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Taking a vacation with kids can feel like more trouble than it’s worth – the packing, the nap schedule, the tantrums, and the hassles, it can all be intimidating. But social science studies show that kids that grow up traveling from a young age are often more adaptable to travel throughout their childhoods and that well-traveled children tend to grow up to become well-rounded adults.
But admittedly, some travel destinations are certainly better suited towards families than others. For example, a trip to wine country or hardcore adventure sport destinations are better reserved for adults-only vacations. However, there are lots of places that are great to visit with kids, and some of them might surprise you.
In no particular order, here are some of the best places in the world to take a vacation with kids.
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London is a magical place for kids because it’s the setting of so many favorite childhood storybooks, like The Hundred and One Dalmatians, Mary Poppins, and Paddington. It’s so easy to plan an itinerary in London because there are so many famous attractions here. You can hop on one of those red double-decker buses to hit the top sights or stroll around the sprawling city on foot. This is a fun way to teach your kids about history without it being too stuffy or boring. There is a fee for most of the museums here, but it’s often reduced for children. Top sights to see with your kids include the Tower of London, British Museum, Tower Bridge, Royal Air Force Museum, the London Eye, and the ceremonial Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. There are also lots of kid-friendly musicals and theater performances to check out here.
Kids who enjoy animals and playing outside will love exploring Costa Rica with you. This is a great place to introduce your kids to adventure sports, like zip-lining and hiking. Top regions to visit are the Monte Verde Cloud Forest, Arenal Volcano, Montezuma, and Peninsula Nicoya. Canopy tours are a must with kids in Monteverde or elsewhere in Costa Rica. You can take your kids on a light river rafting adventure or safari float too. Take a dip with them in the natural hot springs and soak under the fun waterfalls on hot days. You can also teach your kids about wildlife and conservation efforts, and what kid doesn’t like to see monkeys in the wild?
Many people think of Hawaii as a honeymoon destination, but it’s also a really fun place to take your kids. Some great places to stay here for families include the Hilton Hawaiian Village, Ilikai Hotel and Suites, and Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort. Take your kids to Sea Life Park to learn about animals or get active by snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. For a nice kid-friendly hike, try the Ehukai Bunker Hike, and don’t miss the Polynesian Cultural Center for an unforgettable show. Diamond Head is a more challenging, but very rewarding and scenic hike, better suited for older kids. To learn about history, visit the World War II Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial. Kids will also enjoy taking a tour of the Dole Plantation and learning about pineapples through a maze and exhibits.
There’s no better place to learn about American history than Washington, D.C. Most of the museums here are free, so it’s a great place for family travel on a budget. One kid-favorite museum here is the National Air and Space Museum, and kids always enjoy the International Spy Museum too. Take a tour to see the monuments and memorials, and book your tickets far in advance to see the White House. You can head out of town to see George Washington’s home of Mount Vernon and take a tour. The National Zoo is a great place for kids too.
One of the most family-friendly destinations in all of Asia is Singapore. It’s clean, eco-friendly, inviting, friendly, and very modern. This makes traveling with kids much easier than in other parts of the continent, and English is widely spoken. One of the best places to go here is Sentosa Island, which has many different attractions and family-friendly hotels. Make sure to see the dolphins at the S.E.A Aquarium and compare Universal Studios Singapore to the U.S. one if you’ve been. Other top attractions in Singapore for families with kids include the ethnically rich Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam. Ride the tram at Night Safari, a nocturnal wildlife park, through the rainforest and jungle. Take a bumboat ride along the Singapore River for a different view and visit Snow City, an indoor snow center, to cool down on hot days.
Sunny, friendly, and laid-back San Diego is a perfect West Coast destination for the whole family. Of course, there’s the beach and its awesome surf culture, but there’s plenty to do on land for kids too. Top kid picks are the famous San Diego Zoo and LEGOLAND. Overall, this city is small enough to be manageable for families with kids, yet big enough to keep you busy for a long weekend or a whole week. The Hotel del Coronado and the Holiday Inn San Diego – Bayside are great hotels for families. Other local attractions to add to your list include the Maritime Museum, the Seaport Village along the Embarcadero Path, San Diego Burger Company, and the picnic-perfect Balboa Park.
Many parents are hesitant to take their kids on a trip to Europe, but there are lots of kid-friendly things to do in Europe’s great cities, especially in Stockholm. This is a clean, safe, and compact capital city that has well-preserved historic sites and even castles. You can take public transportation everywhere you go, and buses are typically free if you’re bringing a stroller. Don’t miss the fairytale world of Junibacken and the amusement park Gröna Lund. The island of Långholmen has a nice beach where your kids can play, and Skansen is a great open-air museum that features Nordic animals, an aquarium, children’s zoo, and historic buildings.
The Bahamas is a great destination for friends and family travel. Nassau is the most popular and easily accessible place in the Bahamas and a popular cruise-ship stop. Bring your kids here to spend lots of time in the water and on the beach. There are lots of resorts here that cater to kids, ranging from budget options to luxury retreats. One of the best places to stay is Atlantis on neighboring Paradise Island with its wading pools, slides, and kids’ clubs. There’s also a Pirate Museum in Nassau that’s fun for kids, and lots of the restaurants have children’s menus.
You’re never too far from the water in Sydney, which is full of adventure and fascinating history. To start your journey, consider taking a ferry ride with your kids to explore the inlets and coves here. It’s also fun to take kids to the Sydney Fish Market to experience the activity and have an outdoor lunch. Head to the city’s vibrant Chinatown for a delicious dinner that will make every family member happy. The city has a pretty good public transportation system to get around and kids’ fares are cheaper. Top attractions to visit with them include the Botanical Gardens, Opera House, Beaches of the Eastern Suburbs, Taronga Zoo, and Bridge Climb over Harbor Bridge.
Amsterdam is much more than the Red Light District and its famous coffee shops. It’s actually a wonderful family-friendly destination that is marked by beautiful canals, historic buildings, and bicycle culture. Take a canal cruise to see the city from the water. Popular attractions to take kids to include the Anne Frank House, the museum quarter (Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum), and the windmills of Zaanse Schans. Rent some bicycles if your kids know how to bike well to explore the town and surrounding countryside.
Kids learn about Roman history in school, so what better way to reinforce those lessons than actually traveling to the center of ancient life? The Colosseum and Roman Forum are a must, as are the Pantheon, Sistine Chapel, and catacombs. Plan to spend three or four days here with kids, and brush up on your history lessons before visiting.