for every age, each kid can choose something they’d like to try.

19. Live on a Houseboat

little boy sitting on a dock with a fishing net

Give the family an experience they’ll never forget. Rent a houseboat on a pristine lake for a long weekend or a full seven days. The kids can swim and fish right off the porch.

20. Seek Out Zoos and Aquariums

kids looking at monkeys at the zoo

Do your kids love animals? Consider designing your trip around their fascination with wildlife. Opt for a famous spot, like the San Diego Zoo or Shedd Aquarium in Chicago—or find a location that’s home to the animals your little ones love the most.

21. Stop By an Old Hometown or Special Location

mom and daughter eating ice cream

Maybe it’s been 10 years since you visited your college town or 20 years since you lived in your first home as a couple. Take the family to see your old stomping grounds and bring them to your favorite restaurants and ice cream shops.

22. Kayak a River

little girl playing in a river

Kick back and coast down a river in kayaks. Photograph wildlife on your way, and pack plenty of food and water for your scenic adventure.

23. Enjoy a Show

little kids eating popcorn

A concert, ballet or theater performance can turn your family vacation into an unforgettable experience. Aim for entertainment everyone will appreciate, and see if you can head backstage to meet some of the performers.

24. Take a Food Tour

kids eating spaghetti and pizza

Choose your destination based on the food you’d love to experience, and consider scheduling a restaurant tour or cooking class. For seafood specials, choose a coastal town. For barbeque sandwiches, head to the south.

25. Relax at the Beach

dad playing with baby at the beach

The best family trip ideas are ones where you know you’ll be able to unwind. Head to the beach—whether it’s a lake or ocean—for sunbathing, frisbee tossing and ice cold lemonade.

When you look back at your time together as a family, you’ll be thankful for the trips you took together. Taking photos can help capture the smiling faces, beautiful backdrops and lasting memories. Remember to compile your trip photos, then choose your favorites for a family photo wall .

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25 Best Summer Vacations Everyone Should Consider in 2024

From Monaco to Napa Valley, these summertime getaways have something for every type of traveler.

family trip idea

The term “summer vacation” conjures images of sunny afternoons at the beach and leisurely drives through the countryside. While plenty of travelers have their go-to spots, others view summer as the perfect time to embark on a new adventure, such as hiking to Machu Picchu, surfing in Nicaragua, or road-tripping through the American West.

No matter how many passport stamps you've collected or countries you've checked off your list, there's always a new corner of the globe to discover. Summertime getaways to places like Scotland and the U.S. Virgin Islands have recently been growing in popularity among travelers, joining the ranks of classic summer vacation destinations like Greece and Italy.

From river cruises to train adventures to African safaris, these are the best summer vacation ideas for 2024.

Enjoy la dolce vita in Italy.

When it comes to romance, few places rival the allure of Italy. You've got the history of Rome, the art of Venice, the fashion-forward vibe of Milan, the dreamy Mediterranean coastline, the wineries of Tuscany, the pizza of Naples, and more. During the summer, temperatures can soar to over 85 degrees, so consider visiting a destination by the sea or a lake, where you can escape the heat. For a true Italian villeggiatura (summer vacation), book a room at Passalacqua on Lake Como or Borgo Santandrea on the Amalfi Coast .

Take a road trip from Charleston to Savannah.

While it's mighty hot in the South during the summer (we’re talking temperatures in the 80s and 90s), there's plenty of sweet tea and lemonade available to cool you down. Begin your trip in the port city of Charleston, where you can wander picturesque cobblestone streets, walk the promenade along the ocean, photograph the colorful, historical homes of Rainbow Row, and eat your weight in crab cakes, hush puppies, and other Southern classics. Stay at The Loutrel , a luxury boutique hotel just steps away from some of the best things to do in Charleston .

Then, hop in the car and make your way to Savannah, about two hours south. While the coastal Georgia city has similar architecture and Spanish moss-draped oak trees, it also boasts dozens of world-class museums and art galleries where you can escape the heat. Check into The Alida , named one of the best hotels in Savannah by T+L readers.

Explore the cities of Colombia.

Colombia continues to climb the list of must-visit countries for curious travelers, and for good reason: MedellĂ­n offers immersion into art and culture, while Cartagena pairs history with seaside allure.

Often called the "City of Eternal Spring" due to its year-round warm weather, MedellĂ­n is especially pleasant in the summer when temperatures range from around 65 to 75 degrees. Days can be spent sipping gin cocktails on outdoor patios, hiking nearby mountains, exploring the surrounding rain forest, and getting a great calf workout (the town is built on hills).

While you're in the port city of Cartagena, you'll travel back in time to the 16th century through its iconic Old Town, which features colorful colonial buildings and cobblestone streets. Plus, the nearby white-sand beaches are never too crowded. Temperatures reach the upper 80s all summer, so prepare for sweltering days. Find some relief in a room at the Casa San AgustĂ­n . 

Pretend you're 007 in Monaco.

If you haven't been to Paris, summer is a special time to visit. But, if you've had your fill of lazy sunset picnics along the Seine, consider Monaco instead. This tiny independent city-state on the Mediterranean coastline of France oozes international spy vibes. You'll feel like an extra in a James Bond film as you gamble at upscale casinos, sample local dishes at La Condamine market, or stroll along the boardwalk, admiring Monaco's hillside beauty in the pleasant summer weather, with highs of around 75 to 80 degrees. Complete your storybook vacation by checking into the iconic Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo . 

Get lost in the Medina of Marrakesh.

The North African country of Morocco is diverse, with a rich history and plenty of unique experiences to engage your senses. Whether you spend your time perusing the rows of local goods that line the winding lanes of the Medina of Marrakesh or riding a camel into the sunset and losing count of the stars in the Sahara Desert sky, a summertime trip is both invigorating and enticing. It's outside of the high season, so if you can take the nearly 100-degree heat, you'll benefit from fewer crowds and a calmer getaway — well, as calm as it can get while you bargain for tiles and dodge motorbikes. Book a stay at the Mandarin Oriental, Marrakech for private villas with lush gardens and open-air spa treatments. 

Laze around in Montego Bay.

A hop-and-a-skip from the East Coast, Montego Bay on Jamaica's north coast is an idyllic spot to disconnect for a hot second. And by hot, we do mean hot: Temperatures can reach the high 80s in the summer, creating the perfect conditions for lazy days spent reading, dipping into the calm waters, and sipping rum cocktails. Relax at a resort or venture out to explore some of Jamaica's best beaches , such as Doctor's Cave Beach or Walter Fletcher Beach. If you're into snorkeling or scuba-certified, the protected waves of Montego Bay Marine Park are a must, too. Stay at the Round Hill Hotel and Villas to get a feel for the island's barefoot luxury. 

Summit Machu Picchu.

The dry season (June, July, and August) is one of the most popular times of year to visit Machu Picchu due to the blue skies, lush green grass, and awe-inspiring views. Whether you're up for the challenge of hiking the Inca Trail or would prefer the Inca Rail , it's wise to spend a few days sightseeing and acclimatizing to the altitude in the nearby city of Cusco. The former capital of the Inca Empire is full of charm, with a hilltop that lights up at night, bustling local markets, and countless alpaca stores to splurge on a sweater for the chilly nights. For the best views of Machu Picchu, climb the mountain in front of it, Huayna Picchu. Then, return to the JW Marriott El Convento Cusco , where the hotel’s historic trappings and oxygen-enriched rooms are the perfect way to rebound after a day in the Andes.

Eat your way around Lima.

For foodies who prefer eating to sightseeing on vacation, Lima will feel like the holy grail of culinary destinations. There are countless restaurants with Michelin stars and affordable tasting menus. During June, July, and August, the Peruvian capital boasts sunshine-filled days and little rain, with balmy temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees. When you're not restaurant hopping, you can learn how to surf, snap photos of impressive graffiti art, and pet the countless cats who live in Parque Kennedy. Word to the wise: If you want to dine at top restaurants Central or Astrid & GastĂłn , you'll likely have to make reservations weeks or months in advance. Miraflores Park, A Belmond Hotel provides all the comforts of a five-star hotel alongside Peruvian cuisine, a rooftop pool with Pacific Ocean views, and a convenient location for exploring the area, including the hip Barranco neighborhood.  

Ride the swells in Nicaragua.

Nicaragua is one of the top places to put your surfing skills to the test, and the waves during the wet season lend themselves to beginners and experts alike. This Central American country, tucked between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, features more than just no-filter-required sunsets — various regions mean you can experience everything from lakes to volcanoes. Before you leave, make sure you see the city of Granada, which is rich in Spanish colonial history. While there, book a room at Tribal Hotel for boho-chic interiors and icy poolside drinks to help you beat the upper-80-degree weather. 

Go wine tasting in Napa Valley.

For a whole season of long, tipsy summer days, the Napa Valley region outside of San Francisco offers sunshine and foodie-approved meals. If you can make it in July, sip your way through Festival Napa Valley , which highlights a range of wineries offering their best blends. For a more playful afternoon, consider booking a luxurious tasting journey on the Napa Valley Wine Train .

Wine country’s own Auberge du Soleil has residential-style accommodations and an on-site French restaurant with outdoor dining, so you can sip local pours while taking in sweeping views of the verdant countryside. 

Pretend you're not a tourist in New York City.

Ask any New Yorker and they'll agree: Summer isn't exactly the best time to visit the Big Apple. Between the unforgiving heat trapped by skyscrapers and an influx of tourists from around the world, most locals find any excuse to escape the concrete jungle in the summertime. However, there's an upside: New York City has plenty of free outdoor festivals this time of year, including Shakespeare in the Park and SummerStage . Plus, with less competition from in-the-know residents in late summer, you'll have a better chance of snagging reservations at trendy restaurants. Seek out rooftop bars, munch on artisan bites in Brooklyn, or make a break for the Hamptons if you have the time — and patience (the heading-out-of-town traffic is no joke).

There’s no shortage of world-class accommodations in the city that never sleeps. Whether you prefer classic stays at places like The Plaza or The Carlyle , or hip hotels like the Arlo Hotel , Soho Grand Hotel , and the Pendry Manhattan West .

Visit Mexico during the low season.

Outside of hurricane season, which peaks in September, summer is one of the best times to visit Mexico for fewer crowds and lower prices. If you can put up with the 90-degree heat of July and August, and occasional rainy days, you'll likely find some great deals on all-inclusive resorts and flights. Check into one of the sleek all-inclusive resorts in Los Cabos , explore the rich arts and culture scene in Puerto Vallarta, or go on a wellness retreat in the Caribbean beach town of Tulum.

Go on safari in South Africa.

Jess Macdonald/Travel + Leisure

For many seasoned travelers, South Africa holds a special place in their passports (and hearts). Each corner of this country presents a different climate and experience, and a getaway during the dry season can be particularly enchanting. There's plenty to see and do, from spotting animals in Kruger National Park and hiking Table Mountain in Cape Town to seeing the cliffs at the Cape of Good Hope and sipping your way through the wine region of Franschhoek.

If you can swing it, try timing your vacation in September when you're more likely to spot elephants, leopards, and many other species as they search for watering holes. June through August is technically winter in South Africa — you'll want to pack sweaters instead of swimsuits for this summer vacation — so expect mild days with chilly nights. There are several amazing safari lodges, but we recommend andBeyond Ngala Safari Lodge inside Kruger National Park for an intimate, immersive Big Five wildlife experience.  

Hike the U.S. national parks.

Valerie de Leon/Travel + Leisure

The Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Joshua Tree, and Haleakala in Hawaii — we could go on and on about the breathtaking landscapes and adventures that await in our nation's national parks, and summer is prime time for a visit. You're likely to enjoy sunny blue skies and starlit evenings, and you'll have plenty of time to disconnect from the digital realm and tune into the rhythms of nature. Some parks are free to visit, some are underwater, and all are unique. Camp out without sacrificing comfort at Under Canvas , which has locations with access to the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Zion, and Acadia national parks, among others.

Traverse Europe by train.

From college students to retirees, many travelers place a European trip at the top of their list — and for good reason. Eating a croissant beneath the Eiffel Tower in Paris, bicycling along the canals of Amsterdam, discovering historic castles in Ireland , and eating gelato while strolling past ancient Roman ruins in Italy are just a few of the incredible experiences that await in Europe. Grab a Eurail pass to hop between countries for a low price with minimal hassle.

See Florida from coast to coast.

The Sunshine State has it all — beaches, the Everglades , Key lime pie, the glamour and exclusivity of Palm Beach, the vibrant sizzle of Miami, and the tropical island vibe of the Florida Keys. Everyone should take time to explore Florida, from St. Augustine to Key West — home to the southernmost point in the continental U.S. — at least once in their lifetime. Of course, you'll want to hit the central city of Orlando for attractions like Walt Disney World, Epcot, and Universal Orlando. Plus, there are spectacular stays all across Florida, from seaside resorts to charming inns to all-inclusive idylls. 

Take a cruise.

It's hard not to have a good time on a cruise. Meals and drinks are typically included, your ship comes equipped with a wide range of activities, and you sail from port to port, hitting a multitude of new destinations while only having to unpack once. What more can you ask from a summer vacation? For an even more refined and intimate take on cruising, try a river cruise through Europe .

Travel through the Wild West.

Put on your pioneer pants and head out for an adventure in America's Wild West. With history, wide-open spaces, and cowboy lore from centuries past, you'll feel as free as it comes in places like Colorado or Nevada. And you can’t get more Western-chic than at Amangani in Wyoming near Grand Teton National Park .

Try driving an electric vehicle on the Nevada Electric Highway , which features EV charging stations, including Tesla Superchargers. The route's combination of Gold Rush ghost towns and tomorrow's technology makes it a road trip of the future and the past all at once.  

Drive the Pacific Coast Highway.

On the West Coast, State Route 1 — better known as the Pacific Coast Highway — runs along rugged cliffside terrain and expansive beaches, making it one of the most scenic drives in the country, if not the world. Plan your Pacific Coast Highway itinerary around the spectacular sunsets and plentiful photo ops. The summer weather will be beautiful, if toasty, with an average daily high in the upper 70s or 80s. Spend at least a couple nights in Big Sur at the Post Ranch Inn for classically California cool accommodations and sweeping Pacific views.

Not in the mood for a road trip? Tackle the Pacific Coast Highway by train on Amtrak's Coast Starlight route, which runs from Los Angeles to Seattle and hits spots like Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and Portland along the way.

Backpack in Southeast Asia.

You've seen the photos — now it's time to explore Bali, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia yourself. Take a cooking class, go temple hopping, visit an ethical elephant sanctuary , and live it up — even on a budget. Prices for food, hotels, activities, and excursions are often much lower than in many other parts of the world. Those looking for luxury can also find high-end accommodations such as Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor in Cambodia, the Six Senses Con Dao in Vietnam, and Amanpuri in Thailand.  

Get Adventurous in New Zealand.

For those who prefer the snow to the shore, beat the heat and travel to New Zealand, which experiences winter from June to August. You’ll be happy for the 50- to 60-degree weather when the country’s epic hiking, climbing, and bungee jumping get your blood pumping. And make no mistake: You will be spending all of your time outside. New Zealand is renowned for its gorgeous landscapes, from beautiful beaches and the fjords of Milford Sound to the wonder of the  Waitomo Glowworm Caves and charming locations used in The Lord of the Rings . 

Sip rum swizzles in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Americans don’t need a passport to enjoy these three islands in the Caribbean. Whether you choose St. John, St. Croix, or St. Thomas (or hop between the three), you’ll find white sand, world-class snorkeling, and tropical surroundings in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Each has its own vibe. Go to St. John for a luxurious, private island-like atmosphere; St. Croix for the food ; and St. Thomas for the lively atmosphere of a tourist hot spot. Stay at a beachfront all-inclusive resort for a stress-free escape.

There are several rum distillers on the islands, so you can sip a locally sourced rum swizzle while you enjoy average summertime temperatures in the low 80s.

Golf in Scotland. 

David Alexander/Getty Images

The U.K.'s northernmost nation is known for its gorgeous lochs, beautiful castles, and the windswept Highlands. From whisky distillery tours to walking the magnificent  West Highland Way to exploring the cosmopolitan centers of Glasgow and Edinburgh, there’s no shortage of things to do in Scotland . Plus, the sun doesn't set until around 10 p.m. in the Highlands in June and early July, so you'll have even more daylight for exploration.

But the real reason to take a summer vacation in Scotland is found on the green. This country is a golfer’s dream with more than 550 courses and a long legacy of seaside links. There are plenty of coastal spots for the ultimate summer game, like the Fairmont St. Andrews , where you'll have two courses to play and a chic room to return to at the end of the day.

Snap your way through Japan. 

You might miss the spring cherry blossoms, but there are still plenty of beautiful places in Japan to photograph in the summertime. Pose in front of the country’s tallest peak in the Fuji Five Lakes area or capture Tokyo's frenetic energy at Shibuya Crossing. In Kyoto, you’ll get plenty of pictures of temples, shrines, and bamboo forests for your scrapbook. From enjoying white-sand beaches in Okinawa to seeing the wildflowers in Hokkaido's national parks, these are moments you'll want to remember.

Go island hopping in Greece.

Nothing says summer vacation like the Greek Islands. From sipping ouzo by the Aegean to snapping a few windmill pics for Instagram, this is the perfect Mediterranean getaway. Of course, you’ll have to deal with more crowds and hotter temperatures in July and August, but it’s a popular time to visit for a reason. More restaurants and bars are open and you’ll find more available ferry routes, opening up the entire archipelago for your summer vacation. Start in the Cyclades (where you'll find the famous islands of Mykonos and Santorini) before moving on to lesser-known Greek Islands like Antiparos, Symi, or Syros.


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