Do you want to plan a trip that the whole family will enjoy? The easiest way to make any vacation great is to keep the kids happy! To get a first-hand glimpse into the kind of vacation a kid would most enjoy, we partnered with family travel expert Meagan Wristen of Mommy Travels … and her kids Noah (16), Eden (13), and Jonah (10). With a whole lot of travel experiences under their belts, they’ve broken down their top 10 favorite family vacations of all time.
When I asked my kids to list their top ten family vacations, they quickly rattled off an assortment of places we have been. It was interesting to hear what they picked, some of them I expected, but others were a complete surprise. They have been traveling with me their entire lives. Between the three of them, they’ve been to 19 countries and 3 continents, so it’s no surprise that their choices cover places from all around the world. Here are their favorites, perfect for inspiring your next great family getaway!
10 Best Family Vacations … According to My Kids!
Singapore is in all of our top ten family vacations picks, and it is easily Noah’s #1. He considers Singapore to be a utopia because of the cleanliness and orderliness. Oddly enough, we were only in Singapore for two days, making it one of the shortest stays we have had anywhere. But it only took one day for us to fall in love with this city. We recommend walking around Marina Bay, where the architecture is insane, and definitely visit some parts of the Marina Bay Gardens. I can assure you that your kids have never seen anything else like this! My kids’ favorite hotel here is the Fairmont Singapore. For more ideas on what to do and where to find the best milkshake, see my article: 6 Things to Do in Singapore with Kids.
London also made it high on the list of my kids’ top family vacations. We visited during Thanksgiving a few years ago, and literally everything we did was awesome.
There is so much to see and do that you can easily spend a week or two here and never run out of activities. Some of their favorite things were seeing the play Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, eating at Borough Market, and doing the Tower of London tour. I personally appreciated how many free things there were to do in London. For more London ideas and tips, see my article: London with Kids.
Thailand is absolutely incredible, and I wasn’t surprised it landed as my kids’ top three choice. You can literally go anywhere in Thailand and have an interesting experience. I recommend visiting at least these three places when you go: Phuket, Bangkok, and Chiang Mai. Although they each have some similarities, they are completely different experiences.
Phuket is one of Thailand’s islands, and it’s extremely kid friendly. My children thought taking a Thai cooking class was cool, and they loved going to the beaches and interacting with elephants and tigers. To find the elephants on the beach, check out my post: Swimming with Elephants in Thailand. And for more help planning your trip to Phuket, see my article: 4 Things to Do in Phuket, Thailand with Kids.
Bangkok is massive, so there are loads of activities to enjoy. My kids loved biking through the city despite the heavy traffic, and they were thrilled when we stumbled across monstrous milkshakes. To read more about taking kids to Bangkok check out my article: Two Days in Bangkok with Kids.
Chiang Mai a one of a kind. With more temples than the kids had personally ever seen before and food they couldn’t identify, Chiang Mai quickly became one of their favorites. The city has an incredible night market where you and your kids could literally shop for hours. You’ll find interesting things to purchase like leather journals, bracelets, and tuk tuks made out of soda cans. There is an elephant sanctuary where families can care for elephants, and of course, the food is outstanding! For more ideas while visiting Chiang Mai, see my article: 4 Family Activities in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
4. Oahu, Hawaii
Hawaii is another place that all three kids agree on as one of the best destinations for family vacations, and Oahu is their top island followed by Kauai. (Ironically, we are on a plane right now on our way to Oahu as I type this.) On Oahu, their favorite thing to do is sit at the pool or sit on the beach.
The kids recommend hanging out at the beach on North Shore to check out the waves and do some shopping. While you are up there, have shrimp from Giovani’s Shrimp truck and get shaved ice at Matsumoto Shave Ice. If you feel like getting active, rent a paddle board and paddle up the Anahulu River and look for sea turtles. The last time we went we saw five huge sea turtles.
Also fun in Oahu is parasailing in Waikiki and hiking to the top of Diamond Head. When you get done hiking Diamond Head, stop by Shimazu Shave Ice for a massive shaved ice. If your budget allows for a bit of a splurge, the kids highly recommend staying on the west side of Oahu at Aulani a Disney Resort and Spa.
5. New York City
New York City is in Eden’s top 3 and in my top 10. The kids love the dessert experiences here, like Serendipity, Buns Bar, and Black Tap. All three places have outrageous, over-the-top desserts. And I love all the free things to do around the area. If at all possible, visit during the holiday season to see the Rockettes, Macy’s Christmas windows, Dyker Holiday Lights and the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. While you’re there, take a spin around the ice skating rink.
They all enjoy hanging out in Central Park and Bryant Park, both parks have a lot of free activities. At Bryant Park, kids can play Kubb while parents grab a drink at the little outdoor bar there. In Central Park, there are multiple playgrounds.
Visiting the 9/11 Memorial is a must, and if your kids are 10 or older, tour the museum. Kids enjoy touring the Statue of Liberty, but not necessarily Ellis Island. If you do go to Ellis Island, look for your family’s name on the wall. If you want to do a bus tour, I recommend The Ride, especially if your kids are teens or tweens. I think going to a Broadway show is a must, but this is expensive and not worth it if your kids hate musicals or might possibly sleep through it. Good plays for kids are Wicked, Lion King, and Phantom of the Opera.
Orlando would probably make any kid’s list of best family vacations. With it being home to Walt Disney World, Sea World, Discovery Cove, and Universal Studios, a family could spend a month and do something different every single day. Universal Orlando is a must once your children are tall enough to ride all the roller coasters. Besides the theme parks, there are all sorts of other fun things to do like swamp tours through alligator-infested waters, knight tournaments at Medieval Times, and afternoons spent at the local beaches.
We are originally from Texas, so it was no surprise that the Lone Star State made the list. My kids have been all over Texas, and they recommend eating lots of Tex-Mex food and visiting the following cities: Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, and Corpus Christi.
San Antonio has a ton of stuff for families to do. Here you will find a massive zoo, the Six Flags Fiesta Texas theme park, the famous San Antonio River Walk, and just outside of town is Schlitterbahn … the #1 water park in the world. When visiting, plan at least one full day at Schlitterbahn, half a day at the River Walk, and float the Comel River.
Austin is a cool city that offers a lot for families. My kids recommend eating at Torchy’s Tacos and spending half a day at Barton Springs.
Dallas/Fort Worth is packed with stuff to do for families. Over in Fort Worth, you’ll love the rodeo at the historic Stockyards. Be sure to go when they have bull riding. Also found in the Stockyards, is a fun maze and Texas-themed shopping. Our favorite restaurants in Dallas include Meso Maya for dinner and El Jordan Cafe for breakfast.
8. Negril, Jamaica
Negril, Jamaica is Jonah’s #1 family vacations pick, and if I was his age I think this would possibly be my #1 too. We recommend staying at Beaches Negril. This is an all-inclusive resort geared specifically for families.
Highlights of staying here include:
- Sesame Street parade and BBQ party
- Ice Cream Machine
- Multiple pools, a lazy river, water playground, and hot tubs.
- Miniature golf
- Video game lounge
- Kid’s Club
9. Vail, Colorado
Vail, Colorado is another destination that is enjoyable year round for family vacations. In the winter, the skiing is unbelievably good. My kids have skied since they were little, and appreciate the extensive skiing found in Vail. If you do not ski, this is a great place to learn. During the summer, my kids enjoy biking around town, riding horses around the mountain, and visiting the Epic Discovery adventure park set up on the mountain. For more information on visiting Vail with kids, check out my article: Find Out Why Our Family Fell in Love with Vail, Colorado and Start Planning Your Own Family Vacation.
Much to my surprise, none of my kids mentioned Honduras, but they were quite young when we were there. Honduras is easily in my top ten and when I prompted them they quickly agreed. I recommend going to Roatan and Copan. These two places are nowhere near each other, and extremely different experiences. What they do have in common is affordability.
Roatan is one of the Bay Islands and along the second best barrier reef in the world. The reef is near the shoreline, making it very easy for kids to snorkel. Jonah was only 4 years old when we visited, and he was able to snorkel. Also fun here is zip lining and paddle boarding.
Copan is a Honduran city that borders Guatemala. Here you can go horseback riding up a mountain, enjoy zip lining on one of the longest zip lines in the world, and visit an incredible hot springs.
Interested in our runner-ups? Some include Las Vegas, Disneyland, Panama City Beach, Bavarian Alps in Germany and house boating on Lake Shuswap in British Columbia. My kids do not even remember house boating up in Canada, but if they did, I am sure it would have made it on to the list!
Where are your kids’ favorite places to go for a vacation? Share your stories in our comments section below.
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