Sure, vacations are for relaxing. But they’re also for spending time together and making lasting memories. Looking to plan that bucket list vacation? Consider one of these epic experiences for a trip your kids will never forget.
Seeing an elephant or giraffe in its natural habitat is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Lots of safari lodges roll out the red carpet for families, with onsite kids’ programming and education centers that teach young ones about things like bush cooking and orienteering. Guests at Camp Jabulani, located within the Kapama Private Game Reserve in South Africa, can interact with its herd of rescued elephants and arrange bush walks and helicopter tours. Another option is The Big Five Family Safari Package at the Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti includes two half-day game drives, a family cooking class and a hot air balloon safari (for ages 7 and up). But families can enjoy animal encounters even while cooling off in the lodge’s infinity pool; it overlooks a watering hole frequented by elephants, zebras, and other wildlife.
Recommended Hotel: Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti
New York City
New York City is a fantastic city for a family vacation. It’s a world-class city with an unbelievable density of iconic museums, landmarks, top-notch entertainment, restaurants, parks, shopping, communities, cultures, and sports (try to say ‘Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Knicks, Nets’ three times fast).
Taking in the towering skyscrapers, bright lights of Times Square, and iconic beauty of the Statue of Liberty is a must for anyone. And there’s nothing quite like your first Broadway show.
Of course, any trip to New York City isn’t complete without a visit to Ground Zero. The 9/11 Memorial pays tribute to the men, women and children killed in the terror attacks on September 11, 2001
Recommended Hotel: The Plaza Hotel
Canadian Train Tour
Travel through some spectacular scenery on a mode of transportation loved by kids of all ages. Operating between mid-April and mid-October, the Rocky Mountaineer offers several train tours that wind their way through the Canadian Rockies. On-board hosts share information about the dramatic vistas outside the windows and can also make special arrangements to help keep young children entertained (think toys and puzzles). The 11-day “Journey through the Clouds” excursion travels between Vancouver and Calgary and offers plenty of soft adventure ideal for families, including canoeing on Lake Louise and a raft float on the Bow River in Banff.
Recommended Hotel: Fairmont Banff Spring Hotel
The Hawaiian islands aren’t just for honeymooning; they’re also a prime location for an unforgettable family vacation. Volcanoes and black-sand beaches provide an otherworldly backdrop for luaus and other cultural experiences. Get off the beaten path at Four Seasons Resort Lanai. Its complimentary Kids for All Seasons program helps little ones learn about the island (the chain’s smallest inhabited island) and Hawaiian history through activities such as making leis and exploring tide pools. Families with young movie buffs might want to check in to the Princeville Resort on Kauai’s North Shore. It recently debuted an exclusive movie set tour that takes participants (ages 9 and up) to filming locations for blockbusters such as Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Pirates of the Caribbean.
When most think of Hawaii, they think Waikiki Beach, the North Shore, and Honolulu. All three are found on the island of Oahu. Although not the largest of the islands, Oahu is the most populated. More direct flights from the mainland arrive through Honolulu, making it the easiest island to get to (and often times, the cheapest).
Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa is perfectly situated on a stunning cove in Ko'Olina. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki, this makes Aulani the perfect hangout for families who want to enjoy what Hawaii has to offer with some Disney magic thrown in.
Don’t Miss: The USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Missouri Battleship and the Pearl Harbor Memorial Museum & Visitor Center. It’s an important part of history the kids should see first-hand.
Recommended Hotel: Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa
European Bike Tour
Use pedal power to explore everything from charming countryside to historic cities. Backroads’ Holland and Belgium Family Bike Tour (offered during summer months) travels over relatively flat terrain, past windmills, canals, and other postcard-worthy Low Country landmarks. The company also offers a Switzerland tour that combines biking with other modes of transport, such as gondola and cogwheel train rides. On Butterfield & Robinson’s Florence and Tuscany Family Adventure, biking will help you burn off all the calories consumed during gelato tastings, private lunches with local families, and strolls through Italian markets.
Recommended Tour: Adventures By Disney
U.S. National Park Trip
There are 60 national parks in the United States, ranging from well-known spots such as Grand Canyon National Park to less-frequented gems like Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. Families visiting Utah’s Zion National Park can make their home base at Zion Lodge, the only hotel situated inside the park. It offers nightly ranger-led programs during the summer, narrated tram rides taking in the park’s majestic canyons and cliffs, and easy access to family-friendly hiking trailheads. The Lodge at Bryce Canyon enjoys a similar only-hotel-inside-the-park status at Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park, making it easy for families to set off on hikes, drives, and other adventures to explore the park’s magical columns of weathered rock, known as hoodoos. On the East Coast, Virginia’s historic Skyland Resort is located at the top of Shenandoah National Park’s picturesque Skyline Drive.
Recommended Hotel: Zion Lodge
Who’s never dreamt about sailing the high seas? On a Caribbean cruise, you can do just that—and visit some tropical islands brimming with unique culture and interesting wildlife. Princess Cruises’ Caribbean Princess sails year-round in the Caribbean and features newly redesigned Camp Discovery youth and teen centers that draw on the company’s partnership with Discovery Inc. Families can also take part in Discovery- and Animal Planet-recommended shore excursions, including turtle encounters in Barbados and an underwater scooter adventure in St. Thomas. Norwegian Cruise Line offers a seven-day western Caribbean cruise with stops in Roatan, Honduras; Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico; and Harvest Caye, Belize. At Harvest Caye, families can snorkel the world’s second-largest barrier reef, go ziplining, or just relax on the seven-acre beach.
Royal Caribbean‘s Wonder of the Seas—the largest cruise ship in the world—now sails to the Eastern and Western Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale. The ship houses the two-level Ultimate Family Suite, which features an in-room slide, floor-to-ceiling LEGO wall, and a 212-square-foot balcony with table tennis and a full-size whirlpool.
Recommended Ship: Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas
Dude Ranch Vacation
The world looks a little different from atop a horse, and a vacation to a dude ranch will help kids get in the saddle. Tanque Verde Ranch in Arizona offers a true escape from life as usual, especially since there aren’t any TVs in the guestrooms. Its daily kids’ program offers a full slate of activities, and young visitors ride the same horse each day to encourage comfort and familiarity. Tumbling River Ranch in Colorado offers kids’ programs for ages 3 through teen, with different activities geared toward each age group. That means things like pony rides for the youngsters, archery and rodeo practice for elementary schoolers, and fly fishing and overnight pack trips for teens.
Recommended Hotel: Tanque Verde Ranch
Wow the kids with a truly magical visit to the Happiest Place on Earth. Book an overwater bungalow at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, where you’ll enjoy prime views of the Magic Kingdom’s nightly fireworks show. Or, reserve a suite at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando, where the kids can careen down waterslides, float in the lazy river, or shoot hoops when they’re not at the parks. Make the most of your theme park time with a private VIP tour; Disney tour guides customize the day based on guests’ interests, helping them efficiently visit multiple parks and bag their must-do rides and experiences—which might include a visit to the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge! Little ones can get their glam on with an appointment at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, then dine with Disney princesses at Cinderella’s Royal Table inside the Magic Kingdom’s iconic castle. Young swashbucklers can get a Captain Jack Sparrow-style makeover at the Pirates League before heading out on a Pirates & Pals Fireworks Dessert Voyage or Pirate Adventure Cruise.
Recommended Hotel: Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
Costa Rican Adventure
Though it’s a small country, Costa Rica is home to about 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity, and about a quarter of this Central American country is protected. Tortuga Lodge & Gardens offers a Rainforest Family Expedition package that helps guests explore the rainforest, creeks, and beaches of Tortuguero National Park, where they might spot caimans, monkeys, and green turtles. Families looking for more adventure should try the Arenal Volcano area; at The Springs Resort, you can ride horses, go tubing on the river, and hike through rugged mountain terrain without leaving the resort. There's an animal sanctuary where you might see monkeys, sloths, and the occasional ocelot. But the real draw is the property's 28 artesian hot springs, perfect for whiling away the hours with the whole family. Family rooms are available for more space and comfort.
Recommended Hotel: The Springs Resort
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