See the 8 best family vacations for all ages in this guide along with ideas for things to do at each destination! From the Caribbean to the US, these places are perfect for your whole crew.
Why You Should Take a Family Vacation
Couples vacations are incredible and getaways with friends can be refreshing, but when it comes to a memorable trip that strengthens bonds and reinforces connection, there’s nothing like a good ol’ family vacation.
If your clan has fallen into a predictable routine – okay, rut – and you’re seeking a way to spend time together in a new and exciting place that brings you all closer, a family vacation is just what the doctor ordered.
Family vacations have been shown to lower stress levels for both parents and kids in ways that actually count, leading to better sleep, less anxiety and worry, and a stronger sense of self that bolsters confidence and self-esteem.
And if you can find a great family vacation spot that everyone can enjoy, you’ll be well on your way to a much-needed period of rest and fun without all the responsibilities and deadlines of hectic daily life.
When you’re on a family vacation together, it’s easy to make lasting memories that will stick with you and your children for a lifetime.
Cooking breakfast together in a secluded cabin, exploring a new country, taking walks through a big city, building sandcastles at the beach, or skiing down a bunny slope is something you’ll all look back on fondly one day.
There’s no doubt that taking a family vacation is a good idea, but where should you all head? Keep reading to discover the 12 best family vacations everyone can get on board with!
The 8 Best Family Vacations for All Ages
If you’re trying to plan a vacation that everyone in the family can equally enjoy, you’ll want to explore the 8 destinations we’ve rated as the best family vacations for all ages!
From stunning Caribbean island getaways to domestic vacays at scenic state parks and theme parks, everyone will have a chance to live it up and spend memorable time together on these great family vacations.
The 8 best family vacations for all ages are:
- Jolly Harbour, Antigua
- Papagayo, Costa Rica
- Orlando, Florida
- Riviera Maya, Mexico
- Arcachon, France
- Honolulu, Hawaii
- Niagara Falls State Park, New York
- Santa Claus, Indiana
Keep reading to learn about what makes each destination worthy of a long-awaited family trip and see which one your crew will enjoy the most!
1. Jolly Harbour, Antigua
When you touch down in the Caribbean in Jolly Harbour on the western coast of Antigua, it’ll be clear to you that you’re embarking on one of the best family vacations you’ll ever take.
You can stay at an all-inclusive Caribbean resort for the most convenience with pools, water sport equipment rentals, private beaches, and included meals and drinks to make your stay easier with kids.
But Jolly Harbour is filled with attractions and fun, so it’s just as nice to stay at a family-friendly hotel in the area and head out for adventures each day.
You’ll spend time lounging, playing in the water, and building sandcastles on Driftwood Beach (calm water for little ones), Darkwood Beach (great for snorkeling), or Jolly Beach.
At the Jolly Harbour Marina & Golf Club, a 300-acre development with 2 beaches, restaurants, golf, bike and boat rentals, tennis courts, a pool, and more – everyone can find something fun to do.
Rent a Jeep to take a ride through the Antiguan rainforest that’s only 10 minutes away from the marina. Book a helicopter tour to see the active volcano on Montserrat or just take in aerial views of this gorgeous island.
Boat tours are always fun for the whole family, giving you chances to go sailing, spot birds, explore coral reefs, nearby islands, and enjoy lunch on the water.
You’ll find plenty of spots to grab a bite that won’t lead to any grumbles, even from the pickiest of your family unit. Restaurants like the Jolly Roger Inn serve up kid-friendly fare like pizza and nuggets to fresh seafood and barbecue.
Caribbean culture gives kids and adults a glimpse of something historic, colorful, and vibrant while spending time on Antigua. From calypso music to colorful houses, this is a great place to expand your horizons.
2. Papagayo, Costa Rica
Costa Rica is ranked as one of the best international destinations for first-timers and absolutely gorgeous with tons of outdoor activities to offer families. Head to Papagayo for family-friendly fun!
You can use US dollars, flights are relatively short from the US, and locals typically speak English, making it a really convenient place to take a vacation outside of the States with kids.
In Papagayo, you can visit a sloth sanctuary, chase waterfalls, take boat safari tours to spot animals and birds, go zip lining, or take an off-road ATV tour that the kids will gush over.
Hang out on the beach and snorkel or dive – the Gulf of Papagayo is known for its calm, kid-friendly waters. You can see giant manta rays and stingrays, green moray eels, colorful schools of fish, and the occasional white tip reef shark!
Have a blast at Diamante Eco Adventure Park, where you can zip line, check out the animal sanctuary, enjoy a buffet lunch, and try water sports on the beach.
You’ll find a range of beautiful beaches, from the nonstop hustle and bustle on Playas del Coco to the quiet serenity on Playa Ocotal and wind-surfing on the natural, unspoiled Playa Hermosa.
Fishing is incredible in Costa Rica, and you’ll find plenty of opportunities to cast a line in the surf or from a deep sea charter boat around Papagayo. Get ready to snap a photo of your kid’s big catch!
Take a day trip to Rincon de la Vieja National Park to take a guided walking tour and see a volcano, waterfalls, hot springs, and abundant wildlife in the rainforest.
With so many opportunities for hiking, enjoying the beaches and ocean, rock climbing, nature walks, guided tours, and cultural education, a trip to Costa Rica is perfect for a family.
3. Orlando, Florida
What would a list of the best family vacations be without mention of Orlando, Florida? It’s home to some of the most famous theme parks in the world and one place your kids will be thrilled to visit!
Orlando is where you’ll find Disney World, SeaWorld, LEGOLAND, and Universal Studios Florida. Nearby is Gatorland, Fun Spot USA, and Kennedy Space Center.
With so many parks (and parks within the parks), everyone in the family will be busy having fun, riding rides, eating tasty treats, shopping, and interacting with favorite characters.
At Disney, you can explore Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, EPCOT, and Animal Kingdom. Universal has Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure (home to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter).
At LEGOLAND, you’ll find the theme park with 50+ rides, a water park, and Peppa Pig Theme Park that little ones will love! SeaWorld has great opportunities for animal interactions, rides, a water park, and live shows.
On hot days, you’ll appreciate the huge water parks all around you at Disney (Typhoon Lagoon), SeaWorld (Aquatica), Universal (Volcano Bay), LEGOLAND (LEGOLAND Water Park), and in nearby Kissimmee (Island H20 Live!).
Since you’ll be so close to the beach, take a day trip over to Cocoa Beach or Daytona Beach – both just an hour away and rated as some of the best family-friendly beaches near Orlando.
Whether you’re staying at the most affordable or the best hotels in Orlando, you’ll see there’s no shortage of accommodations here. You can even stay within the park you’re visiting!
Visit during the best time of year to go to Orlando, between March and May, for warm weather without the huge crowds of summer. Summer visits when school’s out are just as enjoyable, but a bit busier!
4. Riviera Maya, Mexico
Cancun is incredible for adults, but Riviera Maya (just south of Cancun) is one of the best spots for families to go in Mexico. If you’re up for outdoor adventures in a gorgeous beach setting, this place should be on your list.
Riviera Maya offers a more laid-back vibe with a string of small towns along the coast. You’ll find more boutique and family-friendly hotels, lots of natural beauty, and lots of opportunities to learn about Mexico’s history here.
Playa del Carmen is the largest town on the Riviera, offering the most attractions and things to do, like visiting Xcaret Eco Theme Park, an aquarium, zoo, circus, snorkeling, and cruises on the Captain Hook Spanish galleon replica ship.
You’ll find plenty of great restaurants, cafes, and grill/bar combinations that are kid-friendly in Playa del Carmen. Shopping and visiting the nearby Mayan ruins in Tulum (1 hour away) are fun options!
Puerto Morelos is smaller and very kid-friendly. You can visit the National Reef Park of Puerto Morelos, play and snorkel at the beach, visit botanic gardens, or dive into a cenote natural pool.
For adventurous types, you can’t beat Bacalar – a designated “Magic Town” where kayaking, beaching, exploring the Bacalar Lagoon, and caving are just the start of things to do.
You can swim with dolphins and manatees, go zip lining through the jungle, explore the Mayan ruins of Kohunlich, and check out the museum at Fort San Felipe Bacalar for an educational lesson on the area’s history.
If you plan to go between April and May, the best time to visit Riviera Maya, you’ll be rewarded with lower prices and smaller crowds that make your stay even better.
5. Arcachon, France
From mind-blowing sand dunes over 330 feet tall to amusement parks, zoos, and beautiful beaches, the Arcachon Bay area in France makes one of the best family vacations ever.
There are endless sights and activities to enjoy here. History, wildlife, beachy fun, and outdoor activities are all on the menu in Arcachon.
Dune du Pilat is a great place to take the family, where you’ll stand at the bottom of a massive 336′ sand dune that has the honor of being the tallest in Europe. Younger kids will enjoy story-time walks around the Dune.
There are plenty of beautiful, family-friendly beaches around to check out. You’ll especially love Plage de la Lagune and Plage de la Salie-Nord!
Check out the Zoo Bassin d’Arcachon, where you’ll see over 1,000 animal species on the 22-hectare property. You’ll find lots of opportunities to bond over horseback riding, mini golf, and more in nearby Bordeaux.
History lessons are easy when you check out the Gothic style Notre-Dame Basilica in Arcachon that started as a sailor’s chapel in the 15th century.
Parc de la Coccinelle amusement park is the perfect place to spend a day together, with rides, a mini farm, zip lines, bouncy castles, and a water park provide all-day fun.
Take a boat or canoe over to Île aux Oiseaux (Bird Island) to see an amazing menagerie of bird species and wildlife on this natural and unspoiled island. With a guide, you can collect wild oysters and mussels and see real fishermen’s cabins!
6. Honolulu, Hawaii
From majestic volcanic mountains and shady rainforests to sand and sun on the tropical shores, Honolulu on the island of Oahu is beautiful and easily one of the best family vacations you can take.
With cultural wonders and natural beauty all around, there are so many things to do here. Don your swimsuits and take to any of the beautiful sandy beaches around Honolulu, from Waikiki Beach and Sunset Beach to Hanauma Bay.
Hanauma Bay is home to some of best snorkeling and diving in the world, so adventurous young ones will be able to get up-close and personal with vibrant marine life and learn about Hawaii’s amazing biodiversity.
Feast on traditional Hawaiian food and modern favorites, from Spam and eggs to poke bowls and fresh seafood. Make plans to attend a traditional luau one night and see cultural dance, fire eaters, and lei making.
There are tons of great places to stay in Honolulu, and we found the Waikiki area to be the best for families. Watch talented surfers catch big waves at the beach and enjoy close proximity to the Honolulu Zoo!
The Children’s Discovery Center is packed with interactive exhibits that combine learning and fun for kids. Everyone will enjoy visiting the Aloha Tower and royal Iolani Palace nearby!
Head to the beautiful Kaka’ako Waterfront Park for all kinds of outdoor fun, from fishing and bike riding to gorgeous sunsets. You might get to see fighter jets doing maneuvers over Pearl Harbor while you’re here!
For history lovers, a visit to Pearl Harbor just west of Honolulu can’t be missed. It’s still an active military base and entry is free. You can step aboard the USS Bowfin submarine, take a shuttle to see battleships, take guided tours, and visit the Aviation Museum.
If you can, plan your family trip between March and June – the best time to visit Honolulu – to enjoy lots of warm weather, minimal rain, and tons of events and festivals.
7. Niagara Falls State Park, New York
Head to Niagara Falls State Park in New York for a thrilling family vacation that offers something for all ages. You’ll be right on the Canadian border, so if everyone has passports, you can continue your trip into Ontario!
Even hard-to-impress tweens and teens will dig Niagara Falls. It was recently named America’s “most Instagrammed” state park by Travel Lens!
The incredible, roaring Niagara Falls gush over 3,160 tons of water every second of every day. Horseshoe Falls (the larger waterfall) is over 2,500 feet wide and American Falls is over 1,050 feet wide. It’s stunning to see in person.
Take the Maid of the Mist boat tour to get incredibly close to the roaring falls. You’ll receive a souvenir rain poncho as mist from the falls descends over the double decker boat!
Everyone can appreciate a good meal with an even better view at the Top of the Falls restaurant. You’ll have amazing views of the Falls while you dine overlooking Terrapin Point and Horseshoe Falls through floor-to-ceiling windows or outside on the deck.
Catch fireworks every night in summer (from May to early October) at Prospect Point at 10pm. With the majestically illuminated Falls behind you at night, this is an unforgettable experience.
Drop 175 feet via elevator into the Niagara Gorge and see the Falls from the Hurricane Deck at the Cave of the Winds. Bring the family on an easy guided hike to learn about the Falls’ history and cool facts.
You can explore the ruins of the old Schoellkopf Power Plant and set out on hiking trails from paths easy enough for toddlers to more advanced trails with steep climbs and thrilling overlooks.
You’ll find tons of Niagara Falls hotel deals to plan an affordable trip. Try to plan your trip during the best time to visit Niagara Falls between August and September for less-crowded conditions and still-warm weather.
8. Santa Claus, Indiana
Home to Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari amusement and water parks, great state parks and outdoor activities, kid-friendly arcades and eateries, and attractions celebrating all things Christmas, kids will love visiting Santa Claus, Indiana.
This unique vacation spot is perfect for families with younger kids because there’s just so much to see and do. The main attraction? Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, where there are rides, games, and a thrilling water park to explore.
Families can rent a paddleboat or stroll the trails at Lincoln State Park, check out horses, sheep, and chickens at the Living Historical Farm at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, and engage with period-accurate re-enactors.
To really get in touch with history, families will appreciate the Lincoln Pioneer Village & Museum where 13 replica cabins can be explored to better understand young Abraham Lincoln’s life in Indiana.
The Santa Claus Museum & Village is fun for littles year-round (write a letter to Santa and get a reply by Christmas), and the kids will beg you to stop by the massive Santa’s TOYS store and Santa’s Candy Castle!
Catch a flick in an old-fashioned drive-in theater, where you can bring camping chairs or lounge on blanket under the stars. Play games and eat pizza and ice cream at Frosty’s Fun Center for a treat!
There are great places for families to stay in Santa Claus, Indiana, but reviews indicate Sun Outdoors Lake Rudolph might be the best. It has a free shuttle to Holiday World and its own water park, pool, mini golf, and gem mining activities.
Things to Consider
Planning one of the best family vacations is a lot easier when you have a little guidance. Here are some must-know tips and considerations to keep in mind!
- Start thinking about passports. If you’ll be taking your family out of the country for your vacation, it’s never too early to start the passport process. It can take 8-11 weeks or more to get a passport, so you don’t want to wait until the last minute! Children’s passports (under age 16) must be applied for in person.
- Make a packing list. Wherever you’re going as a family, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself in charge of handling or overseeing the packing. Make sure you have a comprehensive packing list for each child and family member to avoid leaving anything essential behind. Weather-appropriate clothing, sunscreen, bug spray, comfortable shoes, swimwear, needed medications, first aid essentials, and more should be on your list.
- Let the kids have a say in plans. While you’ll be the ultimate planner and trip scheduler, letting the kids have a say in the activities and tours you plan will help everyone enjoy the trip. Whether it’s the order of the theme parks you visit, the outdoor activities you try on your trip, or the restaurant you visit that night, kids will appreciate being able to help outline the plans for your family getaway.
- Come prepared with snacks. Snacks, snacks, and more snacks are essential when you’re taking kids on a vacation somewhere new. From flight delays to expressions of disgust at an unfamiliar restaurant, it’s always a good idea to have a few sticky-snacks on hand for food emergencies when you’re traveling with littles (and teens).
Frequently Asked Questions
Still have some burning questions about narrowing down your options for the best family vacations? Maybe a peek at the most frequently asked questions below will clear things up.
How do you take a family vacation on a budget?
Take a family vacation on a budget by researching the cheapest time of year to visit for lower hotel rates, using hotel rewards or travel credit card rewards to get free hotel rooms, and booking a room with a kitchen so you can cook meals instead of eating out.
All-inclusive resorts may be pricier on the front end, but you’ll actually save money with meals, drinks, activities, and entertainment built into the cost. If you eat out, look for spots with “kids eat free” specials!
What is the best way to plan a family vacation?
The best way to plan a family vacation is by coming up with a budget to narrow down your options. Talk to the family and decide if you’d prefer a beach, national/state park, international getaway, outdoor adventure getaway, metropolitan trip, etc.
Once everyone’s weighed in and you’ve settled on a destination, start looking at hotel and resort rates for different dates to decide on your trip dates. If you’re leaving the country, you’ll need to make sure everyone has a valid passport.
Research activities you want to do and go ahead and book whatever you can in advance. Don’t forget the travel insurance- a great thing to have just in case!
Do most families go on vacation?
Lots of families go on vacation, but the number differs by the year. About 40% of adults planned a family vacation in 2019 (Source: AAA), but almost 90% said they plan on taking a vacation with their kids within the next year.
Which places are best for vacation?
The places that are best for a vacation depend on your family’s interests, budget, and means of travel. If you’re flying internationally, some of the best places for a family vacation are Antigua, Costa Rica, Mexico, and France.
If you’re staying within the US, Orlando, Florida, Honolulu, Hawaii, Niagara Falls State Park, and Santa Claus, Indiana make some of the best places for a vacation.
What is the #1 US vacation spot?
Orlando, Florida regularly ranks as the #1 vacation spot for families, while New York City gets the most annual visitors (over 10.2 million).
Both are extremely popular vacation destinations in the US, but if you’re bringing kids along, Orlando will be the better choice.
So, What Do the Best Family Vacations Have in Common?
Great family vacations are built on spending time together, trying new things, letting loose and being a little spontaneous, and leaving the worries and stress of work and school behind.
The best family vacations will always be the ones that everyone has a say in planning – even if it’s just helping you pick out tomorrow’s big activity.
It doesn’t have to be an expensive international trip or 6 days at a theme park to be a fun family vacation. Even a short weekend trip with plenty of conversation, exploring nature, or walking through a new city can be enough to feel like a getaway.
Family vacations may seem unnecessary or expensive with so many other obligations you have to take care of, but remember – they’re only little once and the memories made on these trips will last you and your kids a lifetime.