The Best Family Vacation Destinations 2018
Every year we survey family travel writers for their opinions about the best family vacation spots for the upcoming year. The results are all over the world, offering a variety of choices for families. We love these suggestions because they are tried and true. These writers have traveled to these destinations and experienced them first hand. If you’re looking for an awesome place to travel with your family, you’ll want to check out our best family vacation destinations 2018 and start planning. (And if you’re looking for more recent ideas, don’t miss the best places to visit with kids in 2023)!
Best Family Vacation Destinations 2018
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Places to Visit in the United States with Kids
These destinations will have you packing your bags in no time! For destination-specific articles, click on the highlighted section of each paragraph.
Charleston, South Carolina
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is a colorful rambunctious good time and despite what you’ve heard, it is also family-friendly! New Orleans isn’t all Bourbon Street!
You don’t need to venture far from the French Quarter’s hedonistic center to find things to do with kids in New Orleans. Take an interactive history tour designed for kids with French Quartour Kids.
Visit the Voodoo Museum. Check out Mardi Gras World to see where local krewes work on their elaborate floats. Hold a baby gator while touring the Manchac Swamp, then take in the stories of slaves, soldiers, and sugar barons while exploring nearby plantations.
Don’t forget to enjoy some Jazz! While many classic New Orleans brunches include live Jazz, Musical Legends Park on Bourbon Street (yes, that Bourbon Street!) offers families a nice outdoor venue to soak it in under twinkly lights among the statues of Jazz legends! (Kristine from Trekaroo)
Our family has fallen in love with the island of Oahu and highly recommends it as a great place for a family vacation!
While the island is small, it’s still filled with variety and lots of things to do. Families can stay in the heart of the tourism district in Waikiki Beach, or head to popular quiet spots like Ko Olina and the north shore.
Waikiki Beach is your typical tourism district with lots of shopping and restaurants alongside a beautiful sandy beach. Disney’s Aulani is on Ko Olina and where we stayed. It features a unique lagoon shoreline that’s perfect for calm ocean swimming.
There are so many great things to do in Oahu, and I think having a car is a must to truly explore the island. Our family enjoyed hiking Diamond Head Crater, I recommend early hikes to avoid the hot sun.
We also drove around the island and ventured up to the north shore for some famous island shrimp served from a food truck. No trip to Hawaii would be complete without stopping for shaved ice as many times as possible.
There are many great beaches you’ll find while driving around the main ring road of the island. Keep your eyes peeled for sea turtles and whales when you’re enjoying the beaches and ocean views. (Kim at Stuffed Suitcase)
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Oklahoma City is one of the most underrated U.S. destinations for a family—or any traveler, really.
First, it’s an extremely affordable destination, devoid of traffic and rife with parking. Second, in warmer months, there’s a big outdoor scene—from one of the only urban whitewater facilities in the country to the Myriad Gardens in the heart of downtown, the zoo, TopGolf, and plenty of other attractions.
For the family for whom education is a focus, The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum is a moving testament to a city that’s been rocked in recent years and managed to bounce back as a community.
The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum offers an in-depth look at western culture, past and present, with towns recreated, as well as costumes, art, interactive exhibits and more.
After visiting the museum, plan a visit to the stockyard where you can sit in on a live cattle auction on Monday mornings, then head over to the iconic Cattlemen’s Steakhouse for lunch. (Kristin from Camels and Chocolate)
Portland is a fun and beautiful family-friendly destination. The city prides itself on having loads of outdoor activities, many of which are free or inexpensive, as well as other activities for kids and families.
While it may rain 6 months or so of the year, a little rain never stops true Pacific Northwesterners from enjoying the outdoors. Take a visit to the Portland Japanese Garden, Pittock Mansion, Hoyt Arboretum, Oregon Zoo, Forest Park, or the Ariel Tram for a unique view. Head a little outside of Portland to the east toward the Gorge and visit Multnomah Falls for an epic waterfall vista or hiking in any other area near there.
When in Portland, you’re also less than an hour and a half from the Oregon Coast, with loads more outdoor activities and attractions to see. And if you’re a Goonies fan, you can’t hit the Oregon Coast without a stop at Cannon Beach or Astoria. (Jana from Whisky and Sunshine)
Taos, New Mexico
With a backdrop of the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Taos, New Mexico, invites families to experience its affordable four-season destination with 300 + days of sunshine, fewer crowds, and more fun.
Family-friendly activities in the winter include taking on the world-class ski and snowboarding destination of Taos Ski Valley at an altitude of 9,500 feet, just 18 miles from downtown Taos.
Include a scenic drive on Route 64 and cross the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, the second-highest bridge on the U.S. Highway System – and walk across it if you dare.
Other family-friendly activities include experiencing over 1,000 years of cultural tradition with a tour of the Taos Puebla and exploring the Taos Downtown Historic District with its shops and restaurants. With so many things to do and see, one visit to Taos will make you plan your next. (Diana of Traveling in Heels)
Family Vacations in Canada
If you follow our site, you know I did a five-day road trip through southern New Brunswick with my kids. We walked on the bottom of the ocean, went whale watching, ate tons of seafood, zip lined, and explored Fundy Trail Parkway and National Park.
My boys have never spent so much time playing outside and skipping rocks! The entire experience made me want to explore more of Canada and have more unplugged vacations like this! (Kirsten of Kids Are A Trip)
Prince Edward Island
A small island Province, Prince Edward Island has everything a family vacation needs – great beaches, wonderful food, amazing people and so many fun activities to enjoy. We were amazed that each beach was unique and special. We could spend hours exploring rugged beaches with rock crevices or relaxing and building sandcastles on white sand beaches.
From Cows ice cream to Anne of Green Gables we explored all parts of PEI and loved each and every moment. For activities we enjoyed deep-sea fishing for cod and mackerel and taking our catch home for dinner. We played mini-golf, swam in the ocean, wandered art galleries and purchased beautiful artisan crafts.
No matter what age your kids are Prince Edward Island is the ultimate family vacation destination. (Kerrie from Family Food and Travel)
Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada is a city full of fun activities and learning for families. The first place you will want to visit is the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Here you can learn all about the animals of Manitoba and watch the polar bears play for hours.
The Zoo takes in polar bears that have been orphaned and gives them a safe place to call home. We really enjoyed walking through the tunnel with the polar bears swimming right above our heads! The Polar Bears themselves are reason enough to visit but Winnipeg also has an amazing Children’s Museum, great outdoor parks, and a food scene worth checking out.
Learn about human rights at the amazing Canadian Museum for Human Rights which is filled with great information in a beautiful building. Check out Lower Fort Garry’s living history museum to learn about Canadian history. Then head to the Royal Canadian Mint to hold a $750,000 gold bar! As you can see Winnipeg is filled with fun for the whole family and is a location that you don’t want to miss in 2018! (Bryanna at Crazy Family Adventure)
Where to Go in the Caribbean and Mexico with families
My favorite destination of the year for families is the Caribbean island of Curaçao. I fell in love with the incredibly friendly people, the brightly-colored Dutch-Caribbean architecture — “Day-Glo Amsterdam,” a friend called it, and the delicious mix of beach, town, and food activities. In fact, I saw a beach so beautiful in Curaçao that I actually burst into tears as I gazed out at the expanse of azure water!
Further, the island boasts one of the most delightful mixes of cultures I’ve ever encountered: 42 ethnicities and 5 main languages, all of which dance together with ease. Finally, Curaçao sits outside of the Hurricane Belt, meaning that it is protected from major storms. My entire stay in Curaçao, I felt happy, relaxed, and enchanted. I would love to visit Curaçao with kids! (Lillie from Around the World L)
We visited Guadeloupe because Norwegian Air has been offering incredibly cheap flights there the past few winters. It’s a beautiful pair of connecting islands that offer a combination of volcanic mountains, rain forest and beaches.
Our favorites on Grand Terre were Plage Caravelle, with great snorkeling right off the beach, and Islet Gosier, a tiny island reachable from the town of Gosier. It offered an outdoor café that served impossibly fresh fish, scattered secluded beaches and bent-over palm trees that the kids loved climbing.
Point-A-Pitre, the main city, has dilapidated colonial buildings, an outdoor market with spices, fruit and other local goodies, and stores that sell the cool madras plaids all the locals wear. It’s worth a morning visit, or longer if you want to visit the state-of-the-art Memorial ACTe slavery museum that recently opened.
On Basse Terre Island you’ll find shorter and longer hikes, some to waterfalls or natural springs. Or do what we did and take a glass bottom boat from Plage Malendure and explore the Jacques Cousteau Marine Reserve (keep your eye out for SCUBA divers and turtles). American tourists are somewhat of a new thing, so knowing a little French goes a long way. (Eileen at Families Go Travel)
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
When you picture Mexico, you probably envision sandy beaches, turquoise blue ocean waves, and maybe ancient Mayan or Aztec ruins. For a different kind of Mexican vacation, consider a trip to San Miguel de Allende in the country’s Highlands.
Located in the state of Guanajuato, this city of 70,000 offers the best blend of the country’s colonial Spanish roots and the culture of Mexico’s native peoples. With its cobblestone streets, sunset-colored haciendas, and beautiful central plaza, San Miguel de Allende feels like a slice of Europe in the heart of Mexico.
But it’s a very Mexican town, too, offering traditional cuisine, a penchant for celebrations and festivals, and the patience and welcoming spirit of Latin America. (Colleen of Travel Mamas)
Europe for Families
Ireland is topping travel lists for 2018, due in large part to Star Wars and Game of Thrones. A country with more than its share of otherworldly landscapes, rugged coast, and dramatic ruins, Ireland is also relatively small, easy to navigate, and has the benefit of little language barrier for English speakers (after you get used to the cadence of the lyrical brogue)!
But Ireland is more than a dramatic filming location. It’s a country filled with history and hauntings, magic and mystery, saga and scenery. It’s a country where towering stone fortresses (or their ruins) appear around every bend of the notoriously narrow and winding roads, where stories are told nightly by a pub fire to the accompaniment of music, and where céad mile fáilte (one hundred thousand welcomes) is guaranteed.
To best explore everything Ireland has to offer, rent a car or hire a private driver guide. And be sure to leave room in your itinerary to follow the road less traveled- that is where your memories will be made. (Jody of Ireland Family Vacations)
Lisbon topped our family’s list of favorite vacation destinations this year and we can’t wait to go back! Travelers from the East Coast of the U.S. can reach Lisbon in just over 6 hours and head out to explore this historical European city.
Lisbon is a city that is easy to navigate, rich in history, offers plenty of inexpensive dining options, and the weather is beautiful year-round. Beaches can be found nearby and a day trip to the castles in neighboring Sintra is a must. Our children don’t ask to return to destinations very often, but Lisbon is one they would return to in a heartbeat. (Kirsten of Kids Are a Trip)
If I would have to choose the best destinations for families who love nature and outdoors, but also charming little towns and cultural attractions, Norway would be among our all-time favourites.
It’s the most family-friendly country we have visited up to now and I can highly recommend it to families with children. No matter how old your kids are or what your travel style is, you will find plenty to see and do in Norway. We went to Norway for the beautiful scenery and it didn’t disappoint: majestic fjords, epic hikes, the most scenic roads – nature is incredible!
But would you believe that our kids asked to visit more museums? Norwegian museums are so hands-on with all kinds of activities for children, quests, scavenger hunts, and interactive playgrounds that kids never wanted to leave.
Some of the other highlights included hiking to the Pulpit Rock, climbing 4444 stairs of the world’s longest wooden staircase, meeting real vikings, and riding the scenic Flam railway. We spent two weeks in Norway, but we are definitely going back for more. (Jurga from Full Suitcase)
Scotland is made for families – storybook castles, gourmet delights, athletic Highland Games, famous battlefields and even the Northern Lights – this charming country welcomes you with open arms.
Glasgow’s excellent parks and museums (mostly free) will entertain your kids whether they like transportation, animals, art or music (they can even learn to play the bagpipes).
Just an hour away is quaint Stirling with its glorious castle to explore and entertaining buskers to watch. Head north with your gang to discover the Isle of Skye’s dramatic scenery and hunt for the infamous Loch Ness monster.
Go east to visit St. Andrews’ sights, see where William and Kate fell in love, and maybe sneak in a round of golf.
The cosmopolitan capital city of Edinburgh has it all – a literal Royal Mile of sights and attractions, a huge hill to climb, a replica of part of the Parthenon, the Royal Yacht Britannia, and so much more. (Lisa of Hilton Mom Voyage)
Vienna is Austria’s grandiose capital. Its beautiful historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is filled with opulent palaces, churches, museums, and parks.
My daughters and I spent a couple of days wandering around Vienna, taking in its splendor and discovering everything from the 100-year-old cafes to shopping at former purveyors to the imperial court. This Imperial city is quite enchanting, and a wonderful choice for a family-friendly city break. (Monique of An Unstoppable Journey)
Central and South America with kids
Located on the northern coast of Colombia, Cartagena is a true colonial gem and a great destination for families who like to experience a little bit of everything.
Once an important Caribbean port for the Spanish, today the city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The old town, located inside the city walls, is highly photogenic: charming cobblestone streets, beautiful historic buildings covered with brightly colored vines, striking churches and cozy plazas.
Explore the city in a horse-drawn carriage, by signing up for a treasure hunt (particularly appropriate for younger kids) or via a Segway or bike tour (great for teens).
History lovers will enjoy visiting the San Felipe Fort and the old city walls; those who love museums have many choices: from naval to emerald or chocolate.
For stunning panoramic views, visit La Popa, a beautiful monastery on the hill just outside the city. Cartagena does not boast great beaches, but the Rosario Islands, a beautiful archipelago that is part of Colombia’s national park system, are just 60 miles north of the city. Perfect for a day trip or a few nights’ stay.
For a one-of-a-kind experience head to Totumo Volcano and climb inside to take a bath in its famous warm mud. (Vera)
Our family vacation to Cusco and Peru’s Sacred Valley this past March was an incredible journey full of culture, history, new food, and unforgettable experiences. It was everything a family adventure should be, and it should be right at the top of your family’s list in 2018.
Flights are easy to Cusco, and families traveling from the USA will appreciate not dealing with jet lag since you won’t have to cross an ocean. Cusco is also affordable, so food and tours won’t bust your budget.
Be sure to take the train to Aquas Calientes to visit Machu Picchu. It’s well worth your time, and if you’re lucky, you can get a family selfie with a local alpaca wandering by. In Cusco, try making chocolate at the Choco Museo or try some Asian-Peruvian fusion cuisine. We also recommend day trips and tours to Maras, Moray, and Chinchero! (Carrick from Along for the Trip)
Visiting the Galapagos Islands is like being in the midst of an Animal Planet or National Geographic TV special. This archipelago and UNESCO site, located 600 miles off of Ecuador, is overflowing with landscapes, plants and animals found nowhere else in the world.
The islands are filled with unique experiences where kids can walk with ancient giant tortoises in their natural habitat, observe marine iguanas swimming in the ocean and then start walking on the white sand shores, interact with blue-footed boobies, visit lava tubes and snorkel with sea lions. You can even visit an islet to hang out with hundreds of sea lions. Animals here were unafraid of humans and didn’t hesitate to constantly check us out.
The inhabited islands are also filled with friendly locals, cultural experiences and outdoor activities that include hiking, snorkeling, scuba diving and kayaking. It is one of the world’s best places to observe rare wildlife and have an unforgettable family trip. (Mary from The World is a Book)
The small country of Panama packs a big punch. Starting in the capital, Panama City, families can enjoy the bustle of a big city and several UNESCO world heritage sites in the old town, plus a huge urban park with wildlife refuge before venturing to further afield.
Highlights outside Panama City include viewing the Panama Canal at Miraflores, where a small museum overlooks the locks, allowing kids to watch vessels go through, snorkeling and swimming in the Gulf of Panama Islands, and exploring Granito de Oro and Coiba National Park. See it all, including a transfer through the canal via an Uncruise vacation or explore on your own! (Amy of Pit Stops for Kids)
Asia with kids
In general, traveling Bali with kids is very easy, fun, and rewarding for those seeking an affordable, adventurous, and well-rounded holiday with the whole family.
The Indonesian island is perfect for kids — whether 6-month-old babies or 12-year-old adolescents — in every way possible.
There’s a whole slew of outdoor activities you can do here, from surfing to white water rafting and hiking on its rice terraces. The island is also brimming with culture and traditions; some of the highlights for us include watching the Kecak dance at Uluwatu Temple, soaking in the Tirta Empul holy springs and visiting the sacred monkey forest in Ubud.
What we love most about Bali is that even though tourism has changed some parts of the island, the ‘real Bali’ still thrives and the unique culture of Bali is resilient, persistent and very much alive. (Nellie at Wild Junket)
I highly recommend the Maldives with kids. It’s an island paradise, so it attracts a lot of honeymooners, but it’s also remarkably kid-friendly.
We visited a couple of different resorts – one with overwater villas and one that’s island-based. What impressed us with both: stunning turquoise waters and beaches; excellent kids clubs; bicycles waiting for us at our villas, including ones that were perfect for the kids; kid-friendly activities, including ping-pong, kayaking, and snorkeling; great food; and overwater hammocks perfectly positioned for sunset.
We preferred our overwater villa to our beach villa, since we loved being able to walk out onto the deck and jump into the water. Don’t want too long to go! As sea levels rise, the Maldives will be one of the first casualties. (Eric at Travel Babbo)
Visiting Australia with kids
Where do the Aussie locals enjoy their holidays? They fly north to the state of Queensland with its “one day after the other perfect” weather.
If you love the great outdoors, you will be spoiled for choice in the southeast corner of Queensland, which claims Brisbane as its capital city.
Due to the wonderful weather year-round, everything is suited to an outdoor lifestyle. The adventurous head south to the Gold Coast for the theme parks and beaches, nature lovers head west for some bushwalking in the national parks, and island lovers head east to discover the islands of Stradbroke and Moreton (where you may see a dolphin or two).
Our family heads north to the Sunshine Coast which is an hour north of Brisbane and has town after town of beautiful beaches. Noosa is our current favorite.
For animal lovers, the highlight is definitely the Australia Zoo, made famous by the crocodile hunter, Steve Irwin. Whether you cuddle a koala, feed a kangaroo, or observe crocodiles at feeding time, you’ll learn about the rich diversity of Australia’s animal kingdom and have a wonderful time doing it. (Kristin of Simply Family Travel)
Family travel to the Middle East
Oman is my top destination for 2018, as it is absolutely perfect for families. It’s one of the friendliest countries, with everyone stopping to smile and hotels offering dates and coffee to those walking by.
There’s so much to explore from the bustling souk in Muscat, filled with clouds of frankincense, to the castles and forts of the mountain-top towns. Staying a night under canvas with a nomadic Bedouin tribe is something children will never forget.
You can even glamp on the beach and watch endangered turtles giving birth (all properly organised through the research centre at Ras al Jinz). The beaches are beautiful, the food is interesting and child friendly but most of all the welcome you get in Oman will have you wanting to come back for more. (Nichola at Globalmouse Travels)!