There is nothing like a 20 pound love monster to change your perspective on traveling. There are so many things to consider now when choosing a destination! Not sure about you, but I often wonder if I’m destined to a future of kid-centered resorts and all-inclusive family oriented destinations for the next 18+ years (not that it would be a bad thing, but let’s be honest- there are only so many renditions of “It’s a Small World” I can tolerate and even breakfast with Cinderella loses its glitz after a few repeats). So my natural response to this dilemma was to refer to my trusty friend, the Internet, to research kid-friendly trip ideas. It was hard to find a good list of suggestions anywhere, so I’ve decided as a tribute to my 30th birthday and to save you the
hair-pulling frustration time, I’ve compiled my own experience along with that of other bloggers in this handy-dandy little list of top 30 vacation ideas (that do not include Disney).
Note: This post is not sponsored in any way by any of the sites I’ve linked to and is based on my own experience, opinions, and research. Additionally, the cities listed are not in any particular order.
1. Washington D.C.
While I’ve never done this with a little, Washington D.C. popped up on nearly every search I did. I particularly like the list of ideas that the folks over at Lonely Planet had to offer.
2. Yosemite National Park, California
I loved the suggestions posted on Trekaroo and make sure you check out the related links at the bottom of the page; they have great suggestions and descriptions of kid-friendly hikes and lodging!
3. San Francisco, California
This might sound like a strange suggestion, but as someone who has visited San Fran with a 2 month old, I would say I’m a fan of this place as a destination for littles. With few exceptions, (I’m looking at you, St. George’s Distillery) the city’s local hangouts were open and welcoming to these Texans and their loud 2 month old 🙂 Since we visit fairly often, we did choose to skip a lot of the touristy things, but there is a great list of ideas at Scary Mommy.
4. Telluride, Colorado (summer)
There really aren’t enough good things to say about this little, cowboy, mountain town. Technically it is two-towns in one: the town of Telluride and the town of Mountain Village, but they are connected by a free gondola that runs for most of the day/night. I’m not kidding when I say that we ride don’t just ride the gondola to get from Telluride to Mountain Village, we often ride it just for fun- some of the best sunset views you’ll get are from this spot if you time it right (can you say Alpenglow?).
We usually go for a week each summer and still haven’t gotten around to doing everything we would like to do. Between hikes, mountain biking, rafting, horseback riding and enjoying the local culture (i.e. Telluride Brewing Company and Brown Dog Pizza) there is something for every walk of life and age group. Best Kid-Friendly Travel has a great list of spring/summer activities for families.
5. Telluride, Colorado (winter/spring)
I know, not fair, why am I counting this two times? Truth be told, we LOVE Telluride so we visit A LOT. It never ceases to amaze me that for such a tiny town, there is a lot to do to keep everyone in the family entertained. Visiting this little mountain village during the winter opens up an entirely new list of options so even though you’re traveling to the same place, it truly is a completely different kind of trip. This is not a sponsored post, but I thought the list of suggestions found on vacationtelluride.com was pretty comprehensive.
6. Portland, Oregon
Before getting pregnant, C and I went on an incredible 7 day foodie/beerknurd trip to the pacific northwest. While we were at the different breweries, brewpubs and microbreweries we couldn’t help but notice the surprisingly large number of hipster families around us. They were so cool and we wanted to be like them “when we grew up.” Although I wouldn’t have ever really thought of Portland as particularly family friendly, visiting this eclectic city sans-baby made me realize that we could easily re-create a version of our trip with kids one day. I would definitely want to do some of the things on the list written by Portland locals Asha Dornfest (author of parenthacks.com) and Blythe Butler (author of theblythespirit.com) that is posted on alphamom.com.
7. Boston, Massachusetts
We have some good friends that walked through this city with their almost 4-year-old and almost 1-year-old and lived to tell the tale. With all of the culture and history in Boston, there is SO much to do here! Independent Traveler has a great itinerary for a 3 day trip complete with kid-friendly hotel suggestions.
8. Taos, New Mexico
Not gonna lie, this quaint New Mexico town isn’t easy to get to. You have to either fly into Santa Fe or Albuquerque and then take a shuttle or rent a car and drive to Taos. HOWEVER, if you are interested in an affordable ski vacation, this town with nearly 300 inches of snowfall each year and rich artistic history, might be the answer. Travel Mommy has some great tips on ski packages, lodging, dining, unique attractions, and just overall good tips on making it a good experience for the whole fam.
9. Park City, Utah
Oh man, one of my favorite ski trips EVER was to Park City. It might be because it was my first ski trip with my then-boyfriend (now husband) and his family. In any case, it is awesome and I loved it and I can’t wait to go back with Little S one day! This is a great article on what the city has to offer year round – miiiiiight have to start bothering C about making our way back there sooner rather than later after reading it. I also really love this Travel & Leisure article with suggestions. Seriously, I want to go to there (again).
So many islands, so little time. We frequent Maui and while we have never been with Little S, one of my best friends went with her 9 month old and LOVED it. Additionally, what could be more family friendly than beautiful beaches, great sunsets, perfect weather, and Polynesian culture? Huffington Post has this great article that breaks down the different islands and what they have to offer to help you decide which island is best suited for your family.
11. Nashville, Tennessee
I’ve been doing a fair amount of research on visiting Nashville since C travels there almost weekly. I’m obsessed with the lists offered by alphamom.com. Nashville local, Lindsay Ferrier wrote this one and I can’t wait to do take her advice when I go later this year with Little S!
12. Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia
In case you are wondering why you should visit Colonial Williamsburg, here it is. Travel Savvy Mom has great suggestions on what do to and what to skip when going there with kids. Busy Kids Happy Mom also has some tips that are worth reading. While I think this is a great place to visit, I’m not sure if it’s one for the toddler crowd.
13. Savannah, Georgia
Two of my sisters-in-law went to college in this adorable little town and I couldn’t help but notice how family centered it seemed to be. Savannah native, Amy Pine, wrote a fantastic article for USA Today’s 10 Best on the things to see and do while there. Keep in mind, it is also a jump,hop, and skip away from Hilton Head in South Caroline so you could plan a “2 for 1 trip” of sorts.
I know, no specific city, very helpful. Throughout my research Montana kept popping up as one of the most scenic and beautiful places to visit. Trekaroo has compiled a list of the top 10 things to do in Montana.
15. Destin, Florida
What’s not to love about this popular family destination? Clear water, great sand, and affordable. It’s a win all around. In case hanging out at the beach isn’t what you want to do the whole time A Helicopter Mom has some excellent suggestions on where to stay, what to do and what to see.
16. Gulf Shores, Alabama
This gem has started gaining popularity in recent years. Trip Buzz has some great ideas of things to do in the area even though it’s likely you will be perfectly content hanging out on the beautiful white sand beaches.
17. Smoky Mountains, Tennessee/ North Carolina
I was a HUGE Dolly Parton fan growing up and always wanted to go visit the part of the country she sang about so often. I found a good list of things to do in that part of the country on MiniTime and I also really love the list of activities that Trekaroo has posted on their site as well.
18. Pennsylvania Amish Country (Lancaster County, Pennsylvania)
I took a school trip here in high school and thought it was one of the coolest experiences ever. I can’t wait to go back as an adult, especially now that I have a full appreciation for all of the conveniences of modern technology. This list from Huffington Post lists some offbeat sites that that would likely appeal to each member of the family .
19. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
This is a family favorite and now that we have a baby we can’t wait to take her. We usually stay at Grand Luxxe Residence Club in Nuevo Vallarta. The amenities there are incredible and the staff is great with kids. We don’t do a whole lot of venturing out into the city, but there is plenty to do if you choose to (Side note: the “Rhythms of the Night” show/dinner is awesome). Truth be told we spend pretty much all day by the pool while we are there. Their activity staff is SO GREAT and if they aren’t cleaning sunglasses or handing out popsicles they are coordinating some kind of game so we stay pretty entertained just being on the property. US News has a good list of other resorts in the area that includes the critic rating, price range, and customer reviews.
20. St. John, USVI
Despite the fact that it’s not easy to get to (at least coming from Texas) this is a trip worth taking. We’ve done this very recently with a 1 year old and there were a few hiccups, but overall it was a fun, easy trip to do. Have Baby Will Travel has a good list of tips, but in addition to those here are some based on our experience:
- Rent a car in St. Thomas and take the car ferry over to St. John. This gives you the flexibility to come/go from the beaches as you choose and not have to wait for a taxi.
- Get to the beaches early (you’ll be grateful for your early risers during this trip). Parking is limited and the beaches are narrow, so it’s best to get there early for easy parking and having a lot of options on where to set up your stuff.
- Don’t worry about packing beach toys. Most of the resorts have some sort of “free box” where people leave their barely used beach toys so take advantage of this and you don’t have to worry about taking up precious luggage space.
- Plan for not having a ton of shade at the beach. There is shade, but it’s limited and in a lot of places you feel like you are crawling under a bush, we had been before and knew this so we took a baby popup tent to provide shade just in case Little S fell asleep at the beach (*wishful thinking*).
21. Costa Rica
This details why Costa Rica is a good place to visit with families. I miiiiight also be a little biased because I have a lot of good friends from here and am dying to visit them, but the research appears to back me up. Yay! This itinerary looks awesome and omg, I cannot wait to do this one day.
22. Bahia Kino, Sonora, Mexico
I didn’t find this on any “official” lists of places to go with families, but growing up, I visited this incredible Mexican beach every single summer (sometimes a couple times each summer). It was within driving distance of my grandparents home in Santa Ana, Sonora and my parents along with my aunts and uncles would load up all of us kids and we would have an amazing 3-4 days hanging out on the Sea of Cortez doing what big, Mexican families do when they travel together. Randomly, The Seattle Times has this interesting article chronicling one of their writers visits to this hidden gem. Lonely Planet also has some good suggestions of things to do other than hang out on the beach.
23. Singapore, Asia
If you can tolerate the ridiculously long flight from the US, every article I came across about Singapore noted how it was among the most family-friendly locations in Asia. My Little Nomads has listed the top 10 sites that would appeal to both adults and kids.
This is another one that doesn’t typically come to mind when considering traveling with a family. Jamaica, for the most part, is frequented by couples looking for a romantic getaway or people that just want to have a good time. This article, by National Geographic, points out that 4 of the top 10 Caribbean Resorts (according to Travel & Leisure) are in Jamaica. While not all of the resorts welcome kids, the article points out that the resorts that welcome families are great and definitely worth making the trip there with the whole family. Ciao Bambino also has a great list of things to do with kids while in Jamaica.
25. San Juan, Puerto Rico (and surrounding locations)
Here is a list of why this is place worth visiting and toting along those precious, sticky-fingered passengers. I found this on Parents.com which shows how a couple that typically traveled there as non-parents made the switch to making it a family vacay spot once they had a family. Travels with Baby also has some great suggestions on things to do with kids under five (although I’m pretty sure they are good for all age groups).
26. Roatan/Utila, Honduras
These small islands off of the coast of Honduras are incredible (see for yourself). They are surrounded by one of the largest coral reefs in the world so it’s a popular destination for divers – if you aren’t certified it’s easy to take a class and get certified by one of the many, excellent instructors on the island. Here is a good breakdown of each island and what they have to offer. We spent the majority of our time in Utila and while we didn’t have a baby, my then 8 year old sister in law was there and had a blast diving, horseback riding, and boating. To be honest, that’s really what you do when visiting these beautiful islands, but no complaints here. It’s amazing and I can’t wait to go back with Little S eventually.
27. Montreal, Quebec, Canada
This city has a bit of everything and with some of our friends moving there soon, it is high on our list of places to visit before the end of the calendar year. I’m a big fan of finding posts with itineraries and this one looks like a promising option for us to follow when we go (combined with our soon-to-be-local friends expertise). This post along with this one are also getting me suuuper pumped about our impending trip!
28. Panama City, Panama (and surrounding locations)
My grandparents lived here when I was little so we did several family trips to visit them. I vividly remember going through the locks of the Panama Canal and am excited to one day be able to go back with my own littles so they can see it for themselves. Smithsonian Journeys has an awesome itinerary on their site and The Ambler has a great post on things to do with the whole family as well.
General Ideas- multiple locations
I have yet to talk to parents that are disappointed with their family cruise vacation. Obviously, you want to choose one that ports in cities that appeal to you and has reliable ships, but the ease of embarking and having your dining, entertainment, and lodging all in one place makes your trip much less stressful. I mean, there is definitely a beauty in just being able to walk over to your room for naptime and picking up where you left off once the kiddos wake up.
30. Dude Ranch
On the surface this appears to be better suited for a father/son bonding trip, BUT now there are these incredible all-inclusive Dude Ranches that take care of everything for you! Sign me up. I’m not a fan of real camping, but this I could do. The Dude Ranchers Association has a search feature that allows you to find the ranch that meets your family’s needs and interests.
I know this was a long post, but I hope that somewhere on this list you found a location that appealed to you and motivated you to plan that next family vacation. Don’t know about you, but I’m hoping to use this as a travel bucket-list of sorts- I’ll make sure to let you know how it goes 🙂